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Thin Content Hurts Websites With Search Engines

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Thin content puts a website at risk for poor indexing, weak rankings and wasted effort.

What is thin content? It is content with little or no benefit to the person who reads it. Search engines detect thin content by visitor response, the length of the article and other factors.

An article with less than 100 words, no attributions, no related links, no graphics or content similarity to other articles certainly qualifies as thin. Search engines will easily detect the above characteristics of the article and rank it lower than one on the same subject that doesn’t have those problems.

Likewise, visitors to that article, if they can find it, will signal their perception that it is thin by spending little time to read it (poor engagement) or not clicking on any links. High bounce rates for an article also signal thin content.

In some cases, the search engines won’t even index the article at all. Even if they do, the page will rank so poorly that it might as well not exist at all. That means any time and effort that went into it is wasted.

Why bother with producing it if no one can find it on search engines? Even if someone comes to the site, will they find it if the article if it is so “thin” the publisher buries it somewhere?

How to Identify Thin Content

Site publishers can identify content so thin that search engines don’t index the article. All they need to do is use search engines to see if they can find the article at all. They can use a search operator and the article title like this: “ this is my article title”.

If the article doesn’t show up, it’s either buried so deep in the site that even the search engines can’t find it or it’s so thin that the search engines don’t bother with it.

Identifying individual articles that are thin is easy. Identifying and fixing them for a large site that has hundreds, thousands or even more articles is a big challenge.

Prioritizing the articles by subject matter will help. Subjects with high potential for reader, advertiser or ecommerce value should get the most attention.

Then it’s a matter of creating a production schedule to identify and try to fix what is wrong with the articles. Depending on other priorities, a site publisher could do this kind of work daily, weekly or monthly. What matters is making consistent progress over time.

How to Fix Thin Content

The reasons why an article is thin explains how to make it fat, so to speak. The strategy includes:

  • Making it longer, at least 300 words if not much more
  • Adding at least one photo or graphic
  • Adding sources including a link
  • Making it interactive, such as offering a poll or survey

Once the changes are made, it’s a good idea to change the publication date on the article, especially if it’s available to search engines using a site map. That way they can quickly and easily detect the change.

That said, once the changes have been made, there is no guarantee the search engines will index the article. But the odds certainly improve. Continuous improvement is a valuable tactic in the online publishing environment.

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