How to Search for and Fix Low Quality Content on Your Website

When Google rolled out the Panda update in 2011 it was aimed at websites with low quality content and designed to prevent thin websites from ranking high in the SERPs. The Google Panda update was meant to be a huge wake up call; a glaring reminder that content should be written for the users and not for the search engines.


Since then, Google has been increasing clear about the fact that if you want to improve your site’s ranking in the Google search results, one of the most important steps is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information. But still some webmasters attempt to improve their rankings in the SERPs and ergo attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little substantial value.

Thin content and shallow pages with little value will kill your website rankings. Maybe you’ve been lucky so far in escaping penalizations but each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times.

Examples of content with little value include:

  • Auto-generated content
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content (and low-quality guest posts)
  • Thin affiliate sites

Automatically Generated Content

“Auto-generated” content is by definition content that’s been generated programmatically. It will most often consist of paragraphs of random text that contain the right keywords sprinkled at the right intervals but overall, the content will make little or no sense whatsoever to a human reader. Examples of auto-generated content include:

  • Text translated by an automated tool
  • Text generated through Markov chains and other automated processes
  • Text generated using automated synonymizing
  • Text generated from scraping RSS feeds
  • Content from different web pages combined without human review

Thin Affiliate Sites

Often times, affiliate websites feature content such as product reviews that appear, verbatim, on sites across that affiliate network and do not have enough unique content to differentiate them from other sites on the web. Such “thin” affiliate websites do not provide value for web users and create a frustrating user experience. It therefore makes sense that pages with product descriptions and reviews copied directly from the original merchant can suffer in Google’s search rankings.

Scraped Content

Content taken or scraped from other sites on the assumption that a large volume of content on a website is a good long-term strategy regardless of factors such as relevance and uniqueness provide no real value to users. Additionally, this practice also constitutes copyright infringement.

Sites that republish content from other sources or modify it slightly, for example, by substituting synonyms, are obviously shallow.

Doorway Pages

And finally, doorway pages are poor-quality pages optimized for specific keywords and/or keyword phrases. The pages are written to rank highly for specific phrases and Google, as we all know, penalize practices designed to manipulate the SERPs and deceive users.

How to Identify Content Violation(s) On Your Site

You need to

  • Check for content that duplicates content from elsewhere
  • Check for thin content
  • Check for doorway pages
  • Check for auto-generated content

You can automate this process by leveraging the following tools:

1. Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is a tool you can use to search your website for 3 different types of offensive content: thin content, duplicate content and 404 errors. Screaming Frog crawls your site and generates a report that you can then use to identify duplicated pages, thin content and 404 errors.

2. Google Analytics

The hardest task when it comes to identifying low quality content on your website is getting past the subjective nature of what is and isn’t ‘low quality’ content.

Generally, content is considered low quality and/or thin if it has the following characteristics:

1. A bounce rate between 95 and 99.99%

2. An average time on page between 0.1 and 5 seconds.

In other words, content that is poorly written will exhibit substandard engagement signals.

Other engagement signals include:

1. Pageviews: Pages with few unique views indicate a lack of quality.

2. Pages per Session: If users are not digesting additional pieces of content once on your website, it could mean that your content is not providing enough value.

3. Goal Completions: Low goal completions could be an indicator that your messaging is off.

Fixing low quality content

Once you’ve found low-quality content, you need to deal with it. You can do this in one of two ways.

  • Keep the page in question and improve it
  • Kill the page or at the very least, hide it from the search engines


Sometimes a page may not have stellar engagement signals but it still performs. Deleting that page will effectively kill off the traffic it drives. Similarly, some pages on your website may not add value but they are critical for navigation and/or they are a key component of your conversion funnel. So rather than killing them, a far more logical course of action would be to hide such pages from the engines.

Related Post:

Writing for Search Engines vs. Writing for People

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