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Why Thin Content Hurts SEO

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Overview

Thin content is the practice of creating content that ranks high on the search engine result pages (SERPs) but offers little value to users who land on that page. SEO Thin content is an important element of Google’s search algorithm, but it’s also one of the hardest problems to fix.

What is thin content?

Thin content is on-page content that offers little to no value and doesn’t help visitors. SEO thin content is an attempt to trick search engines by creating pages that are “thin” on actual content. Having thin content risks damaging your whole site’s ranking and authority on Google. Furthermore, it takes up space, costs you time and money, leads to Google penalties, and ultimately drives visitors away from your website. With over 1.9 billion websites in existence, search engines have started to identify thin content pages as spammy and penalise websites for it. 

Why does Google dislike thin content?

Google wants to make finding the answer to users’ search intentions as straightforward as possible. Users enter a search query in the search bar, and they’re taken to Google SERPs, where the most promising content that matches a user’s search intent will appear. As a result, users will feel that this content has helped them achieve their goals, and thus Google has fulfilled its purpose.

In the case of thin content, a user will enter their query, click on one of the top results and see a page filled with low-valued content. As a result, users will leave feeling misled and have to search again. In short, Google doesn’t want users to have to go through the hassle of restarting their searches.

What is Google doing to solve this problem?

Google condemns thin content websites with penalties and manual actions, from losing your ranking, to Google removing you from search results indefinitely depending on the seriousness of the situation. 

Google has even gone to the extent of continuously rolling out new SEO algorithm updates from Panda to the most recent helpful content update. Google’s Panda was a game changer in reducing the amount of thin content online. Content creators were only rewarded if they published high-quality content on their websites which reduced the rate of low-quality content being produced. Google’s helpful content update will plummet site rankings if it detects unhelpful “thin” content. Google is continually updating its algorithm to detect thin content in an effort to combat issues.

Why do people use thin content?

Ranking high in the SERPs to increase traffic, leads, and conversions is every online business’s goal. The traditional method of achieving this was through black hat SEO tactics alongside producing large amounts of thin content. Those days are long gone.  

Thin content is one of the most common issues that can lower your ranking, so why do people still use it? Unfortunately, pressure to mass produce content, hit a word count benchmark, create content to only target specific keywords (even if they’re irrelevant to the business) or stay competitive are all reasons why thin content still exists.

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Types of thin content to avoid

To avoid producing thin content, you need to know what is categorised as thin content. Typically, thin content is considered one of the following:

  • Affiliate pages: Content pages copied directly from the merchant site are considered ‘thin content’ on your website as they do not provide much value or add any context to your users. You also need to clearly state you are working with this company or else Google will take action and classify it as thin content. You should focus on creating unique affiliate pages for your site rather than pointing them back to affiliate sites.
  • Automated-generated content: Content that is created by automated software. It’s produced to increase site traffic without putting any thought into the quality or context of the information – in a nutshell, quantity over quality. It is easily identifiable as it is not human-written text and typically contains numerous grammatical or spelling errors. You should avoid automated-generated content at all costs as Google can detect AI in text.
  • Doorway pages: Doorway pages are identical pages created to rank for one specific term and then direct traffic to a different page. Google categorises these pages as incomplete with the intent of manipulating rankings rather than helping answer a searcher’s intent. 
  • Duplicate content: Similar to doorway pages, creating duplicate content that lacks depth or usefulness to target irrelevant keywords will get disapproval from Google.

Why you should avoid thin content

While recovery from thin content is possible, you are better off avoiding it in the first place as penalties and manual actions from Google affect: 

  • Your domain health
  • Your ability to rank
  • Your bounce rate
  • Your ability to attract traffic 
  • Your conversion rate 

Without realising it, you may have thin content. So how do you know if you have thin content and what steps can you take to fix the issues?

1. Identify thin content

Firstly, to tackle thin content on your current site, you should use our favourite thin content checkers listed below to crawl through your website and identify where thin content is. 

Need help figuring out where to start? We can help, or if you need more information, you can contact the Madcraft team.

2. Make a decision: Keep, improve or remove

A simple solution we use at Madcraft is to break your content into three categories: keep, improve or remove. This can help you decide what the best course of action is for your website content.

  • Keep: Keep content that is not classed as thin content.  
  • Remove: Removing thin content will stop the downgrading quality of your site.
  • Improve:  Rewrite the thin content. You can bulk it out by adding additional content such as unique research, statistics, insights, images, and videos. You can also bulk the content by focusing on more than one keyword. Remember that your content must provide useful information to users.

3. Create a content strategy

The creation of a content strategy will help you align your content with your business goals and prevent you from falling into the trap of creating thin content. A content strategy should be based on your original expertise with the goal of meeting the user’s search intent with that content. It would be best if you created a long-term strategy centred on building and improving your site’s authority.

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One of the biggest takeaways is to make quality content that will satisfy user search intent. Think from a search engine optimisation perspective to create content that provides useful information to users. If you have any concerns about your SEO strategy or want to get it off the ground, then get in touch with our digital marketing team.

Key points

  • Thin content can harmfully impact your website ranking and authority standing on Google. In short, it makes it more difficult to rank, results in penalties by Google, a high bounce rate, and a low conversion rate. 
  • Google prioritises content that matches a user’s search intent, not content that has high-level SEO efforts implemented.
  • To fix thin content, you need to identify thin content, decide to keep, improve or remove content on your site and make a content strategy to avoid repeating making the same mistakes with producing thin content in the future.

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