Content Pruning: How Deleting Website Pages Improves SEO

When it was common for people to travel by ship, sailors would throw off some of the cargo into the sea during a storm to lighten it and save lives.

In the digital marketing world, this life-saving idea can be applied to old, outdated content through a process called content pruning to help a website load more quickly and improve SEO.

The benefits are far-reaching –and content pruning SEO best practices may be a useful habit to adopt for any business that wants to keep doing right by the laws of search engines rankings.

Here’s a useful guide into content pruning and why it’s good for your website.

What is Content Pruning?

Content pruning is akin to cleaning a house and giving it a makeover to improve its value. In this sense, cleaning is removing any piece of content that is harming your business’s image because it is low in quality. The makeover is about updating the content according to need.

Beyond updating content, the content pruning process allows you to organize content into relevant compartments while merging similar pieces of content into one, to up your chances of ranking better on search engines.

Which Content Needs to be Deleted?

In case you need to delete some pages, the guiding principle is that you may delete pages with obsolete content, pages that barely attract negligible traffic (if any), and those with similar content.

However, you need to be careful with deleting content because Google ranks you lower for a time after the removal.  Additionally, depending on how much traffic and level of rankings these pages have earned for your website, some of them can be saved.

To save pages with good organic traffic, you can redirect them through a 301 link which automatically transfers their equity onto a new page.

For example, if you have a popular page with a buying guide for products that have been long replaced by newer models, a 301k code tells Google that you have permanently moved the page and it will update its indexing while maintaining the page’s traffic, links and ranking.

For pages with obsolete information or content that adds to a page’s load time but attracts no traffic, you can use 410 or 404 codes that tell Google those pages no longer exist and it will eventually remove them.

How Deleting Website Pages Improves SEO

Granted, the more pages you have, the more chances you have to rank for different keywords. However, you don’t rank higher because you have multiple pages.  Google uses web crawlers that scan and index pages to rank your website in a certain position on SERPs. Each page is rated based on how much authority Google thinks it has and how useful it is to content consumers.

On that account, appearing higher on SERPs for a certain search query implies that your business is one of the most authoritative on the subject.

With studies showing that the first result receives 25.8% of the clicks, followed by 15% for the second and 11% for the third, pruning your content can help your SEO in the following ways:

  •       It improves the overall quality of your content thereby improving your chances of ranking higher.
  •       You get to have better link authority distribution. Removing low-quality content ensures your authority linking only flows to the right pages.  
  •       Since UX has become an important ranking factor for Google, getting rid of the dead weight will help you provide prospects with better UX.
  •       Your website crawl budget will be put to better use especially if you have a website with thousands of pages.
  •       Lastly, deleting content improves your pages’ load time which improves user experience and consequently SEO.

Running Content Audits

To enjoy these content pruning SEO benefits, you need to depend on more than a content date to find out which content is useful and which is not. In other words, it calls for a content audit.

A content audit is a process by which you collect and analyze the content on your website to determine which parts you need to rewrite, repurpose or eliminate.

More importantly, a content audit helps you identify areas on your site that you haven’t fully optimized for search engine rankings.

For instance, if you’ve recently developed a new content strategy and one rule is to always add meta descriptions and title tags to your blog post, a content audit will reveal which posts need to have these additions.

Similarly, it can help you identify and exploit new SEO opportunities –such as using your business’s core solution as a keyword phrase.

Other than benefits for your SEO, a content audit helps you to achieve these goals:

  •       Get data-backed insights on how your content performs.
  •       Based on these metrics, you can identify which kind of content works and use it better for your marketing.
  •       Understand the likes and dislikes that your audience has.

Acting on Your Content Audit Data for Content Pruning

After a successful content audit, match each piece of information to your marketing goals and prune it according to the following categories:

  •       Keep. You can keep content that seems to be evergreen, such as website content about your services or a list of testimonials.  
  •       Update. For instance, content on how to pass interviews may be evergreen but adding recent trends or statistics will be more helpful to today’s job seekers.
  •       Delete. In addition to outdated info, information that takes too much time or resources to update qualifies for deleting.

One Last Thing

The pruning process is always geared at influencing content so that it can in turn influence your engagement with prospects for the good of everybody. As such, it needs to be a routine and an important part of your content marketing strategy.

Also, keep in mind that Google works with a reward system and beyond it, users’ needs always come first. The better you are at coining your content around users’ needs, the less trouble you’ll have with content pruning or Google rankings.

Because digital marketing rarely works without software that allows you to scale as you need to, we at Nomadic are all about getting you marketing results by leveraging technology so you can grow. If you’re struggling with business scaling or your marketing strategy, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.