When is thin content good for SEO?
When you are answering or solving a user search inquiry in a manner that delivers the most value, in a succinct format without filler.
That about sums it up.
Okay, that was really thin. I’ll elaborate a little.
As a result of the Panda algorithm update in 2011, we know that websites with “thin content” potentially face negative SEO consequences and penalties.
Countless articles over the past few years have shared information and studies that indicate long-form content is the path to better rankings. Many of these publications have recommended 1000, 2000, and even 5000+ words as the holy grail to a page one rankings.
I’m making the argument that you can go…
THIN FOR THE WIN
Panda penalizing “thin content” is referring to the content not being particularly helpful to visitors.
Google has stated multiple times that word count is not a ranking factor.
What they care about is providing the optimal match to a user search query with content that serves the best answer.
Often brands simply do not have the bandwidth to publish long-form content, but that doesn’t mean they can’t serve their audience well.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
In the interest of keeping this post short and sweet, and avoid being called out for ironically posting a 1000 word article, I’m going to focus on a single actionable item to leverage thin content for improved rankings and SEO.
One of the most effective ways that you can publish impactful content quickly, is by focusing on optimizing for featured snippets via question and answer formatted posts. Check out this MOZ article on optimizing for featured snippets via Q&A for a detailed guide.
“A featured snippet is a summary of an answer to a user’s query, which is displayed on top of Google search results. It’s extracted from a web page and includes the page’s title and URL” (source Search Engine Watch).
Note the difference when the query is posed as a question and the position zero ranking:
BOTTOM LINE = VALUE VS LENGTH
If you can provide the solution to a problem in just 50 words, for instance, it has the potential to rank just as well as a post of 5000 words. Obviously, there are multiple factors that will influence ranking, but remember that word length is not among them.
Thin content, in my opinion, refers to a lack of value vs insufficient length.
Note: I struggled to find a source that corroborates my position here, not surprisingly. But, you can find a likeminded statement from AJ Kohn (Blind Five Year Old), a recognized thought leader in the SEO industry. He recently shared a similar opinion with Dan Sure (Evolving SEO) on his Experts On The Wire Podcast.
Word count for the record: 459, not that it matters.