Let’s talk about the power of content pruning.
Hello, and thanks for listening to SEO tips today.
Let’s talk through when you might want to think about removing pages from your website and how to get started figuring out which pages to prune
When do you need a content audit and pruning project?
If you’re managing a larger site (10K and more pages) then you want to control where your crawl budget is being used. If you notice in your log files that the bots are spending more time than you’d like on low-quality URLs, a content audit and pruning project might be in the cards.
What does Google say about content pruning as an SEO tactic?
John Mueller has said that both improving content and pruning content are valid SEO strategies.
And in questions about a drop in rankings in Google Webmaster Help forums, Google’s Aaseesh responded that the webmaster needs to do a few things:
- Improve the overall content quality
- Cut down on the number of pages with similar content
- Cut down on the other domains with similar content
And what kind of impact can a content audit and pruning project have on traffic?
Here are a few case studies I’ve compiled
- How QuickBooks Nearly Doubled Traffic by Deleting Half Its Content
- Home Science Tools benefited with a 64% increase in strategic content revenue after we helped to prune their blog content.
- Hubspot’s’ removal of 3,000 blog posts resulted in content getting indexed and driving traffic from Google under an hour.
To get started you first need to conduct a content audit. To do this you need to identify low-performing pages, images, videos, and .pdfs by crawling your site. You’d pull this data from your CMS, Google Analytics, Google and Bing Search Console accounts, and backlink data. You’re going to want to collect data on:
- The organic traffic to those pages over the last year.
- The number of new users to that page over the last year.
- The ranking position for the previous month and bounce rate for its assigned target query
- Engagement on the page over the past month
- Backlinks and domains linking to the asset.
- Internal links to the asset
- CrUX score
- Conversion rate
- Social media performance for the asset (shares, visits, conversions)
- Does it contain outdated information?
- Internal feedback from the team outside of SEO on the business value of the pages (sales leads, regulatory necessity, etc).
Hubspot has a great guide on how to export and manage all of this data in Excel.
Once you’ve pulled the data together, it helps to outline (for each URL/asset) the following:
- The purpose of the page (note that this is a Google Human Rater’s question too)
- Its target audience
- Search queries that the page/asset should be ranking for.
Once you have a sense of which pages are not worthy of keeping, you then need to decide what you’re going to do with that page. Your options are the following:
- Leave it as is and possibly build better internal links to it.
- See if you can re-work it to more fully fill out any content gaps in your buyer’s journey.
- Merge it with another page or add it to a FAQ page.
- Conduct a quality review and improve it.
- If it’s a .pdf, canonicalize it to the same content on a landing page by adding a canonical tag in the header.
- Redirect it (if you have an appropriate page that talks about the same topic, if not Google will consider this a 403).
- Delete it with a 410 (permanently removed)
Let’s talk about the tools you might need
And outside of the obvious crawl tools, there are a few content audit tools on the market worth looking at if you’re going to execute your first content audit.
The first is SEMRush, which can pull through all of the low performing pages that have an old content updated date, along with recent GSC and GA performance as well as social shares. The report is also exportable into Excel.
The second is Blaze Content which offers an all in one content audit and inventory solution with unlimited URLs to crawl.
The third is that Coding is for Losers has a Google Sheet template that could also be helpful.
So that’s your tip for today. If you work on a large site, you might want to consider a content audit and pruning exercise.
Thanks for listening. Come back tomorrow for another SEO tip.
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