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Articles that are less than 100 words

     
11:03 pm on Jan 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My site has been around for over ten years. In the early days, I allowed people to post content without requiring a minimum word length. I have 2,000 articles/remedies in the database that are a single paragraph and very short. In total I have nearly 10,000 remedies.

I'm thinking that I should remove the short ones out of my siteMap.xml file that google uses, and maybe go as far as making them produce a 404 error. They would still be available to my users who log in, but for they would "disappear" for the google bot. Google constantly pushes how content should be useful to the reader. And, even though the short paragraphs are useful, it's likely that Google feels otherwise.. Maybe my overall page rank is hurting because of these 2,000+ scant articles?

Do you agree with me? Should I remove the short entries? Or leave as is?

Thank you
11:10 pm on Jan 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unless you are seeing any loss in ranking, I'd leave it alone. True "legacy" and "evergreen" articles, regardless of length, generally have value. If you go changing things now, you might send a signal to g that "something is going on".
1:31 am on Jan 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Would it be more useful to readers if these short articles were sorted into categories as closely as possible and combined? Depending on your site structure, it might be easier to 301 half a dozen short articles to one more thorough article, even if the short articles are presented separately on one page.
2:38 am on Jan 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Do these article currently
- have links?
- rank for anything?
- have any traffic?
- have traffic from organic search?

If you answer yes to all those, then they might be working for you. If you answer no to all those, well...
3:53 am on Jan 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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maybe go as far as making them produce a 404 error. They would still be available to my users who log in

I hope you didn't mean serving an explicit 404 to the Googlebot-by-name, because that's a textbook case of Cloaking and could backfire pretty badly. If you want them to remain available to registered users, why don't you just noindex them? (Clicking on a search result and landing on a logon screen does not create happy new users.) That's assuming your users still have alternative ways of finding the content.

:: vaguely trying to remember how Google's index handles the 401 response ::
11:36 pm on Jan 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It's only shown to logged in users, so s/he should be fine. But yes, ideally you would serve up a 403 for those pages, not a 404.
8:04 pm on Feb 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I just had someone register on the website because they found one of the short remedies in bing.com. So maybe search engines don't mind too much that they are short. Thanks for all the suggestions.
 

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