Thin Content Shock: Google may issue manual penalties for service area pages
2 mins read

Thin Content Shock: Google may issue manual penalties for service area pages

Did you know that Google gives explicit manual penalties on websites because of thin content?

Penalty for thin content:

A The business owner recently contacted us about this Local search forum and told us something wild this is what happened to his website. He logged into Google Search Console and saw a big red alert stating that Google had a website manual action 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 site. The business owner spent a lot of money to have different content written by real people for each page! Because of the sheer volume of pages they had, Google decided that the content would be too thinand imposed a manual action penalty.

The crazy thing is that the wording was actually different on all the pages. But it’s not enough to simply rephrase similar content, especially when you have thousands of pages, to please Google. Rephrasing red to “maroon” or blue to “navy” is not what Google is talking about when they say “unique content”. Google means the same information is present on the page, regardless of the wording. So what’s the BIG bottom line? Unique is not the same as “not thin”.

Tip: Make catchment area pages unique:

When you create service area pages, one of the ways you can make them unique and useful to people is to embed reviews from customers in that area. Go to your business profile on a directory site like Yelp or HomeStars and search for the city you want reviews from. Embed all reviews from this area on the service area page.

localized review


  • Have thousands Number of service area or location pages increases the likelihood of a manual penalty.
  • Make sure the location pages have unique content and not the same content with the city name changed.
  • Finding synonyms for words doesn’t make it “unique content”.

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of Local Search Forum, LocalU and Sterling Sky, a local SEO agency in Canada and the US. She has been in the industry since 2006, writing for publications such as Search Engine Land and a regular speaker at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteer as a product expert on the Google My Business forum.