The Importance of Content Pruning & How to Do It Right
When you think about SEO and content, there is a high chance that you may end up focusing on just one thing – producing fresh content.
But it’s equally important to focus on your “existing content.” This means, removing low-performing and outdated content from your site.
Now, you may wonder, what’s the point of focusing on content that’s already present on your site?
This is because your old content can be negatively affecting your company’s growth. It can be the reason for some of your lagging traffic.
A process called “content pruning” helps remove low-performing and outdated content from your site.
It involves getting rid of content that has no value or usefulness and contains potentially harmful advice. It lets other content, which has potential, to flourish. The content pruning process also helps ensure that your link authority flows only to relevant pages.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the full benefits of content pruning and the steps involved in this process. Let’s begin.
What Is Content Pruning?
Let’s discuss what content pruning is before we move on to discussing its benefits.
Content pruning involves removing or updating content which weighs down a site and hampers its performance. When this dead weight is removed, the website’s overall health increases.
Chances are, you may have heard of the term “pruning.” It is a gardening term that means trimming or cutting back. If you think about it, content pruning is almost the same as pruning a tree. When you prune a tree, you remove the dead leaves and branches. All the tree’s resources then start to go to the parts that you want to grow. This helps increase the overall health of the tree.
Now, you may be wondering, what kind of content is typically pruned? Here is a list:
- Pages with thin content or duplicate content.
- Pages with outdated information.
- Pages that are not or won’t ever get engagement or traffic.
Why Is Content Pruning Important?
Now, coming to the benefits of content pruning. Here’s a closer look:
1. Better User Experience
Content pruning provides an improved user experience to your site visitors. This is because this process lowers the risk of your site visitors finding any confusing or outdated information on your site.
2. Better Content Quality
Content pruning boosts the overall quality of your content by ‘pruning’ the content that doesn’t add any value.
3. Improves Metrics
Because pruning content leads to enhanced overall content quality, it improves metrics such as conversion rate, time on page, and bounce rate.
4. Speeds Up Indexing of Your Best Content
Another major benefit of content pruning is that it results in faster indexing of your best content.
Now, how is this possible?
This is because content pruning ensures that search engines no longer have to sift through old content pages.
Is Content Pruning Required Only for Large Websites?
Regardless of your website size, you would want your site visitors to find useful and updated information, right? Hence, content pruning is recommended both for large (10,000 pages) and small websites.
When Should You Prune Your Content?
Content pruning is not a one-time process. You need to do it continuously.
We recommend that you do it on a monthly basis. Whenever you create a new piece of content, keep an eye on its performance and state.
The reason we suggest you do regular pruning is because you have a lot to gain from pruning content. You must also go for massive pruning exercises once or twice a year.
To do content pruning on a monthly basis, you need to first complete one full content pruning cycle (talked about in the next section).
Content Pruning Process
The content pruning process involves the following three steps:
- Content Inventory: Create an overview of your entire content
- Content Audit: Assess your content’s performance
- Decide the Fate of Your Content: Determine what you need to do with the underperforming content. In this step, you will decide whether to remove it or go for an alternate option.
Step 1: Content Inventory
Make a list of all your content.
Also include PDF files, images, and videos.
Next, supplement this list with an export from your CMS and backlink data from a tool (we recommend Ahrefs). Also include data from Google Search Console, your web analytics tool, and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Note: Ensure you eliminate any duplicates.
After you follow all these steps, you will be left with a list of unique URLs. This is the overview of your content.
Now, for every content piece in your list, add the following information:
- Its target audience
- The goal(s) you aim to achieve with it
- The search queries it should be ranking for
Step 2: Content Audit
You need to carry out a content audit to score how well your content is performing.
Take the final list you have created from the previous step and add:
1. General Performance (visits and conversions in the last 6 months)
For pages, you will find the amount of traffic and conversions in your web analytics tool. For embedded videos, you will find this information in the platform you use to embed the videos. And for downloadable images and PDFs, you will get to know the amount of traffic and conversions if you are tracking clicks on links.
2. Organic Performance (visits and conversions from the last 6 months)
You can find the conversion numbers and the number of visits for all your content types (pages, videos, PDFs, and images) in Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, and your web analytics tool.
3. Social Performance (visits, shares, and conversions from the last 6 months)
You can know the number of likes and shares in a tool called BuzzSumo. For conversions and visits, you can get to know it from your web analytics tool.
4. If It Contains Outdated Information or Not
Use smart search queries in Google to check for mentions of any previous years in your site. This will help you know if your content contains outdated information.
5. If It Has Thin Content or Not
As per Google, thin content is content with “little or no added value.”
You can check for such content with the help of Screaming Frog.
6. If It’s Cannibalizing Other Content or Not
You can find cannibalizing content by looking for pages that don’t have unique H1 headings, meta descriptions, and title tags. Also look at pages that are ranking for the same queries.
7. The Numbers of External Domains Linking to Your Pages, and Internal Links
To find the number of external domains linking to a URL, you can use Ahrefs.
And to find the number of internal links to a URL, you can use Google Search Console. Open it, click on “links,” and choose “Top linked pages — internally.”
After you add all this information, you may find certain content that doesn’t cater to any purpose. For instance, you may get to know that there are different pages that are telling the same story. You may also find pages over-optimized to the point where people can barely read them!
Step 3: Determining Your Content’s Fate
In this step, you need to mark all the content in a spreadsheet that:
- Isn’t getting any organic traffic
- Offers old information
- Is cannibalizing other content
- Shows poor social media performance
- Has thin content
- Isn’t getting any traffic in general
- Has few external and internal links
You can call all of the above “potential pruning candidates.” But instead of going ahead and removing this kind of content, you can also consider making it non-indexable or improving it.
Improving the Content
Check which content you can get back in shape by carrying out some basic on-page SEO. See if you can rework the title, headings, and/or meta descriptions. Also check if you can get rid of outdated sections and add a few sections that are based on recent developments.
Trimming, Updating, and Moving the Content
You can also think about repurposing certain content. All you need to do is trim it, update it, and move it to an FAQ section, for example. Also, if you have a lot of weak pages on the same topic, you can merge their content to make a single, strong page.
Note: In case you have outdated content that you think will still be useful, you can do the following:
- Ensure you let the visitors know the date on which it was last updated.
- Include links of any up-to-date resources you may have.
- Add a disclaimer stating that it may contain outdated information.
Making Content Non-Indexable
There can be cases where the content is useful for visitors, but not for search engines. For example blog tags. When used the right way, they are helpful for visitors to navigate around a site. But the pages themselves offer zero value from an SEO point of view.
A word of caution here. When you decide to get rid of low-performing content, your organic traffic can get impacted. Also, when you disavow links, we recommend that you don’t remove all of them at once.
Wrapping It Up
All set and done, you are now in a more informed position to do content pruning. Carefully follow the steps we listed above (creating a content inventory list, conducting a content audit, and deciding your content’s fate and what to do with it) and you are set to reap the benefits of content pruning!
Content pruning is a process that helps maintain your website and boosts the overall quality of your content. It not only improves user experience but also speeds up the indexing of your best content. Ensure you don’t keep putting it off for later as it can negatively impact your SEO strategy’s success.
A word of advice: Always think ahead and carefully plan your content marketing efforts. This will help limit the need for content pruning.