Getting your website and blog posts to rank higher in search engines may seem like a taunting task. You have been breathing and sweating search engine optimisation. You have installed a SEO plugin to your site, researched and inserted (long tail) keywords all over the place, and done some magic spells to get more search visibility. And yet, something is lacking. You have muddied your purpose and forgot the quality.
One of the most important ranking signals search engines look into is the quality of your content. Quality content doesn't only improve your search ranking, but also increases the likelihood your content is shared in social media, pinned on Pinterest and read more. It can also give you authority, make you appear as an expert of the field your content tackles. This will give you more sales, job opportunities and clients. Quality content is a sign of a quality brand. [Tweet this]
Quality is a bit difficult to assess. Your idea of quality may be very different than mine. And it could as well be very different than that of search engine folks. To make quality a bit more understandable, there's another way to frame the idea. The content that lacks of quality is often called "thin content". Thin content means superficial content that doesn't add value for people making searches. This kind of content doesn't offer the information or entertainment people are searching for. Calling low quality content thin makes it more digestible. Thin lacks of substance.
Thin content refers to many different types of low quality content. Content that is evidently created automatically and offers very limited value or no value at all is thin content. Spammy and advertising content is thin. Copied content, such as content that's mainly product information copied from other sources or content scraped from other websites is thin. If you copy content from other websites and make minor changes to it, it will still be considered as thin content.
Content with many affiliate links and very little other value is thin. Google gives some guidelines in regards of affiliate content. They point out that some content with affiliate links is still valuable. That is original content, of which the affiliate links and content consist only a small portion and otherwise the content adds value to people accessing it. Examples of this are product reviews, ratings and comparisons. Copying reviews from other sites is also thin content. Make your content authentically and originally yours. [Tweet this]
It is important to note that content length isn't a exactly a sign of quality. You can write a short blog post, which is rich of information and original content, and performs very well in searches. And you can write a long blog post, which has very thin content, lacks of originality and authenticity, and thus performs badly in searches. How long your content is or how many words it contains is doesn't eventually tell that much about the actual quality of the content. It only tells about the length and word count of the content.
There are some ways to find out if your site is being penalised for thin content. Start by adding your website to Google Search Console. I recommend this also, if you want your blog posts to be indexed faster by Google. After a little while you can check if there's a thin content warning in Search Traffic > Manual Actions. If there's no such warning, carry on the way you have. If there is, identify your thin content and either remove or improve it.
Many other tools are available for checking if the site content is thin. However, some of these tools are more concerned about the content word count which, as mentioned above, is not necessarily a good sign of quality. Additionally you can check how unique your website content is and if it's been copied to other sites with different tools. Copyscape allows a limited plagiarism checkup for a page content. There are many other tools for this, such as Duplicate Content Checker and PlagSpotter.
Fixing thin content or avoiding creating it in the first place includes being mindful about your content. As my school teachers liked to say, "write it in your own words". While we sometimes made fun of the saying by creating our own words of new languages, it actually is all about using words and phrasing which are familiar and natural for you. Rather than copying the wording, phrasing, titling and content from other websites, try coming up with your own ways to say things. If you are summarising someone else's content, do it by rephrasing the content in the way that feels natural for you (don't forget to mention the source). Short quotes are okay, but make sure they are clearly marked as such. Don't you rather want to be quoted, than constantly quote other people?
The best way to avoid thin content is to do as Google tells you to do:
"Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines."
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I'm Mervi Emilia Eskelinen, an artist and online presence strategist from Finland. I coach and consult indie businesses and bloggers to find focus with their branding, marketing and web. I have almost 20 years of experience, a bachelor's degree and some fun certifications in everything about digital media and marketing.