“Every piece of your content should be excellent enough that customers are compelled to share it.”
— Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute
Since 2011, Web masters, marketers and business owners have been finding the task of content creation increasingly difficult.
This is largely attributed to Google’s Panda algorithm and its subsequent updates.
The Panda algorithm essentially works by scanning a website’s content to determine its merit. If Panda finds it to be valuable and high quality, the page will be rewarded accordingly. If, however, content is deemed to be thin or low quality, it is penalized and demoted in the SERPs.
While many would argue that quality is a subjective term, Google has laid out definitive search quality guidelines that must be adhered to if you wish to succeed within the engine.
If your site is busy sheltering thin content, your entire website is likely suffering from its existence.
In order to help you rise and prosper in the SERPs, here is what you need to know about thin content, how to find it, and how to fix it.
What is Thin Content?
Thin content refers to webpages that are lacking in length. But “thin” doesn’t just mean short; it also means that there is an explicit absence of value as well.
Long form content generally performs better than shorter pieces due to its ability to expound on a topic and provide more detailed and, therefore, valuable information.
Pages that contain thin content are often referred to as “stub pages” because they do not provide a comprehensive view of a subject, despite its openness for expansion.
Other types of pages that are likely to be pegged as “thin” include:
- Doorway pages: These are designed for spamming the index of search engines with a particular keyword or phrase with the intent of sending users to another destination.
- Low-quality blogs: These will be pieces that are short, lacking value and generally unhelpful in nature.
- Those with scant text: Any of your website’s pages that offer minimal text and information or just contain filler and is stuffed with keywords.
This is not a complete list of page types that can be labeled as thin. Google support also notes the following as some of the other common forms of low quality content:
- Thin affiliate pages;
- Third-party content;
- Automatically generated content.
After taking a look around your site, you’re likely to find some pages that need addressing. To make a difference in your rankings, you need to identify all of the pages that need a bit of TLC.
Finding Low-Quality Pages
There are several ways to track down pages that are harming your site.
The first way, which you should only attempt if your site has about 500 pages or less, is a site operator search.
For this, you merely need to go to Google and search: site:http://yourwebaddresshere.com
Doing this will provide you with all of your pages Google has indexed. Before taking inventory, go to the last results page and click “repeat the search with the omitted results included.” This will ensure that none of your pages are left out.
The second approach is much less manual, but will require a small investment in a SEO tool.
Using Screaming Frog (or similar platforms), you can download all of your indexed pages and begin sifting through. This is the best way to get a comprehensive view of your site’s health.
No matter which route you go, be sure to create a categorized spreadsheet of all of the page URLs in need of improvement; this will help you effectively keep track of everything as you work through it.
Now that you know what needs to be enhanced, let’s cover how to make improvements that deliver a tangible impact.
Should it Stay or Should it Go?
Depending on the type of site you operate and the content contained on any given page, you’ll need be thoughtful about how to weigh the actual value of each page and article.
When making decisions to give a page the axe or to revamp it, you must consider the resources at your disposal, the importance of the page, and the SEO implications of both decisions.
Completely removing pages or no-indexing them is one approach to solving a thin content issue; do not 404 these pages.
Giving a page a No Index tag will effectively remove it from Google’s index so that it is no longer eligible to be scanned or ranked.
The problem with this, however, is that removing content can have adverse consequences if those pages are proving meaningful in supporting certain keywords or phrases.
The other approach you can take is to merely expand the page’s content to provide greater depth on the topic, dispensing valuable information. Additionally, it is always advisable to optimize your content for SEO performance.
If at all possible, this is the method you should use — it has been recommended several times over by Google’s Gary Illyes via Twitter and other forums.
When deciding how to handle various pages, it is important to note that you need to prioritize certain pages above others so as to expend your resources (time, energy, money, manpower, etc.) wisely; this is how you will achieve the greatest impact.
The most important pages to improve are ones that receive the most traffic and drive conversions. This includes your homepage, high-priority landing pages, item description pages and similar destinations.
Auditing your site and revamping thin content is a practice to consider at least annually, if not moreso. The content game is not getting any easier. As guidelines become more stringent and competitors become increasingly fierce, you must ensure that all of your pages are attaining peak performance.
The value of each piece of content you create is the single most powerful factor in determining both audience and search engine response. Take the time and effort to make every page shine, and you will see positive results.
Which method will you use to find thin content on your site? How much of a challenge is it for you to avoid creating thin content in the first place?