One of the worst things that can happen to a webmaster is receiving a notification from Google Manual Action that your site is violating their quality guidelines. Maybe you’ve received one already and are trying to figure out why. Maybe you’re trying to avoid ever getting one.
What is Google Manual Action for Thin Content? Well, basically, if a website violates Google’s webmaster quality guidelines, it can get flagged, bumped down the list of Google results, or even removed entirely (ack). Google is passionately anti-spam and anti-robots and wants to promote content that is clearly curated by humans. They use human reviewers and processes like the Hummingbird Algorithm to review and if needed, flag websites that just don’t meet their standards. Search Engine People has a brief summary of some of the different kinds of Google guideline violations (of which we’ll cover more in the upcoming days).
In this post specifically, we’ll cover thin content.
Google Manual Action: Thin Content
One of the biggest issues that Google Manual Action fights against is thin content (as specified here on their support website). If Google judges your site as having thin content, it will flag you with a “site-wide match” if your entire site has been flagged, or a “partial match” if only parts of your site have been flagged. So what qualifies as thin content, and how the hell do you get rid of it?
What Makes Your Content “Thin?”
Thin content is low-quality or shallow pages. Not necessarily crappy, but not necessarily much of anything, either. This includes but is not necessarily limited to automated content, affiliate program pages that have next to nothing on them, content “scraped” from other sources, and “doorway” pages. You need to provide unique and valuable content on your site, not just duplicate other content or websites.
1- Scraped Content
Scraped? Really? That sounds, well, painful.
Scraped content is essentially taking content from bigger, better sites and not adding anything new to it. Scraped content includes just straight-up copying content, taking content from another site and changing it only slightly, taking content feeds from other sites without adding to it, or embedding content without adding to it.
Y’know, plagiarism (intended or not).
2 – Automatically Generated Content
This one isn’t as cyborg-y as it sounds. Instead, this is content that is curated by automatic programming, rather than by humans. This may include sentences of nonsense that happen to include searchable keywords. Keywords are all well and good, but you need to include them in solid, valuable content.
Automated translation tools, automated synonymizing, and automated content creation processes of any kind all fall under this category. Content that is generated by scraping RSS feeds or search results also counts. Combining content from multiple sources and stitching them together might seem like a valid workaround, but nope. This is also a spam-like method that results in thin content. No Frankenstein’s monsters are accepted.
3 – Affiliate Programs
According to Google Manual Action, it’s not a problem to be part of an affiliate program. Affiliate programs allow their partners earn income through including links to purchasable items or services on their websites. Problems arise, however, when you have little or no unique content added to your affiliate links and pages, or if you duplicate your affiliate content across multiple websites.
4 – Doorway Pages
Doorway pages use multiple pages or sites to link users to the same destination. Using this method is designed to improve search rankings for the destination site, but it is frowned upon by Google and users who don’t want to have to go through a maze of these pages, and even multiple intermediate sites, before getting to what they actually want.
How Can You Fix It?
So now you have a good understanding of what you should not be doing, but how do you fix the existing thin content on your site? And further, how do you get Google off your back?
First, check each page of your site for these main four problems.
- If you have scraped content from other sites, delete it. Write your own content on those subjects and put your own twist on it. Be careful of embedded content too; it might be tempting to merely embed a helpful video on your site, but if you haven’t added anything to it, why should users use your site for that? Instead, add your supporting or dissenting argument to the embedded content, at the very least. If you have nothing to add, easy fix: delete it.
- If you are using any automated program to generate content, delete it, along with any content on your website that it generated. It’s very easy for Google to detect this, and you want to be a human, not a robot (well, at least for this).
- If you have thin content on your affiliate pages, ensure you provide something that users can’t get directly from the affiliate merchant. Fill your affiliate pages with unique information about the affiliate products or services; don’t just copy information from the affiliate merchants. Use affiliate pages to provide interesting reviews or ratings of affiliate items. If you can, build a community on your site around the kinds of affiliate items you are marketing. If you can’t add original material to your affiliate links, delete them.
- Look for doorway pages and delete them. Also, check for any unnecessarily-complicated routes on your site or between your sites. Users and Google want straightforward results to their queries, not labyrinths (sorry, David Bowie).
The simple answer to all of these variations of thin content is: replace everything you’ve deleted with unique content. Make your site and pages interesting and human.
Once you’ve done that, you should be safe from the dreaded Google Manual Action reports. If your site has already been flagged or removed from Google results, you can request them to review your site again. Hopefully, they’ll see that you’re behaving yourself and revoke the action against you. Be aware that once Google has revoked it, your site’s ranking might be higher or lower than before.
In the upcoming days and weeks, we’ll be covering how to reverse the various categories of Google Manual Actions. Check back!
And while you might understand the thin content problems on your site, you may still feel overwhelmed with the idea of tackling them. If so, there are folks who can help: us! We specialize in optimizing your website’s ranking on Google. Fill out our form. We’ll get you the quality help with your site and business that you deserve. Let’s dominate your competition.
More in Our Google Manual Actions Series
And more coming soon!