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Archiving Content and SEO implications



3:28 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hello Everyone -

I am not sure if this is the best forum to post this in, but since it's not engine specific, I wasn't sure. I had posted it elsewhere, but this seems like a better suited forum.

I have a question about archiving web (not blog) content and maintaining SEO, and the best way to go about it. I manage a website that has around 1,500+ pages. We have a lot of content with key phrases that we rank really well on - the site is about a decade old and the bulk of our traffic is native search driven so maintaining SEO integrity is a huge priority for me (obviously). Additionally, we currently have two CMS's that house our content (again, an issue I have no control over, but just as an FYI).

Executives want to archive most of the content except a small percentage. We are not producing new content (outside of weekly blog posts, but that is only accessible via the home page which is an entirely separate issue) on a regular basis. There is a lot of "freshening up" of existing content happening.

My question is: what is the best practice for archiving content and how do I maintain our SEO while doing it? I am hesitant to archive anything. What are people's thoughts on this? And if it is going to be done, I want it done correctly.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated, since this is a relatively new area for me. Thanks!


3:36 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

archiving web (not blog)

What do you mean by that? Content is content, is it not?

native search

Do you mean "organic search" (i.e. comes from the search engines) or "internal search" (meaning comes off your own search box)?

I'm not sure what you mean by "archiving". To me, that would mean putting it in a back room and making it inaccessible or semi-inaccessible to the masses.

What is the current architecture, and what architecture do you envision in the future? Do you mean just getting stuff out of the navigation and off the front page, but maintaining the current URLs? Or do you mean moving everything to /archive/page1.html?

Also, what is the goal of this change? In other words, why are you archiving? Is it part of a site redesign, an information architecture change, a minor cleanup, a reorientation in bussiness strategy?


3:48 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


When I meant content, I meant our article web pages, not our current blog posts, etc. We currently have several directories on individual topics that contain anywhere form 10-35 articles on said topic.

And yes, organic search. Executives here use the term native for organic, so I have just gotten in the habit of using that for non-paid search traffic!

Basically, the people who call the shots want to have one topic page for each of these directories, with 3-7 of the most "important" article accessible, with the rest of the articles "archived," but still accessible within the archive for people who want to read those articles.

Because of our SEO presence, these archived pages need to maintain live URL's. They can't be moved to an /archive/page1.html.

And the goal of the archiving, from the higher - up perspective is that the content gets in the way of our sales funnel, and that people really don't like our content (even though it drives a huge chunk of our overall traffic).

I hope that helps. Thanks!


4:27 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Okay, got it! I have to say, I've never heard the term "native search" before. I thought that's what you meant from context, but just wanted to be sure.

Glad to hear they aren't pushing to change the URLs, which would be incredibly stupid, but it wouldn't be the first time...

Anyway, would they go for a hybrid strategy that would llok like this: directory page has a nice H2 title for the summary of each of the pillar content articles, and then a section labelled "More on blue widgets" that would list say your ten highest-ranking, top traffic pages. At least then you would keep those only two hops from the front page and get them in front of the eyes of visitors.

Then perhaps it would have a link at the end of the list saying "See the full archive of blue widget articles" and it would link to some sort of index page, or some such. I don't know how many main topic pages you have and how many pages per topic you have, but you might have to think through your information architecture partly with an eye towards some sort of balance there.

I think whatever you do, you want some good internal links, perhaps with a variety of anchor texts, pointing at least to your high-ranking articles to keep them crawled and in the fore and passing link juice.

That said, it sounds like they're watching this from an intelligent business perspective: traffic that doesn't convert is a *cost* not a *revenue* and so if these pages truly convert poorly and divert sales, it sounds like they're taking a good approach.

It may be in the end that you want to sacrifice some high-ranking low-conversion pages and have them way out in the archives, but linking back rather directly to the key conversion pages, while the key conversion pages link to the high traffic pages by a series of hops. That may, over time, impact the rankings of those pages, but since they are a cost and not a revenue source, that shouldn't be a problem as long as you keep working on the site and getting the conversion pages to rank well.

Just my $0.02


5:26 pm on Aug 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Thanks for you reply - those are some good points. My main concern is the architecture of how this would be implemented - but I think the way you've laid it out, if that's how I could convince them to do it, would work well.

My other question is about the CMS piece. We have our web site split on two different CMS's, how would this impact, if at all, the archiving process? I just have a hunch it would be an issue, but I can't quantify that, so any insight would be helpful.



5:10 am on Aug 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Hmm... how is it split? Is there some logic to the split (like blog versus general)?

I would say whether or not that poses a problem would depend a lot on the particulars.


12:43 pm on Aug 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


There isn't any logic to the split, except some directories were moved to one CMS (with the idea that all would eventually be moved), but now that isn't going to happen, so we have 1/4 of the site on one CMS and the rest on the other.


6:59 pm on Aug 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Can I just say, "I'm sorry for you." Bummer about that. I guess you just have to do what you can and keep using two CMS since the migration isn't going to get finished.


7:11 pm on Aug 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the sympathy, I appreciate it :) I am plugging along and trying to make the best of it!


9:09 pm on Nov 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just unlink the content and leave it in place. Just remember that people come to content websites for content. If you want to sell, build a shop site and cross link the two sites or build a strong CTA that drives traffic into the shop.


10:00 am on Jan 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Archiving could mean a physical move of content from one folder to another and maybe also a change of URL to reflect the "archive/" status.

Archiving could be as simple as moving all links to the arhived content to an "archive" page but moving nothing on the server and changing no URLs.

So, are you "archiving" only from a server filesystem viewpoint, or are you "archiving" from a user viewpoint?


10:48 am on Jan 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

Out of curiosity, is there any possibility that you could look at relocating your moved content to the old CMS to simplify things for yourself? Since you're no longer going ahead with the move and only 1/4 of the content is relocated returning it to its original location may help alleviate some of your concerns.

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