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The Kind of Thin You Need to Avoid: Thin Content and 7 Ways to Prevent It

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Updated onMay 26, 2020

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You hear about all sorts of diet these days because most people just love to be a tad bit thinner here and there, don’t they? Well, there’s a kind of “thin” you need to avoid entirely in the world of SEO, and that is thin content. Content is king, and kings are not kings if they are underfed. What your website needs, to hit those high-ranking SERP marks you want, is good, high-quality, relevant content. Juicy, meaty materials that add value to people’s lives—this is what we need to serve up every time we create content.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings is a priority for digital marketers who understand the profitability of gaining favorable SEO scores. Sites with good SEO get found faster by the right people in their target market, including high-value visitors who have a purchase intent. There are more than 200 algorithm factors used by Google and other search engines, but at the core of these factors is content. Every business, regardless of industry, need to learn and develop their skills to rise up to the challenge.

What is Thin Content?

Google has updated its algorithm to hunt and thin out all thin content.

Thin content, according to Google, is content that “has little to no use” or “no added value.” It gives Google and other search engines the signal your content is of low quality.

Here are some ways to distinguish whether your website has thin content or not.

Some Signs of Thinness

1. Copied or Rehashed Content

Google penalizes copy-paste content. When you are penalized by Google, you will be given a written warning. Severe penalties, however, would land you on the omitted pages list. This is definitely a blow to your website because even a day of getting locked out of your site can mean hundreds if not, thousands of visits and potential ROI.

Google algorithm’s purpose is to provide better user experience by providing accurate results matching audiences’ search queries. Obviously, having copied or rehashed content would not be adding value to people. Google will not prioritize these types of content at all.

2. Automatically-Generated Content

Some people use apps and programs to automatically create new content for their site to make it seem current or active. These types of content were easy to spot before since they usually sound awkward and sometimes did not make sense. But AI technology used to spin content these days have become more advanced and can write high-value content, sometimes even better than humans do. Often, it’s hard to identify which ones are bot-written and which ones are written by real, live writers. Though these types of content may escape the radar of algorithms, it still is unethical to publish content this way. There will also come a time when search engine algorithms will be improved more to detect auto-generated content on the internet.

3. Content Looks Unappealing

Google algorithm checks the user’s experience in dealing with your content. So, it’s beyond superficial aesthetics but the kind of service you are giving your audience through your content. Form and function are such a great deal to Google that a slump in your UI (User Interface or design) and UX (User Experience) rating can harm your SEO.

Low-quality content also looks and feels untrustworthy. The typography and design may be awkward, the pages may be covered by ads and links galore, and when you check the body of the content, there is not much to look at or use. Obviously, you were lured to the page for marketing purposes, or worse, malicious intent.

If there is content, you will not find much value either. Usually, the content is incomplete or all over the place. Grammatical and semantic errors are present, facts are outdated, and provided links may be broken or missing.

Related: Content Planning for the Website and Social Networks (With an Example)

4. Doorway Content to Spam SERP

Using doorway pages to rank in Google is a strategy of most spammers to flood SERP with thin content targeting specific keywords or phrases. Their aim is to lead audiences to other pages or websites, where every click-through earns them some profit or increases their site’s rank.

Usually, there’s not much content on these pages, and you’ll see a lot of links or buttons to click or steps to do before they can get to the information they came for. It creates a terrible user experience and dampens SEO rankings.

5. Thin Affiliate Content

It’s normal for websites these days to provide links on their content of affiliate partners they are collaborating with.

For instance, if a technical blog talks about cybersecurity and how to keep networks secure from hackers, it may include affiliate links to security software they can purchase on Amazon. Amazon is currently the most famous affiliate partner among bloggers. So, if readers like the book and would like to use it in their home-school, they can just click on the given link and be directed to the Amazon page where they can order the product. The blog’s content about the book adds value to the audience by serving as a preview or review that helps them in their decision to purchase.

What search engines penalize is that with thin affiliate content, links are just thrown into the article without much effort to naturally incorporate them into the topic at all. In thin affiliate content, you will not find reviews and the like to provide customers with additional value or information other than what’s provided already on the affiliate partner’s page. It’s like a lazy salesperson in a brick-and-mortar store just pointing to you to the right direction but not helping you out in your buying decision.

Matt Cuts, former head of Google’s Web Spam team, sheds this insight about thin content:

Image Source: https://youtu.be/w3-obcXkyA4

Related: How to Write High Ranking Content for Affiliate Marketing?

How Google Penalizes Thin Content?

With the first Google Panda update in February 23, 2011 came the first of many purges that the search engine did, targeting thin content. As a result of spammy behavior like auto-generated content producing a plethora of low-value pages, Google introduced the thin content manual penalty.

Based on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, these penalties are manually applied and reflected in the Manual Actions section of Google Webmaster Tools.

An example of such infractions are:

The danger with a thin content penalty, you just don’t get a warning or reduced rankings. Your website will be removed from SERP completely and classified as an omitted website. For the penalty to be lifted, the web developer would have to submit a request for reconsideration to Google. They would have to go through the process recommended by Google, like removing thin content to remove the infraction.

Having your website blocked even for a day means you don’t get traffic, engagements, and sales. It also means you might be losing the trust of your readers when they receive the 404 notice. So you need to do all that you can, in the quickest time possible, to have the penalty removed.

With thin contents, most often than not, the only resort is to remove and replace offending content with a fresh, high-quality content.

7 Ways to Avoid Thin Content

If you’re a well-meaning writer, webmaster or SEO strategist, you would want to avoid thin content right away. So how do you troubleshoot this content-weight problem? How do you steer clear from thin content and start giving the high-quality content Google wants?

1. Feed Your Content

If your content is malnourished, then feed it with creativity and originality. Put those thinking caps on. Don’t compromise content anymore just to penny-pinch or run through short-cuts in your SEO campaign. Research on canonical websites and integrate verified facts and figures on your content that is relevant to your topic. Don’t put four bar graphs, for example, just because you want your content to appear more whitepaper. Get only one that directly relates to your article and will definitely add valuable insight to your readers. Don’t’ forget to credit your sources appropriately too.

Make sure your article is robust, and you are not just using a plethora of words as your way of “expanding your content.”

You can add quotes from experts too, different perspectives or opinions on the same idea, or recent updates regarding the topic. Whatever you do, write creatively, clearly, and relevantly. Write with your audience in mind. If you know their trending search intent, respond to that through your content, because that should be the purpose why you publish pages, hopefully.

2. Replace Your Material

If your content is hard to expand or repair, be willing to replace it right away. Maybe the topic is not relevant or does not answer your audience’s most pressing concerns. Replace it with a topic that’s current and in-demand. Sometimes, it’s better to write from scratch because you can give something fresh, instead of a patched-up version of a lousy content.

3. Get Rid of Low-Quality, Thin Content Right Away

This statement should not be taken personally. If you are reading this, then for sure, you desire to give your readers something of value. The first step is to remove the things that are not of importance to them—immediately. Take action right away. It’s better to have fewer articles as long as they are all of high-quality. Your low-quality content can bring down the rest of your high-quality pages. It’s that serious. You can get penalized and classified as an omitted page like we have previously mentioned. If you remove those kinds of content, you avoid penalty. If you were already penalized, then this is a crucial step to getting rid of those penalties as well.

4. Steer Clear of Thin Content Altogether

Start things right, always. Aim to write quality content from the beginning. This should be a default to you, so it’s easier to avoid thin content creation. Take time to gather facts, reliable links, even original images and other media, before you bring it all together in a simple, concise, and engaging manner. You are writing for people, and not bots.

To keep people’s needs in mind to guide you in how you write and curate your materials to appeal to people in your target market the best.

5. Be Customer-Oriented

Content is king, and the customer is always right. These are not clichés, if you really think of it. You need to produce high-quality content because you want to give your readers the best possible service and experience you can provide. Put yourselves in their shoes every time you create content. The content is not about you, but about them. What do you have that would pique their interest? That would cause them to read on? That would encourage them to share your content and ultimately, to convert to loyal and paying patrons? Think like your readers think. You have the search intent data in keyword planning tools to guide you into the pulse of your readers.

You can also research online yourself and type in keywords and phrases you target to serve. What are other websites offering? Which areas are underserved so you can come in to fill the gap?

Are you writing in their language? Is your piece readable? Is your page navigable even for the most novice mobile or desktop user?

These are some of the questions you can train yourself to think of routinely before you even create an article, to help you avoid producing thin content.

6. Create Engaging Content for Higher Dwell Time

Guide your audience on your article or page so they’ll naturally dwell longer on your page, increasing your click-through rates in the process. Google takes note of dwell time, bounce rates—the number of time users stays on your site before they decide to leave or bounce out of it.

7. Produce Useful Content

In the past, keyword-stuffing was a massive practice because algorithms weren’t as strict then as they are now. To be useful, your content should match the search intent of your target market. Aim for an article at least 2,000 words in length, which Google classifies as the length of most high-quality content.

8. Avoid Marketing to People Too Much. Make Use of Content Marketing.

People know when they are being sales-talked or marketed to. Balance your need to earn form your blog or website without compromising quality over profits. Profits will come if you do content marketing strategically.

Conclusion: A Robust, Healthy, and High-Value Content is the Way to Go

When your objectives are in the right place to produce high-quality, useful, and engaging content, avoiding thin content would be easier. Just like you need great nutrition to remain strong and active, robust content providing solutions make your website more active, SEO-wise. High-value content is the way to go when it comes to good SEO.

John Ocampos

John Ocampos is an Opera Singer by profession and a member of the Philippine Tenors. Ever since, Digital Marketing has always been his forte. He is the Founder of SEO-Guru, and the Managing Director of Tech Hacker. John is also the Strategic SEO and Influencer Marketing Manager of Softvire Australia - the leading software eCommerce company in Australia and Softvire New Zealand.

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