What is Thin Content

How Long Should A Blog Post Be?

posted in: How Tos | 4

How long should a blog post be? Ask me this question and you’ll see my face squinch up. That’s because I’m about to give a reply that nobody likes to hear. “It depends…”

Sorry guys, there is no exact magic number for blog post length. That’s going to depend on your topic, your site format, your audience, and your writing style. However, I can tell you what you should focus on in your blog posts. Giving Google the information it needs to know what your page is about is a key factor in bringing organic search engine traffic to your website.

Your website and it’ content are crawled by a little guy we like to call “Googlebot”. You’ll know he’s visiting when you see traffic in your analytics from one or several user-agents that you probably won’t recognize. Most often, those are “bots” or “spiders” sent by search engines. They’ve stopped by for a look at your site. Google crawls several of your website pages on each visit and your site may be crawled numerous times per day.

Instead of worrying about exact post length, you need to make sure that you’re not producing thin content. Loren Baker, the Founder of Searching Journal (SEJ) explains that “This new Panda algorithmic update reinforces the fact that Google is not a fan of thin content and that crawl efficiency along with serving clear and direct data messages to Google are becoming more important than ever.” (Panda was the September 2014 update to the Google search algorhythm)

What is thin content?

Thin content is considered anything on your website that gives the site a shallow or low quality vibe. It includes text that you’ve borrowed from other websites (even other websites that you own) and content that doesn’t have enough detail to be helpful. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and fluff writing. Website copy and blog posts must offer high quality value to its readers.
How do I avoid thin content?

If I could offer one piece of advice it would be to give your readers information that is incredibly useful and well thought out. To avoid producing thin content you need to:

  • Write on topics that your potential ideal clients want to read about; don’t focus on topics just for the sake of getting ranked in Google.
  • Write your content to communicate a powerful message to your readers; don’t whip up low quality content just to meet your blogging deadline.
  • Write your own take on popular topics and quote or site other sources; don’t use large chunks of content from other websites.

What if I have thin content on my website?

While I’m sure it wasn’t your intention to put thin content on your site, chances are that it’s there. Unlike a broken link or too many plugins, thin content is not as easy to spot. There are a few things that you can do to find and repair your already published content.

Take a peek at your already published posts and the copy on your webpages and try to be objective. Look at it from your visitor’s point of view. Are you blog posts long enough (at least 500 words) and do they provide valuable and usable information? Does the copy on your various webpages really support what your website message is all about? If you answered “no” to either of these questions, than it might be time for a little makeover.

Find areas where you have the opportunity to add more detail or give additional information. Streamline wording that feels bulky and unnatural. If you find content that just isn’t up to par, now is the time to determine if that page still serves your purpose. It is not uncommon for a page to no longer support the goals of the brand. Let’s face it. We all wear out our welcome from time to time. If that is the case, just scrap the page all together and redirect.

Also take a look at your analytics. Is your bounce rate higher on some pages and not others? Thin content may be the reason. There are other reasons, such an ineffective calls-to-action but we will save that for another time.

Make Googlebot Smile

To be effective, blogging can’t be a random process. Being intentional with your blogging efforts can pay off with increased traffic which should be a goal for every business site. And not only increased traffic but the right traffic. If you want to learn more about how to make the Googlebot happy the next time he stops by for a visit, check out the Do-It-Yourself SEO for Small Business online course.

4 Responses

  1. bob

    Hi Kelly,

    Love reading these posts. They are super informative. I had a question when it comes to art. As you know a picture is worth a thousand words well, not to Google I suppose, but anyhow there are times when I just don’t have 500 hundred words to go with my images. In fact sometimes that many words simply get in the way of showing the art. What is your best advice if you prefer to post images without a ton of text?

    • Kelly Phillips

      Hi Bob! That’s a great question. There are a few things you can do that will make a difference. Make the filenames of your images descriptive. So instead of DCS84747.jpg, name the image blue-turtle-crossing-road.jpg. Use hyphens instead of spaces. Also be sure to fill out the Title and Alt fields that go with the images.

  2. Samantha Herring

    Hi Kelly, It seems like “How long should a blog post be?” is an eternal question. I have heard everything from 300 to 1,500 words. I would think that with our decreasing attention spans, 1,500 words would be too much. You hit on a really important but often difficult point – looking at your work from the eyes of your customers. I tend to fall in love with what I’m writing which can lead to a lack of objectivity. Sometimes I try to have others look at it objectively for me. I’d love to hear ideas about how to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers. It’s hard to unknow what you know, right?

    • Kelly Phillips

      You are exactly right Samantha! I think there are two ways to help put yourself in the eyes of your customers – first, ask them! You can interview them or conduct surveys. The second is to keep an eye on those analytics. Look at how long people are on certain pages and see when they tend to drop off. That will tell you the optimal time your readers will spend reading a post.