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Is Thin Content Hurting you in the SERPs?

Since Google released its Panda update to the search algorithm it uses to rank websites in the search engine results pages (SERPs) in early 2011, there has been a great deal of focus on high quality content. There have been many refinements of their algorithm since then and they have all been aimed at improving the relevance of search results by reducing the number of websites with thin content that make it into the top of the SERPs. In the initial announcement that Google issued on their blog, they indicated that the main target of their algorithm improvements was the content farms and websites with low quality content.

In their blog post, Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, and Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer, said, “This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”1 While this did reduce the amount of pages stuffed with advertising and little or no valuable content that turned up in the SERPs, it also hurt websites that didn’t match Google’s new quality standards, with many valid content sites like eHow losing as much as 20% of their traffic overnight2. A further change to their algorithm began to eliminate pages that didn’t show enough valuable information in the first screen that is displayed, referred to as being “above the fold.” Pages with too many ads above the fold were deemed to have thin content and dropped down in the SERPs in favor of pages with more of their valuable content at the top of the page3.

Continuing their attacks on thin content, Google launched their Penguin algorithm update in April of this year, targeting keyword heavy sites with too many links to unrelated websites4.

One of the unfortunate results has been that many websites that were not involved in any Black Hat SEO, but which lacked the depth of content that Google is now ranking highly, have suffered through no fault of their own. Part of the problem was that the definition of what constitutes quality content is still a bit vague, which has prompted Google to post a long list of the aspects of a webpage that their algorithm looks at to determine the value of its content5. Most of the details on this list really boil down to content that is organically produced, such as blog posts, and which has been created by someone that is experienced in the topic rather than a writer for one of the content farms. The freshness of the content and how original it is, the features that differentiate it from similar content on other websites and the depth of comprehensiveness of the content, are all now factoring into the search algorithm equation.

For many websites this has meant that they have had to totally reevaluate their Internet marketing strategies and improve the content on their websites in order to meet the new quality standards. It has become far more important to include a company blog as a means of producing a steady supply of valuable new content to satisfy the spiderbots and retain a good page rank. Company pages can no longer rely on a few pages of product descriptions stuffed with keywords and links to work as their online billboard, and must now focus on a more engaging user experience.

As with all changes to the Internet, the people that get a handle on these new online marketing parameters first will have the edge on their competitors. If your website has dropped down the SERPs since these algorithm changes, then contact Infintech Designs to start producing the quality of content that will get you back to the top of the search results.






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