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I've just been hit with a site wide manual spam action on Google due to a significant percentage of 'Thin content with little or no added value'.

I have a large number of posts that are affiliate products with titles descriptions and images all pulled directly in from a regularly updated feed. These are obviously the cause of the manual action. I do also have original, relevant & well written content.

This is a new site so at the moment the original & relevant content posts number in the 10s whereas the affiliated 'thin' content posts numbers in the 100s.

I will be updating with original content once or twice a week, and the 'thin' content is updated daily (<= 10 posts) so the ratio of quality to 'thin' content isn't going to get any better.

After researching i've found a lot of conflicting opinions with not a lot of evidence.. so my first question is, will adding NOINDEX tags to all of these posts be a sufficient solution? I'm perfectly happy with only having my original content showing in search results. I have seen people say that having such a large number and percentage of posts with NOINDEX could have a negative effect but havn't seen any evidence for this.

I have never really considered NOINDEX and as the site (as nearly all of my sites) is built with WordPress, my second, more general question is, should i NOINDEX non single (i.e archive / search etc) pages?

  • I have never heard of a problem with noindex. Google has encouraged noindex in the past and it certainly benefits them and their goals of keeping the SERPs clean. – closetnoc Sep 14 '15 at 22:41
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Seeing your site is labeled as 'Thin content with little or no added value', A bandaid-like super quick solution is to apply NOINDEX value to the robots meta tag. You may also use rel="canonical" with the target URL pointing to the URL that contains the data you're pulling data from.

I find NOINDEX a better strategy compared to rel="canonical" since NOINDEX is a standard that works for every search engine in the world.

Once you have done that, you will need to change your product pages. Just copying a product image and product description and changing maybe one or two words won't work too well. You should try to add an extra paragraph about the product as well as add new images about it that are not hosted anywhere else.

In the extra paragraph or two that you add, you can describe things such as why you present the product on your page or what makes it so special to you, etc etc.

Until you revise the product pages, I highly recommend applying NOINDEX to them, and if search engines don't want to obey, then edit (or create) the robots.txt file in the root of your site and include the following lines:

User-agent: (insert search engine robot name here)
Disallow: /path/to/url/here.htm
User-agent: (insert another search engine robot name here)
Disallow: /path/to/url/here.htm

For example. To prevent google from accessing anything on your site which I don't recommend, insert this in your robots.txt:

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /

The advantage to modifying robots.txt compared to using NOINDEX is that you don't have to cause milliseconds of downtime while editing a file real people would likely access at the same time.

  • Thanks Mike. What if adding unique content to the products isn't an option? (There will be a number of new products added every day, and I don't have the time to write about a number of products every day) You say 'bandaid-like', will it be ok as a long term solution? – Cai Sep 15 '15 at 7:01
  • I say bandaid because the majority of your pages are about products of which information you use from elsewhere, and noindex will work for the time being, but to me, the best options are make the pages unique so it gives value to search engines and the user or get rid of those pages all together and direct users to the original product information instead. – Mike Sep 15 '15 at 23:00
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I would say that using the noindex meta tag on pages that are low quality can be really useful. This can improve your general rankings as duplicate and thin content will be removed from ranking algorithms.

But, "Noindexing" pages without any research can be bad. It is possible that some of your most highly ranked pages in Search Engines are your thin or tags, search, category pages. If you aggressively remove them, you will destroy your traffic.

Make your research using your traffic analytics platform, and start placing the noindex tag to pages that get no traffic or few hits.

Also you can use the 301 Redirection header, to send the juice from a highly ranked thin page to the high quality new page.

About the noindexing "Tag" or "search" pages question, the answer is really hard. Some times using tag pages can destroy your website, but other times they can push you really high.

I think that the answer is based on your content and ratio between post pages and tag pages. If you create a tag page for every word in your articles, it's 100% sure that it will kill your rankings. You will create tons of low quality/duplicate pages, and your internal linking will be a mess. If you have 10000 tag pages and 100 article pages it a big mess, but if you have 10000 articles and 100 tags can be a win.

If you have some highly targeted tag pages, with easy to navigate structure and correct internal linking, you can earn a lot of traffic from users that search not for specific topics but they use wider search terms eg iphone.

I have observed that users from search engines that visit a Tag page, bounce less. Also they make more pageviews. A tag page contains a lot of links and users tend to click more than one link during their visit. A high quality "Tag" page can rank really well on search engines.

PS:

I have seen people say that having such a large number and percentage of posts with NOINDEX could have a negative effect but havn't seen any evidence for this.

In the past I have deindexed more than 75% of a website with millions of indexed pages (low quality pages, duplicates, tags, search results, old articles, pages with zero traffic) and observe no negative effects.

Of course this is not an instant action. Google took some time to deindex all these pages but overall rankings were improved

  • Thanks krokola that's actually really helpful, especially the stuff about tag archives. – Cai Sep 15 '15 at 14:35
  • Excellent - Informative Answer!! – closetnoc Sep 15 '15 at 21:28

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