Today more than ever, search engines are championing high quality website content that is relevant, authoritative, and engaging. Google, for instance, is pushing for what it deems to be great user experience on the web, and website content is a huge part of that experience. To this end, they have formally announced (or at least Google has) penalties for fluff and subpar content, meaning to turn quality into a technical requirement.
This advocacy to ensure high quality content, at least by intention, is admirable. The effect on many websites, however, is that they scramble to find out what works out as fluff and what does not.
Panda, Penguin, and the War on Thin Content
Google wasn't shy about the Panda algorithm sifter updates and the subsequent Penguin updates that all but declared war on what it called "thin" content. By "thin," take it to mean a lack of substance. Panda is a sifter that fires off every now and then, combing sectors of the Internet to sift through websites. Penguin, on the other hand, is a typical update but with huge implications in terms of quality of content. In the end, they both aim to uphold the search engine law of quality content that is fluff-free and substantial. They are the effort to police the web, ensuring that search engine users are directed to websites that can offer great user experiences — from site structure to content.
Fluff and Thin Content
What exactly is fluff anyway? What is thin content, and what qualifies content into this heinous category that Google abhors? In any form of writing, fluff are parts that have no use. They do not enrich or add effect or contribute anything to the message or manner of delivery, they do not make the communication between article and reader better. Indeed, it almost always ends up otherwise — fluff is detrimental. Thin content includes "fluffy" content and content that is optimized for search engines, and not for human readers. They often make little sense and do not offer any valuable information. They are rendered nearly illegible and incomprehensible by keyword stuffing, spinning, and unethical link building that all they achieve is annoy readers.
Advantages of Fluff-Free Content
Web designers will be the first to say that the foremost and most obvious advantage to fluff-free content is that you get to keep your visitors. The only real reasons behind prevalent practice of fluffing up website content include meeting word count requirements or creating content that catches the proverbial eye of search engines. Now that search engines themselves are condemning these sorts of content, there is very little incentive to fluff up content or rely on thin content to drive traffic.
Of course, the inherent advantages of high quality content will surely follow, including but not limited to:
• Better conversion rates — a higher percentage of organic traffic will more likely convert or become leads
• Highly link-worthy content — natural link building (i.e. unsolicited) is very powerful
• Shareable content — through reblogging, sharing on social media, and distribution to news boiler or syndication sites
The era of thin content that benefits businesses through more traffic is over. There are still concerns however, about content providers and marketers that resort to content spinning and using unoriginal content. Know that there is more harm than good in these methods that aim to make things easier for a website or business — they are self-defeatist practices that are all but phased out of industry standards.
How to Craft Great Website Content
So the big question is, how should you craft website content? Evidently, you need to invest time, money, or effort (or all three) to create great content. Regarding how to avoid fluff and thin content, you can always try:
• Researching more — Small to mid-sized websites often rely on outsourced content providers who themselves hire freelancers. The typical problem is that the rates can become abysmally low on the freelancers' end, and they would loath sending out high quality content for peanuts. This means that when clients ask them to complete an article with a certain word count, they would sometimes resort to fluffing up their articles to reach that word count faster.
Setting aside the conundrum with remuneration, more research often leads to more substance within articles, which means less space for fluff within a given set of word count requirements. Horizontal or vertical research about a topic can lead writers to more data to cite within their articles, meaning they won't have to struggle to reach word count requirements. Indeed, they might even have a problem keeping to maximum word count limits.
• Zooming in or out of a topic — Any single subject matter can be taken into more context by zooming in or out, that is to say, taking the deeper or broader concerns of the topic and writing about those in relation to the original topic. A typical concern for creating regular blog posts is that often there seems to be a limit to how many topics to write about — sometimes the writer simply runs out of topics. The fact is that one topic can branch out to several others, and their relationships to those topics can be just as engaging, informative, and high quality as all the other previous posts about the same topic.
• Gaining expert insight — Writers can endeavor to reach out to experts and professionals in the field or topic that they are writing about, or in case an interview of any sort is inconvenient for any reason, they can look into past interviews regarding the topic. This little trick increases authoritativeness of an article multifold, while maintaining relevance and avoiding abominable fluff. And, of course, how can you be accused of thin content if you have expert sources?
Professional writers know a lot of tips and tricks, styles and techniques, and measures to avoid fluff and thin content. Even before the age of website content, useless, irrelevant articles were always the bane of professional writing. Thanks to Panda, Penguin, and all the other search engine updates out there, this is now increasingly true for the cyber world as well. Avoid fluff and thin content like the plague, and your website content and copywriting will simply be great.