We’re always talking about the importance of SEO and having a highly-optimized website. But, you will struggle to rank high on Google if you don’t have high-quality, valuable content to go with it. We’re talking about web pages that have little to no content, in other words, ‘thin’ content.
Google prefers good quality content that is unique and has secondary information that backs up the topic. In other words, your content should be answering the question of the user, and you need to convince search engines that you are doing just that. If you’re not, you could find yourself nowhere near the first page of Google regardless of how nice your website is!
Google considers doorway pages, low-quality affiliate pages and pages with little or no content as thin content pages. In this post, we’ll discuss how having little to no content or low-quality content on your web pages can affect your SEO and how you can fix it.
What is thin content, and how does it affect SEO?
Google describes thin content as content that has “little or no added value.” This may be web pages with no content, or not enough to provide value to the reader. Content can be considered thin, or low-quality, if they fall under either of these four categories:
1. Low-quality or no content
The length of your content isn’t necessarily an indicator of ‘thinness,’ Google also takes into consideration the amount of time a user spends on a page before they return to the search engine results page and click onto another website. This emphasizes the need for high-quality content that keeps your visitors on your website.
Web pages with no content will see a high number of page visits, but a low ‘Time on Page’ due to the lack of information available. Imagine a user landing on your website, and clicking on the About Us page because they want to learn more about your company. If your About Us page has no content, or not enough to provide context and information that the reader is looking for, they will leave the page. This will be an indicator to Google that the website has low-quality content.
Low-quality content comes in many forms. It could be that the content itself is poorly written, contains unnecessary filler words, is unrelated to the page itself, the page is cluttered with ads, it promotes hate and/or harm, or is deemed to be ‘clickbait.’ You can learn more about Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines here.
2. Lack of context
Thin content can also be caused by content with a lack of context, a lack of keywords, and a lack of answers. The content needs to be informative for the user visiting the page and has to make sense for the page it is on.
If you visited a web page on pet grooming and half of the content discusses doggy daycare, there would be thin content for the main subject of the page. Sure, the page can talk about doggy daycare, but the main focus should be on pet grooming. At the same time, there needs to be a good keyword density for your main and semantic keywords on the page. Lastly, if the page isn’t giving the user an answer to their search query, then it’s not going to rank well.
3. Duplicate content
Duplicate content is exactly as it sounds; it’s content that appears multiple times across the Internet or on your website. If you’re using the same content across multiple pages, it will be considered as duplicate content, and Google could penalize your website. Although, some pages may not be intentionally duplicated but perceived as duplicates because of a few technical mistakes, such as not properly redirecting URLs or setting up canonical links.
Google won’t penalize you if the duplicate content was created accidentally. Still, if they discover that it was created intentionally as spam or to manipulate search results, your website may be penalized. That being said, although Google may not penalize you for having duplicate content, it can still cause SEO issues. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of duplicate content, Ahrefs has an in-depth guide.
4. Scraped content
This is content that has been copied or scraped from another site. This is essentially content that has been plagiarized by copying and pasting with little rewriting or re-arrangement.
Plagiarizing content is highly frowned upon, and could be deemed as copyright infringement. There is also the implication of your website dropping down the rankings if a significant amount of content is copied, as Google can consider the site to be of low value. This is why you must create original content for your website.
If you’re concerned that your content may be plagiarized or scraped, you can use tools like Grammarly to check the uniqueness of content.
How can thin content be fixed?
To find thin content; you can perform a content audit of your website. Do a deep-dive into each web page and check the following while you do:
- Is this content valuable to my audience? Is the content still relevant (e.g. outdated news or company updates.)
- Is the content length on this page sufficient? Does it provide meaningful information at its current length?
- Is this page optimized? Is it targeting the right keywords?
- Is this page receiving traffic and backlinks?
Once you’ve figured this out, it’s time to get to work and improve (or remove) these pages.
How to Improve Your Website Content
When you encounter low-quality — or thin — content, it’s tempting to ignore it and focus on creating new content instead. But, it’s better, and much more effective, to adopt a ‘spring-cleaning’ strategy. Essentially, this involves enhancing existing content on your website, on web pages that already appear on Google, rather than creating new web pages that need to be crawled. Add high-quality content to your web pages, ensuring that they provide value to your users and address your business’ unique proposition.
Here are 7 things you can do to ‘spring-clean’ your content:
- Check your website’s content: use tools like Copyscape and Siteliner to find any duplicate content, thin content, broken links and more.
- Fix and add links: fix any broken links and include relevant interlinking where possible. You don’t want to lose visitors because a link is broken, plus, interlinking can encourage visitors to check out more pages on your website. Linking to other sources can also enhance the validity of your content.
- Use canonical URLs: a canonical URL is a technical solution that can help prevent duplicate content on your website. It will tell search engines which page is the main source of that content and not penalize you for using that content on another page.
- Keyword research: include relevant keywords related to your industry and page topic into your content. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, and Ahrefs for keyword research.
- Remove invaluable pages: If you’re removing a page that has SEO value, but you don’t want to keep it, ensure that you add a 301 redirect to a similar page so that your visitors don’t land on a 404 error page. If you’re removing a page that has no SEO value or backlinks, you won’t need to create a redirect.
- Satisfy search intent: revise and expand on content to ensure that you’re always answering the questions that led visitors to that page. Ensure that you are increasing the word count on your most important pages, like service pages and landing pages — emphasize the who, why, how, what, where, and what next.
- Add stats or data: include any stats or data that helps support what your content is saying and boost its value. Remember to link your sources.
Thin content can be harmful to your website. If you have content that performs poorly, your website can dip in search engine rankings. Focus on creating content that benefits your website visitors. Consider the importance of valuable content in converting visitors into leads — your content should tell the user why they should do business with you rather than your competitor.