Most of us are familiar with the Google Panda update in 2011 and the rise of the Penguin in 2012. The innovation behind the release of these two updates from Google was to lower the ranking of “low-quality sites” and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. In a Pre-Panda and Pre-Penguin world, marketers were using “Old SEO” tactics for their websites.
Old SEO was to build an experience for search engines to create rankings. The entire focus of Old SEO was strictly based on how the search engines viewed the website. After the updates, marketers had to change their SEO foundation to the “New SEO” practices that are recognized by Google. This new style of SEO is to building an insightful and useful experience for the user based on high-quality content.
Now, 3 years after the initial update we are still seeing some that are struggling with the transition from old to new. Your main focus on your site should be to avoid unoriginal, syndicated or ‘thin content’. Google Webmaster provides a set of guidelines and best practices approved by Google and other search engines. It is important to be familiar with these guidelines. Although Google does not give an exact definition on what ‘thin content’ really is, it is important to understand how our site should behave and the user experience search engines expect from us.
Assess your site for thin content. Again, because there is no clear explanation of “thin content” it isn’t as obvious as knowing you copied some content from another site. You need to take a very close look at what your content objectives are, what is its purpose, and how will your users benefit from or engage with your content.
A basic outline for thin content is any content on a site that has low value to you and the user. Look at any content that is obstructing of goal funnels, misinforming others, impeding crawl budgets, inflated internal link counts, and ultimately causing ‘noise’ to the search engine.
There are a few tools that can help you control content thinness; Screaming Frog, Google Analytics and Open Site Explorer. Screaming Frog is a tool that scrapes your website’s URLs. Once you run a search you can export this list to get an in-depth view of your sites content. Sort your URLs by word count; if your blogs content posts are all under 200 words, this is thin content. Consider revising your post with new content or stats to plump them up a bit.
Google Analytics is a free tool that website owner should be using. Analytics can give you an entire breakdown of a user’s experience on your website. Examine your metrics for high bounce rates and page exits/drop offs. If you see a high exit rate on a page, investigate the information on that URL. The unexpected drop off could be cause by thin content. Google Analytics can also conduct a URL scrape and site review by page via filtering pages by folder, Content Grouping, or Content Drilldown. This breakdown can help you understand the thinness on a folder aspect rather than a page aspect. Look over the goals and success of the page visits. If you see that there are pages that do not benefit the user or the objective of your site, then there’s no need for it.
Open Site Explorer entails you to review the backlinks for your domain. Similar to Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer allows you to view your top linked pages. By viewing these pages you can gain an understanding for what content on your site is actually receiving links. You may discover that whatever links you do have are to the homepage and high level pages, that don’t really have any link authority. If you export this list you should also examine pages associated with tweets, Facebook shares and likes, also Google+ +1’s. Again this will be useful to understand what is engaging your audience.
What do you finally do with thin content? Once you have all the pages and folders of thin content from your site, ask yourself the following questions:
- Delete or Redirect? If the content has no value anymore, then do not let it impede on the users any longer. It may have been relevant at one point, but if those stats are out dated, throw it out! Quality over Quantity, always! If you see that the content only has minor issues, freshen her up.
- Add to Archives? If you believe that the material still holds value to the user, then you may want to keep it. Add the content to archives. Remember to exclude these pages so it is not in the search crawler view.
- Content Distraction? If the pages hold some value but is under performing minimize the linking to this page. By reducing internal linking the page so isn’t in the common route of search crawling and won’t divert the user.
If you feel your site is inefficient, try using one of these tools to dig into the opportunities for change in your site’s pages. By altering your Old SEO techniques to the New SEO approach, you will have a deeper understand of search engines algorithm for ranking. This new preeminent knowledge will help you develop quality content and establish a strong standard of content quality for your site.