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Does Your Website Suffer From “Thin Content” and Why It Might Be Hurting Your SEO

Oct 11, 2015 | SEO

Google relies on automated algorithms to evaluate websites and improve search quality. Google’s algorithms attempt to understand the user’s behaviour and Google measures this behaviour to try to determine how “satisfied” the searcher is after landing on a page found via the search engine.

While Google doesn’t share the exact “secrets” for how they measure and rank, it is generally thought that Google measures the quality of a search result using a metric called “time to long click.” This means they look at how long a user spends on a website after leaving Google’s search engine results page.

But, the search engine is also interested in what the user does next. It watches to see if the user goes back to Google and clicks on another result. Or, does the user perform a new search entirely.

Whether a user spends 15 seconds or 15 minutes on the original page may not matter all that much, if the user doesn’t have to read any more about the subject they searched for, the search engine may deem them as satisfied and feel that the last page the user was on was the right one to serve, because they didn’t need to carry on the search any longer on that subject.

Many people confuse the term “thin” content with not having “quality” content. It sounds like if your content is “thin” then you just need to add more to it, right? While that may sound right, ultimately Google’s view of quality is defined by their search engine’s algorithms. It can’t read your copy and measure whether it is “good” or not.

To put that into perspective and context, let’s say a user is search for when we set our clocks back in the Fall. They do a search and land on a results page, clicking through to the first result. If that result gave them their answer, even if it only kept them on site for 5 seconds, they have no reason to continue searching. They got what they were looking for and were satisfied. Even if there was no other copy on that page, just the date that the clocks get set back, Google considers that an excellent search because the user had no need to continue searching. They got what they wanted.

However, some things that Google may define as “thin content,” based on their algorithms could include the following, which you need to mindful of:

Duplicate Content

Whether the duplicate content is internal (meaning it is the same info you can find on other parts of your own website), or external (meaning it is the same content you can find on another website), doesn’t matter. A few duplicates may not hurt you, but on a site like an ecommerce site, where you may have 100’s of variations of the same product, it could be a concern.

Duplicate content can also occur if you aren’t using your own original content, but rather taking it from another source, like a manufacturer’s description, and copying it word for word to your site. All of the sudden you and hundreds of your competitors have exactly the same content. What makes you think you will rise out from the crowd?

This also applies to content that is scraped, syndicated or authorized duplication of content. While many people realized that scraped or stolen content may be bad, they seem to think syndicated content is okay, because they are using it legally. While it may be okay from a “legal” standpoint, to Google it is still the same content across multiple sites, so they don’t necessarily like it.

Similar Content

Pages that are “near duplicates” of others on your site can also be considered “thin” content. In the past, a lot of SEO professionals would take the same content and apply it to different cities near their clients, changing headers and a few keywords and lines of text to avoid a duplicate penalty.

But, when your website has pages like this, Google knows it and may very well penalize your whole site for this practice. Don’t let any SEO specialist you hire talk you into a scheme such as this.

Pages With A High Ads/Affiliate to Content Ratio

Load your page up with banner ads and only a little content and you aren’t really offering value to your visitors. While there is nothing wrong with serving ads up on your site, you need to remember to keep the amount of ads to a minimum.

If your website exists for the sole purpose of promoting services or products as an affiliate and provides no other value to your visitors, it would fall in the classification of having “thin content” as well.

Other things while could hurt you include, but are not limited to:

  • Websites that appears “spammy”
  • Doorway pages with little content or value to the searcher
  • Websites that have unnatural links (either to or from your site)
  • Websites that have been hacked (all the more reason to make sure you are keeping everything up-to-date and implementing tight security)
  • Websites hosted on free hosting sites
  • Websites with sneaky redirects or cloaked/hidden content on the page

Matt Cutt’s, from Google, talks directly about this subject:

You can learn more about thin content directly from Google here.


Photo credit: Simon via Pixabay

google, inbound marketing, marketing, online marketing, seo

Nora Kramer
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