Google introduced a search algorithm update in February 2011, which was called “Panda.” Panda marked the beginning of a series of algorithm updates designed to penalize poor-quality websites and enhance search results.
Even though Panda was initially rolled out in 2011– immediately followed by Penguin, which was designed to eliminate black hat SEO techniques–it has been updated on numerous occasions since then, and the most recent of these updates took place in September of 2014.
All updates serve the same purpose as Panda and Penguin, which is properly ranking websites that offer relevant, useful content and penalizing those that provide only “thin content” that contains little or no value for the reader. Below are some essential facts about why it is a bad idea to feature thin content on your website and how you can avoid penalties by employing simple tactics to ensure your content offers value to searchers.
Understanding Thin Content
The term thin content refers to low-quality information that offers the reader little value. For example, doorway pages, automatically generated content or duplicate pages are all regarded as thin content by Google. The most effective way to measure your content’s quality is to gauge user satisfaction. If visitors rarely stay on your page for more than 30 seconds or so, it is probably not providing the data for which they were looking.
Google’s initial update, the aforementioned Panda, was developed primarily to target content farms, the latter of which are websites that post massive amounts of content that is “keyword stuffed.” Such articles are written entirely for the purpose of attracting traffic and ranking well in the search, as opposed to providing information of value to the reader.
Most of us have clicked our way onto a content farm at least once. The articles found on these sites are usually light on factual information, but packed with keywords in an attempt to make it relevant to a search engine.
When Panda was rolled out, it also targeted scraper sites, which are websites that simply “scraped” text from other sites and repurposed it as original work. Essentially, these site owners plagiarized other people’s work to create their own traffic.
As Panda updates continue to roll out, the focus has shifted from scraper sites and content farms to sites that feature thin content that offers little or no valuable information.
As a general rule, the more you can offer search engines with the content on your website, the more satisfied the search engines will be, and the higher the probability that you will rank well.
On the other hand, if you are not truly offering any “meat on the bones” regarding the content on your site, Google will have little incentive to rank you. Instead, you will be filtered out by the search engines. Other websites will rank higher than you merely by offering informative, helpful and detailed content.
How Google Can Tell if Content is Thin
Google’s index contains over 30 trillion pages, which makes it impossible to evaluate each page by hand for thin content. Although certain sites are subjected to Google’s manual review on occasion, most content is judged for its algorithmic value.
Ultimately, the readers who visit the site are the judge of its content. If they stay on the website and keep reading, it typically indicates that the content is good. If the content is thin, the chances are high that readers will quickly exit the site.
The content’s length is not necessarily an indicator of its value. As it was explained at Search Engine Watch, by Stephen Kenwright, a 2,000-word Ezine article probably offers less value to readers than a blog post that is only a quarter of that size but written by a true expert.
One avenue through which Google can algorithmically judge content’s value on a website is by using a metric referred to as “time to long click.” As its name implies, a long click occurs when a user clicks through to a particular website and stays on the page for a significant length of time prior to returning to the search page.
To understand this better, give some thought to different times you have browsed a website and discovered valuable information. In most cases, you probably did not merely read for a moment or two. Rather, you likely clicked around the different areas of the site and read additional content as well.
Similarly, a short click is when a reader clicks on a search engine result and returns to Google’s search results page almost at once. From there, the person probably clicks on a different result from the search, which tells Google that the first result did not offer content of value.
When to Worry About Thin Content
User satisfaction is the best way to measure the value of your content. If readers remain on your site for a lengthy amount of time after choosing it from Google’s search results page, it is probably the “thick,” high-quality content that Google prefers.
If your content does not offer much of value, you may receive a thin content warning from Google or be penalized in other ways, which indicates your website is at risk of plummeting with regard to ranking.
Although certain types of thin content may be relative, depending on the niche, the signs outlined below are usually reliable indicators that the content on your site is a bit too thin:
Your site is very light on actual text, and frequently displays only short descriptions, up to 100 words in length, and duplicate content is found on all of your website’s pages.
Your content is not relative to the topic for which readers are searching and does not provide truly useful answers to their questions or problems. This causes searchers to “bounce,” from your site back to Google’s search results page.
The text on your web pages does not match what you promised in your meta-description and page title, which leaves users disappointed after visiting your site. Not delivering on the meta-description promise will also give you an unnaturally high bounce rate.
There are numerous ways to determine whether or not your content is thin, with the best being to place yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask if the content on the page fully and clearly addresses the user’s search query.
If your content answers the reader’s question, offers details on the keyword or topic for which they searched, and otherwise informs and engages the searcher, then it is exactly the type of content Google prefers. If it does not do the aforementioned things, you should immediately take action to avoid penalties.
How to Make Thin Content More Relevant and Helpful
If you have discovered that your site’s content falls a bit too close to the thin side, you can easily fatten it up and make it more helpful and relevant for searchers.
Begin by reviewing it from a reader’s perspective and determine whether or not it answers their questions. If you discover that it is indeed thin, rewrite it to purposefully answer the questions that individuals are searching for or better address the topic related to the keyword.
If you have scraped a product description from the website of another merchant or otherwise know your content is not unique, delete it at once and immediately replace it with fresh content that you have purchased or created yourself.
Eliminating Thin Content Results in Stable Rankings
Stability is one of the best benefits of Edmonton search engine optimization. Traffic generated from a PPC campaign usually fluctuates depending on the competition, but the level of traffic and sales produced by a first-place search ranking will stay reliable and steady as long as you keep your website up to par.
Avoiding thin content is the best way to also avoid the negative effects of Google’s continuous Panda updates. Ultimately, if your website features high-quality, valuable information, its ranking may even go up when the next update is introduced by Google to penalize thin websites.
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