So your large website got penalized in organic search for having thin content, and now you’re looking for scalable methods to generate useful, quality content across all your pages. Below are some tried-and-true tactics that have worked to recover from thin content penalties on websites ranging from hundreds to millions of pages.
If you get penalized for having thin content, it is important to respond as quickly as possible; however, with potentially millions of pages that require improvements, one must find a way to update all of them within a matter of days or weeks. Creating “ad-lib” (fill in the blank) content gives you the ability to quickly add essential content to your many pages while appropriately speaking to the page’s audience. To clarify, here is a simple example of ad-lib content for a city page on a fictional directory called Fudgetown that lists local fudge shoppes:
Here are some cities near [City] that might be closer to you: [List & link to 3-6 closest cities to the currently-viewed city that you have content for. Add “Fudge Shoppes” after each city name]. View All Cities in [State]
The bold text in brackets should be replaced by content related to the page being viewed by the user. Fudgetown’s Seattle page would appear as follows:
Here are some cities near Seattle that might be closer to you: Bellevue Fudge Shoppes, Kirkland Fudge Shoppes, Tacoma Fudge Shoppes, Bothell Fudge Shoppes, Renton Fudge Shoppes, Lynwood Fudge Shoppes. View All Cities in Washington.
This tactic only works for sets of pages that draw content from the same data categories. Here are a few examples of data points that might be used to “fill in the blank:”
- City Name
- State/Province Name
- Nearby Cities
- Number of Nearby Cities
- Number of Fudge Shoppes in City
- Individual Fudge Shoppe Info:
- Phone Number
There are differing opinions about when it’s truly important to have “fresh” content, but many would argue that creating a pulse on a webpage has more benefits than just appeasing the freshness ranking factor. Not only will search engines more frequently crawl your webpages, but it may also increase your perceived authority to users if the right fresh content is used. A pulse may be created by implementing what we at Add3 call “dynamic content,” i.e. content that automatically updates over time. Whether the content should update every time the page is loaded, at a specific time interval, or whenever the data source is updated is situational. Dynamic content has a plethora of uses, including but not limited to the following examples:
- The Latest X: Link to the five most recent blog posts tagged with “fudge recipes”
- Top X: Link to the top 10 cities in Washington for fudge fans (dynamically update list based on unique visitors to city pages in last month)
- Industry Updates: Display the previous 4 weeks of fudge stock fluctuations week-over-week, sourcing data from the API of the International Fudge Exchange
Conditional content basically uses “if-then” statements to determine if a portion of content should be displayed or not. “If this page meets these conditions, then display this content.” Conditional content adds variety to your page set, and it further customizes the experience for visitors. Here are a few examples of conditional content:
- If a company has over 20 reviews and an average rating above 4, then display an “All Star” badge on their profile.
- If a user posts a fudge recipe that garners 100 visits within 7 days, then add it to the dynamically rotating featured recipes.
- If a company pays Fudgetown to feature their special deal in a banner at the top of a city page, then Fudgetown should keep their part of the bargain so they don’t get sued. #nextlevelbusinessadvice
Interactive content offers users an alternate method to engage the content of your website. If implemented properly, this may improve user engagement metrics, pass more users through to the next step of your conversion funnel, and it may give more unique content to the search engines to munch on. Nom nom nom. Here are a couple examples of interactive content:
- An embedded Google Map of the city with pins for each business location. Clicking the pins takes you to the business’s profile
- A survey about how well you know your #FudgeFacts
- Users can “favorite” fudge recipes they like
Even after implementing all of the above, many of your pages may be sparse in content and provide very little value to visitors. This thin content may dilute the value of your good content and can hurt your SEO. In such a case, your best course of action may be to delete these pages and potentially reallocate what content there is to other pages. If deleting thin content is not an option for you (e.g. because of vendor agreements), then alternatively, you can set a meta robots noindex, nofollow tag to ensure these pages are not crawled and indexed. You should set rules to flag thin content pages; however, I do not recommend automatically deleting all flagged pages, as that may result in removing good content. Here are a few ideas for rules:
- Delete Threshold: If a city has zero fudge shoppes, then remove the page.
- Flag Threshold: If a city has 1-3 fudge shoppes, then flag the page for review.
- Meta Noindex, Nofollow Threshold: If a vendor profile is not filled out, then meta noindex, nofollow the profile page.
… And That’s How to Scalably Create Unique Content
It’s important to make each page a useful & unique experience, but with millions of pages, that requires scalable content creation that results in useful & unique content. This is entirely achievable using the five tips above. If used properly, not only will these types of content improve your SEO, but they will improve your UX, as well. Oh, and obligatory mention of Panda recovery. Bonus Tip: Sometimes removing your XML Sitemap and letting spiders crawl naturally will result in a deeper site crawl and more indexed pages. Click on the following image to view some examples of ad-lib, dynamic, interactive, and conditional content.