Condoms For Panda: Noindex Low Value Pages Despite Inbound Links?

Author: Gab Goldenberg

I recently came across what is to me a new SEO problem.

A site I consult with has some thin pages with a handful of ads at the top, some relevant local content sourced from a third party beneath that…

and a bunch of inbound links to said pages. Not just any links, but links from powerful news sites. My impression is that said links are paid (sidebar links, anchor text… nice number of footprints.)

Short version: They may be getting juice from these links. A preliminary lookup for one page’s keywords in the title finds it top 100 on Google. I don’t want to lose that juice, but do think the thin pages they link to can incur Panda’s filter. They’ve got the same blurb for lots of [topic x] in [city y], plus the sourced content (not original…).

So I’m thinking about noindexing said pages to avoid Panda filters.

Also, as a future pre-emptive measure, I’m considering figuring out what they did to get these links and aiming to have them removed if they were really paid for. If it was a biz dev deal, I’m open to leaving them up, but that possibility seems unlikely.

What would you do? One of the options I laid out above or something else? Why?

p.s. Good answers get dofollow links :D.

Add #1:

Stever is a local SEO Consultant
Miguel is a organic SEO Consultant

p.p.s. Related note: I’m looking for intermediate to advanced guest posts for this blog, which has 2000+ RSS subs. Email me at gab@ my site if you’re interested.

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Comments

  1. Thicken the pages. If the site hasn't been hit with the Panda bat and you have some good links, then make the pages worth linking to. Leave the panicing over nofollowing low quality pages to the people who've been impacted by Panda and, once we start seeing results from those sites, start making recommendations.

    Comment by Damon - May 3, 2011 @ 3:39pm
  2. I would certainly not create any new low value pages, but the concept of no indexing low value pages does not seen like an appropriate step. It seems too artificial. I'm skeptical that anything that may be construed as artificial will help with search rankings (but sadly have no quantitative evidence to support my suppostion). Either the pages offer value to vistitors or they don't. If they offer value to site visitors and are throwing off ad revenue, then I would not add a no-index tag. If they do not offer value to visitors, then either improve them or remove them and 301 redirect them (as long as they are not producing significant ad revenue - if so, the question becomes tricky). You probably need to gather more information regarding paid links before moving forward.

    Comment by Randy Pickard - May 3, 2011 @ 3:45pm
  3. I'd consider doing a 301 redirect for those pages. Try and point them to some other relevant internal page. Any you cant find a relevant page for, point them to the home page as a default. The thin pages disappear, you maintain much of the link equity from those internal links, now pointing to higher quality pages. However, if those links are paid, or the footprint looks like that, and you're worried about getting slapped....? Contact them and see about switching up some anchor text to add some variability and not have as much exact keyword matching.

    Comment by Stever - May 3, 2011 @ 4:50pm
  4. Or, keep the pages and update the content to something original. Maybe move ad placements to put a bit more focus on that content.

    Comment by Stever - May 3, 2011 @ 5:01pm
  5. hey Damon, Sounds intelligent if we can find an algorithmic way to do that, like some archive of content that would help. That might still leave them as thin pages though in terms of uniqueness... Thanks for sharing Damon. Any links you'd like? Feel free to email me.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 4, 2011 @ 1:33pm
  6. Interesting and logical approach there Randy. I'll have to look into the revenue numbers being produced there to figure out a course of action... Adding your link above momentarily. BTW, did you get a free chapter of the book?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 4, 2011 @ 1:35pm
  7. Regarding a 301 solution, what if there is a filter / penalty on those links and their destinations or if one arises later? Then we're taking a bunch of secondary pages and transferring the trouble to more important/valuable pages? The anchor text is one footprint... there are many others. If we change the links around, that's a good step. I'd expect we'd need to do more as well to handle all the footprints. Potentially asking the links to be removed even.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 4, 2011 @ 1:38pm
  8. Moving the ads might be an idea, or removing them...

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 4, 2011 @ 1:42pm
  9. I'm backing up the first suggestion. Find a way to beef up the content. But, curious about noindexing them. How would Google treat that? By just noindexing vs disallowing them, they're still crawling the pages. Would they recognize those pages as presenting little value and could the site still be hurt as a whole because of that? Or does the noindex strip their recognition of that? I've never tested this, so I don't know. Do you?

    Comment by Rhea Drysdale - May 6, 2011 @ 2:25pm
  10. How do these inbound links compare to competitors', i.e. are they succeeding with similar links? If other sites have shades of grey in there, I'd be inclined to not worry about that so much (easy for me to say I appreciate). I'd echo other's comments re. expanding the content. Perhaps look to add even more links to these pages from more diverse sources.

    Comment by Sharif - May 6, 2011 @ 6:35pm
  11. Isn't noindexing the same as not allowing something to be crawled? I get that noindex means it shouldn't be indexed and a spider could still visit... but what for? For the links? Seems like that defeats the point. You could also do noindex nofollow if you wanted to get picky about it.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 9, 2011 @ 10:13am
  12. I have gathered from the post and comments that you need to scale since there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of these keyword + location type pages. So improving the page's content is not an option as it is probably not within budget or not feasible due to the scale. You can 301 these pages or just remove them if you are worried about the 301ing of a thin page negatively impacting the page they are pointed to. As for the links, you should use them for co-citation. Simply contact the webmasters and have them change the destination URLs to point to an existing external linking page. Maybe a profile page for the business on a high authority site? Or a press release? Basically pick a page to point those paid links to that is already ranking for any semantically relevant terms. This way you shield the client site from any potential penalties, and if there is any authority still being passed through those paid links then you'll still get that. Clients do not always like to just kill links that they've already paid for and this may help your cause if that is the case too.

    Comment by Miguel @ SEO Consultant - May 9, 2011 @ 11:18am
  13. Miguel, I really like the idea of funnelling that link equity through another channel! Very clever :D. And yes, you've quite understood the problem with attempting to thicken the pages.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 11, 2011 @ 2:56pm
  14. Good question Sharif. I'd have to dig into the competitors first to know, which I've yet to do. Good point regarding competitors' neatness.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 11, 2011 @ 2:59pm

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