Imagine your website as a garden. Over time, weeds and dead branches can take root, choking out the vibrant flowers you want everyone to see.
Content pruning is like tending to that garden, meticulously removing the unwanted elements to allow your high-quality content to flourish.
Content is king.
We better repeat it: “Accessories are king; Thin material is the demon.
Why? Helpful content adds more value to users, while thin content adds zero value and can actually hurt your website’s SEO.
If you have a lot of content on your website and you’re still struggling with traffic, there’s one thing you need to do: cut down the content.
What is content pruning in SEO?
Content pruning in SEO is the process of removing or updating low-quality or poorly performing content from a website.
This may include identifying the pages on your website that are;
- Totally outdated
- Poor quality or duplicate content
- Irrelevant to your target audience
- Not generating any traffic or sales
Pruning means “to cut or remove”. In simple words, content pruning refers to removing thin content from your website. This is done to improve the overall content quality and reliability of your site.
Content pruning benefits: Why is it important?
Search engines like Google are making “helpful content” the #1 priority.
If you’re not creating “people-first content,” you’ll lose your traffic from Google.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of content reduction in 2024;
- This builds trust and credibility because you are working hard to remove bad content from your site (to help users find only the best content).
- This improves your website’s search ranking, as Google takes into account the quality and relevance of the content when ranking pages.
- This improves the overall user experience, leading to more traffic and conversions.
Content Pruning SEO: Remove Low-Quality Content
Create a content inventory
The first step in sorting content is to create a comprehensive list of all the content on your website.
This includes blog posts, important pages like about us, and any other content that is accessible to search engines.
You can create a list of all your website URLs in a Google Spreadsheet for easy access.
Here are some tools you can use to create a content list;
- Google Search Console
- Screaming Frog
- Semrush Site Audit
While creating a content inventory, for each piece of content, mention the following things;
- Its title or URL
- Original publication date
- Current traffic (over the last 12 to 16 months)
Identify your low-performing content
Once you have your content list, the next step is to find the poorly performing content on your blog. The best way to identify content that needs to be cut is to use Google Search Console.
This can help you figure out which pages on your site are getting the least traffic and clicks.
To get started, go to Google Search Console > Search Results (under Display).
Then, select the last 12 to 16 months of data. Click on the “Pages” section and sort the results by “Clicks”, so you will get a list of all the poorly performing pages on your website.
have a look;
You can also use Google Analytics to find underperforming posts on your website. We often prefer Google Search Console, as it’s the easiest way to find the total number of clicks and impressions, as well as your underperforming pages.
Once you have identified the low-quality pages you want to filter out, you have four options, which are;
- Delete the pages
- Redirect them to other pages on your website
- Noindex those pages
Let’s briefly talk about them.
Delete: If you have content that is completely outdated, poorly written, duplicated, or irrelevant, you should remove it from your website. There is no point in spending more time or money on such pages.
Redirect: You can choose this option if the content is still relevant. If you have two pieces of similar content, you can merge them into one page. You can use a 301 redirect to permanently redirect an old URL to a new URL. It also sends link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page.
Noindex: Noindexing a page on your website tells Google not to index it. This means that it will not appear in search results.
UPDATE: If you feel an underperforming article has potential, you can choose this option. Make sure to create better headlines, add latest information, attractive images, internal links, etc. to make the content comprehensive. Here’s a detailed guide on how to update your existing content for more search traffic.
The main thing here is to evaluate each blog post for quality.
You can ask yourself these questions;
- Relevancy: Is the content still relevant to your audience?
- Accuracy: Is the information in the blog posts accurate and up-to-date?
- Engagement: Is the content engaging and interesting to read?
- SEO: Is the content optimized for specific keywords?
- Technical SEO: Are there any technical SEO issues that are preventing the content from ranking well in Google such as broken links, lengthy titles, missing meta descriptions, lengthy URLs, etc?
Quick note: Also, use your common sense when auditing blog posts on your site. There will be some blog posts that may not generate any search traffic but are still helpful to your target audience. In such cases, either improve their quality or optimize for long-tail keywords.
Audit your content 1 to 2 times a year
So, how often should you prune your content? Short answer: once or twice a year.
Why? Otherwise, you’re drastically cutting down your content. It’s like cutting your hair too short.
Sometimes, your content needs at least a few months to a year to generate traffic from search engines. This is especially true for smaller websites; Authority websites often get faster results from their content.
When auditing your content, here are some things you need to consider.
Visits in the last 12 to 16 months: Google Search Console (GSC) is your best friend when it comes to auditing your content.
With 12+ months of traffic data from GSC, you can easily find out many important things, including;
- Traffic trends: Are visits to your website increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?
- Top Performing Content: Which blog posts are getting the most traffic?
- Poor performing content: Which blog posts are getting the least traffic?
- Seasonality of content: Is there a seasonal pattern to your website traffic? Some blog posts like Black Friday, Cyber Monday or other event-related pages only get traffic during the event.
You can use GSC to quickly find posts that need immediate action. If a blog post (or web page) is not generating even 100 clicks in the last 12 to 16 months, it is not performing well.
Take a look at some of our worst performing posts over the last 16 months.
As you can see above, most of them haven’t even generated 100 clicks in the last 16 months. Which simply means that they are not performing well at all in terms of traffic and user engagement. Therefore, these posts can either be corrected, redirected or deleted.
Social Shares in the Last 12 Months: Social shares play an important role in SEO. They can also help you easily track user engagement on your blog posts.
So, find out how many times a blog post has been shared on social media? If you already have social sharing buttons, you can find those shares easily. If not, you can use a platform like BuzzSumo to find social media engagement on your posts.
Find Cannibalistic Content: Last but not least, you need to find cannibalistic pages on your website. Content misuse occurs when multiple pages on your website target the same keyword (or with the same keyword intent).
This is a bad practice and can lead to poor search rankings. Why? This can confuse search engines and make it harder for Google to decide which pages to rank for those keywords.
For example, if you have two posts on the same topic on your website, such as “SEO metrics,” the content on those pages will compete with each other for Google rankings. This can ultimately harm your website performance and ranking.
Monitor your results
The final step is to monitor your results.
After implementing your changes such as deleting pages, updating content, or redirecting URLs, you need to monitor your results.
Why do you need to track your results? This way you’ll be able to see if changes to your content strategy are getting you any results or not.
You can track your website’s SEO performance using tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Additionally, you can use keyword rank tracking tools like SEMrush, SE Ranking or Ahrefs to track your position in Google.
A Helpful Checklist for Content Pruning
Here’s a handy checklist you can use while pruning content on your blog or website.
- Focus on cutting out low-quality content first. Use Google Analytics or Google Search Console to find a list of all URLs that are not generating any traffic in the last 12 months.
- Don’t remove content that’s still getting some organic traffic. Let’s say one of your blog posts is generating 50 visits per month, then don’t delete it. Instead, improve the quality of those content or merge them into similar content on your website.
- If you decide to remove any content, use 301 redirects to avoid losing any SEO value. A 301 redirect indicates a permanent redirect from one URL to another (on your website).
- Use important factors like organic traffic, backlinks, social shares, time on page, etc. when evaluating the performance of your content. You can also consider the quality of the content, its relevance to your target audience, and usefulness when auditing content.
- Decide what to do with underperforming content. You have several options: delete content, merge content with similar topics, rewrite or update content. Or redirect the content to a more relevant page.
- Be sure to use proper analytics tools like Google Analytics or SEMrush to gather data on the performance of your content.
- Most of all, don’t be afraid to remove content. If any piece of content is not generating any traffic, social shares or sales – remove it, as this saves you a lot of time and money.
FAQs on content pruning
Here are some FAQs about content pruning.
How often should you prune your content?
The frequency of content cutting depends on the size of your website. Find out how many pages your website has.
- For smaller websites (less than 500 pages), you should prune your content once or twice a year.
- For larger websites (over 1000 pages), you may need to prune your content more frequently: quarterly or even monthly.
Is Content Pruning only useful for large websites?
No, content trimming is useful for all websites. Even small websites with less than 500 pages can benefit from weeding out outdated or low-quality content.
Does content pruning help with better rankings?
Yes, content curation can help you improve the quality of your content, which ultimately leads to better search rankings.
What are the best tools for content pruning?
Here are a few essential tools you can use for content pruning.
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
What types of content should I prune?
You should prune any content that is:
- Irrelevant to the main topics you cover
- Not generating any traffic in the last 12 to 16 months
Final thoughts on pruning content meaning
If you want to improve your website’s authority and content depth – content curation is a powerful strategy.
Content sorting not only helps create a better user experience, but it can also help you maintain a clear focus on the core content of your website.
So, what do you think about the content cuts? do you have any questions? Tell us in the comments.
Remember, content pruning is not about simply deleting content. It’s about strategically removing the weeds to allow your valuable flowers to bloom. By implementing these tips, you can transform your website into a thriving garden of high-quality content that attracts visitors, boosts SEO, and positions you for success in 2024 and beyond.