An authority on a topic can speak at length about it. What is Thin Content and Why is it Bad for SEO? By Adam Snape on 20th February 2015 Categories: Content, Google, SEO
In February 2011, Google rolled out an update to its search algorithm called Panda – the first in a series of algorithm updates aimed at penalising low quality websites in search and improving the quality of their search results.
Although Panda was first rolled out several years ago (and followed by Penguin, an update aimed at knocking out black-hat SEO techniques) it’s been updated several times since its initial launch, most recently in September of 2014.
The latest Panda update has much the same purpose as the original – giving better rankings to websites that have useful and relevant content, and penalising sites that have “thin” content that offers little or no value to searchers.
In this guide, we’ll look at what makes content “thin” and why having thin content on your site is a bad thing. We’ll also share some simple tactics that you can use to give your content more value to searchers and avoid having to deal with a penalty.
What is thin content? Thin content can be identified as low quality pages that add little to no value to the reader. Examples of thin content include duplicate pages, automatically generated content or doorway pages.
The best way to measure the quality of your content is through user satisfaction. If visitors quickly bounce from your page, it likely doesn’t provide the value they were looking for.
Google’s initial Panda update was targeted primarily at content farms – sites with a massive amount of content written purely for the purpose of ranking well in search and attracting as much traffic as possible.
You’ve probably clicked your way onto a content farm before – most of us have. The content is typically packed with keywords and light on factual information, giving it big relevancy for a search engine but little value for an actual reader.
The original Panda update also targeted scraper websites – sites that “scraped” text from other websites and reposted it as their own, lifting the work of other people to generate their own search traffic.
As Panda updates keep rolling out, the focus has switched from content farms and scraper sites to websites that offer “thin” content – content that’s full of keywords and copy, but light on any real information.
A great way to think of content is as search engine food. The more unique content your website offers search engines, the more satisfied they are and the higher you will likely rank for the keywords your on-page content mentions.
Offer little food and you’ll provide little for Google to use to understand the focus of your site’s content. As a result, you’ll be outranked for your target search keywords by other websites that offer more detailed, helpful and informative content.
How can Google tell if content is thin? Google’s index includes more than 30 trillion pages, making it impossible to check every page for thin content by hand. While some websites are occasionally subject to a manual review by Google, most content is judged for its value algorithmically.
The ultimate judge of a website’s content is its audience – the readers that visit the site and actually read its content. If the content is good, they’ll probably stay on the website and keep reading; if it’s bad, there’s a good chance they’ll leave.
The length of your content isn’t necessarily an indicator of its “thinness”. As Stephen Kenwright explains at Search Engine Watch, a 2,000 word article on EzineArticles is likely to offer less value to readers than a 500 word blog post by a real expert.
One way Google can algorithmically judge the value of a website’s content is using a metric called “time to long click”. A long click is when a user clicks on a search result and stays on the website for a long time before returning to Google’s search page.
Think about how you browse a website when you discover great quality content. If a blog post or article is particularly engaging, you don’t just read for a minute or two – you click around the website and view other content as well.
A short click, on the other hand, is when a user clicks on a search result and almost immediately returns to Google’s search results page. From here, they might click on another result, indicating to Google that the first result didn’t provide much value.
Should you be worried about thin content? The best measure of your content’s value is user satisfaction. If users stay on your website for a long time after clicking onto it from Google’s search results pages, it probably has high quality, “thick” content that Google likes. The closer to the start of the title tag any given keyword is, the more likely it will be to rank for that keyword based query. The link structure of the Web serves to bind together all of the pages that have been made public as a result of someone linking to them. Through links, search engines’ automated robots, called crawlers or spiders, can reach the many billions of interconnected documents.