What's Wrong With Thin Content?
Google now takes the user very seriously. They want happy people who will find value from their search results. Content authority and relevance are now the centers of Google’s focus, and if your content lacks these two elements, you won’t be ranking high enough.
Authoritative, relevant content provides value to the user. This is why high bounce rates are a vital indicator of irrelevant content. In this article, we will look at one way many websites lose their credibility as authoritative platforms: thin content. We will define what and how thin content is all about, how Google identifies it, and what to do to get rid of thin content from your website.
What Is Thin Content?
Thin content can be simply defined as low-quality content that adds very little value to the user if any. It is irrelevant content that lacks authority. Bounce rate is a very good indicator of thin content – users will not spend time on a website that is not answering the question that they have in mind, or that does not provide adequate information.
How Does Thin Content Come About?
There are several things that result in thin content. Let’s delve into them below:
This is content within a domain or even across domains that is extremely similar, sometimes the same, with only a very small detail distinguishing it. Some of it is created unknowingly, for instance when you want to localize content, while some is created as a way to try and manipulate ranking in search results.
We’ve got an article all about duplicate content if you want to check it out.
Automatically generated content
It is also known as auto-generated content. It is created using some software or program and undergoes absolutely no review by a human before publishing. The content will not make sense to the user but will contain appropriate keywords to aid in ranking.
If affiliate websites, which help to drive traffic to a certain website in order to sell products, have the same information or very similar versions of the same information, then they are said to contain low value, thin content.
This is when you publish content from another site, for instance, copying and pasting articles from other websites (maybe changing a few words) but with no added value or different perspectives.
These are pages created externally or internally on a website that redirect users immediately on accessing the page, as a way to increase a site’s “search footprint”, as Google puts it. All these pages lead to the same destination (your website). Doorway pages do not add any specific value to the user, and Google released an algorithm update in 2015 to punish this tactic.
How Does Google Identify Thin Content?
Now that we know how thin content comes about, how does Google identify it? There are several ways:
User bounce rate
Bounce rate is the simplest indication of something being wrong with your website. If you have very high bounce rates, you will draw Google’s attention to scrutinize your site closely. Users will not spend time on a page that does not provide value, or that doesn’t accurately reflect its description. They will leave and go look for better options.
Needless to say, high bounce rates will see your site’s ranking deteriorate.
Time to long click
This is a concept that is closely related to user bounce rates. It refers to when a user clicks on a search result and stays for quite a long time before returning to the search results page. You want your users to stay as long as they need on your site, and Google will reward you for it. On the other hand, your users may be sending short click signals. This is where a user clicks on a search result and leaves to click on a different one. Users quickly clicking back to the SERP and choosing a new result is known as “pogo sticking.”
This is an indicator to Google that the first result barely provides value.
When is thin content ok?
Thin content, however, isn’t a black and white situation.
Some websites will have many pages that don’t have a high word count. Photography, video and semantic entity pages are two examples. Users on these pages don’t want to read long articles, so these pages won’t have more than a hundred or so words. Thin content can be unavoidable.
The good news is Google understands this situation. That’s why it uses the two user behavior metrics above. This helps the search engine determine if a page is delivering value to a user, regardless of the number of words in an article.
A photography page containing mostly images will have a high time on page, telling Google its visitors are using the page. Similarly, a semantic entity page that is linked to by lots of enriched content can still rank very well, even if it’s less than 100 words.
So, as usual, don’t obsess over a particular number of words on a page. Instead, ensure the page is fulfilling its purpose for users and your website.
How To Deal With Your Thin Content
For you to solve the thin content issue, you first need to know how to identify it on your site. While you may be lucky to still be ranking well despite the thin content, one of these days it will catch up to you and the results will definitely not be something that you will like.
Let’s look at how to identify thin content on your site:
Tools to identify thin content
Site Crawl – auditing your site and finding pages that do not contribute to the success of your site. WooRank’s Site Crawl finds pages with very little word count, which sometimes is an indicator of thin content that barely provides the user with any value.
However, the best “tool” that you can use to identify thin content are your website visitors. If there is little traffic to your site, and lots of pages with high bounce rates, you need to prioritize looking for thin content on your site. Sometimes you know what content it is. If you have been scraping content, you know where to start.
Removing thin content
After you have identified thin content on your site, it is now time to fix it. Sadly, there are no tools for this, unfortunately. The best way is to simply get rid of it.
“Hide” the page from the public eye, or rewrite it with a different angle or perspective if you still want to communicate the same ideas while providing value to readers at the same time.
Check discussion forums and social media to find ideas for content your audience will find valuable. Sometimes, the best way to provide value is to simply ask the ultimate consumers of your content. Address their questions, comments and/or concerns and they’ll find value.
Readers Focus on Content
Thin content is something that you should avoid at all costs. It is good to carry out a site analysis, identify all thin content, and replace it with more “meaty”, high value and relevant content. When evaluating content, look at it from the perspective of a searcher and ask yourself is “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t answer that question, edit, rewrite and republish.