What Is Thin Content? Unpacked by Google’s Spam Policies

Aaron Haynes
Jan 3, 2024

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You’ve optimized for appropriate keywords, bagged high-quality backlinks, and even supercharged your site’s speed, but still, something isn’t quite adding up.

What’s missing?

The answer might be lurking in the overlooked corners of your website: thin content. Don’t hit the panic button just yet, ‘cause we’re here to help.

In this guide, we’ll:

  1. answer the question, “What is thin content?”
  2. explain why it’s the silent killer of SEO strategies,
  3. and most importantly, detail how to fix it.

What Is Thin Content?

Thin content—sometimes known as shallow content—refers to web pages containing content that offers website visitors little to no added value. These could be pages with very little content, duplicate content, content filled with ambiguous AI jargon, or content that doesn’t serve a meaningful purpose. The kind of writing that makes a reader ask themselves, “Man, this sucks. Why am I even here?”

Definitely not the lasting impression you want to leave on your target audience.

Quality content, on the other hand, acts as a goldmine of information for your audience, offering unique insights and compelling material that directly tackles their pain points or curiosities. Unlike thin content, quality content captivates your readers, compelling them to delve deeper into your website—the catalyst that transforms a passive site visitor into a dedicated customer or brand advocate.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

The Potential Consequences of Thin Content

Think of thin content as a “sugar rush” for your website—it might attract visitors initially, but it leaves them unsatisfied and unlikely to return. Let’s delve into the various repercussions of having thin content on your site.

Search Engine Optimization Consequences

Thin content can severely undermine your SEO efforts. But don’t just take our word for it. In this video, Matt Cutts, a former Google engineer, warns that thin content can range from keyword-stuffed doorway pages to affiliate pages that offer no original insights. Let’s refer to Google’s spam policies for a more in-depth understanding.

Google’s Spam Policies: A Quick Overview

Google has a set of guidelines to evaluate the quality of a website’s content. Going against Google’s recommendations can result in manual penalties that can result in a drop in search rankings and, subsequently, organic traffic. You can check if Google has taken any manual actions on your site by visiting Google Search Console and, under the “Security and Manual Actions” tab, clicking “Manual Actions.”

Here’s a brief rundown of the spam policies that pertain to thin content:

  • Automatically generated content: Programmatic content that’s often fluffy, generic, and lacking in substance.
  • Cloaking: Displaying different content to search engines and users.
  • Doorway pages: Pages created for specific keywords to funnel users to another page, offering little value and manipulating search results.
  • Scraped content: Copying content from other sites without adding value.
  • Thin affiliates: Affiliate pages that offer no unique value or insight. Matt Cutts describes these as “cookie-cutter sites.”

All these practices fall under the umbrella of thin content. Matt Cutts sums it up: “It’s on a spectrum of value add, and if you get low enough, then we consider that to have violated our web spam guidelines.” Yikes!

User Experience (UX)

Low-quality content doesn’t merely dent your SEO metrics and risk a thin content penalty—it also erodes the very foundation of user trust and engagement.

Imagine your website as a storefront. If a customer walks in and finds empty shelves or subpar products, they’re likely to leave and never return. This principle extends to your online presence. A web page devoid of valuable content squanders the opportunity to “wow” visitors, leading to a tarnished brand reputation and reduced user engagement.

This negative experience doesn’t just result in a higher bounce rate. It tarnishes your brand’s reputation. Over time, this can snowball into a decline in key performance indicators like average session duration and pages per session. It’s a positive feedback loop—bad UX leads to a drop in SEO performance, which leads to a drop in rankings and, consequently, feeds the demise of your website’s overall performance.

What Else Constitutes Thin Content?

We’ve already touched on the likes of doorway pages and automatically generated content, but the landscape of thin content is vast and varied. Let’s explore some other common thin content examples that could be lurking on your website, undermining both your SEO and user experience:

Lacks Depth

Content that lacks depth is like a shallow pool—fine for dipping your toes but unsatisfying for a deep dive. These articles or posts barely scratch a topic’s surface, leaving readers yearning for more information.

Duplicate Content Issues

Whether it’s copying and pasting from another site or reusing your own content across multiple pages, duplicate content dilutes your site’s value and is likely to confuse search engines.

Overloaded with Ads

A site overloaded with ads is like a movie interrupted by too many commercials—frustrating and disruptive. Excessive ads annoy users and make it difficult for them to find the content they came for—neither scenario is conducive to good UX or supportive of your SEO efforts.

FAQs for SEOs and Webmasters

What Is a Thin Content Word Count?

The term “thin content” doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific word count. Rather, it’s about the value and depth the content provides. For instance, a 500-word article that offers unique insights could be more valuable than a 1,000-word article that rehashes common knowledge. There’s a limit to this, of course. Short content of around, let’s say, only 100-200 words will rarely explore a topic enough to be helpful to a reader.

How To Identify Thin Content?

  1. Run an SEO content audit: Make use of an SEO tool like Screaming Frog to audit your website comprehensively. Screaming Frog will flag “exact duplicates” or “near duplicate” content and other potential thin content issues.
  2. Manual review: Take the time to read through your content. Look for areas where you could provide more detail or where the content doesn’t offer value to the reader.
  3. Check meta descriptions: Duplicate or generic meta descriptions may flag your content as “thin” to search engines. Ensure every page features a unique, informative meta tag.
  4. User engagement metrics: Pay attention to metrics like bounce rate and time spent on a page. High bounce rates and low engagement times can be indicators of thin content.

How Can I Improve My Thin Content?

Start by enriching your existing articles with more depth and detail. Eliminate or 301 redirect duplicate content and thin content pages, optimize meta descriptions, and ensure your web pages offer unique value that can’t be found elsewhere. Consider hiring expert, niche-established writers or editors to boost the quality of your content.

Conclusion and Next Steps

If the thought of auditing, identifying, and improving thin content feels overwhelming, not to worry. That’s where we come in. At Loganix, we specialize in transforming your website into a content-rich haven that not only pleases Google’s algorithms but also resonates with your audience.

Don’t let thin content be the Achilles’ heel of your online strategy.

🚀 Explore Loganix’s SEO auditing services and blog writing services today. 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Aaron Haynes on January 3, 2024

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.