Creating Good Content
Thin content has a long history.
It dates back the first 2000s, when a website only had to have a few keyword-optimized (or stuffed?) pages with little content to rank well in search engines.
But life is hard for SEO old-schoolers and black hats since Google introduced Panda in 2011 (and again in 2014) to fight low quality content.
One reason you may not be ranking well is that your content is poor — it’s thin content, indeed.
You’ll learn more about it in this post, and we’ll offer tips to fix poor pages and make sure thin content doesn’t affect your website ever again.
What Is Thin Content?
Thin content is content that has hardly any value for the user.
This type of content is usually short-form but thin content can be long-form, too.
Thin content can include:
- scraped content
- duplicate content
- low-quality affiliate pages
- doorway pages
- wordy content that is entirely fluff and doesn’t add any value.
An example of thin content page is a product page with no item description:
Another example is localization done with doorway pages, where you have a page for each local keyword (e.g. “plumbing services new york”) with the exact same content as another page for another city or area, the only difference the name of the place.
Google usually can tell which content is thin, and will deindex the page in web search, but most often you will get a manual action penalty that reads like “Thin content with little or no added value”.
Matt Cutts explains more about this kind of penalty in the video below:
It’s clear that Google wants to get rid of thin content pages because they add no value to its users.
So, you’ll want to do anything in your powers to avoid a thin content penalty, and to fix thin content on your website as soon as possible.
What Thin Content Is NOT
It’s not your photo gallery on your website.
It’s not your well-structured category page.
It’s not your syndicated content with rel=canonical properly applied.
It’s not search results pages either.
Although you may want to noindex the latter, these types of pages are all parts of a healthy website, therefore they’re not “thin content”.
Google knows this, too. In fact, it’s the reason art gallery sites don’t get a manual action penalty for thin content. It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?
So, if you have any of these pages and you’re afraid of a thin content penalty, don’t be. You’re absolutely fine.
How to Avoid Thin Content
There are two big ways to avoid thin content:
- Putting the user’s needs first
- Following Google’s E-A-T guidelines
We illustrate them below.
Think About the User
The best way to avoid producing thin content is to always have the benefit of the end user in sight.
Below are a few guiding questions:
- Is your content going to be useful?
- Will it answer a searcher’s query thoroughly?
- What is the search intent? Does your content meet it?
You should definitely aim to have at least 300 words of content, because you can’t answer a searcher’s question with fewer words. You need to leave the use satisfied and ready to walk away with new knowledge under their belt!
Good content shouldn’t leave users hungry for more — it should answer all their questions.
Make sure you provide statistics, background research and expert quotes. Also, visual content (i.e. screenshots, videos, graphs, even spot-on memes) will help users better understand your content.
Follow Google’s E-A-T Guidelines
Read the Quality Raters’ Guidelines that Google provides online for free to get a clue of what Google expects quality websites to be like.
Google introduced the acronym E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) in this document to indicate the three big areas that make a website a quality resource:
- The site should show its authors’ expertise in the subject matter
- The authors should have authoritativeness in their niche (i.e. a doctor, a psychologist, a mom)
- The site should be trustworthy (i.e. fact checked)
It goes without saying that scraped, duplicate and auto-generated content fails all three tests. Avoid these types of content at all costs.
How to Fix Thin Content on Your Website
In this section we illustrate three ways that you can fix thin content on your website.
If you received a manual action penalty for thin content, the first thing to do is to run a content audit.
Here’s how to do it:
2. Hunt for bad content: Look for sloppy-written, fluffy and/or keyword-stuffed level unreadable content, and duplicate content. While duplicate content can be removed or get a rel=canonical applied to it, low-quality content needs to undergo careful changes that may include adding keywords to make it findable and improving the quality of the copy with research, statistics and visual elements.
3. Fix the bad content. Sometimes ‘fixing’ might involve a complete rewrite of the content to make it useful and mention-worthy, or merging it with other existing content that already ranks. Sometimes it might mean deindexing or removing the content altogether as the best option. In the latter case, make sure you fix any broken links and use 301 redirects to avoid loss of traffic.
Fix Duplicate and Scraped Content
Run your pages through Copyscape or search Google using “…” search operators to find out who’s copying you and send them a cease-and-desist email.
You’ll want to contact their host if they are unresponsive, because duplicate content can create serious damage, not only in SEO.
If the duplicate content is on your website, it’s easy to take care of it. As mentioned previously, just be ready to fix any broken links and use 301 redirects where needed.
Fix Affiliate Pages
If you have affiliate pages, review them carefully and make sure they provide value to the user.
If they don’t, update them so they are resourceful and useful, not just another list of links.
Remember to fix any broken links, too, because they will damage the authoritativeness of your page.
Concluding Words on Thin Content
Once you’ve fixed any thin content on your website and submitted a reconsideration request, all you have to do is wait patiently for Google to reinstate your website and make a promise to yourself to stay away from thin content in the future.
We hope that our guide could help you make informed decisions and take action where it was necessary.
Here’s to your success!