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Understanding Google Content Penalties

SEO 19th Aug 2015

This is the transcript from our new video so it may not read as well as a normal blog post would.

Hi. Today we’re going to look at defining content penalties. There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to content in terms of what counts as an issue and what is acceptable. Firstly, we want to have a look at duplicate, and then we want to look at thin content and then we want to look at template and automated content. These three are the three main areas that can really harm your site when it comes to search rankings.

So what we’re going to start with is duplicate content. Duplicate is where you can find multiple versions, multiple URLs featuring the same content. This is a problem because Google wants its search results to be unique as possible. So what it would do is look for the page that it thinks is the most relevant and the strongest in terms of authority, and what it has claimed in the past that it would do is obviously only show one version of that particular piece of content. And what that can mean is that some of your pages won’t show up on the Web if they’re very similar or almost exactly duplicated of another page that already exists. The reason it’s a low penalty risk is because Google has actually said in the past that you wouldn’t get penalised for it, you would just maybe not have the search visibility that you would expect.

Then moving on to, sort of, thin content. Thin content is having a website with a reasonable large portion featuring very few pages of unique, detailed content. Generally speaking, we look at about under 200 words for this. The reason this is such an issue is because of past tactics. There has been a lot of websites in the, sort of, early 2000s featured pages that were purely designed to rank in Google, especially on strong websites. So there was hundreds of pages featuring very little content and serving very little purpose, and that disrupted Google search results as well as other search engines.

Google has introduced a penalty for this. It could be both site-wide and partial, which means site-wide it can have a huge impact on the whole website and actually can stop you ranking for your branded terms. Partial is just a section of the website that it decides or maybe even just a page, depending on what the penalty issue is. But essentially, thin content can be quite a risk. [Most state] it as medium risk there mainly because of the penalty you can receive. And generally, thin content pages don’t rank well on Google anymore anyway.

And then that takes us on to the third, template and automated content. Template and automated content is what I’d class as the highest risk. This includes doorway pages as well, and what these pages are, the content is very similar on them and the only thing that changes, perhaps, is a key head, title, h1 header or meta description, and the rest of it generally stays the same. So for instance, if a company doesn’t have multiple locations, but it features multiple pages, for instance, including a London version or a Manchester version, and the page basically says something similar to SEO Agency London, SEO Agency Manchester, without changing the main content on the site. This is where it can really have a big, big sort of impact on your search rankings, and Google is looking out for these pages nowadays and introduced the specific algorithm penalty for doorway pages. It’s always sort of had a manual penalty for template and automated pages for the last 5 or 10 years. This can have a real impact on your search rankings and can really damage the reputation of your site with search engines.

So, essentially, there are the three key content issues to look out for. And if you can avoid those, your site will generally be in quite a good position, and then you clearly just need to focus on improving the content you already have and look into developed pages that perhaps aren’t performing as well as they should do in search.

Thanks for your time and thanks for listening. But if you want to discuss any more, my Twitter handle is @JamesaChallisc. Thank you very much.

James Challis
About the author

James Challis

James is chairman of Koozai FC and a fan of Southampton FC, so if you’re a football fan you can judge him accordingly. He also turns up late to our Christmas parties and we never let him live it down. Ever.

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