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The Panda algorithm is just another example of Google’s effort to identify “thin” content and enhance the user experience. To clarify, the actual quality of the copy is secondary. The objective is to add content that is of value to the user. Quality of copy and value of content can mean two very different things. So for example, the word count of any page theoretically isn’t that important as it does not correlate to value or thinness.
What specifically constitutes duplicate content, then?
Yes, thin content would include republished material or very similar pages. But, that just scrapes (pun intended) the surface. In general terms, anything that may obfuscate a page ranking or make it difficult for Google to determine which page to index may be construed as a duplicate content issue. These could include (but are not limited to):
- Printer friendly versions of pages
- Same URL for mobile site
- www. and non-www. pages (no canonical tags)
- Identical product descriptions for similar products
- Guest posts
How can I solve my duplicate content issues?
Canonical tags can help solve many duplicate content issues. Proper use of rel=canonical tags can ensure that Google passes any link or content authority to the preferred URL. Your preferred URL will show up in the Google search results.
There is a clear, preferred method to eliminate mobile URL issues. Move to a responsive site. While you may feel that budget constraints make this a less desirable option, responsive design enhances the user experience – which is what the Google algorithm is all about. The seo benefits of responsive design make this an investment that will pay off immediately and well into the future.
Expanding your product descriptions can be a laborious task, particularly when one considers the sheer volume of products any one website may offer. You can bolster product description content in any number of ways. As well as expanding the product description verbiage, one can include specifications or details, include “related purchases”, or add testimonials from previous users. For items that require assembly, how-to videos are a great alternative.
If your site accepts guest posts, search online before posting any new guest content to ensure that the content does not reside elsewhere.
Creating New Content: Does Size Matter?
I’ve heard it said that Google determines the quality of its search results using the time to long click method. In other words, a significant factor in determining the value of a search result is the amount of time a user spends on a website after leaving the Google search page. Additional emphasis is placed on the user’s next move. So, if the user does not go back to google search to perform another search, the presumption is that the question was answered adequately. It doesn’t matter how long the user spent on the page that was served up as the result. If this is accurate, the length of copy is not important. If the content was lengthy but did not meet the user’s expectation, they presumably would return to re-search the topic. If the resulting article was short but to the point and adequately answered the user’s query, then they would not likely return to perform another search. Assuming the time to long click method is used, size does not matter so much as the actual value of the material to the user.
That being said, sometimes less isn’t more. Larger articles seem to rank better in my personal experience. This may simply be due to the fact that when writing a longer article, more information is being shared thereby increasing the likelihood that the user finds what they’re looking for. While not consistent with stated policy, why not err on the side of caution and not only include valuable information but as much of it as possible?