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How to Avoid Google Thin Content Penalties

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Photo Credit: Carlos Luna via flickr

There are many times when being thin is desirable: When you’re trying on bathing suits, for example, or when you’re trying to squeeze into a wedding dress.

But when it comes to content, thin is most definitely not in.

Thin content is also known as low-quality content, and it’s the bane of smart SEOs and marketers. The web remains chock full of examples of thin content, despite the fact that Google began devaluing it long ago, after the search site realized people were gaming the system by slapping together low-quality posts with hot keywords, backlinks and duplicate content in search of cheap traffic.

In fact, your site may even have some thin content, whether you meant it to be that way or not. No web site is perfect, and it’s not uncommon for lower-quality posts or pages to be hiding amongst your higher-quality stuff. The problem is thin content can hurt you in search rankings. Google Webmaster Tools sniff it out like a bomb-seeking dog, and your site could be punished for having this undesirable content.

With that in mind, here’s a primer on how to identify thin content and what to do with it once you’ve found it.

So What Is Thin Content?

Thin content is, in the simplest terms, a page with no real value besides building traffic. It contains no great insights into the industry, no good information about your product, and nothing that you couldn’t find on another, similar site.

When Google searches for thin content, it’s looking for:

  • Duplicate content
  • Pages with lots of affiliate links
  • Doorway pages
  • Automatically generated content
  • Article syndication
  • Lots and lots of images on one page

Identifying Thin Content

If you have pages with any of those five qualities, that’s a signal that you need to take action. But sometimes thin content isn’t as easy to suss out, depending on how many pages you have on your site.

Google actually suggests that you ask friends or family to look at your pages, giving them a fresh eye, and report back whether or not they are helpful. For instance, if you have services in 16 different counties and you’ve made a special page for each of them but you only change one word on each page, an outsider might suggest you remedy that problem.

Google Webmaster Tools will send you notifications if there’s a thin content problem. However, it’s better to be proactive. You can also consider using one of these thin content-flagging tools:

  • Google Analytics: Use the exit rate to sort on the “Review All Pages” section, and look at pages with a 75 percent bounce rate or higher. Take a look at the content on those pages, which clearly aren’t keeping people’s attention.
  • Screaming Frog: Use the URL scrape tool and then sort the exported URLs by word count. If you have a lot of pages with fewer than 250 words, you have a problem.
  • Open Site Explorer: Look at the backlinks on your site and where they’re coming from. Also note the social media statistics to see if your pages are resonating with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other users.

You’ve Found the Thin Content. Now What?

Once you have identified the thin content, it’s time to play a little game called plump up or get out. The objective – to either eliminate the problematic page or add to it in order to turn it into a high-quality resource page. No matter what you decide, this process will take time, but ultimately it will help both your search ranking and your sales.

Consider yourself an editor in this process. A good editor knows that sometimes the best solution is to cut something, even if you’ve spent lots of time on it. If a page has no discernible value, and you don’t think it could be improved by adding more detail, more words or better links, then best to let it go.

However, if you see potential in the page, and you’re willing to put in the time to improve it, then by all means give it a shot.

Here are some ideas on how to plump up your thin content:

1. Send it to Rewrite

Poorly written or thin copy can be improved with a major rewrite. You may need to call in a freelance copywriter for this task, but it will be well worth the money. Decide beforehand what keywords you are targeting, and aim for at least 300 words per page. Keep away from sales-y talk and instead go into greater detail about your product, your services, or what makes you unique.

2. Merge Your Pages

Do you really need a page for every single city where you provide plumbing services? Probably not. Consider merging your pages so that you have one page with decent content, rather than seven with thin content.

3. Consider Interactive Content

Interactive content is not the answer to every thin content problem, but it can be a great way to engage readers and improve metrics on a page, which will lead Google to back off. Some examples of interactive content include:

  • Surveys
  • The ability to “favorite” something on the page
  • Embedded Google Maps
  • Quizzes
  • Interactive FAQs

4. Decrease the Internal Links

If you have a page with loads of internal links, but you still think the content on it is useful and doesn’t require rewriting, try eliminating some of those links.

5. Beef Up Regionalized Pages

Do something to differentiate your duplicate content pages such as going into greater detail about the area you are targeting. This will eliminate the problem of pages being exact copies of one another, and it should also help with SEO.

Avoiding Thin Content in the Future

It’s great to get your site cleaned up and all the thin content taken care of, but you also should be looking to the future. Once you’ve taken the above steps, make sure you revisit your site’s content regularly to ensure you’re not continuing to add thin content to the site. Remember: Every piece of content on your site should serve a purpose, otherwise it’s just filler.

About the author

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Adrienne Erin

Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Longmont United Hospital succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

71 Comments

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  • We are working on a hosting companies website. For promoting this website, we will use inforgaphcis and two paragraphs contents. But we will make sure there will be no duplicate contents. But my question is , do they”G” consider two paragraphs contents as a thin content?

  • No offense to article author Adrienne Erin, this Google stuff is total nonsense and is best ignored in favor of creating the website you want. Look at bounce rate as a supposed metric. A visitor lands on one of your pages as suggested by google, reads it, works off it for half an hour and leaves by one of your outgoing links and it counts as a bounce if they failed to move about within your site. Where exactly is the blue line between thin content and acceptable? Most of my Google searches do not find what I need, but something else related to some of the words. High ranking medical sites won’t tell you anything beyond overview and see your doctor, that’s thin content in my opinion. Check ebay for website, there are thousands of cookie cutter sites for sale with the same content, innocent people buy these only to become Google victims if they don’t rewrite everything, and even if they do Google doesn’t like the ad placement, etc. So many sites that are authority on Bing are PR0 on Google, the problem is Google.

  • Very helpful blog indeed. I really love to read this type of informative blogs which are highly useful for my career. Thank you so much Adrienne for your kind tips and thank you SPN for sending me
    newsletter to my email. ielts

  • Great article. I’m very conscious of thin content. In your view, how many words on a page is considered thin content?

  • Hi Adrienne!

    Great article on thin content. Sometimes this is a challange when you are dealing with product pages as you can only write so much copy about a specific product. Any ideas how this can be worked around in relation to thin content?

    Best regards
    Tom
    Natural Health Supplements

    • We have the same issue with product content. We use the descriptions provided by our manufacturers but it appears we are being penalized by the Darth Google for having scraped content. Do we need to rewrite every product description with synonyms so Google doesn’t destroy our business?

  • Nice article but do you know Google doesn’t provided what to do when you are getting thin content error and all who provide this services take charges of it.So I think Google have to Guide what to how to do step by step and resubmission take 1 week mean you almost lose lots of money then you have to pay others = lose lose everywhere.

    Thanks
    You guide is nice
    Sagar Ganatra
    Sgb

  • A nicely written article (as well as a reminder) on thin content. I am sure it will be a problem for many ecommerce sites that have the “same” product listings and specifications of items on sale.

    For service and information websites it looks as if (according to the articles author)some good copywriting is needed,and as we’ve all taken onboard i’am sure, some good content that is unique and relevant to each website.

  • I think we also need to work on our old content so that the entire site will get a new look and all the stuff will be not only useful, but also important.
    Great article, by the way!

  • Thanks for the article. Actually, last few weeks I am working on improving the pages of my site, by merging some of them and adding more content to other.

  • Quality content is thin and lacking in quality will be worse later seen by Google.
    We will have to anticipate the bad things on our website

  • Well crafted information about the thin content problem on websites. I have read through your post and found that it makes sense and is practical to apply on my website. Can you please explain further what is the meaning of “Lots and lots of images on one page” that can potentially harm a website?

  • Thanks, Adrienne for the worthy post. No one ever posted before the exact ways to recover a site from Google Thin content Penalties. One of my blogs was a victim of Google’s Thin content Penalty. The main reason for that was too many external images. I removed all of them and applied for reconsideration and Boom!! – 4 Days later Google reconsidered my blog.

  • This makes complete sense. Google wants to serve up quality content to people who are searching. As Google continues its quest to clean up search, quality content will always continue to be key.

  • blog comment like this penalize by search engine giant like google?
    i wonder some keywords positioning 3 or 4 page on google which seens 1page on bing/yahoo and vice verse.
    whats deference in google/bing/yahoo ango

  • We have a lot of pages with image content, which are useful from an end user perspective since they come to our site looking for design ideas. Our bounce rate is very very low and users tend to move on to other pages to look at the images. However, these pages have no or very little text content, which in our view is redundant since the visitors don’t want text explanations of images.
    So my question is – if we are serving content that our users want, will our site still not rank because it does not have text which Google wants. Any input?

  • Google is the best search engine. Thin content is dangerous. well Adrienne Erin, u gave very good guide on how to identify and how o rectify from thin content penalty. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Thank you Adrienne Erin. Really this is very good information.. thin content is dangerous. Google will penalize the thin content site. Best information for me.

  • Thin content is effecting on Google update penalties. Good tools introduced to detect thin content in blog like opensiteexplorer and ScreamingfrogSEO Spider is very good tools. thank you for this information

  • Hi, Adrienne.
    I am a newbie.
    I have a lot of questions.
    1. What must i do if my web got thin content from google? I mean, is my website will be on google blacklist or something?
    2. Is it effect the SERP?
    3. Can i still use it for google adsense?

  • Great piece of informative article. Now a days google has been very strict about think content websites. It’s better to keep content fresh and unique.

    Above mentioned tips are very useful. Once again Erin you have shared a great article.

  • I wanna ask what i we have max 5 tag for post? And all tags are cachable in google and will generate duplicate content ssue then what we have to do to get rid of panda?

  • My website is Youtube API searching and playing but google is detect that is Thin Content. Any idea to make video site using Youtube API and safe with Google?

  • Just how many pictures is classified as too many by Google? I have had blog posts with 5 photos in them. Is it too many?

    I just got hit by the sinister surge and don’t know what went wrong. 🙁

  • Excellent article.May I ask is it duplication if anchors pointing to the same link are duplicated – three or four different ways on a page to get to the one article

  • thin content mostly hit the video related site please give some information for videos related site thanks for share

  • Nice share… thin content always hits those sites that look like they have duplicate content and automatically generated content.. mostly videos blog always are spam in Google’s eyes.

    • thin content always hits those sites that look like they have duplicate content and automatically generated content

  • I loved your bog, it’s very informative. I have bookmarked it and will be back.
    Take care!

  • very nice post as it contains some useful information on how to generate more traffics on your website.thanks for the information.

  • I have read so many articles on the topic of the blogger
    lovers but this article is really a nice piece of writing, keep it up.

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