We made a decision some months ago to stop selling 250-word articles to clients. This caused a little tension with some folks at first because bottom line: smaller-size articles and blog posts are more budget-friendly. It wasn’t always the case, but now those shorter articles can hurt a site in organic search engine results and here are the reasons why straight from Google.
One of Google’s biggest goals is to have sites that deliver a quality user experience indexed. To do that you need to meet some standards that Google feels are part of the overall quality measurement of a good place to research, buy, or whatever the user’s business is on your site.
Google’s Panda Algorithm was the first swipe online at shallow content. Subsequent updates have further refined it and it’s now understood that the overall engagement and the bounce rate both play into that quality measurement. With that in mind, here is what Google defines as “thin content” or in other words: a lousy user experience and not worth the time to show up in a decent place in organic search results.
- Time to Long Click – this metric is covered in an article at Search Engine Watch, but it goes like this: after a topic is searched in Google and the user clicks, Google waits to see if the user stays on the chosen page or goes back to search again. You could have 200 of the greatest words ever written about blue-footed boobies and their migratory habits, and still not rank high for a quality experience if users are bouncing off your site because it takes so little time to glean all the information you have posted. It’s worth it to go for bigger, more informative content to engage your visitors. Videos and images enhance that experience too.
- Automatically generated content – If you’re posting automated affiliate content, PLR articles or spun articles, stop. You’re ruining the Internet and making GoogleBot cry. Plus you’ll never be seen as a quality site. If you love your affiliate program, the product you’re selling, or you’re into Adsense or other monetization – get real content on your site and you’ll get real visitors interested in your content. It’s a win=win. Plus GoogleBot won’t cry at your site anymore.
- Duplicate pages and near duplicates – When every page of your site has the same wording except for a few changes, an example might be a business that has built a page for every city they service and copied the same services page and only changed the area that is serviced. You basically have two choices here, completely rewrite the content so it’s unique and informative (in my opinion the best because it helps get information to someone locally searching) or you can block the pages from being indexed.
- Rotten guest bloggers – Don’t get me wrong. I love guest bloggers and sometimes am one or I use them. However, you need to use a guest blogger that is relevant to the topic they are writing and posting on. Last but not least, don’t let just anyone guest blog for you. If the writing makes you cringe, don’t publish it. A low-quality guest blog post linking to your site has about as much value as automated or scraped content.
- Thin affiliate content – Many affiliate networks offer content with their programs, don’t use it. The reason is that a huge majority of other affiliates will be using the same content and your pages will never stand out (see automated and duplicated content above). Instead, get your pages professionally created and you’ll have a much better chance to rank with unique, interesting content to entice your readers. Watch the number of affiliate links on your pages and ads, remember to keep every page unique and a quality experience for the visitor. No one really likes a page of ads, really they don’t.
- Doorway pages – is this even still a thing? A doorway page is a web page that has links for the purpose of sending a visitor to another site. Google has taken a dim view of them for years.
If you utilize Google Webmasters, site pages that are thought to be shallow in the user experience area will be linked on the Manual Actions page so they can be looked into more closely and see if you do indeed need to ramp up the content of your site.
Ultimately, our goal is always to do what’s best for our clients and we chose to stop offering that service because of the potential for our clients to wind up with a page categorized as “thin.” And it’s not word count we’re talking about. It’s true, there is no way to be as in-depth and informational in 250-words as you can in 700-words. I’ve done research for articles and wound up on sites where a 1,000-word article didn’t tell me nearly as much as a well-written 600-word piece did. The fact I bounced off the 1,000-word article probably also signaled Google, that content wasn’t answering my query.
Surprisingly, once we announced the changes to our content creation and gave our existing clients the reasons for the switch, it turned out to be a good thing for them as they started ordering more detailed, in-depth content and many have noticed an increase over time in traffic. For some of our clients, they asked that we review and rewrite the content that was around the 250-word mark and increased the information in the article. Ultimately remember why you have content on your site in the first place. It is to engage your visitors and give them valid information. Good information builds trust in your brand. Which in turn creates brand loyalty.
As covered above, take a look at your site. If you have thin pages, flesh them out or hire an outside agency you’re comfortable with to do it for you. To see our services and rates for providing content, check it out here.