SEO experts recommend in mantra-like tones “more content”, when talking about critical factors to improve your authority and visibility on the search engines. And more content is a valid recommendation. However, “thin” content can work against you in the eyes of the search engines. So, how can we identify just what thin content is and how we can determine what is and what is not “thin content?

What exactly is thin content?

Thin content can be broken up into four basic categories:

Too short – often, website owners lean on quantity vs quality. They opt for many pages with big, shiny pretty graphics, and a meager amount of words on a page. A page with fewer than 300 words can be considered a form of thin content. The ideal amount of content varies, but a good rule of thumb is between 300-500 words per page.

What kind of content can you add to your pages that is valuable?

  • How to use your product/service
  • Your competitive advantage
  • Basic misconceptions about your product/service, or of the industry
  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Too long – there has been a long standing argument on whether there is indeed such a thing as a page that is too long. Now, with Google changing its algorithm yet again, there are rumors that there indeed might be a place at which you are running on and on. And, if your content is too long for your users’ attention span, you have reached that plateau. In general, pages should be less than 100 words; anything over that and you might want to consider breaking it up into multiple pages (thus solving your content problem!)

Too vague – there are two subcategories under this point; content that is too ambiguous to understand, and content that brings in the wrong audience.

Ambiguous content is the type of content that never gets around to telling you what the main topic is. The writing may go round and round in circles, or dart back and forth, but neither come to any conclusions, nor imparts any benefit to your reader. A good way to spot this is the use of many “$2 words” – flowery, high-level language that may impress a reader for your knowledge of the dictionary, but leave them scratching their heads as to what you do, let alone what you offer.

Often your site has a tremendous amount of content, but you are talking to people who aren’t interested in you. This often can occur when companies choose keywords based on internal messaging, without consideration for what language or tone their prospects use to describe what they want. This can often be detected by pages that show a low conversion rate.

Bad Spelling and Grammar – I know this one sound fairly obvious, but did you know that you can be penalized for “thin” content when you have more than 2-3 errors in spelling and/or grammar on a page? A second set of eyeballs on content for proofing purposes is always a good idea. Don’t have that second set of eye? Another useful trick is to put your content “to bed” for a day or so, and come back to it with a fresh perspective. Utilizing various programs grammar and spell check can also be helpful.

What are some indicators of thin content?

Bounce rate – pages with a higher than average site bounce rate should be suspected for thin content

Time on page – if your content in not sticky (see previous post) you should see lower than average time on a page. This might be an indicator of thin content, especially misdirected content.

Pageviews – this metric may be deceiving as this may not be thin content, just not highly searched. In this case, if a page has a low amount of pageviews, also check bounce rate/time on page. If bounce rate is high, and time on page low, this too, could be thin content.

Conversions – this is an interesting metric, and often, if conversion is low on a page, can be an indication of thin content that is ambiguous.

Thin content can have serious implications for SEO. Often multiple forms of thin content can be found on the same site. When your conversions are low, you do a poor job informing the search engines that you are the expert, which causes them to see your competition as more relevant. This can show as not only a decline in your visibility on the search engine results pages, but as a decrease in revenue to your company.

Taking the time to analyze, diagnose and correct thin content is a step in correcting perceptions, both from the search engines and visitors, or your value, relevance, and authority in your business.

Have you found thin content on your site? What kind and how did you correct the issues?