In this edition of #ThrowbackThursday, I'm jumping back to the topic of "thin content" that I first explained back in September 2011.
Thin Content Explained
In simple terms, thin content refers to a web page that has very few words on it. Google likes to refer to this content as pages "with little or no original content" which subsequently do not add value to the internet.
Google's help docs specifically say that your page must include relevant keywords to appropriately indicate the subject matter of the page. Their guidelines made a lot of sense years ago when search engines only understood how to read words, but a lot of effort has been made towards understanding video and recognizing images.
What About Non-Text Content?
Personally I would not consider a page to be thin content if it only had a valuable infographic, a gallery of photos, or a just an original video, but Google might consider it thin content without written words. I expect that they will eventually relax these guideline as search algorithms continue to understand various non-written content.
Auto-generated Thin Content
There are plenty of websites that create thin content on purpose to help boost their rankings. They use templates of auto-generated sentences (similar to Mad Libs) to spawn hundreds of pages for different keywords.
Affiliate Thin Content
Another thin content technique is used often by people who make money through affiliate links. An affiliate link is a coded link from your website to an e-commerce site, like Amazon. Any purchase you make after following an affiliate link will generate a commission for the owner of the affiliate website.
The typical affiliate website might look like a product catalog or it could be a blogging site. Either way, the affiliate usually uploads a photo provided by the e-commerce site and writes a brief description about it followed by the link to make a purchase. These sites usually don't add much value to the internet, in fact, usually the e-commerce site has more information than the affiliate. Anyone accidentally visiting a thin content affiliate site usually will become annoyed by their experience and this is why Google penalizes the raking of these.
Thin Content in Jewelry Catalogs
Unfortunately, many online jewelry catalogs fall into the affiliate type thin content classifications that Google uses. Many jewelry designers will supply all their retail jewelers with the same photos for their online catalog. Typically those retail jewelers will use the photo and the designer's style number in their catalog without a description.
Even though these catalogs might seem useful for a local customer, imagine Google's point of view as they spider hundreds of jewelry websites using the same photo and style numbers. Google might not be able to tell what's in a photo, but they can detect when the same photo is used on different websites. They all look like thin content pages and fall into the thin affiliate category.
Avoiding Thin Content in Your Catalog
So as not to get zapped by Google's definition of thin content you will need to put a little more work into your product catalog.
Here are some quick tips:
1. Use your own photos
2. Include your in-house SKU along with the designer style number
3. Write a two sentence, unique description of the style
Other Thin Content
Of course thin content still plagues sites in other ways, which is why I always recommend that you have at least 250 words on every page of your site.
That might sound impossible; it really isn't. Any given page on your site will include a mix of headlines, images, and written text. Both the visible words, and the invisible words from the image file name and ALT/TITLE attributes help you reach that 250 word park.
Eliminating thin content will go a long way towards improving the SEO of your website.