Featured SE Optimization Writing/Content

How Thin Content is Hurting Your SEO

“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?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Google is working on more than thin content angle. Thin content is no more a real metric to see if your content is performing well or not, but the industry you are targeting is having its own standards.

  • Very helpful article but some of the links seem to be broken at the moment so can’t dig deeper into the topic.

    • Yes, Jon is right! “search quality guidelines” link is broken! Although a big cheers for article! Thanks for perkful information!

  • Hi friend,

    Great article, indeed. Actually, long content always has a value, particularly when a user finds your content via search engines for their query, they would expect a solution and also they would see suddenly the content length first whether it will provide a solution or not. That’s the advantage of long content. But, I have also seen some great contents even it’s shorter length about 400-500 words which fall into writing skills.

  • Always great articles, I am following your advice and some of my websites have already showed results, climbing up on Google. Thanks 🙂

  • Exactly the content must be meaningful and and rich. Only the length of content doesn’t matter. And thanks for sharing this useful post. I actually wanted to know that how google determines the quality of the content.

  • Also they pay people, generally graduates, to look at and evaluate the pages. This is all well and good but people are innately biased. I have and esoteric based site that has methods that push even the limits of astrology, yet alone the science they yet understand or even know about. So these people evaluate your site and naturally give it a low rating. It’s just like if you made a Reiki site that came up with new theories about it. They would knock you down as a charletan or a lunatic, when the truth is that it is simply them that are ignorant and biased. I gave up my BSc after the second year. You know why? I couldn’t teach them a darn thing. They know it all.

  • Very helpful article but some of the links seem to be broken at the moment so can’t dig deeper into the topic.

  • Thanks for sharing valuable info. I think one of the biggest benefits of SEO is stability. While traffic from a PPC campaign can fluctuate based on competition, the amount of traffic (and sales) a first-place search ranking can produce is steady and reliable, as long as your site is up to par.

    Avoid thin content and you’ll be able to avoid the effects of Google’s constant Panda algorithm updates. In fact, if your site has high quality, engaging content, its ranking could improve when Google rolls out its next update aimed at penalizing thin sites.

  • Really a valuable information you had provided here. And i think this will be helpful for creating the better and reliable site. Thank you very much

  • Many of my original articles have 1000-2000 words, and keywords optimized for some LSIs. But I think, backlinks is least more important than a thick content.
    1000 words is enough, the rest is offpage optimizations task.

  • Hi, Dear Tina
    Your blog post is very nice our website and ranking in google SERP Google panda update low-quality content in the website is the reason of Google penalty these tips are very helpful for me.