Thin content is content that has very little value to offer to its readers. As search engines want to serve their users with high-quality information, thin content can actively impede a site’s performance in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Before Google’s guidelines were in place, the search results were awash with many low-quality websites and thin content overly stuffed with keywords were commonplace at the of many SERPs. This created a genuinely poor experience for searchers so Google introduced the Panda algorithm in 2011 which pushed low-quality web pages further down the SERPs and resulted in a myriad of sites seeing a significant drop in traffic essentially overnight.
There are many examples of thin content, including:
Duplicate content: Sites that house multiple pages targeting the same keyword will often present content on each page which is very similar
Content that lacks depth: Content that only skims the surface of a subject, is unlikely to be viewed as something that will really satisfy user intent.
Doorway pages: Doorway pages do nothing more than redirect searches to affiliate sites and/or those which contain less-valuable content.
Sparse author, tag or category pages: Sites that house numerous author, tag or category pages that only contain a single posts are likely to be penalised for thin content. It is advisable to no-index pages like this.
Thin content can be detrimental because it impacts the number of high-quality backlinks that a site can earn, as well as increasing bounce rate. Thin content can also be a sign of duplicate or repetitive content which can lead to keyword cannibalisation.
Although it may be tempting to simply remove thin content altogether, Google actively recommends taking steps to improve it in line with best practice guidelines. If content can’t be improved or is targeting irrelevant keywords, removal is often the best course of action.