Marketers and SEOs often focus on crafting new content and adding new features to websites to improve the experience for users. But what if the content already posted on pages is undermining overall performance?
Removing older content that offers little value and is no longer viewed can help newer, more relevant content to shine. This process is called content pruning.
What is content pruning?
Content pruning can be defined as the process of updating or removing copy from your website that is not performing as expected and is essentially weighing down your pages and negatively affecting the overall site experience.
Lots of lower-quality content is still indexed, so it can also harm your quest for higher rankings in SERPs.
Companies with websites that date back to the early 2010s or earlier are likely to have at least some content that has become outdated or is deemed ‘thin’ with little value for audiences in 2020.
Not all older content acts as deadweight, but certain copy or blogs may no longer be offering the articulate, insightful information that your audiences crave.
What are the benefits?
Removing content that you have identified as obsolete will improve the overall experience of navigating your website and, perhaps more importantly, improve your SEO efforts.
Google recently updated its algorithm and stated that it was designed to make sure that “relevant and authoritative content” is being served to searchers. Pruning makes webpages more accurate and relevant and therefore more likely to feature at the top of site rankings organically.
The process of pruning is also something that marketers and SEOs believe in. A poll by SEMrush found that the majority of companies claim that updating and removing content is one of the best tactics for SEO.
How regularly should content be pruned?
Upcycling and removing content on your webpages is beneficial, then, but it is not something that you need to undertake every single week. If it has been a few years since you have audited older content, it may be a good idea to plan a prune every three months for the first two or three cycles before switching to a clean-up every six months.
After pruning content, it is worthwhile to keep track of key metrics and analytics for your pages so that you can determine whether your clean-up sessions have had a positive impact.
What’s the best way to do it?
Content pruning is much easier than other technical SEO as it does not involve any complex coding changes or any wider webpage tweaks. Basically, all you have to do is identify the pages that are not up to scratch and decide whether to upcycle or remove them entirely.
To start the process, define what pages you plan on auditing during the process. Older ‘evergreen’ content that still delivers steady levels of organic traffic should not be removed, but can it be updated with an editor’s note at the top or new facts and stats to serve a reader in 2020?
If you just want to focus on removal for now, just target subpar content that is taking up space and save upcycling possibilities during the second pass at a later date.
It is important at this point to find the pages that are being indexed by Google as these should be evaluated more carefully compared to other pages.
It is unlikely that most of these pages will need to be removed, but use your best judgement to decide and consider how they contribute to the overall structure of your site. You don’t want to get rid of content for the sake of it. You want changes that will make your website more relevant.
It is useful to delve into Google Analytics and Google Search Console for the key metrics that can support your decision-making. As a general rule, content that has not delivered any tangible gains in clicks or traffic during the last 12 to 18 months or longer is a prime target for removal.
Finally, if you are considering upcycling, you need to make a final decision about whether posts must be jettisoned entirely or improved in some way for republication. Recycling older content is one of the cost-effective creative methods, but it still needs to dovetail with your current goals and workloads. Trying to use it when it doesn’t really fit into your latest strategy is not a great idea.
If you do think that there is some value in the content, you could use it as a base for newer blogs or articles. You can also jot down any topics or keywords that grab your attention and can be used with updated storytelling or data.
Can I expect immediate results?
Every process is different, but if you prune content judiciously and make the right changes, you can expect to see an uptick in the metrics that matter afterwards.
HubSpot benefited from a huge overhaul of its content last year. The US developer decided to get rid of a staggering 3,000 blog posts in 2019 and was rewarded with a rise in click-through rates and faster indexing in Google, all of which will contribute to better performance in search.
Do I need to publish new content afterwards?
HubSpot combined its pruning with a renewed push for newer, more relevant content and troubleshooting and fixing other technical issues. Pruning is just one of the factors that can help your SEO – it is not the only factor you should be focusing on.
If you have struggled with thin content for some time, it may be best to greenlight a new blog series or create new copy for product pages that will finally deliver the value that visitors expect when navigating to your website.
Google has also made no secret of its desire to prioritise websites that present the best content to searchers. When it does this, Google says that it is “delivering” on its core mission.
Pruning older content will ensure that your website meets the rising quality expectations of Google and general users. It will increase accuracy and relevancy and create a better platform for you to post newer, more engaging content.