There seems to be a new epidemic going around peoples’ Google Webmaster Tools: the thin content warning. It’s not an especially surprising trend. Content is the new sheriff in town, so everyone is rushing to get as much of it as they possibly can. The problem is that they aren’t thinking about what “content” really means. It isn’t about populating a site by hitting an arbitrary word-count and it isn’t about making X many pages per category. It’s about delivering real value to your readers by creating content that is unique to your site. Let’s check out some examples and see how thin content may be affecting your SEO.
The biggest offender? Non-original content. The primary example used by Google’s Matt Cutts (and the one we see every day) is a business that creates multiple geographic pages with the same content. For instance, if you take a car dealership in Boston, MA. That business may be tempted to write one page about their great business, and then think, “Hey, that page is so great, why don’t I serve it to every visitor?” Then, they replace “Boston, MA.” in the copy with “Watertown, MA.”, “Braintree, MA.”, and other nearby towns. This may seem great to the business owner, because they’ll start to rank for all of these terms, and then…BAM. They’re hit with the thin content warning.
If you want to build a page for each city in your area, that’s a great idea, but make sure each page is built with unique content. Do they need to be completely different in every way? No, but there should be no sentence that is exactly the same between the two pages. Similar is fine, exact copies are thin content.
Another common way businesses get hit with thin content warnings are by syndicating relevant articles. This is especially true on business blogs and affiliate marketing sites. Instead of writing unique content, these sites feel that they can pull a feed from a site that IS creating unique content and use that content to populate their site. This can be okay if you’re adding value. For instance, if you quote a paragraph or two (using blockquotes and citing the source) and then add your own point of view. If you’re just taking their article and posting it on your site though, that’ll get you a thin content warning.
“It goes back to the sort of thing where we’re looking for original content, original research, original insight, something that would make the site compelling, something that would make it so that users really like the site, they’d bookmark it, they’d tell their friends about it, they’d come back to it, they really enjoy the site,” Cutts said.
If you get this warning, the best way to fix it is to look at your page and think about what you’re offering to a visitor. If it’s content they can get somewhere else, it needs to go. If it’s content that is the same across every page, it needs to go. And if it’s content that just doesn’t offer any real reason for them to come back, it’s time to overhaul the whole gorram thing and start creating some useful materials.