Thin content refers to website content that does not conform to the Webmaster Guidelines requirements and does not provide visitors with added value, for example automatically generated content or doorway pages. The term thin content first became known in 2011 with the leaked Quality Rater Guidelines.
Google has been making every effort to ensure that website content meets user expectations especially since the launch of the Panda Update. For this reason, rankings have been downgraded for websites whose content is too thin. Even if only individual pages of a domain are affected, it can affect the whole website.
Whether content is thin, gets determined by algorithms as well as quality raters. As soon as content is discovered with no added user value, the site operator will be notified of a manual action in the Google Search Console.
Thin content can be characterized in various ways. The following characteristics are defined by Google itself.
This category includes content which is created automatically by software. It includes automated RSS Feeds or texts that are strikingly synonymous with other content.
These websites only contain content which was provided through an affiliate program as well as links to corresponding partner programs. In addition, these websites have no or very little unique content, such as reviews, tests, or other content.
This is content that has been copied from other websites or translated exactly. This content is not only thin, but can also violate copyrights.
Doorway pages are classified as thin content, since their only purpose is to direct visitors to a different page with products.
This denotes websites which do not give the user any added value, such as pages that are only filled with images, but not with text. The category of irrelevant content also includes purely advertising copy without any information. This is where algorithms that recognize the Gibberish Scores will go into action.
Since October 2014, Google classifies thin content as a Soft-404 error page. These are pages without content, but they do not output a 404 status code. Pages with content which does not represent added user value are thus noted in the Google Webmaster tools. This benefits SEOs and site operators since that content-free web pages can be immediately deleted or improved. Moreover, thin content pages may no longer result directly in manual actions, but will simply not be considered in the ranking.
Moreover, it is to be assumed that Google takes note of thin content through soft-404 errors. If these errors are not corrected, it could still result in ranking losses.
Thin content has been an important topic in search engine optimization since the introduction of the Panda update. It is a basic principle of website design. If you do not provide attractive content with added value, you will likely lose your visitors in the long term. Thus, Google has acted strictly in the users’ interest by penalizing pages with content that was merely copied or created with little effort.
For SEOs, this means that in the future, more effort should go into the creation of valuable content than in the construction of link networks. While links from other websites remain an important ranking aspect, website content has become a significant factor for good positioning in the SERPs.