Understanding Thin Content, and How to Avoid it Harming Your Community

While a healthy community was, until recently, filled with people asking questions and creating discussions around their queries, this is rapidly becoming less and less the case. Continuing with a policy of encouraging prolific posters can actually harm your engagement, and even your traffic.

What is Thin Content?

Primarily this all leads back to Google, as is so often the case these days. The search giant uses a term that, for once, I actually really like. It calls this type of fast, high quantify posting “thin content”, and that’s a great way to think about it.

Over at element14.com, a recent upgrade to our community platform added an innocuous new feature that allows members to put their names against a question posed by another member, reducing the need for them to create a similar post. On face value this sounds contrary to growing a community, as it means less content, but that’s the most basic definition of thin content.

A button saying “I have the same question” appears on all threads that are marked as a discussion, and this adds value — or meat, if you like — to the original post without creating duplicate content elsewhere. Even if the original post might have initially seemed a bit think, it gains weight as more people join its cause (as opposed to trying to answer its question). Simple, but very effective.

Avoiding Thin Content

Think of Google as being an actual person, sat at a computer, who knows everything there is to know about SEO. They’re reading all the posts on your community, and even though they might be worded differently, duplicate questions are considered thin. Don’t try and trick this guy. Work with him instead, even though it might (and probably will) mean reducing the amount of content on your community.

But it’s likely to happen despite your best intentions and practices. So as much as possible, group these pieces of content together and encourage your members not to post again; just to attach themselves to the original sentiment.

Cross-linking from other pieces of content to the original question is also something our buddy at Google notices, and likes. They can see how that thin question is proving to have some meat on its bones, but its subject is coming up naturally across your community.

And the obvious one to finish with. Work to encourage quality posts over a quantify of posts. ‘Cause that’s just good practice anyway. Check this video out by Dominic Woodman for some excellent pointers on how to do this: https://vimeo.com/157707889