There comes a time in our life when some things need to be changed or refreshed. The same happens in the life of content. It might get outdated or irrelevant and that’s when content pruning comes to the rescue.
By its nature, pruning means cutting off dead branches or stems, especially to encourage growth. Content pruning was born from the same desire, to remove old or poor quality articles, to get rid of the clutter not to damage the quality of the overall website. But does content pruning bring any results? Does it improve rankings and traffic? Below you can read our well-documented findings, based on illustrative case studies and expert opinions.
In short, we’ll let you know if cutting off the dead weight of your content will improve your website’s overall traffic and rankings.
1. CONTENT AUDIT FIRST AND CONTENT PRUNING SECOND
Content pruning can be a life jacket for lots of large websites that have a lot of content. To put it simply, content pruning means taking low quality pages and removing them from a site’s index in Google and other search engines.
We all know Google doesn’t like it when pages fail to offer what it’s promised to the user, meaning high-quality content, relevant information to the specific search query and trustworthy websites. Failing to offer that can lead to downgrading the website from the search results.
If you find yourself in this situation, then there is a need for a change, which implies a content audit. Even if this will lower the process of creating fresh content, it will bring lots of benefits later on because you can cut off the heavy part of bad content that can lower your rankings and traffic.
In one of our previous blog posts we talked already about how to perform a content audit, whether you’re a search engine optimization beginner or a pro. Firstly, you need to perform such an audit because it will give you valuable information on which pages need improvement and which of them must be deindexed. You won’t believe what you can find hidden under the rug.
A content audit can come in handy for multiple strategies you want to apply to your website and it will give you directions to lead towards the best decision.
Alexander Kesler, an experienced entrepreneur in digital marketing, explained through a post how important is to have a clean website and how to gain a competitive advantage.
Pring for SEO involves the removal of pages from Google’s index, in the worst case. Content pruning, just like any other decision that can heavily affect your website, has proved to be a contradictory topic. Even the opinions of Google’s representatives differ remarkably. After we talked with a few SEO experts, we saw that they have intriguing opinions, too, based on their experiences.
On top of them all, we throw our case study based on what happened with our website’s rankings and traffic.
Our recommendation for pruning content for SEO purposes is to look at the following metrics for each page:
Search traffic for the last year;
Bounce rate for the last year;
Engagement (Total clicks, Impressions and Average CTR) ;
Once you’ve collected all the data in one place for your content, you should get rid of the pages that don’t have traffic and have a high bounce rate, a low number of clicks, a high average position.
Engagement (clicks and impressions for the previous month).
Step 2. We Decided on the Content That Needs to Be Pruned
We got to the point where the pages with low traffic, meaning those with no more than 180 organic traffic per month, few users per month and poor engagement, were redirected to other pieces of content on the blog. For all the pages in that situation, we searched for relevant content to redirect it. For the content where we didn’t find a relevant correspondent, we redirected it to the homepage. It was better to redirect them, rather than have broken pages and lose lots of links, leading to a bad user experience.
We had some other strategies applied, besides the redirect. For the ones we kept, we thought of two possibilities and applied the following tags: leave it as it is or a quality review.
If you take a look at the chart below you can see the article stats for our case study.
88 articles – 301 redirect;
63 articles – to leave them as they were;
80 articles – we had to do a quality review.
If you’re asking how we decided on these 3 types of strategies for the articles we kept, things are quite clear. Everyone that knows their business very well can apply a similar strategy, but it depends solely on them to decide what “much” or “little” traffic means to them. Once you decided that, you know which content must be pruned.
All the articles that had the “leave as it is” tag were about product related launches, or penalties, case studies and things that had an importance for the brand and user and which would never be obsolete.
The last type of tag, “quality review”, was applied to articles with good traffic and overall metrics but whose information needs to be dusted off. Besides that, we did link building for some articles, we performed a re-optimization for getting 10x content, the best content there is on that topic on the web and improving the content performance score. This strategy was separate from the content pruning process, as part of a massive transformation.
Step 3. We Performed Redirect and Deindexation. Monitored the Results
It is important to specify that we didn’t delete any page. We just deindexed some.
It all started in May 2017 and after we performed the content pruning strategy for our website we wanted to see the SEO visibility. Was our strategy a good one? Did it really boost our blog or was it just a fancy way to spend time with no significant outcome?
If you look at the following screenshot, you can see that rankings started to improve on 2nd of July and have grown smoothly ever since. It was definitely a step forward, giving it a lift in rankings. In the end, the results were great, but that was due to other facts, too. We don’t know for sure if it was entirely due to the content pruning campaign. At the same time, we launched our Keyword and Content Assistant tool and also published quality content on a regular basis. Content optimization also had a major factor in the search visibility. All in all, content pruning was just one of many other strategies that helped our website rank better.
It is important to remember that while we performed content pruning we managed to publish new content on the blog on a regular basis, just like we had before the pruning.
3. EXPERTS’ OPINION ON CONTENT PRUNING AND CASE STUDIES
After we’ve experienced our method of improving the quality of our website by pruning the content for SEO purposes, we started asking some experts in content audits and pruning to see their opinion. We wanted to see what others have experienced and what their results were, compared to ours.
While each expert might have a different approach because each client and each situation might differ, their opinion regarding content pruning is positive. It can help your website and increase revenue.
3.1. Everett Sizemore Experienced a 31% Increase in Organic Traffic
This article was submitted by Andreea Sauciuc and originally appeared on CognitiveSEO. It has been republished with permission and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork. Find out how to publish your content with Upwork.
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