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2011 was the year that Google rolled out the famous Panda update where they rewarded high-quality sites and reduce the presence of low-quality websites in their search results pages. This led to a massive change in the best practices of the SEO industry. Webmasters and SEOs around the world immediately changed their content strategy to cater to the Panda update since Google started penalizing websites that had thin content or any other content that was not useful to the users. Before we get into the current state of having thin content this year, let’s talk about thin content in general.
What is Thin Content?
Thin content refers to a page’s content having little to no-value given to its readers. The simplest way to think about this is having content inside your website that isn’t up to par with other pages displayed on the first page of the specific keyword you’re targeting.
If we’re talking about the Panda update, then thin content isn’t the only problem. Other problems that Panda targets are:
- Thin content
- Duplicate Content – Pages that have the same or extremely similar content. Product pages that have the same description but differs in just one word (color, size, etc) could be considered a duplicate if not done properly.
- Low-Quality Content – Pages that have little to no value for the readers.
- Low-Quality User-Generated Content – Having content that contains minimal useful information, spelling and grammatical errors. Some content in guest posting websites is great examples of low-quality user-generated content.
- Low-Quality Content for Affiliate Links – Publishing content that points to affiliate sites should contain information that can’t be found in the affiliate site. An example of this would be reviews of SaaS products since most of the reviews I see in the search results have the same message with the SaaS’ website.
- Misleading Content – Pages that are presented as useful for the user but when the page is visited, there is no value given to the user. An example of this would be clickbait or false promising pages in the search results. Let’s say you search for “Grab promos for August” and you see multiple sites that say “Grab Promos You can use!” and when you enter the website, it’s just full of ads and expired promos.
Thin Content in 2019
It has been 8 years since Google Panda was rolled out and gone were the days where we had to make do with low-quality content that we saw in the search results. As years went by, continuous updates on the Panda algorithm has made sure the most of the search results we see have decent content inside them. The Panda algorithm slowly made SEOs write long-form content (minimum 2000 words) since this meant that the longer the content is, the more information and value it could contain.
The problem with long-form content is that most, if not all, of the readers, do not gain anything since reading a 2000 word post about a shallow topic isn’t all that enticing. This is why the current SEO industry focuses more on search intent rather than just plain word count.
Satisfying search intent means that the content you publish should be able to satisfy what the searcher is looking for. A regular user that searches for “benefits of vitamin C” won’t read a 2000+ word article about the history of vitamin c, it’s chemical composition, and it’s benefits. They would rather read a 500+ word article that gets straight to the point regarding the benefits of vitamin C. If users visit the 500+ word article than the 2000+ word one, then the earlier article will most probably rank better as well.
As of now, word count isn’t as important as it used to be. Satisfying search intent, improving expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness takes precedence above minor factors, based on what I’m experiencing.
The Problem for SEO
Here’s the problem for us SEOs, if we want to rank for a specific query that could be answered by a sentence or two, then what do we do about the “value” of the page? We can’t publish a page or a post that only contains a single paragraph since that’s not really “valuable” in Google’s eyes even if it does answer the query and it satisfies the user’s intent to find an answer which leads to our content being treated as “thin”.
Let’s say for example you publish content that answers the query “best title tag length”. Of course, the query could be answered by just saying “The best title tag length is 50-60 characters”. You’re already answering the user’s question and even satisfying their intent. But that’s still “thin” in Google’s eyes. So what do we do?
The Solution for SEO
As I’ve said, word count isn’t as important as we might think, but it’s still important for containing value and information. The solution is to find a balance between the two. Don’t focus on word count too much, but still keep an optimal length that could contain useful information and value. I suggest around 500 to 800 words. But don’t forget about the importance of satisfying search intent since that’s the primary purpose of the content you’re publishing. Some strategies you can use to mitigate having thin content or over-optimized content are:
- Keyword Stemming – Target multiple variations of a single query in a post. This allows you to thicken your content and target multiple queries at the same time. Therefore avoiding being treated as thin content.
- Topic Clusters – This is one of the best solutions to having over-optimized content or content that’s too long. In the simplest terms, you’re making a page dedicated for a specific keyword while connecting blog posts that target other topically relevant keywords.
- Publishing Panda-Optimized Content – You can never go wrong if you publish content while thinking about the Panda algorithm.
Thin content is still a problem if we’re not too mindful of the content we publish. But as the times have changed, so did the strategies we used to not get penalized by the Panda algorithm. Always remember that content shouldn’t be too short and too long when we’re dealing with “value” in the eyes of Google. Do you have any questions? Comment it down below!
Jessica spends 12 hours a day on the internet managing security for web assets and loves her macha tea