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Thin Content Shock: Google Can Issue Manual Penalties for Service Area Pages

Did you know that Google explicitly gives manual penalties to websites for having thin content?

Thin Content Penalty: 

A business owner recently reached out to us via the Local Search Forum and told us about something wild that happened to his website.  He logged into Google Search Console and saw a big red warning label that stated Google has administered a manual action website penalty for  “thin content with little or no added value.”

Location Pages:

This particular website had over 3,000 locations and corresponding pages on their website. The business owner spent a great deal of money having different content written for each page by real humans!  Because of the sheer volume of pages they had, Google decided that the content was too thin, and applied a manual action penalty. 

The crazy part is that the wording on all the pages was actually different. But simply rewording similar content, especially when you have thousands of pages, isn’t enough to please Google.  Rewording red to “maroon” or blue to “navy” is not what Google is talking about when it says “unique content.”  Google means the same information is on the page, no matter how it is worded.  So what’s the BIG takeaway? Unique is not the same thing as “not-thin.”  

Tip: Making Service Area Pages Unique: 

When creating service area pages, one of the things you can do to make them unique, and useful to humans, is to embed reviews from customers in that actual area. Pull up your business profile on a directory site such as Yelp or HomeStars and search for the city you want reviews from. Embed any reviews from that area on the service area page. 

localized review

TLDR:

  • Having thousands of service area or location pages will increase the chance of getting a manual penalty.  
  • Make sure location pages have unique content, not the same content with the city name changed.  
  • Finding synonyms for words does not make it “unique content.”

 

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Joy!
    What else can you add besides embedding location-specific reviews to your service area pages to make them more “unique”? I have to imagine that many (smaller) businesses will not have specific area reviews. Thanks again for everything you do in the Local SEO community.

  2. Thank for this article, Joy.

    At this exactly momment we are working on a new location page template for our clients websites. We are designing, along with the basic info blocks about the location, 3 text blocks with really unique and useful content related to each one and the neighborhood around it. It’s a manual work but I’m sure it’s woth the time spent.

    Do you have an article about your 10 preferred local pages/templates/examples?

    Thank you!

    1. I would say it’s all relative to the size of the site and other content you have. I always would take this approach slowly – publish a few and see how they perform. If you get a ton of traffic and conversions, publish more.

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