Content Pruning: How to Get Rid of Unnecessary Content for Better SEO

If you have a large, bulky website that is filled with a lot of old blog posts or unnecessary product pages, trimming down your content is extremely important from an SEO standpoint. Getting rid of content that doesn’t enhance your site or that is outdated not only makes it easier for the search engines to crawl your site but also provides a better experience for your users.

One thing we always try to hammer home is how important high-quality content is to your website. The content that you publish on your site should not only be valuable to your visitors but should also be properly optimized. Optimizing your content usually leads to a higher search engine ranking, which can result in more traffic to your site. Posting new content regularly is excellent from a ranking standpoint since search engines tend to favor sites with a lot of fresh content.

What happens, however, when the content on your site becomes outdated? What should you do when something changes in your industry and all of your old articles have outdated advice? Situations like these call for content pruning.

An Introduction to Content Pruning

When you prune a tree, you cut away old, dead branches so that the new growth can flourish. The same basic concept applies to prune your site. The goal is to get rid of old or unuseful content so that your fresh, high-quality content can shine. When identifying content to trim, ask yourself these questions:

How much traffic does the page get? Do the visitors convert? Use Google Analytics to evaluate each page. If you don’t already have an account, it is well worth signing up since the data provided by this free service can help you make better decisions about your site.

Are there high-quality backlinks pointing at the page? By using Google’s Search Console, which is free, or Dr Link Check, you can find out which sites are linking to a particular page on your site. You can then evaluate these incoming links to determine if they are boosting your site’s ranking.

Is the page valuable for your visitors? Does it give them answers? Would they find it entertaining, educational, or engaging?

Are visitors likely to stay on your website after visiting the page? This is another area where Google Analytics can help. How long do they stay on the page? Do they bounce away immediately or do they read the content thoroughly?

If you answered “no” to these questions, you most likely can safely get rid of the page through content pruning.

What Advantages Does Content Pruning Provide?

Getting rid of underperforming content can benefit your site in several ways including the following:

Your visitors will have a better experience since all of the information is current and accurate.

The search engines won’t waste time crawling pages that don’t matter. Instead, they are more likely to crawl the high-quality pages of your site, leading to a stronger search engine presence.

How Often Should You Prune Your Content?

In October 2017, Josh Mueller was questioned about how best to handle low-quality content. According to him, the best approach is to improve the content rather than getting rid of it.

Instead of deleting outdated or low-quality content, you may be better off spending a little bit of time polishing it so that it can rank higher in the search results.

How to Prune Your Content?

When you prune your old content, you do not have to cut it away like you would with a tree.  Doing this is a simplistic approach and one that will not always improve the quality of your content marketing.  While there will be content that is no longer necessary, you do not want to delete the pages.  You need to take a controlled approach to content pruning and identify the right way to do this without damaging your website.

 Improving the Content

If you have content that is still relevant, but the performance metrics are poor, you should look at improving the content.  Look at the appearance and depth of the content and improve this instead of deleting it.  A lot of content marketers are focused on the next idea and do not appreciate the value of revisiting and improving what has already been produced.  It is a good idea to improve what you already have when you can.

If you have high page views and good engagement, but there are low page entrances, you know that visitors find this page to have value.  The problem is that it is not being indexed properly by the search engines.  This content is the ideal candidate for post-publication optimization which will improve organic visibility.

 Update the Content

What is right today will not always be correct in the future.  It is also possible that you have content with a natural decay point such as best-of lists, gift guides and news related to your industry.  These are valuable pieces to have while they are relevant, but when the window for them has passed the interest in them will drop.

To extend the relevance of the content, you need to take the time to review, update and republish it.  An example of this will be the best of the piece that you can update instead of creating a new list with a brand-new URL that has to be indexed.  Updating your current best-of list will ensure you are not starting from scratch with a URL that has no authority.  The only error that causes a bounce as fast as outdated content is 404.

Combine Content

During your content audit, you need to add topic groupings.  This will help you identify content that is similar in terms of a topic that has been produced months or years apart.  If you have two pieces of content on the same subject, you are potentially competing with yourself on the search engines and this can negatively impact your visibility.

However, instead of choosing the most recent or better-performing piece based on metrics, you should consider combining the content.  This will provide a more in-depth piece on a URL that is already performing well.  A simple 301 redirect on the other URL to your new content will end the process.

Move the Content

You could have some content treasures hidden in the depths of your website, but they are not getting the viewers they need.  This content could be sitting on page 40 of your blog directory and will not see the light of day very often.  The only time they are viewed is when they are seen via the search results.

Moving the content is not technically a pruning technique, but it is something that you should do.  This content should be placed in a more prominent position on the website and easily accessible from the primary pages.  This will declutter your blog and will open the content again.  The chronological and linear nature of blogs means that some content does not get the exposure it needs.

Remove the Content

The last pruning solution will be to remove the content.  This should only happen when the content is old, outdated, low-quality, thin or redundant without any views and no links.  This content is not helping your site and you will want to cut it away to improve the site as a whole.

While you want to remove the content, you do not want to remove the page.  Removing the page can cause a lot of issues that you want to avoid.  Instead, you will need to hide the content from the search engines using a no-index tag.  Once this tag is in place, the next time the search engines crawl the page, it will be dropped from the index even though it still exists on the website.

While it is possible to simply delete the page, you will have a 404 error on your website.  If you do not want the content found at all, you can redirect the URL to a better piece of relevant content.

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