‘Thin Content’ (and How to Avoid It)

The first year I had my website I hardly got any people contacting me.

After 1 year of writing good-quality content (2 if you count the 1st year I put it off) and doing some basic and advanced SEO on and off my site, I started to see an increase in the amount of traffic I’d get to my inbox.

From time to time, I get approached by entities looking to work together to get the word out about their products or ideas. This is all fine and dandy if both parties get something out of the deal but every once and a while you have to question whether the other person is holding up their side of the bargain.

I want to talk about a recent experience I had with someone wanting to contribute a post to my blog. The idea being that in exchange for a link from my website, a guest writer would contribute a useful article to my blog.

When they first reached out to me, I was excited; they seemed ambitious and came to me with some interesting blog ideas.

But as I got closer to the final deadline, I knew I didn’t feel comfortable publishing the article. It was Thin Content, and ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable sharing it with readers of my blog.

What Is Thin Content?

Google is very determined to be the best and only search engine you use. It doesn’t do that by showing you links to crappy sites. Google wants to give you the best results to provide more value to your experience.

When it comes to finding the best, most valuable sites online, Google looks for unique, original content. The kind of content that people are drawn to, will share and tell their friends about.

Nobody wants flimsy, fly-by-night websites that are only trying to get their hands in your pockets. These sites waste your time, try to game the system, and provide little to no added value to your experience – or to Google’s.

When it comes to winning with Google, you have to put in an honest effort and put in the time to produce content that makes a difference to people. Not something that is just trying to sell you something.

And in case you didn’t know, Google is pretty good at spotting the difference.

How to Spot Thin Content Articles

Apart from the more obvious signs of poor-quality, here are some content and blog-specific clues that you are dealing with unoriginal or low-value content:

Links/URLs

It’s always a good idea to investigate the back-links of the article in question.

You’ll want to make sure the URLs are safe and that they are helpful to the reader, providing further quality information that would support the point. From a user experience point of view, should they open in a new window? Does it direct to the right page?

You also want to look for multiple links to the same source.

In the article I was presented, I noticed a conspicuous block of content around the middle of the article that focused on one particular URL source (the homepage). After a little more investigation, I came across the same link several times through.

This might have been okay if the links served a purpose but they didn’t; instead, they were a means to garner more links from Google.

Duplicate Content/Plagiarism

Another sign that you’re dealing with Thin Content is when you can find snippets of text that have been copied, almost verbatim, from another website.

Plagiarising content for a blog post your hoping to publish is just lazy – and it can seriously hurt your credibility with Search Engines, not to mention readers!

I notice that a lot of duplicate content appears around fragments of text that provide an interesting fact but don’t link to any supporting evidence:

“Sandy Dunes found a 19.3% increase in sales after implementing this procedure…”

What procedure? There’s no link…

On further inspection (a quick Google search of the text fragment), I would find other sites containing this line of text, almost word-for-word, with maybe one or two words changed.

Third-Party Writers/Content Contributors

Another way to spot poor quality Thin Content–and this one might be harder to find out–is if an undisclosed third-party writer is involved.

Sometimes you may think you are dealing with a particular writer but find out that they have someone else who is doing the writing, research, editing, etc.. for them.

On a recent article I was proof-reading, I left several comments in the Google Doc with ideas and other ways I thought to improve the article before publishing.

Later on, I saw that my comments were resolved (Google Docs notifies you when one of your comments is marked as ‘resolved’) by some strange person with no apparent affiliation to the person or company I was dealing with. This could have been their personal assistant or a hired Virtual Assistant, for all I know.

Unless the person you are dealing with is upfront about this, it can wear down trust and be a sign that you’re dealing with less-than-original content.

Overall Quality

Going back to the idea of adding value, when you are reading the article before publication, decide if the piece provides anything new, fresh, or interesting or is it just a new arrangement of some already well-known facts?

Are the links supporting the articles subject matter? Is the writing style unique and natural, or robotic (often a sign of plagiarism)? Is the supporting media descriptive and rich? Does it teach the reader anything new?

When producing thin content, things like layout, research, and original ideas are stretched thin!

Like any writer who is passionate about a subject, it should be easy to find subject matter to write about. When you do, you bring a fresh voice to your readers, something they haven’t seen or thought of before.

This is what Google means by value-added and this is the kind of value Google is looking for.

Conclusion

If you find yourself in a position to accept guest posts, you can use some of the tips I outlined above so you can avoid putting out low-quality content and landing yourself on Google’s naughty list.

Ultimately, you have to stick to your guns and know what you will and will not publish on your site.

Ask yourself:

Is this something I want to share with my audience? Is this something I would be proud to stand behind? Do I believe in it?

In the end, you’ll want to feel confident that the content you put out on your site is unique, original, and that it adds value to others.

This is how you do better in the rankings. In the long run, you will have far more success if you put in that little bit extra and make sure your content is thoughtful and unique.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with someone if you think they’d find it valuable. If you’ve had a similar experience with thin content on your site, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

Thanks again,

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