Over time, websites collect a lot of dead wood. As you add more and more pages to the site, you will find that some pages stop performing – no one points at them; Google doesn’t display them in search results; if it does, no one clicks through.
Why would you want to keep pages on your site if no one is looking at them? Conversely, will you damage the website if you remove those pages? In this article we examine the pros and cons of deleting dead or under-performing web pages.
In Vertical Leap’s Apollo Insights platform, we compare search visibility and traffic data to ascertain how active a URL is.
Here are some questions to ask about a page that appears to have low value. Looking at several sources of data will help you to answer these questions.
The difference between an actual page and a URL is important. When we perform technical SEO on a website, we look not only at the list of live page URLs in a sitemap, we also gather as many historic URLs as we can, to build a full picture of how your website looks to the outside world.
Google Webmaster Tools may store URLs that once existed but no longer do – possibly for pages you removed. Google Analytics contains the same historic data. There may also be other websites linking to you with incorrect URLs, and these links can also appear in a list somewhere.
When we consider the health of your website, we need to look at all these factors, because your domain authority could be affected by a wealth of old and incorrect URLs no longer pointing at anything.
Some pages have low visibility simply because they cater to an audience or a subject with low search demand. Looking at the visibility over the whole year is also important, because some pages are seasonal and you will find an upwards spike each year when the relevant season or event comes round.
For many businesses, particularly those with a blog, a common problem is repetition – the same article is written in different ways at different times. In 2009 you may have written about things to consider when buying house insurance, and in 2011 you may have written an updated article on the same thing. Why would a search engine want to show both articles?
Google’s Panda algorithm looks primarily for content quality. If your website is full of lots of thin pages that are very similar – something that would have served you well in the past – chances are that Panda will cause a suppression of many of your pages in search results.
Likewise, the Hummingbird algorithm looks at intent and context – something your old pages perhaps don’t match well.
Then, of course, there are the Penguin and Pigeon algorithms, which can affect you in other ways. The older your website is, and the more pages you have, the more likely you are to have a collection of old or broken URLs and dead pages.
Just as you need to prune a rose bush to make it grow, you may also see SEO growth by pruning your website.
The volume of pages affected on your site is a factor in how urgent the matter is. Estate agents commonly have a high ratio of broken links because of the high volume of properties that are removed once they are sold.
Retailers also may be routinely removing products from their sites. If your website is dominated by more old and broken links than live, active ones, you should prioritise a spring clean.
If your findings show that a page can be revived, we employ our fix, boost and fill methodology – fixing anything that’s broken, boosting links, page speed or other performance factors, and filling gaps, such as adding more information to a tired and out of date article.
Or, as mentioned earlier in this article, we may merge two pages into one in order to create a combined benefit with shared authority and avoid them competing with each other.
If you’re unsure what to do with particular pages on your website, give our SEO experts a call today on 023 9283 0281 or submit your details and we’ll call you back. Or, if you’re looking for more deep dives on topics like this, our team offer SEO training services too.
Steve (RIP) was Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing.
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