I don’t like filler content. Visitors don’t like it. Google doesn’t like it. And panda bears hate it about as much as they hate having sex with each other. The problem is most of us have blind-spots to our filler content in the same way that people with ugly babies don’t know they have an ugly baby.
I just had a “real” cute baby (He is, isn’t he? You’d tell me if he wasn’t, right?) but I know I’ve had some ugly filler content on lots of my websites, and have even written that type of content for clients in the past because it used to work. But since the Panda update I’ve been taking a long, hard look at introduction content, especially for category and product/landing pages. Rather than calling out any specific sites, I’ll make up a few examples.
Filler Content for the Toaster Category Page:
Here you will find all of your favorite toaster brands, including GE, Toastmaster and Black & Decker. Browse our selection of toasters and save with our awesome toaster deals! Buying toasters is easy and cheap when you shop with ToasterStore123.com.
The problem with the above content is that it doesn’t really tell the shopper anything they didn’t already know. They clicked on the link to the toaster category so they probably already know what kinds of things are sold there (e.g. toasters). They’re on your store’s website shopping so you don’t really have to sell them with something as generic as the last sentence. Instead, be useful by helping them make a decision and further instill trust by showing you care…
Useful Content for the Toaster Category Page:
Not all toasters are created equally, but we have a toaster for every need. Black & Decker and GE toasters have proven to be reliable, affordable mid-range options, while DeLonghi Toasters are the type of top-of-the-line appliances you might find in a chef’s home. Budget-conscious shoppers may appreciate the simplicity and affordability of brands like Proctor Silex or Sunbeam. Chat instantly to a representative if you have any questions. We’re here to help!
Filler Content for a Merhcant Page on a Coupon Website:
Use Green Widget Store coupons to save big at greenwidgetstore.com. The Green Widget Store sells green widgets of all kinds, including from top brands like WidgetMaster and ProWidgets. Known for their quality and customer service, Green Widget Store’s reputation is unmatched in the widget industry. Now you can shop and save with these fantastic coupons!
The problem with the above intro content is that users already know all of it. I know you have coupons for the Green Widget Store. That’s how I ended up on your site, not by randomly clicking links in hopes that someone will convince me to buy something I don’t need. If I Googled “Green Widget Store Coupons” I already know what the Green Widget Store sells, and you don’t need to sell me on how great the store is either – especially if you have similar “this store is great” copy on ALL of your merchant pages. But, most importantly, 9 times out of 10 the searcher is already on the store’s checkout page and they’ve just seen the box to “enter coupon code”. No sell is needed. Be helpful instead…
Useful Content for a Merhcant Page on a Coupon Website:
These Green Widget Store coupons can be used on all orders, but only one coupon code can be used at a time. However, you can combine a Green Widget Store coupon with an ongoing offer like “Free Shipping on Orders Over $50″ which is available without the use of a coupon code. Greenwidgetstore.com usually offers their deepest coupon discounts in November and December, but you’ll need to be quick because the codes often expire within 30 days. All of the coupon codes below are currently valid.
The worst kind of filler content you can use is the sort that takes a templated approach. For example:
This is our [CATEGORY_NAME] category, where you’ll find great deals on [CATEGORY_TAGS] and other [CATEGORY_NAME] products.
Which might look something like this:
This is our Footwear category, where you’ll find great deals on shoes, sandals, slippers, heels, insoles, socks and other Footwear products.
Some sites operate at such a large scale that it is very difficult to write custom copy for every single page, especially for hundreds or thousands of categories. I used to recommend writing custom content for the top twenty or thirty categories (that is somewhat arbitrary and would all depend on available metrics) because, at worst, the less important ones just wouldn’t rank as well. Usually they were also the less competitive ones, which means they could sometimes still rank with templated content. However, Google’s Panda algorithm change has made that strategy a thing of the past for me and my clients. These days those lower-quality content pages not only won’t rank themselves, but could also drag down the rankings for your high-quality pages. In other words, write high-quality, custom content or keep the page out of the index. To further this problem for large-scale websites, you can’t hire some cheap copywriter to hack away at this copy all day for a few dollars an hour. They’ll end up giving you filler content instead of anything useful.
It was a tough game to begin with, but has recently become even tougher. Welcome to the post-Panda SEO world, where we worry less about keywords in the copy and more about whether that copy is actually useful to the visitor. Although I’ve had several sites suffer, and not recover even after fixing things like this, I think it is a change for the better. But if Google doesn’t SOON start rewarding the SEOs who go out of their way to improve the quality of their websites after being affected by Panda they may see a lot of them scrap their whitehat sites and go over to the darkside, where scale and automation take the place of quality and good will. You can’t expect to teach old dogs new tricks without at least giving them a treat now and then.