claaarky - 9:10 am on Sep 22, 2011 (gmt 0)
Here's my view......
Shallow Content = duplicate (from one source) OR rewritten (from one source) OR lacking any real detail on the subject.
In my vertical I see even small affiliate sites ranking top because they've pulled together a huge amount of detail on a specific subject which reflects a real specialist interest in that subject. All the information is available elsewhere on the web but their site is the only place you can find ALL that information in one place, presented well and in an easy to digest manner.
Usually they have written the content themselves based on the information gathered. Sometimes it's mostly duplicate content but from multiple sources.
The more successful ecommerce sites (despite selling the same thing as everyone else) are the ones with genuine customer reviews or information on the products that show they have hands on experience of those products. Some, however, are still doing okay without anything more than duplicate product descriptions because they are associated with huge brands.
Several of my sites were hit by Panda in April. Two were not - one was 100% duplicate content but from multiple sources, one was a 6 page site focusing on one specific topic in great depth based on my own personal experience (with a few affiliate links to multiple merchants).
Our most important ecommerce site has not yet recovered. We regard ourselves as specialists in our field but despite a lot of effort in content the site still doesn't reflect the level of in depth knowledge we've built up over 8 years, which is what we're working to address so customers and google can see we really know about the products we sell.
It's tough finding the time to put all that knowledge into writing and it's detracting from the day to day operation of the business but we we either have to spend money marketing ourselves in other ways or invest time in conveying our years of experience via our website if we want Google to continue to be our main source of business.
I don't think word count matters, it's what you're saying that is most important. What makes your site different or special generally?
It's very subjective and totally relative to the competition you're up against but if you think you have something special and your site reflects that I believe Google won't consider your content shallow.