When it comes to improving a website’s ranking on search engines, SEO and content are two main areas that people often focus on. The common practices range from producing more keyword-focused, high-quality content, images, and videos to adding new web pages that target a specific keyword.
While adding more content can help, there are situations where removing existing content can also help in achieving better rankings. This is known as content pruning, and it pairs well with your search engine optimization efforts.
Without any further ado, let’s get started with understanding the concept of content pruning and why you need to start considering it for better results.
Introduction: The Concept of Content Pruning
The content pruning process aims at editing out thin content pieces. These content pieces do not have grave issues in them; however, they are weighing down the overall website’s potential to rank. Content pruning for SEO removes low-performing content, thin or duplicate content, low-quality pages, underperforming content, outdated content, underperforming pages, and old content that no longer serves search engine optimization. These are often labeled as dead weight and dampen the potential of a content marketing strategy.
Understanding Content Pruning: What It Is and Why It Matters
Content pruning process: What It Is
Content pruning removes excess low-quality content from the website that can dampen your ranking potential. While continuous content production is important to ensure you are producing trending content that is in demand, it is equally important to consistently indulge in content prune practices to boost your SEO performance.
Chances are that your website has low traffic, negligible click-through rate, and doesn’t appear in search results because of the low-performing content weighing down your website’s performance.
Why content pruning matters:
Every website owner wants their website to have content that is relevant to what they do and the industry. The presence of low-quality content not only has an effect on your SEO efforts but also can hamper your organic traffic strategies.
Here are reasons why content pruning matters:
- Magnify the effects of high-quality content that aligns with search queries.
- It also directs effects and link authority to pages that have a higher potential of ranking on search engines. Moreover, it can enhance the benefits of link equity significantly.
- Removing thin content pages with out-of-date information and underperforming content pages can improve the user experience for website visitors. Google and other search algorithms take user experience into account for search engine ranking.
- It creates room to spend the crawl budget more wisely and allocate backlink data to pages that have up-to-date content and also carry higher ranking potential. Additionally, it will also ensure that your crawl budget utilizes the content inventory to its full potential.
The Benefits of Content Pruning: Boosting Your Website’s SEO
Google rolled out a plethora of updates in the past decade. These updates more or less focus on humanizing the overall quality of content, making user experience flawless throughout the site’s structure, and creating intent-driven content.
Content pruning has been an effective way to reach your target audience by improving the quality of existing content through the process.
Benefits of content pruning include:
- It improves the overall quality of content on the website by eliminating content that is no longer serving any beneficial or valuable purpose.
- It optimizes your content for other search engines as well.
- Eliminates the risk of website visitors landing on low-quality pages and developing a negative perception of your brand.
- Significantly improves user experience by removing old content that has out-of-date information (including old blog posts, thin content web pages, landing pages that serve no purpose, etc).
- Improves link distribution by bringing focus to pages with high authority backlink data.
- Improves crawl budget by allowing Google bots and crawlers to crawl through only high-quality content pages, thereby also increasing crawl speed.
- It helps in understanding how to customize your current content marketing strategies, shifting focus from producing ten articles a day to producing fewer but higher quality ones.
How Does Google View Low-Quality Content?
It is no secret that Google loves new content that is rich in information, has external links to high-authority websites, and is intent-driven. Pages that are low in quality usually score low when it comes to page authority. And Google is never in favor of such web pages.
In fact, Google sees them as low-potential pages, and it will not show them whenever a relevant query is made. Additionally, Google can identify pages with duplicate content and can strike such websites with a penalty.
Identifying Content for Pruning: What to Look For
Here is how you can evaluate your content and decide if it is time for a content prune:
- Low-performing content: Look for pages that are performing poorly on search engines. Higher bounce rates, minimal conversions, and lack of up-to-date information. Do consider the page’s intent, as not all pages are meant to attract traffic and draw conversions.
- Cannibalistic content: Check if two pages talk about the same thing, targeting the same keywords and covering the same amount of information. There is a chance these pages can even cannibalize each other’s ranking.
- Outdated content: Look for the publication date on the content. For instance, if there are blog posts on your website that were posted more than five years ago, consider either deleting content pieces like these or merging content from an old blog with other articles.
- Thin content: Pages that offer no value or have duplicate content in them can negatively impact your ranking. It is crucial to identify pages like these and either remove or merge them with a blog article or archive them.
The Pruning Process: A Step-by-Step Guide
Conduct a content audit to identify potential: Creating an overview by performing a content audit helps in identifying content pruning opportunities. Many businesses consider using Google Sheets or Excel to keep track of content to be pruned and the progress existing pruned content is making. Google Analytics or Google Search Console data, including page value, bounce rate, and page views, can give an insight that might not be enough.
It is important to consider data like the number of external and internal links related to a blog post. There are SEO tools that can give deeper insights into where your content is lacking and how you can cover the content gaps. Additionally, keeping an eye on the web analytics tool can also help in understanding areas where your organic traffic is coming from and how you can customize your content calendar for better, desired results.
The goals and criteria you are setting: Having goals helps in determining if your content pruning process is yielding desired results and if you need to consider paying attention to more old content pages. Common factors to consider are keyword ranking, position changes, and click-through rates. Most of this information can be found on the search console.
However, you can also occasionally be required to check Google Analytics to identify content performance. It is important to identify how the page is converting and the value it is offering. Do take the goal of the page into account and the criteria for the goals.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, choose content on a particular topic and maintain sheets to track progress. It will help to prune your content on the website gradually and more effectively. These actions will improve the website’s Google Rankings (especially in case of content cannibalization).
Conduct a thorough link audit: Checking the number of internal links is a great start to content pruning. Whether you are looking at new content or old content, it is crucial to identify internal links present on indexed pages. Content that has no links directed towards it is called orphaned content. Identifying such pages during the audit will help in establishing how many backlinks your content will need to generate measurable results.
Know how often you should prune: It is always best to create a schedule when you are deciding to prune your content. Create a list of pages that need to be pruned first. During the course of the entire process of pruning, you can continue to add important, information-rich content pages to your website while simultaneously working on other pages that are low on quality. This should be made a regular practice for large websites that have hundreds of web pages, supporting articles, blog posts, duplicate meta descriptions, and attract low traffic.
Pruning Vs. Updating: Making the Right Choice
Content pruning does not mean the removal of content always. Sometimes, there are better ways to update the quality of the content while pruning the fat around it. Here is how:
Focus on improving: Even thin-quality pages can be improved by mindfully adding relevant, SEO-friendly content. These pages are not performing well on metrics, but it might be something that was once popular. Instead of choosing to delete such pages, consider improving the content and aligning it with the topic’s intent.
Update old content: What holds value today and is getting clicks might not be important tomorrow. This is especially the case with holiday or event-related blogs, as these content pieces have a natural decay period. Their relevancy drops as time passes, and people might not look for them anymore. Continuously reviewing, updating, and republishing content ensures you are ahead of the curve and are able to update your content while there’s still time.
Consider combining information pieces together: Adding topic groupings to your content inventory at the time of audit creates more room for experiments. It can help identify relevant topics that were published months or even years apart. Two or more pages on a similar topic on the same website can struggle to rank, negatively impacting your website’s search engine ranking. Instead, consider merging content to create a more detailed blog post.
Repositioning old but relevant content: It can be difficult for a user to go through hundreds of pages on a website only to find the blog they have been looking for. This becomes particularly disadvantageous if you have a blog that has recently started gaining traction and has the potential to rank higher on search engines. Creating a new landing page or placing such content pieces at the front ensures your website visitors find what they are looking for without hassles.
Remove only dead-weight content pieces: Are there blogs on your website that were created to cover trending topics ages ago, and you are not sure if they serve a purpose anymore? Is there a service page that has irrelevant content? An article that was written to fill a content gap? Such content pieces do not offer value after a certain time.
They can, however, impact the quality of organic traffic your website attracts and the nature of leads it generates. Editing such content pieces can be time-consuming and might not yield promising results. It is always best to delete such content pieces to create room to include more relevant and information-rich content.
Case Study: Successful Content Pruning and Its Impact on SEO
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Pruning Content
Here are five common mistakes to avoid when performing content pruning:
- Not content pruning at all, thinking the content piece can draw value and attract leads to your website someday.
- Content pruning at the wrong time, especially when it comes to content pruning that is trending and has a higher potential of ranking at the moment. By doing so, you are significantly diminishing your website’s chances of getting seen.
- Indulging in excessive content pruning in hopes that your website will suddenly start ranking higher and will attract high-quality leads.
- Pruning content that was ranking even if the content volume was low. Instead, the focus should be on adding more information-rich content that makes it possible for crawlers to index pages for higher ranking potential.
- Not taking data from Google Search Console, SEO tools, and Google Analytics while deciding the extent to which you can prune your content.
Tools to Assist in Content Pruning
There is a wide range of tools that you can use to execute content-pruning tasks successfully. Here are commonly used tools you should consider, including Google Analytics, Search Console, and tools that can help improve your website’s SEO-friendliness.
Creating a Content Pruning Schedule: Best Practices
Creating a content pruning schedule is paramount to ensuring you are not always busy producing content but are investing time and effort in strategically editing and improving the quality of existing content. Here is how you can effectively create a content-pruning schedule that keeps you at the top of the content marketing game:
- Focus on getting a content inventory that keeps track of data, including publication date, URL, primary keyword, and name of the article.
- Constantly analyze the type and nature of content that is to be pruned. Avoid pruning content that is high-performing & instead focus on content pruning for content that is low-performing but is relevant to the current market and in demand. Take factors like the number of clicks, article age, number of backlinks, number of high-ranking keywords, number of page views, and number of social shares.
- Focus on auditing content as per target performance metrics. Delete content that no longer serves a purpose, combine duplicate content pieces into one article, update outdated but relevant content, and add noindex tags for articles that are not good from an SEO perspective but are useful for readers.
- Consider pruning content in batches instead of taking it up as a one-day task, as doing it all at once can impact the rate at which bots and crawlers crawl your website significantly.
- Measure results to understand how well your content is performing ensures that you are able to set a scheduled time just for content pruning. It is a best practice to prune content at least once annually.
Conclusion: Embracing Content Pruning for SEO Success
Content pruning is an effective way to make your existing content shine without spending time researching and writing new content pieces. However, it is important to keep an open mind while pruning content. The low performance of content, drop in traffic, and decrease in quality of leads are a few signs that your content needs to be pruned.
It is vital to understand that excessive pruning can thin content that is already ranking or is value-centric, making it lose its existing value. Rest assured that content pruning can efficiently boost your SEO rankings, drive more traffic to your website, and ensure that you are offering relevant & required information that your audience is searching for.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Content Pruning?
Content pruning is the process of removing excessive, low-quality content that acts as a dead weight to your website’s potential to rank higher on search engine algorithms.
How do I prune content in SEO?
Here are steps to follow for effective pruning:
- Create an overview of all the available content through an inventory to ensure you are aware of available resources, content pieces, and more.
- Audit the existing content to identify gaps and scopes. Evaluating performance will ensure you are able to create a practical schedule that enables the removal of unwanted content strategically.
- Decide how to use excessive content that you have. Can these content pieces be combined to create a new content piece together? Or should they be compressed into a paragraph and added to an existing blog or article?
What is the process of pruning?
The content pruning process aims to maximize the crawl budget and rank higher on search engine algorithms. Pruning aims at fat-trimming content that does not add any value, is irrelevant, and can act as a dead weight for websites. Content pruning enriches your website with content that increases the potential to rank on search engines, reach the target audience, and attract qualified leads.