I don’t want to name any names, but I saw an awful website this morning. Granted, I was looking for examples of thin content because of this post and I figured I might be able to just wander around until I found something that could count towards the description. I didn’t expect to find something this relevant, much less to such a degree that I would leave the site cringing.
Because of tactics they had used and length of time the site had been around, they maintain a decent Google ranking in spite of having some of the thinnest content I have ever seen. But the lack of engagement on the articles, the amount of spam littered among the occasional real comment, the lack of social media shares… it all showed that in spite of being prolific in their posting habits, their content was doing nothing to help them.
Someone should let them know about the benefits of high quality content versus thin content. Though given the sheer number of ads on their domain, quality probably isn’t their first priority.
Thin Content Risks
Why is this such a bad thing if the traffic is high enough to bring them within the first page of Google results? It is the same reason that keyword stuffing is a bad idea. Sure, it will bring people to your site for a time. But eventually Google’s algorithm is going to catch on and while they claim they don’t penalize, we all know that isn’t true. If you try and skirt around the system you are going to get flagged.
Not only that, but it is damaging to a brand.
What is the use of being on Google’s first page if people realize the moment they click onto your site that you have nothing worth viewing? They will be gone within seconds and over time your rank will go down along with the lack of interest or brand trust.
The Legend of Fred
Now there is a more direct threat to your business. But then Google came out with updates, all named under one collective term “Fred” which focused on battling thin content:
Basically, if you publish high quality content that is highly cited on the Internet – and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that.
Fred caused quite a ruckus when it was first released in 2017. It came from the Black Hat sector, aimed specifically at spam links and suspected spam links.
Of course, we know from past statements and experiences that Google is also targeting backlinks and trying to discourage the practice which may be why so many sites that were well established and not at all spam saw a 90% decrease in traffic seemingly out of nowhere. It sparked panic across the web as site owners and brands scrambled to figure out what was happening and came back with rumors of “Fred”.
The good news is while a percentage of sites hit were valid ones that might not have deserved it, most did appear to be low rent content hosters using shady practices to boost traffic and so ad revenue. But that was little relief for those bigger sites who were impacted by the release of Fred.
Since then Google has got even smarter at identifying and fighting thin content, so in case you have some older lower-quality content on your blog, fixing it may cause your overall rankings increase.
How to Fix Thin Content on Your Blog
Step 1: Identify and Enhance Articles That Bring Traffic
- Go to Google Analytics Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages
- Enable it to show 5000 rows (this is the maximum)
- Export the whole report and check if any of those articles can be called “thin”, generally:
- Number of words is fewer than 500
- There are no structure (subheadings, images, etc.)
- There’s no “substance”, i.e. some unique tip, facts, etc. that a reader can take home.
TextOptimizer is a great tool for that: It will run your target query in Google, extract search snippets and then apply semantic analysis to identify related concepts and entities to implement in your content to expand it.
TextOptimizer will also generate popular questions on your topic for you to answer in your content and make it better:
While editing your old content, think if there are any content re-purposing opportunities, like creating a whitepaper or a blog series. Use the checklist to ensure higher quality for each of your content projects.
Step 2: Identify and Get Rid of Articles That Bring 0 Clicks
Now, go ahead and check all the articles that didn’t get into your above list. You may double-check again to make sure any of them are not really driving any clicks. Once you are sure, go ahead and:
- Use 301 redirect to redirect any of those articles to their updated or closely related versions
- If there’s no related content to redirect to, simply delete old thin articles
- Here are great plugins that will help you with both the steps above
For more information on this tactic, check out this case study on how this process increased one blog’s traffic by ~1000%
Have you been thinking about fixing low-quality thin content? Please share your tips!