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Debating whether to delete poor pages or not

5:36 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

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If you have been running a website for a long time you have probably built up a large number on pages on your site. Some of these pages might have no backlinks and may even have had zero recent traffic. What to do about these pages?

Think about a personal blog that has been posting everyday for the last 10 years. Over time it has grown to over 3650 pages and probably has few links to support that many pages. At what point or in what certain situations is it smart to delete pages?

A few possible reasons to delete pages:
-Your site has limited inbound links, why diffuse that link value amongst unprofitable pages?
-Pages might have old/out of date information that poorly represents you
-Remove distractions so you can focus your limited time & resources on your core money making pages.

A few possible reasons to avoid deleting pages:
-Pages may have no traffic due to seasonal timing
-Rewriting the page can make money, while deleting could remove this opportunity
-You might be breaking up a well themed section of your site.

Personally I do not think there is a simple right or wrong answer to this theoretical debate. Exploring the different options and caveats for this can help us to better understand how to manage our long-term content strategies.

How would you decide to delete pages or not?
5:52 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Most importantly, we have to remember that it is not all about search.

If a page makes my site better but is never an entry-point, it's valuable and I'm going to leave it. If you have 3,600 pages on your site, a good chunk of those are going to fall into that category. Sometimes you have something important to say, but nobody is looking for it. And sometimes you have content that was once topical (and still valuable, like an old news story), but doesn't gather a lot of interest anymore. I'd leave that too.

I guess the only time I would remove content would be if the focus of my site shifted and it no longer fit with the theme, or if I had been hit by Panda and had some low-quality content that needed to be addressed.
6:05 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I'd base my decision on a per-page basis (or per-type of page basis if you can categorize poor pages):

-If you think you can re-write a poor page sufficiently, do it. If not, consider deleting and redirecting.
--Caveat: If deleting page is going to result in a long period without posts on your blog, you might consider just gritting your teeth and trying your best to improve at least some of the posts. That way it won't seem as if you were inactive for a period of time.
-For those pages you think may be seasonal, check your Analytics on the pages, and that should provide insight. If you don't have any stats on the page there, go to Google Trends and see if common keywords from the post have a higher rate of queries at a certain time of year.

As for page with out-of-date information, I think there may be some value in writing an entirely new post on the topic and redirecting or leading people to the new post in another way. In some industries (particularly SEO), this could represent an evolution of knowledge over time. You got it right once-upon-a-time, but now something has changed.

I probably would not delete a page or post due to link value reasons, especially if it's moderately valuable. You may not be seeing a return on inbound links now, but you may in the future.

I'd also be careful about considering a page "poor" just because it doesn't have backlinks. Not every post can be non-fiction Shakespeare, as it were, and not every post will get backlinks. I think people expect that some posts will be lower quality than others, especially on a blog.

But for the absolute worst posts, I'd definitely do something about them. Then move up from there.
6:09 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

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Well for one I think the word delete really means return a 410. Deleting will then cause google to tell ya got a bunch of new 404 pages. Who wants that.

On the topic I would ask this. Is the content (say it is 10 years old) really something I want a visitor to find. Depending on your vertical some 3 year old content is considered old and outdated.

Are the pages worth adding fresh updated content to bring them back to life?

If the content is current and has no links maybe it needs some TLC to get a few.

A couple reasons why I would.
Are there just to many to try updating and the old content could become a drag on the overall site?
The content is really cookie cutter content anyway. You know the real cheap stuff produce in bulk.
6:45 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

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I have to do it on a by site / by page basis.

I just purged a ton of old blog posts from some event sites, because they weren't relevant to my current content. They never really get any links anyway (the events do) and the information out of date (and a distraction), so there were more reasons to get rid of them than there were to keep them.

Most of my events recur; I purge events if I know there's a reasonably good chance they were one-time-only, or have been canceled for good. I will redirect to another event or the location of the event if I have some reasonable alternative to send people to.

Most of my best links go to my home pages or my taxonomy pages, and they're not going anywhere anyway.

On my blog site, I could see removing old posts that weren't relevant, or repurposing them into something worthwhile. I don't post often enough for it to be an issue. Yet.

I'm about to go through and purge a client blog mostly because the primary author (and now ex-employee) was a horrible writer, and the client doesn't want most of that content representing his company. I'll rewrite anything useful (or contract it out) and just stuff the rest.

(By the way, I never throw anything *away* - I just move it out of the way.)
9:35 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

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You could always start a new blog and move your zeros over to that. It's odd but sometimes Google will not send traffic to pages on a site for reasons other than content(off topic, deeply buried in archives etc) and so they get a breath of new life on a new blog.

They will actually get traffic too!
1:15 am on Feb 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Define a poor page!

I have many, thousands, of niche widget pages with hardly ever any visitors however when a project specifier is maybe searching for that specific widget "poor page", I have it.

That is usually a multi-million Dollar order for me, no way am I going to delete those type of pages, they are invaluable to my widget industry for years and years...and for me:-)

Folks...Please remember to construct sites for your business/visitors/market, no one here can tell you what's best for your niche widget sales UNLESS they are in your sector.

IF, IF, you are manufacturer/producer/selling realworld products and not simply a drop/ship site, then never delete pages that could be of value to whomsever.

IF, like many at WebmasterWorld seem to be these days, for a better description bandwagon followers, then delete pages that are not making you any money...wow, the disk space and bandwidth cost must be enormous!

Oh </end sarcasm>
12:36 pm on Feb 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

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I would start with the pertinent question raised above:

Define a poor page!

This can be measured in a few ways - the obvious being links and traffic. But that could lead to mistakes, since there is also potential value in those pages - perhaps if you amended them or otherwise improved their standing (e.g. by making them more prominent).

Of course, the main consideration is what you want to get from the fact of having a page. In many cases this is likely to involve some sort of eventual interaction - be that a sale or even a like, or just knowing that someone has found the content useful or as a historical record. But fundamentally, if a page has no possibility of providing value (however you personally define that value) then why would you keep it?

It's not any different from a store dropping products or ranges because they don't (and can't) serve the purpose intended for them. If you can happily draw that conclusion, drop the pages as they are a waste of resources.

My other comment would be that there is both a cost of creation and a cost of removal (albeit likely to be small cost in many cases). Unless you're talking about removal on a large scale, the net gain is not likely to be very high, so you might end up with an exercise of tidying up for tidying's sake.
7:23 pm on Feb 19, 2013 (gmt 0)


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

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Just off the top of my head....

I would think only pages that reflect poorly on you are worth deleting completely.

Assuming the information on the page still has potential value to someone, why wouldn't you just semi-orphan the page (way, way, way down the navigation path) so that it draws off very little link juice, but still has
- the potential to bring a visitor in by search
- the potential to stand as a "related pages" link to keep people on the site longer.

Or if just make it a pure orphan so it doesn't take a drop of value from the site, but is still there in case there is an undiscovered link out there somewhere (possibly somewhere on your site that will not automatically disappear when you remove the original content).

>>It's not any different from a store dropping products

I think it is. There is a real cost to a store keeping a product in the catalog and there's even a real cost to a library keeping a book on the shelf. For online content though, it's more "catalog" or "index" space (to use the library analogy) that's precious rather than "shelf space" which is essentially infinite.

So really you're curating your catalog more than your shelf space.

>>both a cost of creation and a cost of removal

A cost of removal might be that you have inadvertently created a broken link somewhere else on the site. So if I remove the item from the "catalog", but not the "shelf", it's effectively removed as far as new users are concerned, but at a lower cost in that I don't have to pull a database dump and make sure I've nailed every occurrence of links to those pages.

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