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Should I remove the pages from the site altogether? The pages are program pages with small item - feature - variations. The pages are legit, not created to spam. If I remove them it wouldn't make much of a difference from the user perspective.
However, removing the pages will cause the breadth of the site to decrease and my fear is this may hurt my rankings. All the pages are on topic and themed properly, but apparently not different enough for Google.
On the other hand, I could see by removing the pages it may help as Google will see less supplemental and duplicate content.
Any advise is appreciated.
But, if your whole domain seems to be depressed, then place a robots restriction on the nearly duplicate urls -- or even remove them from your site, since you say they won't affect the user experience anyway. [By the way how does that square with "not created to spam"? Either those urls are there for the user or not, right?]
Some may disagree with my approach, I'm certain of that. I prefer not to get concerned about Supplemental Results if all other signs in the site are healthy. So study the following thread, if you haven't already, and make your own decision:
Supplemental Results - What exactly are they? [webmasterworld.com]
No, my whole domain is not depressed, in fact the site's rankings have been steadily increasing. The rankings have increased, IMHO, due to strong on-site optimization.
[By the way how does that square with "not created to spam"? Either those urls are there for the user or not, right?]
The URLs are there for the user, but were also created to rank for niche terms associated with the site's main theme. The niche terms are searched for and are somewhat unique to the users query. The niche terms and pages add value to the user experience, but as mentioned, I apparently didn't differentiate enough for Google.