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Content Pruning: What Is Is, And How To Do It Successfully

Did you know that deleting content on your website can increase traffic?

I know it sounds super strange, but it’s true. Please keep reading to discover why this happens, what content to delete, and how to do it.

The process is also known as content pruning.

What is Content Pruning?

When you think about content and SEO, the first thing that comes to mind is creating new content.

Yes! But you forget about your existing content and its impact on your website’s SEO performance. But why am I saying this?

When Google looks at your website, it gives it a content score. This content score is average on all your content based on numerous parameters, but the general thing is how well it performs in the SERP.

That means content performing well in the SERP and getting traffic is raising your content score, whereas content not performing well in the SERP is lowering it.

You want to have the best possible “content score.” One way to do this is to delete obsolete content. This is where content pruning comes in.

It involves updating or removing content that slows down your website and prevents it from performing well. You increase your website’s overall health by removing all the dead weight.

Think 🤔 of it as pruning a tree: removing dead branches and leaves to increase its health and ensure the energy is distributed to the parts that need new growth.

I did this for my website a while back and saw an uptick in my traffic.

Currently, I’m optimizing all my old content and deleting any content that no longer makes sense to me.

Still, what content is causing deadweight? It is content that has lost its value and usefulness and provides harmful advice to users.

Examples of articles that need content pruning:

  • Website pages with outdated information
  • Pages that are not getting or will never get traffic
  • Duplicate content 

How to Do Content Pruning

I use my Google Search Console and backlink analysis tool for content pruning. The content pruning process has a four-step process:

  • First, you get an overview of your content inventory.
  • Then, you evaluate the content performance with a content audit.
  • Lastly, you decide on the face of the content as different options are available.

So go into Google Search Console, click on search results, click the date button, and click on compare.

content-pruning-google-search-console-compare

Step 1: Creating Your Content Inventory

Before you can do content pruning, you need comprehensive insight into your content.

For this reason, you will need to conduct a content audit to develop a complete content strategy, which will help you identify gaps and potential problems.

If you have a small website with a few pages, you can do it manually. However, you can create a content list automatically using your Google Console or Google Analytics for larger websites.

Once you have clicked on compare, you need to focus on collecting loads of information for each piece of content you have on your site as follows:

  • The URL
  • The Article Name
  • Your Publish Date
  • The Primary Keywords

SEO tools like Ahrefs or Semrush can simplify the process by crawling the content and giving you recommendations.

Step 2: Gathering Your Performance Metrics

Once your list is complete, you must evaluate it to see what is low-quality content compared to high-quality content.

Doing this will help you see how content performs and the value it adds to your site.

You get most of this information using your Google Search Console or Google Analytics.

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Still, the metrics you monitor can vary depending on the goal, but there are vital things to look for:

Visits and Conversion Rate

First, examine how much organic traffic you get on a page and how that number has changed over the 6 to 12 months.

It will help you identify the pages that have low-performing content.

Worthy Note: Your website will naturally drop some traffic, but you should still attract visitors.

Next, you must examine the conversions you cultivated from your page content. You do this by looking at the number of users, clicking the links, or your call-to-action buttons.

Content Value

I recommend you examine the article and blog post and ask yourself if they contain outdated information, such as statements or stats from previous years. Another helpful way to do this is to see if the content is on the thin side, around 500 words. Then, you might need to go into more detail on the topic.

Building a Good Backlinking Network

An important thing to attract organic traffic is an excellent backlinking network.

You need your internal links to help visitors navigate your website and external links from authoritative brands to boost your site’s credibility.

When using the Google Search Console, you should see the internal links to your URL when you click “Links” followed by “Internal Links.”

You will also see the external domain linking to your page using a tool similar to Ahrefs.

You can remove the low-quality page content backlinks now, but be careful not to remove any high-quality links.

Engagement Metrics and Social Performance

An important note is that if your content still gets loads of customer engagement and does not rank on the search engine result pages, it is still delivering value and helping to elevate your brand.

Here, you can use tools like BuzzSumo to see who shares your content online or use your Google Analytics tool. Still, before pruning content on that page, if it has low-level engagement, compare it to your engaging posts and what you are doing wrong.

Other SEO Problems

You can use other SEO-focused metrics to determine if underperforming content needs pruning.

For example, if you notice a high bounce rate on a page, it is a sign the user experience is not the best. The content you deliver might not be what your visitors are looking for.

Even duplicate content from your other pages can harm your score, a process known as keyword cannibalization. Here, I recommend combining the pages.

So, if you examine the above and find that a page has lost 50% of its traffic based on your Google Search Console numbers, you need to do something about it.

This brings you to the next step: deciding what to do with your content. Here, you have three options available. Let’s look at them. 

Step 3: Deciding What to Do With The Content

The final step is to decide what to do with that content if it does not perform well on the search engine.

Still, content pruning does not mean you need to delete the content entirely, but it can be the right choice for some of your pages.

Here are some options for deciding what you can do with your outdated, low-quality pieces to improve content quality.

Refresh and Update to Improve the Content Pruning SEO

Read through your content to refresh it with up-to-date information to give users valuable insights when searching for it.

But why do this? Well, I found it helps me to add valuable content, and I do not need to delete it from the website if it still has the potential to rank or even get traffic.

Here are some tips on how you can refresh your old content:

  • For thin content, you can expand it with valuable insights
  • Update your old statements and statistics to the latest ones
  • With your pruning content strategy, you can implement new search engine optimization strategies and keywords to help encourage growth.
  • You can update metadata, headers, and other SEO information depending on the content type.
  • When done, you can re-promote your content over social media
  • Update article with new videos, pictures, and other multi-media components

Repurposing Content

If you find two articles with similar topics, you can do a few things to protect your SEO.

  1. You can repurpose your content to change it to something different. For example, if you have both articles covering SEO strategies, focus on one for B2B company tactics and the other for B2C strategies.
  2. The second option consolidates the content as one piece instead of deleting it. You can restructure the best parts of those articles to suit your needs. You can even combine multiple pieces of content into a whitepaper or eBook.

Removing The Content

While removing articles is not the only content-pruning strategy, it might be the best solution in some instances. If you notice the content is of low quality, duplicate, or thin, you can scrap it and start with something new.

Pro Tip: I recommend you note that removing low-performing content can impact your website traffic. The best is to remove your articles in stages.

Start with the most problematic content and monitor the metrics before continuing. If it adds value to visitors but is not part of your SEO strategy, you can make it non-indexable.

Step 4: Track and Measure Results

The final step after pruning content is to pay attention to the overall engagement, traffic, and how the search engine rankings change.

You can use tools like SEMRush, Google Search Console, or Ahrefs to see your domain and page authority and see if the content has improved.

After updating or removing content, I found that my website improved after my pruning efforts. But the opposite can also happen. If you notice no positive change, it is a sign that you need to upscale your pruning criteria.

For example, instead of focusing heavily on your keyword ranking, concentrate more on your engagement and the traffic it delivers or vice versa.

Benefits Of Content Pruning

Removing content from your website might seem strange, as “content is king.” Still, content pruning can be very valuable in your content maintenance to ensure you only provide valuable information to your audience to rank. When following the right pruning content strategy, you can:

Improve Your SEO Rankings

Pruning content is also called content pruning SEO, as it directly impacts your ranking potential. Search engines are designed to provide people with relevant answers to their search queries.

So, to preserve quality, the search engine will remove duplicated, outdated, or thin posts.

Refreshing, deleting, or updating a list of content harming your website helps to impact your EEAT score and improve the SEO results to minimize bounce rates.

It Can Help Optimize The Crawl Budget

After indexing your page, it will appear on the search engine result pages.

Still, search engines like Google have a quota on how many pages they can index within a specific time frame, known as the crawl budget.

So, if you do not prune content regularly, you end up with low-quality pages indexed instead of high-quality content that does not appear fast.

Enhance Link Awareness

For brand awareness, links are essential as they increase traffic and overall SEO performance.

For this reason, internal linking helps to connect your pages, adding value to your site. One backlink from a high-authority page can increase your site’s authority.

With content pruning, you remove pages that do not contribute positively. So, you will not worry about deleting essential backlinks harming your site’s navigation.

Content Pruning Efforts Helps Improve Navigation

Another vital aspect is content structure. A study showed that 34.6% of visitors will abandon a site because it is poorly organized. Pruning helps remove clutter and rid your website of low-quality content. Even consolidating articles makes it easier for users to find.

Enhance Your Brand Reputation

The content on your pages influences how visitors view your brand. Your brand might be degraded if you have irrelevant, low-quality, or outdated content.

So, pruning content helps to protect and elevate your reputation.

You will draw users’ attention to your valuable content to improve their customer experience on your website.

More Revenue For Your Business

Content pruning can improve your business’s revenue. I saw an uptick in my web traffic, which led to more conversions.

Perform Content Pruning Periodically

To create the best user experience, do content pruning yearly if your industry is not super competitive; otherwise, do it quarterly.

If you do not have a content pruning strategy in place, here are a few tips to get you started to know you need to prune:

  • You see your organic traffic dropping, or it becomes flatlined
  • You receive feedback that your content information is outdated
  • The pages do not rank on the SERPs with the keywords used
  • Your social media or other engagement channels are waning

Tips to Help Reduce Content Pruning in The Future

While the content pruning process is valuable and crucial, it can also be time-consuming and draining. So, to spend less time on pruning content, I recommend you focus on how to grow your business with these tips:

  • Use content calendars to plan the content you want to produce strategically. This will reduce the production of random content because a specific topic is trending. You will have a handy list available to monitor for your future pruning.
  • Always be mindful when creating content, as some can become outdated faster than others. For example, statistics published yearly need to be updated regularly.
  • Before producing content, constantly research your types of content with relevant keywords to see how the term ranks in organic traffic.

Wrap-Up: Content Pruning

As with plants, if you want healthy plants or trees, you need to prune them regularly. The same applies to a healthy website.

You can do this with content pruning, as quality matters more than quantity. Pruning content should be part of your content marketing strategy.

Audit your content regularly to help eliminate low-ranking content by updating, refreshing, or deleting it if it does not add value for your business or customers.

At first, the process will take loads of work, but it will become easier when you have a content-pruning plan.

If you are struggling with your content pruning or content marketing strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact me for guidance.

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FAQ

What is content decay?

The concept of content decay in SEO denotes the gradual decline in a piece of content’s relevance and value over time. The content may become outdated and less valuable to the target audience as time passes. To ensure the quality of the content, it is crucial to keep track of its decay rate and prune it accordingly.

What tools do you need to prune content?

Access to a content management system is essential for effectively managing your content. Analytical tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console are also crucial.

You can also utilize paid tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Surfer SEO for better content-pruning strategies. These tools are essential for improving your content management strategy and ensuring your content performs well.

How do I prune content in SEO?

Content pruning involves removing or updating articles on a website that aren’t driving positive search results. Audit your content regularly, delete or refresh irrelevant pieces, and avoid low-quality content. This helps improve search engine performance, attract organic traffic, and provide users with high-quality, relevant content.

How can content pruning help your SEO?

To prune content and improve SEO, you must delete obsolete content and regularly optimize the content you still believe in. Content pruning enhances user experience and search performance by removing outdated and irrelevant content, leaving energy and focus on the healthy side. It’s a ‘less is more’ strategy that ensures consumers find the best content you have to offer.

Picture of Phillip Stemann
Phillip Stemann
I'm Phillip, and I've been in the SEO game since 2020, where I took it under the skin. I've grown multiple websites to thousands of clicks, and I'm sharing all my SEO knowledge through my content and YouTube channel. I started as a curious mind at 13 years old, programming and programming for many years before I discovered SEO. I then started with the technical part of SEO as it came naturally to me with my technical background, and then I took on all parts of SEO. I love helping other people grow their websites, and I help my clients do the same.

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