Violating one of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is a quick way to get your site demoted or removed from the index. You can tell whether or not you’re being penalized by setting up a free Google Search Console account and registering your web property. One of the most common penalties is given for little or no original content, commonly known in the SEO world as thin content. And trust me when I say, no one wants this penalty.
Why does original content matter?
According to Google, one of the best ways to get your site to rank in search is by creating unique and valuable content on each page of your website. You want to appropriately incorporate keywords into the title, headlines, and body of your page without keyword stuffing your website. A lot of webmasters misinterpret this to mean including keywords on the webpage, no matter the quality. Some of the most common types of thin content include:
- Automatically generated content
- Doorway pages
- Scraped content
- Thin affiliate content
TL;DR – If it exists somewhere else on the web or you’re generating the content with a program, then now is the time to change your spammy ways.
How can automatically generated content hurt my website?
Programmatically generated content that makes no sense to the user, but contains keywords, is a quick way to get your site demoted in Google. Rather than investing in creating blocks of paragraphs and inserting variables, focus on building out good content. If you have a small team, you might try user-generated content (UGC) as a way to get unique text on the page. So enable that comment box, and for the love of SEO, make sure those conmments are crawlable and indexable. If any of your content can be described by the following characteristics, then you’re vulnerable to an algorithmic penalty:
- Produced with a tool that automatically generates text and nobody reviews before the content is published on the site.
- Automatically generating content by creating a program that produces keyword synonyms.
- Scraped content from other sites and RSS feeds.
- Content taken from other sites without adding much of your own perspective.
What are doorway pages and why are they bad for my site?
Google is on a mission to rid the internet of doorway pages, which are pages created to rank for a keyword with the purpose of taking a user to a different destination.
These types of pages can produce low-quality, duplicative content that is bad for a user who is browsing the SERP. These pages are typically less useful for someone who is browsing the web and can create too many similar pages on the web. If you have multiple pages for different regions that funnel users to one place or you’re generating pages to funnel users to a single page on your site, then you’re in trouble.
How does scraping content from other sites work?
It doesn’t. Scraping content from other websites and republishing it on your own site is one quick way to get a Google penalty. Aside from copyright infringement, scraped content without any value added will not help your site rank. If you’re wondering whether the content on your site should be considered scraped content, then here are some of the characteristics to help you decide:
- Copied or republished from another site with little to no changes.
- Republishing content from feeds without providing anything unique or of substantive value.
What should affiliate sites do about thin content?
If you have an affiliate site with product descriptions and reviews that are taken directly from the source site, then your content will be devalued for its lack of uniqueness. That’s right, your product descriptions ain’t new so Google ain’t impressed.
Since these pages could clutter up Google with the exact same content, they’re demoted in search results. By definition, not all affiliates are thin affiliates. If you improve the product descriptions or have unique customer reviews, then you can provide value to the user that the host site doesn’t offer. The best affiliate websites make sure that
- Affiliate content is only a portion of their website.
- Rich product descriptions and unique reviews are on each affiliate product.
Regardless of whether you’re producing content for your blog or your product pages, do yourself a favor and make sure that the content is unique. To avoid a Panda Penalty, make sure that you’re content includes unique keywords per page and that it doesn’t appear elsewhere on the web.