Thin content had been the conventional practice until Google released the Panda update in 2011. The algorithm was designed to curb the ubiquity of low-quality content on the search engine results page (SERPs) and reward concise content backed up with data and insightful analysis.
Back then, marketers could easily manipulate their search rankings by relying on keyword-stuffing and farm link-building practices.
Fortunately for real businesses, Google had to respond with a powerful Panda update.
While I’m less clear on which signals were used to determine those websites that were thin in content and those that weren’t, sites with substantial information started to rank high on search engines.
Another critical point to note is that the Panda algorithm doesn’t consider a single web page to reward, but it assesses your website’s overall content quality. So there’s no room for shortcuts and easy tricks.
To be seen on search engines for your business keywords and drive potential buyer traffic, you must prioritize fixing thin content alongside scaling content marketing efforts.
Take a look at the following search console chart for my website. As you can see, I have almost tripled my organic traffic in the last six months compared to the previous six.
Also, there has been an increase in the number of organic keywords.
It was not because I published new articles on my blog, but because I fixed existing thin content. Sounds interesting, right?
Stay with me till the end of this post, and I will share my secrets behind these results.
What Is Thin Content and Why Is It Dangerous for Your Website?
Web pages that offer null or low value to site visitors are considered thin-content pages. Here are some examples:
- 404 error page
- Pages that lack concise information
- Sparse content pages
- Mixed content
- Low-value content
Let’s dive deeper into these examples and how they affect your rankings:
1. 404 error page
When someone visits a specific page of your website and stumbles into a 404 response code (“page doesn’t exist”), it is known as the 404 error page. As a visitor, Google hates it.
The main reason for the 404 error is that you had had the page earlier, but you deleted it.
In general, Google crawls your website’s pages periodically by allocating a fixed crawl budget. You’re wasting it by presenting the page with null content that does not need to be indexed, which is a waste of time and resources for Google.
The Panda algorithm counts it as thin content, and it hurts your website’s SEO badly.
How To Fix 404s
Via Google Search Console
Go into your Google Search Console, look at the 404 error pages under “index coverage”, and you will see them if you have any.
Via Site: Sitename
Go to Google Search and search for Site:yoursitename.com, and you will see all your website pages that Google indexes. After that, you will have to check every individual page to identify which is responding with a 404.
It can be challenging to find 404 errors if your website has a large number of pages. In such cases, you can take the help of tools like ScreamingFrog.
There are three ways to fix 404s:
- Consider adding fresh content to the page.
- Add 301 redirection to your other relevant content or home page (If you use Rankmath plugin, you can do this under “redirections.”)
- Feed your 404 URLs to the removals tool in the Google Search Console.
These are just a handful of ways to find and fix 404 pages and maintain a healthy SEO profile for your website.
2. Pages That Lack Concise Information
It is essential to develop concise content that matches its intent. It’s not a matter of writing more or less, but tailoring your content to match user intent.
For example, my “Starting a Blog in India” guide ranks top 10 for 20+ competitive keywords and generates good affiliate income. But it wasn’t always like like that. No matter how strong my efforts had been formulating it, I wasn’t able to crack the first page until I found my mistake. Earlier, I had talked about work-from-home jobs in the conclusion of the article, which means I had been signaling the potential prospects to look for blogging alternatives and send them away.
And Google, the boss, knew about this all too well.
While you don’t always have to create a 5,000-word article, ensure the visitor doesn’t leave your page with unanswered questions and return to Google for more info or leave early because the content is filler.
Here is how you can optimize your content for better exposure:
Identify the pages or posts that are driving less or no traffic using Google Analytics. Then, you will need to optimize them with better content.
Eighty-two percent of marketers believe that creating new content is the best way to boost their SEO. However, according to Orbit Media, the percentage of bloggers who update their old content and drive more traffic grows every year. They’ve seen the value in updating older posts, and so should you. It improves the freshness factor of your blog and generates more organic traffic as you add relevant keywords.
Here’s what you need to look at:
- Review if any external and internal links are not working and fix them.
- Optimize images with alt text and title text.
- Check for any stats that need to be changed.
- See if you can add new examples.
- Are the visuals still relevant?
- Is there room to target new keywords through H1, H2 and H3 titles?
- Are people looking for more answers? Try adding the FAQ section.
- Update your title with power words that entice prospects.
Every piece of your website deserves to be read and engaged. So take action to offer the most outstanding value you can to both SEOs and humans.
3. Sparse Pages
While category pages help visitors navigate and understand the website better, they also have adverse side effects. For example, a search engine can consider a category page thin content. It can extract the excerpt of the posts it is carrying and leads to a duplicate content scenario.
So, to fix the issue:
- Add relevant SEO title, URL and description just like you do for general web pages to better represent and rank for a keyword.
- Increase the number of posts per category page or make it infinite, so you don’t carry the deadweight pages in your sitemap.
4. Mixed Content
Mixed content has both HTTP (non-secure) and HTTPS (secure) resources on a web page.
For instance, when a page is loaded via a secure connection, but if embedded resources like images, videos, stylesheets and scripts are loaded with a non-secure origin, browsers will show the prompt: “unsecured error.” This hurts your website’s overall SEO and user experience (UX).
According to Google, mixed content lowers the security and UX of your website and exposes it to attackers. Also, sites with mixed content rank lower than secured ones.
Here’s how to find and fix mixed content:
Perform a SEMrush site audit to find if your website has any issues related to mixed content and fix them.
Here is how to do it: Site audit → HTTPS → HTTPS implementation
Often, you can fix this issue by addressing it with your host provider to support your website for the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) standard.
If your web pages can be viewed on both (HTTP and HTTPS), this will be considered duplicate content. You must set up your SSL certificate correctly to redirect your pages to HTTPS only to avoid the issue.
Don’t forget that HTTPS is a confirmed Google ranking factor, so it’s serious.
5. Low-Value Content
Your website can have destructive content in various forms. Here are a few – and how to fix them:
Scraped or Automatically Generated Content
Scraping content can be of no use, both SEO-wise and from the readers’ point of view. Sooner or later, that one copied piece will negatively affect your overall site performance.
Forget copying word for word. Even making the slightest tweaks, such as modifying the actual words with synonyms or running the copy through paraphrasing tools, can still lead to duplicate content. And Google doesn’t like that.
According to Google, scraping content even from high-quality sources does more harm than good.
While most niche topics are covered already, you can still add freshness to the subject, connect the dots and present it in a unique way.
Keyword stuffing was a relatively successful tactic once and is a terrible idea now.
Manipulating your search rankings by incorporating keywords too many times into your content can knock out your opportunity to rank. Worse, you might end up with a Google penalty.
Creating insightful, rich content that uses appropriate and context-based keywords will make it easier for search engines to understand your page and reward it for the right keywords.
You shouldn’t be targeting a specific keyword across various pages on your website. If you do that, you have to compete with yourself, wasting crawl budget and shrinking page authority, confusing the readers and search engines.
Instead, combine the pages with similar content and keywords to create a massive and authoritative guide.
Google won’t rank your content if your writing contains grammar mistakes. Besides, it hurts your credibility with visitors.
Concise writing is easy to read, and it offers value to your readers. But by trying to bait them with shallow content, you are building the highest bounce rate possible for your website and allowing shallow content to diminish your authority.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be straightforward and cut the fluff in writing. Use tools like Grammarly or outsource proofreading tasks to present relevant, readable and helpful content.
Affiliate Pages and Ads
Websites that solely publish content around affiliate products are likely to get a hit for being thin. They have little fresh content, and mainly consist of affiliate links or marketing offers to promote the products.
The same goes for ads. If your website has more ads than high-quality information, you’re risking your website rankings for little cash.
Keep the interstitial efforts secondary. The primary goal is to offer a great reading experience.
Remove Thin Content if You Can’t Fix It
In 2019, I had to take off 800+ articles from my blog, and since then, I have been driving significant results in terms of traffic and revenue. So what exactly did I tidy up?
- Off-topic content and attachments
- Content that was not audience-focused and had no big takeaway
- Posts that were published solely for link building and, in return, for money
And then, I had to fix those 404s using the Google Search Console method as discussed above. It goes without saying most of my SEO wins started from improving thin content.
Google punishes your site if it has any form of thin content and holds you back from growing, SEO-wise.
So take your time and inspect your website with these pointers I have laid out. Perform regular site audits to grow your site healthier and improve your chances of performing spectacularly on Google.