Google’s policy lists several manual penalties which a site can receive if they do something which is not in compliance with the company’s rules. For example, unnatural links coming from the site is a penalty for having spammy links on your website, so it’s easy to understand that the next step is to remove those links and ask for a second chance from Google.
However, not all penalties offer such a clear indication of why they were imposed, with the Thin Content penalty being one of them. What exactly is this penalty, and what do you need to do when facing it?
In short, one can think of thin content as content with little or no added value, and it can often be found on websites which create content just for the sake of having it. In this article, we will elaborate on this topic a bit further, and explain how to recover from a thin content penalty from tips we received from ClickAlpha’s dental seo agency.
Different Types of Low Quality (Thin) Content
It is not uncommon to see online marketers trying to increase a website’s rankings by posting content loaded with keywords and phrases which doesn’t necessarily make much sense or offer genuine value. These are the domains that Google flags and eventually penalizes, so it is essential to know what it is that they are doing wrong so that you can avoid it.
Doorway pages - These are the pages that rank high in the search results, but when one clicks on them, they get taken to other pages, utterly unrelated to what they clicked on. This is done by admins or webmasters who want to funnel their traffic into a particular section of their website, rather than the one that was initially clicked.
Google doesn’t like it as it misleads their users and creates a poor user experience which is the opposite of what the company is trying to achieve.
Auto-generated (artificial) content - As the name implies, auto-generated content was created through an automatized process by some program. These programs pull content from RSS feeds or collect it from different websites related to some keyword. This kind of text is unreadable, and its purpose is to use certain keywords to increase the ranking of a website.
This content doesn’t contain any fluid sentences, it is not edited by a real person, and does not offer a pinch of valuable information.
Low-quality affiliate pages - Affiliate sites often utilize other sites’ products, information, and content, which is classified as a violation by Google. However, not every affiliate will be penalized, as there are ways to do this successfully.
If affiliate sites have their own, original content, product categories, listings, and so on, the search engine will see them as unique and valuable, and will not interfere in their operation.
Scraped content - Scraped content refers to content that was taken from other websites and (sometimes) slightly changed, usually automatically, by a software. In essence, this is plagiarism, and Google’s algorithms can recognize this, and penalize the website as a result.
However, the search engine only identifies if the text underwent small changes, for example, certain words were replaced by synonyms, so if one changes another website’s content enough, they can get away with it.
Too little content - Sometimes it’s not about the quality of the content, but the lack of it. For example, some online stores will have dozens or hundreds of products on their pages but will not have any characteristics of those products.
Another potential issue could be pages with a low word count, and Google sees them as problematic, so, if possible, it is advisable to enrich these pages with more words.
Knowing If You’ve Been Penalized
One of the first reliable indicators of a thin content penalty is a decrease in a website’s organic traffic or rankings. If you’ve noticed this with your site, here’s what you should do next:
Review Google’s Search Console and look for signs of unusual activity.
In the dashboard of the Search Console, under Search Traffic, you’ll be able to see a list of actions against your website.
There will be a mention of thin content penalty, but you won’t be able to see any details.
Finding the Penalized Pages
Try to determine where do you have thin content, then remove it or improve it. This particular step might be very laborious and time-consuming in cases of large websites, but it must not be skipped.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you locate the penalized pages:
Read the content aloud and try to think about whether it makes sense to you. Are the sentences articulate and complete? If not, this might be the issue.
Check if all the headings are in the right places and whether the page has proper structure, as this is a crucial yet frequently overlooked aspect of a quality page.
Do you have any pages that might have been copied from somewhere else? These are usually FAQ, various reviews, and category pages. A duplicate detection software can be used to assist you in your search.
One other method that may prove helpful is to pick a sentence (from one of your more successful articles) that you might have copied from somewhere else, and paste it into Google between quotation marks (“”). The search results will show whether there are any websites with the same content.
Does your website contain any potentially misleading pages? Those are the ones that look like they will take a user to some specific location but instead lead them somewhere entirely different.
If you suspect the issue may be too little words, then use an SEO crawler to find the shortest content on your website so that you can make it longer.
Perform these four steps and see if you can find something. Again, chances are that this will take a lot of time and effort so be patient. If you
How to Fix the Problem
1. Delete the penalized content
If you’ve managed to pinpoint the piece of content that got penalized an obvious solution would be to delete it. However, Google doesn’t like websites with little or decreasing content so make it a priority to replace the removed content with a high-quality one.
A better, yet more difficult option would be to rewrite any problematic content, but first, you need to know what is it that you are trying to fix.
If the problem is that the content was copied, then you’ll need to rewrite it using different sentence structures and different words. Feel free to add your ideas into the mix as long as they fit into the whole.
If the issue was poorly written or unintelligible content, then it should be written again carefully and skillfully so that the sentences are easy to understand, and that the entire piece makes sense from start to finish.
For instance, a dentist who has no experience with online marketing might try to perform dental SEO on his page and over-stuff it with keywords and links. This is wrong, as the text should primarily be written for people to read, and even though keywords are necessary, they are to be used sparsely and naturally in one’s writing.
The text shouldn’t be keyword-stuffed, meaning that it has too many keywords in too little text. Remember, you are writing this for people to read, and even though keywords are necessary, use them sparsely and naturally in your writing.
3. Add more written content
Fattening up your pages with quality written content is one of the best things you can do to your website period. This could also be a solution to the thin content penalty if the reason for getting it is having little or no content on the site.
However, be careful when you do this as you do not want to make any of the previously mentioned mistakes that could get you in trouble again. Make sure that the content is well-written and never compromise quality for quantity.
4. Contact Google
After you’ve completed one or more of the steps mentioned above, now it is time to as Google for a reconsideration of your website, and you can do this through the Search Console. A good thing to include in your letter would be a screenshot from a plagiarism tool as proof that you’re website does not have any duplicated content.
Another good thing to do is to mention which pages you updated/removed as they were the ones that you thought were the root of the problem. Remember that more often than not, Google denies removing the penalty and demands reviewing more pages.
All in all, the process of recovering from a thin content penalty is usually not an easy one, but it is just another hurdle that some online marketers will face. You can walk away from this one with another lesson learned, and an enhanced understanding of what should or shouldn’t be done in order to improve your website’s traffic and rankings.