Gruel, mush, thin content — whatever you call it, it’s watered-down, weak, and unappetizing.
WHAT IS THIN CONTENT?
If “thin content” makes you think of gruel from a Charles Dickens book, you've made the right connection. Content that informs, inspires, and motivates consumers has more substance and flavor than watered-down oatmeal paste. Your audience wants flavorful depth! They’re looking for content that adds value by taking the time to read, and they're not going to get it from websites that cut corners in their content creation process.
Thin content is vapid, low-effort drivel pasted onto a blog, website, or script, and it’s ubiquitous in the wild as it's easily generated by high-output, rock-bottom-quality content mills and uninspired creators.
Have you ever heard of the “15-Second Rule”? No, it's not the period of time in which a snack can touch the floor before it's socially unacceptable to eat. 15 seconds is how long it takes a site visitor to decide whether the page (or video, for that matter) has the information they want. If you're not serving it up, they're gonna bounce.
Where does thin content come from?
Thin content pales in comparison to its hearty alternatives. How do we avoid it? First, let’s look at how this unsatisfying content is made.
Spinning content means taking someone else’s posts and rewriting it just enough to avoid claims of plagiarism. Spun content doesn't offer anything new to its readers, and savvy consumers who are in any stage of the funnel will bail as soon as they get a whiff.
You might have come across ads from content companies touting the brilliance of their writers, but some of them might not have writers at all and instead rely on armies of bots that crawl older websites, flat-out steal the content, and repackage it as-is to resell. This is scraped content. It dings SERP rankings and can seriously hurt the credibility of the sites it steals from.
Poorly-researched content can feel like binge-eating Halloween candy (stomach ache included.) In the moment, it’s sweet, chocolatey bliss, but you’re always left wanting something more. If the information that readers are consuming burns off as quick as a few simple sugars, your readers are going to be hungry again in no time.
Why thin content is a recipe for disaster
Your audience wants original content that leaves them feeling satisfied, but keen to come back for more. Search engines have put a lot of effort into their own test kitchens, and they fully understand what makes content consumable. Over the years, Google has embraced E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) as concept touch points for rating content's value.
So what whets Google's appetite? While there are no concrete metrics associated with E-A-T (and everyone's been looking) Google does take into account how (and how often) content is cited elsewhere, how long visitors chew on that content, and whether the content is fresh and original.
How to fix thin content
Look, nobody wants thin content. So, what can we do to fix it?
Citing reputable sources and linking to relatable, high-quality content lends authority to your content, and therefore your brand. Saying “Whole grain cereals will kick watery oatmeal's ass” is great; citing studies or articles by well-known institutions is much, much better. Your readers learned something, or at the very least got meaningful confirmation of what they already believed. That's demonstrating authority.
Content refreshes make it possible to resurrect your old thin content and turn it into a feast for your readers refreshing it with fresh data, more relevant source material, and a voice that more closely matches your brand. Content is an asset, and just like any other, it needs a bit of tending, so you should be doing all of that already. But moving forward, do you have a plan in place to create quality, rather than quantity? Here are a few ingredients to an excellent content creation plan:
- Worry less about pleasing search engines, and more about impressing your audience.
- Map out pillared content, which will organize your content in a manner that keeps your audience informed and engaged at every step of their journey.
- Research what your competitors do, and then forget about it: Be original with your own brand flavor.
- Find content creators who understand your industry, and can make bland topics sound magically delicious.
- Understand that solid content creators are also partial to chunks and gravy, so don't expect to feed them gruel.
“Please sir, can I have some more?”
Don't serve up material to your audience that isn't fit for a starving street urchin. Solid, substantial content will earn brand loyalty, and keep you on the forefront of your audience's minds when they're ready to take the next step. So tempt them with copy and visuals they'll look forward to, and that will keep them coming back.
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