Blogging in 2008 was a completely different experience from how it is to blog in 2016.
Earlier, no matter how good or how bad your posts were, you would end up getting some traffic from search engines. In fact, a few pieces of low-quality content wouldn’t affect your whole entire domain.
But when Google launched Google Panda (April 2011), they changed the face of the blogosphere.
Panda changed the blogging and SEO factors from quantity to quality.
Having thousands of pages indexed in Google will no longer give you great results. Only quality articles will help you survive the SEO battle.
One of the other major differences with the Panda algo is that if your blog has a few low-quality pieces of content, you might end up losing your site quality value and you will notice less SERP’s ranking.
(FYI, the Panda 4.2 update happened one year ago (July 2015), and there is no way Google is going to give you back your lost traffic. If your site is still missing out on traffic from search engines, it’s time for you to take some serious action and do a complete SEO audit of your site.)
Now, the question is, “How can I find such low-quality pieces of content and work on them to improve my site?”
- Related Read: Post Panda SEO Strategy for Bloggers
What is low-quality content?
I have a client (tech blogger), who has more than 5000 blog posts. Despite him having a genuine and a useful tech blog, his website was affected by this algorithm change. So, let’s assume you are a blogger who has worked day and night to grow your blog and then the Panda updates took away all of your search engine love.
Before I move ahead with how to find and improve low-quality posts, read what Google expects in terms of high-quality content. This will give you an idea on what search engines want from us and what we can do to improve our content. Low-quality posts, or thin content which doesn’t add much value will not meet these requirements.
Now, there is no hand-book of identifying thin content, so I’m going to share my experience of what I did here at ShoutMeLoud and the actions I have taken to improve upon or get rid of my low-quality stuff.
You should also analyze and find out which algorithm update hit your site. Here is a complete Google algo change timeline for your reference (up to 2015).
Here are the general steps to follow:
- Finding content with no search engine traffic.
- Finding content with very little search engine traffic.
- Finding duplicate content.
- Finding content with low word counts.
- Fixing broken links and waiting for a few days to see the changes.
- Checking for plagiarism.
Also, you need to learn and get used to the following things:
- How to do keyword research
- How to fix broken links using the Broken Link Checker plugin
- How to report copied content to Google
- Outbound links for SEO
I know it’s a lot of reading, but when you’re done you will understand SEO much better and you will be able to identify a plan of action.
Fixing low-quality content quickly:
Firstly, let’s get rid of pages that can be removed. This way, we can easily lower down the number of thin content from the search index.
The first step is to check how Google is indexing your blog. You can login to the Webmaster Tool and see how many of your blog pages Google has indexed. If you have 2,000 blog posts and you see more than 10,000 indexed pages, certainly something is not right.
If your categories & tags are indexed in Google search, get rid of them. Also do a quick search in Google with the following search term:
“site:domain.com” (replace “domain.com” with your domain name)
Here you can see all of the pages Google has indexed. Get rid of all pages which don’t add any value to your readers like Tags, Categories, Authors, Paginated pages, etc.
You can add “noindex” tags to these page with the Meta Robots plugin, with the URL removal feature under your Google Webmaster Tool dashboard, or with Google.com/Dmca.html where you can get rid of the complete folder in one shot.
Also, check if any unimportant URL parameter is indexed in Google. You can use the URL parameter handling feature in GWT to get rid of such links.
For me, the “replytocom” parameter was an issue. Read about it here:
Identifying thin content with no traffic/negligible traffic:
Login to your Google Analytics dashboard > Site Content > All Pages > Show rows = 500 and start browsing. When you see posts with 1-10 visits, make a list of such content.
Duplicate content is one of the most common reasons for a penalty which causes your site to become marked as a low-quality site.
Duplicate content happens for many reasons. One of them is a poor SEO structure.
For finding duplicate content, read this:
Blog posts with low word count:
Let me first clear up this myth: Fewer words does not necessarily mean low-quality content.
It all depends on how you are writing content and which topics you are covering. If you cover an important topic with proper keywords/LSI keywords along with outbound links in under 200 words, it could be a good article and rank pretty well.
Though, it’s common knowledge that more words will rank higher.
- Read: SEO case studies
I try to write every post with a minimum of 400 words. Even if I’m covering a news post, I make sure to add my own insights and opinions to make it more meaningful to my readers.
Start finding all of the content which has a low word count and analyze their traffic. Identify content that is getting no traffic at all. They are your first enemy. You should start working on optimizing them.
In my case, I found almost 80 articles which have a word count <100; all of them were performing badly.
You can use the Admin Word Count plugin to see the word count of posts from the dashboard.
Content with broken links:
Let’s assume you have written about a very useful plugin or software a year back and now that link is outdated or gives a 404 error. Do you think such blog posts will add any value to people?
You will notice a higher bounce rate and the “avg. time on page” will go down. Use the Broken Link Checker plugin (on WordPress) to identify all broken links quickly on your WordPress blog and fix them.
Either update the post with a new link or add a notice that the link is no longer working. Manually link to other related posts/software so that readers can find something else that is useful to them.
For other platforms, you can use the Xenu link checker desktop tool to identify 404 links on your site.
- (Keep in mind, it’s best to judge your content objectively to determine if it adds value or not. Go ahead & read: How to judge high-quality content.)
Thin content found; what next?
Following the above methods, you have successfully identified all thin and low-quality articles on your blog.
Now it’s time to take action.
Here are some methods which I used which worked for me.
This is for quick fixing your drop in traffic. I have seen this work like a charm for me and for my clients as well.
- Noindex all content which is no longer useful or meaningful.
Maybe years back, those discount coupons or Facebook spam warning messages were useful, but now they are just a piece of junk. Nobody is searching for them and they are just increasing the quantity of low-quality indexed pages on search engines.
I usually take two actions for such content:
- Delete and Noindex: I keep my database size as small as possible and only keep valuable content.
- Noindex only: At times, I will keep some of this content on my blog, but noindex the article. They may have been written well and are in-depth articles, but now such services are no longer working. (A good example is Google Wave.) You may be proud of such articles, so keep them on your blog, but noindex them.
There are many posts which are useful, but poorly written and have a lot of potential for improvement. Work on such posts and only add more content which adds value.
- Check current keywords which are driving traffic (use Google Analytics or SEMRUSH).
- Perform keyword research (here are some keyword research tools).
- Use EasyWPSEO and start optimizing content with your target keyword; use LSI words and make sure your readability score is good.
Try to add slides, videos, and images in a post to make it more engaging. Once you are done updating old content, you should share your updated article on your social networking and bookmarking sites so Google re-crawls your content faster.
Following the above steps will fix many of your SEO and low-quality site issues, but there is still more you can do after that:
- Make sure all of your posts have a unique meta title and meta description.
- Check Google Webmaster Tool’s HTML suggestion for any short/duplicate meta warnings.
- Don’t use too many H2/H3 tags in a post. Follow the heading hierarchy.
- Make sure your post titles are using H1 tags (the most common problem I have seen on old blogs).
- You can use SEOMOZ tool, which is really awesome for doing a complete SEO audit of your site. I used this a lot when I was fixing my site as it greatly helped in finding common SEO issues.
- Once you remove all useless pieces of content from your blog, make sure to regenerate your sitemap and resubmit it to Google.
- Work on improving social signals to your blog posts (very helpful).
- Build quality links to internal posts via guest posting campaigns.
If you are the victim of a thin content blog and you are seeing traffic loss after an algo change, it’s time to take action and bring back your lost traffic.
Apart from thin content, Google does not value duplicate content (as mentioned earlier). You may be suffering because someone is copying your work and publishing it as their own on their own blog.
Now, this is something that Google usually handles pretty well. But again, a search engine is just an algo and you can’t rely on search engine bots’ smartness all of the time.
Find all of the copied content from your blog and report it to Google. In my case, I reported almost 2,000 such links and it helped a lot with my ranking.
Here is a video which explains how you can report this content to Google:
Here are some articles that will be helpful:
I hope this tutorial has helped you, but if you still have any queries about identifying low-quality content or how to add more value to a post, do let me know via the comments.
Also, if you find this tutorial useful, don’t forget to share it on Google Plus. Twitter, and Facebook.