If you know SEO, you know that Google is all about high-quality content. Whenever the algorithm changes or a new ranking factor emerges, the advice for webmasters always come back to one thing: continue writing original, relevant, high-quality content. It isn’t the only critical component of a website (of course) but according to Google, providing high-quality content is the “single most important thing to do” if you’re trying to create a Google-friendly site. As you’re writing this all-important text, remember to make it valuable for your readers – in other words, don’t create pages with thin content. But what is thin content anyway? And if you have pages with thin content, how can you transform them into well-crafted, well-regarded gems?
What Is Thin Content?
The term “thin content” is used to describe several different issues relating to website content, but it generally refers to content that offers little or no value to the user. Since Google is all about enhancing the user’s search experience, it ranks thin content poorly so that users don’t have to interact with it. Due to its broad definition, thin content can take many forms. For example, Google considers all of the following to be thin content pages:
- Pages with Little or No Content: This is the most obvious form of thin content. Because the text is minimal or even nonexistent, it has very little substance and thus very little value. If your page has a low word count – perhaps just a paragraph or two – you could likely benefit from lengthening it a bit.
- Doorway Pages: A doorway is a page created to rank highly for a specific search query. Google looks down on doorway pages because (1) they are often similar to other pages that appear in the search results for that specific search query and (2) they may lead users to an intermediate page that isn’t as helpful as the actual destination. Doorway pages are often targeted at specific regions or cities, funneling users to one destination.
- Low-Quality Affiliate Pages: If you’re participating in an affiliate program, it’s important to make sure that your affiliate pages have original content that provides value to users. Weak affiliate pages feature minimal original content (or none whatsoever) and are considered thin content.
- Pages with Scraped or Duplicate Content: Scraping content is the practice of taking content from other places online and publishing it on your own site. Not only does this go against Google’s guidelines, but it also violates copyright laws. Copying content from another site and only modifying it slightly (by changing the words to synonyms, for example) is also considered scraping. Note that duplicating content from your own website is considered bad form as well.
- Pages with Auto-Generated Content: As the name conveys, auto-generated content is created by a program using an automatized process. These programs pull content with a particular keyword from RSS feeds or other websites, hoping to get the page to rank for that keyword. This text is unedited, often unreadable, and therefore not valuable to readers.
How to Overcome Thin Content
Since the Panda Update was incorporated into Google’s algorithm, websites with thin content have taken a hit. Not only does a page with thin content hurt its own ranking, but it also negatively impacts the ranking of the domain as a whole.
To rank highly, you need to prove to Google that you’re providing exceptional content that the user will appreciate. If you can’t answer the search query with extensive, well-written information, Google will assume you’re not the best fit and push you down the search engine results page (SERP). By focusing on the users first and writing informative, engaging content that speaks to them, you can get in Google’s good graces.
Of course, this isn’t always easy. Some topics deserve far more words than you can supply on a single webpage – even after you write paragraphs and paragraphs of text – while other topics can be exhausted in a single paragraph. The good news is that long content is not necessarily better for SEO. Focus on the writing quality and relevance.
Diagnosing Pages with Thin Content
Now that you can answer the question, “What is thin content?”, let’s explore how you can identify it on your own website.
First, you’ll need to conduct a full audit of your indexed URLs using a site crawler like the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. The program will crawl your URLs and produce metrics – titles, URLs, word counts, metadata, etc. – that you can use to diagnose thin content. For example, you can look for pages with low word counts or similar titles/URLs (which could be indicative of internal duplicate content).
In addition, consider using a plagiarism tool like Copyscape to quickly identify content that appears on other websites. If pages of your website were plagiarized or someone else plagiarized your content, you can identify the issue and remedy it.
Fattening Up Your Content
There are three common ways to address thin content: update the content, eliminate the page and redirect the traffic, or tell Google not to index the page. The strategy you use will likely depend on the type of page and your goals for it.
- Update the page with high-quality, engaging content. If a page’s text is short, poorly written, unrelated to the keyword, or fails to provide crucial information, rewrite it. Expand on your ideas and make your pages more worthy of users’ time. This is a good option if your page is less than 400 words, lacks a keyword focus, uses poor SEO practices (keyword stuffing, spammy links, etc.), contains outdated material, or includes content copied from somewhere else.
- Use a 301 redirect to send the user to a higher quality page. You may wish to delete the page and redirect its traffic if the content no longer aligns with your website/company or complies with current regulations. Additionally, if two pages on your website share content, decide which one is better, delete the weaker page, and redirect the traffic to the better page. By redirecting with a 301 redirect, you’re preserving some of the site’s link equity. To learn more about duplicate content and how you can fix duplicate content issues on your site, check out this previous blog post.
- Use a “noindex” directive to prevent Google from indexing the page. If you wish to keep a page with thin content on your website, use a “noindex” directive to preventing indexing, which could harm your domain’s SEO. This strategy works well for print-friendly pages (which contain duplicate content) and e-commerce sites with thin category pages.
If many pages on your website have thin content, the process of updating them can be an overwhelming task, but it is indisputably worthwhile as a tool to strengthen your website’s overall SEO. A single page with thin content probably won’t hurt your rankings, but if most of your site’s pages lack unique, high-quality content, this may explain why you’re struggling to reach one of those coveted top 10 spots on Google.
If you’re hoping to build a beautiful, effective website that ranks highly on Google, contact 417 Marketing for help. Our team of knowledgeable, creative, and passionate professionals specializes in SEO, web design and maintenance, and Google AdWords, and we have successfully completed over 700 websites since our inception in 2010. Click here to contact us and learn more about what we can do for your company.