Thin Content: what is it and how to avoid it?

Pablo Herrera

Pablo Herrera
Head of SEO & Content

If you’re interested in SEO, you’ve probably heard of thin content. We tend to make the literal translation of the concept and talk about short or thin content, but it is a much broader concept.

A key one:

Thin content is one of the things that annoys Google the most.

So over the years it has been perfecting its algorithms to detect and penalise it. If we do not use current SEO guidelines, we may have pages of this type.

Many of those little tricks that were used on a regular basis, today can penalise us a lot. Just as Google has learned, more or less, to detect organic and quality linkbuilding, it has also learned to better detect the quality of the texts.

When we talk about Thin Content we are talking about SEO content, that is, SEO on page. This does not mean that there are no elements of structure that can create alarms, which there are.

Throughout this article, I will tell you exactly what Thin Content is, why you should avoid it and how you can identify it.

What is Thin Content?

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Thin content is poor content or content of little value, which does not provide knowledge to the user. When a user enters a page of this type, they leave without having found what they are looking for.

It is not simply that it is a page with little or no content. It is that the content we find is not useful. We can have a 2,000-word article that says nothing of interest. And if it’s not useful, Google is not going to show it.

Not only will Google not show it, but having pages of this type will penalise the website in general. That is why it is so important to detect if we have content of this type. Because having several pages of this type can ruin our content strategy.

We often fall into the trap of thinking that more quantity is better than more quality. And it is not.

It is preferable to have little content, but well cared for, than a large amount of low quality content, at least as far as SEO is concerned.

For example, if we have an ecommerce with thousands of references, we may not have time to work on each product page. This doesn’t mean that we can’t sell through digital advertising, through social media or from our newsletter, but if you don’t take care of the product pages at SEO level, you won’t get organic users.

If you have worked on the UX, you may even be interested in leaving only some specific products indexed and that other similar products appear as featured products or that can be found through the search engine, to avoid organic penalties.

Types of thin content

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To better understand what thin content is, it is important to be able to detect its types. Google has different ways of identifying it, among them the dwell time, since in the end what is important in all of this is user behaviour.

In other words, the basis of Google’s business is to be relevant. It is giving the user what they are looking for and curbing their uncertainty. If when they search for something they get a result that doesn’t respond to their search intention, that will generate frustration.

All of Google’s algorithm changes are along these lines. That the user finds quality results. So, allow Google to only have access to what, within your page, offers that quality. If you can’t remove the rest, mark it as non-indexable and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.

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    Automatic or auto-gen

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    Automatic or auto-generated content is one of the main problems of thin content that we can see today.

    There is no SEO content strategy behind it. No keyword research has been done, these are simply pages that generate themselves, either with part of the content of your website through plugins or other tools dependent on artificial intelligence.

    Although the results are better than they were years ago, Google is still able to detect it. The human factor is still essential in SEO. It is increasingly noticeable when we are faced with a compilation of artificial phrases, taken from different websites for positioning.

    We are facing a Black Hat SEO practice and we already know that these practices, although sometimes it takes time, Google ends up discovering them and penalising them in its algorithm updates.

    This would also include blog tag and category pages, which must be de-indexed.

    Translated content (bad)

    Traducción del PC

    Nor can we forget about poorly translated content. It is usually related to automatic or auto-generated content, as there are different plugins that automatically translate your website into the language of your choice.

    It is not recommended. Not for Google, not for the user. A badly translated website gives a bad image and does not generate any confidence. If you cannot afford a good translation, it is better not to have a website in more than one language.

    At least, if you have any interest in the page working in organic search.

    Similarly, if we translate the content of another website literally, Google will also understand it as thin content.

    Duplicate content

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    Duplicate content is another of the most common problems we encounter. It makes no sense to copy the same content from another page, either internal or external.

    Obviously, this is of no value to Google. Also keep in mind that sometimes, especially in ecommerce, this can happen on its own.

    For example, if you put two different tags on the same product, a separate product page is generated for each tag. Or if you have different pages according to size or colour. This kind of thing is good to control it and in any case point to a main page using a canonical.

    Doorway Pages

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    It was very popular, but fortunately it is no longer used today. Doorway pages are pages designed to rank for SEO. It was a Black Hat strategy that worked at the time, but as always happens with Google, it was eventually discovered and stopped.

    In this case it was about creating several pages or domains that tried to position a very specific term in another URL of another page or domain. For example, if you wanted to position “buy shoes online”, you would create other domains and link from all of them “buy shoes online” to your page or variations such as “online shoe shop”.

    Now, it is also important the domain authority and relevance to the theme of the website that links to you.

    Those domains only existed to give that kind of links and Google ended up penalising them. That is why it is important to use the disavow tag to disavow toxic domains that link to us and show that we have nothing to do with them.

    Empty Pages

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    Finally, empty pages should also be mentioned. It may seem silly, because it is so obvious. But many times we have pages without indexable content, sometimes with URLs that are really going to interest us once we get on with it.

    Don’t leave anything indexable if it’s not fully SEO ready. It’s OK to take a little longer. It’s better to come out late and well than to let the robots pass by and find nothing, because it may take them a long time to come back and discover that now there is interesting content.

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