As a brand, you want to help your audiences and deliver the best experience and most useful information to them.
However, sometimes in the pursuit of perfect SEO, we forget about this core principle and focus instead on trying to hit specific keywords or publish a certain number of blog pages.
Google wants us to show our most valuable content to users, and if our content doesn’t have any substance or depth, it can seriously hurt our rankings and damage our authority standing on Google.
This thin content needs to be fixed and removed from your website to avoid damages and help provide readers with better information.
In this article, we address thin content and help you understand exactly what it is.
We also help you learn about the penalties you can get from it, how to identify it on your site, and ideas on how you can fix any thin content issues you might have.
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What is Thin Content?
Thin content is website content that provides little to no value to customers and lacks any depth, structure, or quality.
Sometimes in the effort to create content, hit keywords, and keep up with competitors, we produce thin content just to get something out there.
But, rather than helping us, thin content actually damages our SEO.
Google is always looking for content that matches the search intent of a user. When a user enters a search query, they want to get the answer they are looking for.
It’s your job to convince Google that you are answering the question that the user is asking, and when you have short, unhelpful copy, you aren’t able to accomplish that.
Examples of Thin Content
Now that you know the broad definition of thin content, let’s go ahead and dive into some different examples that might already be on your website.
The biggest indicator of thin content is that it lacks depth or usefulness.
If you build your content around keywords, as many do, you need to cover every aspect of that keyword in your copy.
If you only briefly answer the question being asked or just skim the surface of a topic, you likely aren’t providing enough value to your readers.
Suffers from Duplicate Content Issues
Another thin content example is duplicate content.
If you use similar content or repeated content in different blog posts or website pages, then you can hurt your SEO.
This can occur when you have multiple blog posts addressing the same keyword or try to cut corners by reposting the same paragraph or sections on different blogs.
Has Too Many Ads
In order to provide value to customers, your content needs to be readable and helpful to readers.
When your blogs are full of ads, pop-ups, CTAs, and “special offers”, you aren’t providing that important value to your audiences.
Instead, your content might be marked as spam or you can have incredibly high bounce rates.
Bad Category Indexing
Indexing and categorizing is an important part of the backend planning of content.
However, if each blog has a new tag or a new author, you aren’t using your categories correctly.
Many blogs have hundreds of tags, which damages the quality of your blogs in the Google search algorithm and can hurt your URLs as well.
A doorway page is a low-quality page meant to try and rank high for a specific keyword.
This is an example of black hat SEO, where brands try and trick the Google algorithm to rank high on search engine results pages.
They often redirect users to the same inside page, and make for a terrible user experience.
Automatically Generated Content
Sometimes companies try to use automatically generated content in order to cut down on the time it takes someone to write content or the costs to pay someone to create content.
However, this type of content provides a poor reading experience to any of your users and can have many repetitions and syntax errors.
What Causes a Thin Content Penalty?
A thin content penalty is a type of punishment from Google that occurs when you have thin content.
This can result in your authority and reputation being damaged in Google, your pages lowering in rank, and other SEO damages.
Google currently says that the following types of pages can lead to a penalty:
- Autogenerated content
- Doorway pages
- Scraped content
- Thin affiliate sites
Why Does Thin Content Hurt Your SEO?
While you might now understand more about thin content and what it looks like, you still might not be certain about why it hurts your SEO efforts.
Does Google just punish pages indiscriminately? Or is there more that search engines are looking for than just a short blog post?
Let’s look at some reasons why thin content hurts SEO:
- No backlinks
- Unhappy readers
- Keyword cannibalization
- Poor backend organization
- High bounce rates
How to Identify Thin Content
Now that you understand why thin content is damaging to your SEO and why Google is on the lookout to identify and penalize thin content, let’s take a look at the steps you can take to identify it on your website and find any thin pages that you might currently have published.
1. Run an Audit
Running an audit of your website can help you pull any pages that might be examples of thin content.
You can use your SEO tool to help you create an audit or use your Google Search Console tool to help identify pages that are currently having issues within the Google algorithm.
2. Look at URLs
Duplicate content is a major cause of thin content penalties, so you need to identify it when it occurs. Looking through your URLs to find similar pages can help you pull out pages that are too similar to each other.
Once you’ve pulled your URLs, look for similar keywords or article titles that might be an indicator of duplicate content.
3. Check Your Primary Keywords
When you have multiple blogs targeting the same keywords, it can lead to duplicate content or keyword cannibalization, where your own pages are competing against each other in order to rank for specific keywords.
Checking your keyword rankings and having a strong keyword strategy can help you avoid these issues.
4. Search for Duplicate Meta Descriptions
Having duplicate meta descriptions is another thing that could be damaging your SEO. Just like each blog title and description needs to be unique, your meta titles and description also need to stand out.
Some companies try to cut corners by copying and pasting their meta data, but this will hurt you in the long run and will need to be fixed.
5. Read Your Content
Another way to tell when you have thin content is to read it. Think of yourself as a new reader, and go through a blog to see if it is answering the question being asked.
You can see if it sounds too similar to other blogs or if it really isn’t offering depth or breadth to the topic at hand. This helps you understand the user experience with your content.
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How to Fix Thin Content
The most important part of identifying thin content is taking steps to correct and fix any thin content issues that you might have.
There are a few different approaches you can take in order to address thin content issues and resolve them in a positive way that helps improve your standing in the Google search algorithm.
You can delete thin content pages when they aren’t providing any value to readers. This works well for doorway pages or when you have many blogs addressing the same keyword.
Add More to It
If your content is thin and needs to provide more information and details to readers in order to be useful, you can add more content to the page to bulk it up and provide value.
Rather than deleting pages when they are similar to each other, you can combine pages that address the same keyword or have the same search intent. This can help you avoid duplicate content and bulk up your pages.
Another way to fix thin content is to rewrite it. Take a new approach to the keyword or pick a new keyword to be the focus of the blog. Then you can rewrite the article to be useful and helpful to readers.
For more information on thin content, check out Google’s video about it:
Thin content doesn’t provide value to your audiences and hurts your standing in the eyes of search engines like Google.
Thankfully, once you’ve identified what your thin content is, you can go ahead and start fixing it and reverse any damages that were done by having short, duplicate, or incomplete content on your site in the first place.
Creating content can be a struggle, and when you only focus on a single keyword, it can lead to thin content issues.
Having different keywords in each content piece can make it easier to bulk out your content and create better articles.
To learn more, check out our blog on secondary keywords!
There you’ll learn everything you need to know about secondary keywords and how they can help improve your SEO.