What Google Means by “Thin” Content & How to Create SERP-Worthy Content

Lauren Owens - March 25, 2015

We talk all the time about the importance of creating useful, purposeful content for human readers as opposed to “thin content.” But unless you’re already heavily involved in content creation and are speaking the language of content marketers, you might not fully understand what “thin content” means.

Essentially, “thin content” is content with little or no added value. Google defines this as:

  • Doorways – A “doorway” is a page that exists simply to lead a user to another page. Usually, these pages are made to target variations of the same keyword. After that, they either offer the same information as another page or a link into that page. In both cases, these pages are unnecessary and are created simply to rank for keyword variations.
  • Thin Affiliate Content – This is content that has been pulled from an affiliate feed and is not unique.
  • Thin Syndication – This is content that is pulled or scraped from various sites, and pulled onto a single page. Pages that scrape or syndicate content from other sites, such as article marketing sites, offer little or no unique value to the user.

These definitions of thin content are actually pretty narrow. I would expand the definition to include pages that lack depth or value; these are pages that seem to be created for the purpose of ranking, but offer very little unique value to the user.

If you really want your pages to rank, you have to ask yourself one question, and ask it over and over again: Why is this page worthy of ranking? In other words, what does it offer users that other pages which target this keyword don’t offer?

If the answer is “nothing,” you should go back and reconsider your purpose.

If the purpose of your page is simply to rank for a keyword, you’re probably doing it wrong. Instead, take a broader approach and consider what else you can offer your audience. This will be information that is valuable to the unique audience that you’re targeting. (At this stage, it might be useful to take a few steps back and create a content marketing strategy that considers your audience’s needs.)

As you continue refining your content, ask yourself: What is the added value of my page? If there is no added value, chances are, you may get a message within Google Webmaster Tools that states that your pages contain “Thin content with little or no added value.” This is Google’s message to you that you’re doing something wrong, and that, if you want your content to rank, you will have to consider the various ways that you can create engaging, authentic, useful content for your audience.

Of course, creating useful content does not guarantee you will rank in the SERPs. That’s because, for any one keyword, there are millions of results that Google could return. This is why it’s important to offer the user what they can’t get elsewhere. Creating this type of content takes time, but if it’s worth it for you to rank, then it’s time worth spending.

To dive deeper into this topic, please read this related blog post: SEO Content Optimization: Way Beyond Keywords.

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