Content Pruning - Did You See an Increase in SERP Visibility?

Ryuzaki

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#1
So I'm going to write up a big post for my case study about why I'm talking about this later (look for that if you care), but the basic question is:

Have you tried content pruning?

Obviously I want to know about results too. I just read about 10 blog posts about it, with this one from CognitiveSEO being the most worthwhile. It has a lot of case studies in it, but you know how those go. Who knows how much of that is fluffed up or properly isolated.

But they're promising. If you are to take it all at face value, people are seeing results within a month of the pruning.

Some of them:
  • Flat out deleted posts
  • 301'd them around
  • No-index'd the pages but left them on the site and sitemap
  • Improved a handful, deleted others
They range from people cutting their sites from 2000+ posts down to ~70 posts. Some involved cutting 10,000 pages out of the index (eCommerce sites). And some were chopping a site from 100 posts to 50 posts.

What is Content Pruning?

Content pruning is the act of finding low quality pages, whether that be zero serp visibility or traffic, low word count, low value to users, outdated content that won't become relevant, and anything else that can bloat the index like accidental media file pages or search results.

So what's the point of this? I see it having several reasons, some being fact and others being theory:
  1. Better user experience
  2. Less places for juice to distribute and become diluted
  3. Better 'focus' of keywords across the site, tightens relevancy (in my case)
  4. Panda possibly looks at how much crud you have bloating the index and gives an average 'quality score' to your site based on all pages.
My Situation

The basics of my situation is my main site started with an idea that isn't feasible any more, and I also used a certain section to post "easy stuff" in order to keep freshness up. I'm looking at about 300 posts that I plan on cutting down to about 150 posts. Even if I get no results, I'm going for it anyways, because it'll tighten my focus and cut a lot of work off my plate.

All 150 posts of mine are absolutely dead weight. I read an interesting term on that CognitiveSEO post. Someone started talking about "algorithmic drag." They also talk about the iceberg metaphor of how the more ice you have growing at the bottom of the iceberg, the heavier it is and the less mass can pop out of the water at the top.

Anyone dealt with this? I'm going in and will report my results here, but I won't start till mid-December probably. I'm guessing it can get done in one to two days, and we'll see what happens after the holiday dip.
 
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#2
I did this after the first Google update this fall, then moved up big time, then fell down again and currently as bad as the first update.
However, I somehow question how this integrates with the idea of running a blog. Do you noindex short blogposts? Wouldn't that mess with syndication metrics in Google's algo?
I do hear quite a few successful affiliate SEOs in my country talking exactly like that.
 

Ryuzaki

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#3
However, I somehow question how this integrates with the idea of running a blog. Do you noindex short blogposts? Wouldn't that mess with syndication metrics in Google's algo?
What do you mean by 'syndication metrics?'

When I say blog, and for the most part everyone these days, I don't mean like a LiveJournal style of "Dear Diary, today I blah blah and here's my favorite song of the day." I'm talking about business blogs, or at least those intended to provide high value to a large audience, versus one being written for a small group of friends that's far more casual.

Short doesn't automatically mean low quality to me. A short post can be getting 1000's of organic search visits because it succinctly deals with the intent of the search. If I wasn't going in with a broad sweeping axe, I'd get out a fine precision scalpel and look at tons of metrics well past search visits and word count.
 
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#4
Ok, I agree with you there.

Syndication, I'm talking the way the blogosphere and larger news syndication works with a lot of sites, linking a blog post, having an excerpt, maybe adding a few lines of commentary. That's an integral part of the internet right? And I imagine this kind of syndication effect tells Google what to put at the top of trending topics. It could however be construed as prune worthy content.

If webmasters begin noindexing "thin" posts like that, then that might mess with Google's ability to do that. I know it is hypothetical, because most bloggers don't use SEO in that manner.
 
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#5
I straight deleted some posts about 2 months ago and definitely have higher vis. I simply sorted my posts by views (my theme keeps track) and deleted the ones under 300 words. However now I want to go deeper on this, so have extracted views from GA and have them in an Excel sheet.

Don't know if due to this though as Google pushing many updates.

If anyone knows of a method to grab a bunch of URLs from a spreadsheet and bulk change their status (ie to pending) or noindex them via Yoast in Wordpress that would be appreciated. I guess there is a MYSQL query I could work out. At the moment I think I could kill over half of my posts (around 1K posts) and my views wouldn't suffer.
 
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#6
I just went through and deleted about 500 more posts, around 20% of the total posts on this site. I also went back and did a keyword search of the titles and am 301'ing posts I picked up via that to 3-4 key pages on my site. The rest are straight deleted. Let's see what happens...
 

infotech

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#7
My Situation

The basics of my situation is my main site started with an idea that isn't feasible any more, and I also used a certain section to post "easy stuff" in order to keep freshness up. I'm looking at about 300 posts that I plan on cutting down to about 150 posts. Even if I get no results, I'm going for it anyways, because it'll tighten my focus and cut a lot of work off my plate.
What is your promotional to informational post ratio? Back when Fred hit, you suggested keeping something like 1:5 ratio. You'll be pruning promotional & informational post alike?
 

Ryuzaki

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#8
What is your promotional to informational post ratio? Back when Fred hit, you suggested keeping something like 1:5 ratio. You'll be pruning promotional & informational post alike?
My promo to info ratio will definitely decrease but will quickly rise again. These will be all info/entertainment posts that get the axe. It won't take a lot to drive the ratio back up. But even then the ratio will still at least be... 1:3 or so. That'll quickly climb again.
 

Ryuzaki

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#9
It's done. I've officially removed 147 posts from this site. These were low quality, non-targetted, non-evergreen posts that were getting very little impressions in the SERPs and even fewer clicks. A lot of it was seriously trash that was around from the first days of the site when I had different ideas for those posts.

We'll see how it reacts over the next month or two. I'll report as soon as I see some kind of consistent confirmation that my organic traffic has changed (for better, let's hope). The only other thing I plan on doing that's semi-major is adding lazy loading, and my site is fast enough that it won't have any huge impact. As a matter of fact some of the sites doing better than me or insanely slower.
 
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#10
The only issue with reporting results is significant Google updates seem to be happening every other week these days!
 
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#12
Yes, noticed movement today, looked positive to begin with. Crossing fingers it stays that way.