Content Help: Don’t Think Thin. Think Substance.

Today we’re talking about content: the short and long of it. We recently discussed 10X content and the difference between promotional and informational content. But we haven’t talked about two ends of the content spectrum: thin and long-form. Now, to be clear, these aren’t opposite sides of a content coin or each other’s halves; no, it’s a little more complicated than that. 

The skinny? Thin content is something you want to stay away from—like the plague. Long-form content, on the other hand, is good content, like 10X or promotional or informational. In fact, it’s better than good—it’s excellent! And while it takes a lot of time and effort to produce it, the ROI is worth it. What we’re hoping you learn from this post is how to think substance, not thin, as you build your blog, site, and business. 

Thin Content: What It Is and Why It’s Bad for Business

Thin content has little or no value, meaning there’s no takeaway for the reader. It’s low quality and lacks in-depth, authoritative information. 

Aside from being a waste of readers’ time, thin content is bad for SEO efforts because Google Panda—an update to Google’s search-engine-results algorithm whose purpose is to weed out low-quality sites and reward high-quality ones—will strike it down. Although Google released Panda in 2011, recent updates to the algorithm have made content creators and web masters realize that thin content is still a problem. Since we don’t want you inadvertently putting it on your site and being targeted by Panda, we’re here to help you understand exactly what thin content is.

  • Duplicate Content

Duplication happens when two or more pages have the same information, i.e., when there two URLs link to the same content. It also happens when several pages share the same text, such as text that describes a business’s services for all of the locations it serves. The solution for this problem? Have one page that describes services, then post individual links for the separate locations, where you describe the differences, if any, of each location’s services.

  • Scraped Content

“Scraping” is when you take content from another site and copy and paste it directly onto your site, either in its entirety or in big chunks. Not only is this bad for SEO, you could be in danger of copyright infringement. It’s okay to quote someone else’s work—but only if you give credit where it’s due and don’t use it as your own. Quoted content should support your original work. 

  • Automatically Generated Content

This type of content is exactly what it sounds like: content generated by a program rather than a human. Sometimes generated text produces paragraphs with random words and sentences that make no sense to the reader but which contain keywords a user may search. Google lists examples of autogenerated content, but it’s a good rule of thumb to simply generate original content anyway—it matters more to the human who reads it. 

  • Affiliate Content

Want to feature affiliate products on your site? While it’s certainly kosher to do so, be sure you add your own descriptive paragraphs and information to the content so it’s differentiated from the affiliate website. And it’s just good business to explain how a certain affiliate product benefits customers and to also give them any pricing and purchasing information. 

  • Doorway Pages

These are sites or pages created for the sole purpose of ranking highly in search queries and boosting SEO. They act as a “door”—perhaps more accurately described as a hoop—between the user and the content they are trying to reach. These pages don’t contain valuable content but rather links that take the user deeper into the site.

So how do you fix the thin-content issue? Well, the easy answer is to not write or create it in the first place. However, if you inadvertently create a thin-content page (which can sometimes happen), you can find it by doing a content audit of your site. 

Long-Form Content: Make It Part of Your Content Arsenal

Let’s be clear: The solution to avoiding thin content isn’t necessarily to write longer pieces. It’s to write more substantive pieces. However, long-form content certainly falls into this more-substantive category because if you’re going to write about something that gives readers a takeaway and that shows your authority on the subject, then writing a longer, more informative piece is key. What readers are craving—and what Google’s algorithms are programmed to find—are meatier articles and not just page fluff. 

While there isn’t a magic word count that qualifies a piece as long-form, you can think of it as a research paper rather than an essay. Four years ago, experts were saying long-form content was content that exceeded 1,200 words. But not anymore. You’re looking at the 4,000-give-or-take range. 

Don’t gasp—it can be done! And while you’re producing it, you can keep readers updated on your progress, with the promise that something extra special and worth waiting for is coming down the pike. 

So what can you create? Ebooks, e-courses, product guides and brochures, case studies, white-paper posts, and presentations are a few ideas. They are all big projects but worth it if done right. 

Perhaps the biggest draw to write long-form content is that it will, by and large, help you in your rankings. 

Why? 

  • It’s authoritative. Again, if you can write about something at length, it’s because you have more knowledge about it than your competitors. 
  • It’s evergreen. You wouldn’t want to put a lot of time and effort into a piece that is going to expire in a few months. You may need to update the piece as things in your industry change, but the foundation will remain unchanged. 
  • It’s more focused. In selecting topics for your long-form content pieces, narrow your scope and write content that drills down to what you can do for the customers in your field. 
  • It can be gated with memberships. Protected content has more value than ungated because, as the cliché goes, you get what you pay for. While having ungated long-form content is still useful, gated content via a membership site gives your content that edge by saving it for readers who will spend the time and money to read it (which, of course, means you’ll need to write and produce it so it’s worth their time and money).
  • Quality over quantity—every time. Lest we start sounding like a broken record (or duplicated content!), suffice it to say that readers value one substantive piece of authoritative, informative content than several smaller pieces that give them nothing.

So, what did you take away from this post? Got any tips for avoiding thin content or for writing long-form content pieces? We (and our readers) would love to know, so leave us a comment below!

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About Lindsay Flanagan

Lindsay Flanagan is a senior editor and project and social media manager at Eschler Editing. She earned her Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and spent over a decade working in higher education before joining the Eschler team. She and her husband are the proud parents of two brilliant daughters and make their home in Heber, Utah.

2 Comments

    RyanB

    June 8, 2018

    Good info.

      Lindsay Flanagan

      June 13, 2018

      I'm glad you found it helpful!