Deleting hundreds of pages of content from our website actually helped our SERP rankings.
I'm an Internet Marketing Manager at my current company.
Our brand, and our founder, are well-known across the state for our over-the-top commercials. As a result, our website is also the most highly trafficked in comparison to all of our competitors within the same regions (according to search data). In fact, most of our competitors will lurk our website and copy many of our SEO strategies (what they can spot at least).
Last year, my IT Director and I took a trip to SMX in Seattle and got to attend a talk with a Disney marketing executive. He mentioned how he was always looking to increase his website's "value" in the eyes of Google.
He knew that if Google wanted to yield search results that quickly answered a users queries that he'd have to create content of value and not just bog down his site with useless pages just "for the sake of adding and creating more content."
He then had his team go through all of their search analytics and data platforms to determine which pages on the Disney website seemed to be unimportant to Google and told them to remove them. The crazy thing is that 90% of these pages didn't even get a 301 redirect. He just straight up 404'd them. His theory was, "If it wasn't important to Google in the first place, then why would you tell Google that content can be referenced on another page? Tell Google it provided no value so we killed it."
The jaw of another guest speaker dropped. She claimed that all of those pages should have been 301 redirected and what he did was a big no-no.
My IT Director and I thought the Disney executive's theory was sound. So we did the same thing and began removing unimportant pages leaving them 404'ed with just a few redirects where necessary, of course.
After spending roughly 4 weeks combing through search data on hundreds of pages on our website and removing pages that received little to no traffic, hits, or click-throughs, we noticed our ranking in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) increasing, our contact forms being filled out more, our phones ringing off the hook, and our revenue increasing.
Was this coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. But we like to think more than likely not.
SUMMARY: don't create content just for the sake of creating content. You're only telling Google, "Hey! Look at me and all of the useless content on my website." Before creating a page, blueprint it. Ask yourself why you're creating the page, what purpose will it serve, and how will it help your visitors? Create meaningful content that Google will want to serve to its users and you'll be golden.
So you mentioned this helping your rankings, did you find a subsequent increase in Organic traffic as well (or as a result?)
I'm sorry, I should have mentioned in the post that yes, we did notice a dramatic increase in organic traffic as we began ranking for very popular keywords with high search volume. It was almost as if the useless content was "weighing down" the great content.
Did you just delete content that had always performed poorly and content that had just recently (last 30 or 60 days) started to perform worse?
Content that had always (and within the last 90 days) performed poorly.
What about deals and price comparison websites where every page has it's own value and 404 is a bad option. Any idea to boost ranking on highly competitive keywords like laptops, digital cameras etc. Thanks
Find out what kind of questions your target audience might be asking Google and answer them on your pages, if possible. This coincides with the whole semantic search trend. I would imagine broad terms like what you're wanting to rank for will be ridiculously difficult but by honing in on the granular topics surrounding those key phrases you might have better luck. Try to grab all of the "low hanging fruit."
I'm actually quite shocked to hear that. But it makes perfect sense.
What percentage of the total pages were cut out?
Were you fully indexed before the removal? If not, are you now?
We had about 1,200 pages before. Now we have 300. So 75% were cut out. And yes, 99% of our pages were indexed.
Wow! That was big leap of faith you guys took haha that could have gone horrendously wrong. I think most SEO users would think you'd be absolutely insane to cut out 75% of your site without redirects.
This means that user metric indicators are less isolated to individual pages than is conventionally believed. I would have thought a page with unique content but low traffic would have a neutral effect at worst, but this makes them seem damaging.
I'm going to do some of my own testing on this because I am very intrigued.
What was your threshold for deleting a page? 10 visits/month? 100?
Anything <50 visits within the last 90 days. But we also took into account Click Through Rate (CTR) as well.
So I work for a gaming company, and we do have few pages wherein we announce winners of the day or month which is not at all useful for in the eyes of Google (basically a list of usernames). After reading your post, I'm thinking to use "nofollow, noindex" these pages rather than 404… is this right option?
I can't say for sure that this is the definitive answer but it's exactly what I would do.
okay. I'll wait for any other redditor's answer. If no, I'll experiment and see how it goes..,
What about repurposing the content that did not drive traffic to make more use out of it, instead of just outright deleting them? Would you suggest that?
Yes, but it really depends. Let's say, for example, a page on your website has garnered 100k impressions in the past 90 days or so but never showed up higher than Page 2, this would tell me that Google sees some kind of potential in the page as it's constantly serving it up but it's just not good enough to surpass other pages with similar content. I would identify this situation as an opportunity to re-optimize the page and repurpose it.
That's nice. Thanks!
I must admit that i accidentally did this on an E-Commerce website! 100% Pure accident! I somehow told Google to stop indexing about 2000 pages of my website. Couldn't for the life of me work out why pages were being de-indexed. my SERP was improving on the pages that were still being indexed.
I've since found the mistake i made and added those pages back into the search as ideally, i do need them there as i'd like to sell them. but my SERP has decreased again. So now i'm toying with the idea of just killing those products off or even the brands that rank poorly all together!
Bold move!!! I like it! 😀
Well why don't you just keep the pages live, but noindex them?
That thought hadn't even crossed my mind! That's the better idea! 😀 Thanks!
Well Don't create content for rank always, there should be some value to it. If you can create content which is useful and informative, users will visit for sure, also you need to have some testing content experiment as its well or not, if not then you need to modified the content and need to do testing again of it. when you think you are getting good visitors then that's fine.
I don't' think to remove the pages is a solution rather than you need to modify the content and then checking and all.
As if you are providing services/product then removing a page is not a solution at all.
Just think of it.
Regards, IntelliPro Solutions Pvt Ltd
It depends on what the pages are about. If they are completely irrelevant then you should remove. Our website is #1 for over 2k keywords with high Search Volume (SV) now. This was a good thing for us. Our solution will work for some, maybe not for others. It just depends. And you should not be using the comments section to advertise your business. Please be tactful.
Watched a video this morning about the exact same thing. Makes sense. Especially if Google is looking at the value of your site as a whole. If 1/3 of your pages are trash you're losing brand equity with G so to speak.
The other thing worth mentioning is that for the most part it's hard to tell upfront how your article is going to perform.
If you publish 5 great articles it's likely that 1 will do awesome. 1 will do terribly. And 3 will do just okay.
I think the trick is to publish the highest quality you can. Always. And then do content audits twice a year or something.
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