Over the last few weeks, we’ve rolled out some major changes to our blog. For instance, we stripped service-related items from the desktop menu to focus on micro-engagements like social sharing. Although blogs are an excellent source of information, the mindset of a reader differs from that of a shopper. Thus, we strive to differentiate the two experiences in every way possible.
Since our blog contains almost five years’ worth of content, the next feature we want to introduce is a search bar. Considering 30% of visitors to a website use search functionality, we believe this to be a critical navigational element. However, the purpose is to serve useful content; yet when we started digging into our archives, we realized some of the results are dated.
Discovering Some Content Misses the Mark
Many old blogs are no longer relevant. Some still engage trending topics, but many just scratch the surface. Either way, these aren’t articles we want to recommend to new users.
Confident that other companies have faced this problem, we delved into some research. Two cases, in particular, stood out. Koozai, a digital marketing agency from the UK, trashed 900 posts—roughly 30% of their total library. Interestingly, the company had only positives to report. In fact, their search traffic hardly dipped. James Parsons, an entrepreneur and content marketer, did the same. He cut a large number of posts from his blog only to experience a 30% rise in search engine traffic. This happened because the average quality of his website increased.
It seems that we too can do without some of our old posts.
Differentiating Bloat from Recyclable Content
Many things qualify a blog topic as expendable: low word count, poor information relevancy and misdirected SEO efforts.
Back in 2010, most online articles spanned 300 to 500 words. Unfortunately, in time, the internet flooded with short low-quality articles aimed at boosting SEO more than informing readers. To amend the situation, Google released Panda. The Panda update penalizes thin content and gives preferential treatment to substantial articles. Today, the ideal blog weighs in at 1600 words.
Of course, length is not the sole indicator of quality. With more subject matter, though, there is a greater keyword density and more room for in-depth analysis. Above all else, Panda wants comprehensive content.
What does an outdated blog do for your company? It might mislead, misinform, confuse or frustrate users with broken links and missing images. Any such experiences will lead to an inevitable bounce and unlikely return. But such things can be remedied somewhat easily.
For example, you can revitalize old content by updating its information and redecorating its multimedia. Likewise, you can expand or even merge old posts to make them more useful or evergreen. That said, there are cases when an article is not worth recycling. A dead post can be declared so if it meets the following conditions:
- It receives no traffic, few (if any) inbound links and does little to enrich your keyword profile;
- It attracts the wrong readers.
Both conditions relate to SEO in some way. The first likely results from poor search and social placement—no one can find the article.
In your analytics software, a dead article might resemble the dashboard below. You will need another tool like MOZ to track inbound links.
We chose to keep some of the above articles because of their keyword relevance. No longer are they standalone; we’ve worked them into bigger pieces that better serve our keyword profile.
A keyword profile is a collection of short- and long-tail keyword variants a website uses to attract actionable searchers. The picture below shows a free tool for identifying viable keywords. For the sake of our upcoming example, let’s assume your site targets “tennis shoes.”
Some results above suit service pages and landing pages. A long-tail variant for a blog might be “pick the perfect tennis shoe.” Now imagine a blog entitled, “Top Fall Fashions: The Best Dress Shoes of 2013.” Not only does such a topic defy the keyword group, but its usefulness withered alongside the autumn trees of 2013. Such articles are those worth killing.
On our blog, we found a few misfits. We once offered both digital and print services. Thus, we had created some content on logos, business cards and various other print designs. Now such information does nothing for our target demographic.
Other Search Engine Optimization Considerations
One of the largest concerns over deleting blog posts is the loss of inbound links and existing search traffic. We’ve already talked about the existing traffic—some of it is not worth keeping. But for articles that do attract the right readers and referral links, you need to redirect them to appropriate places.
An Overview of the 301 Permanent Redirect
When you visit a website, a server sends the browser what it needs to render it. Every server request returns details like the location of the site, the content type and more. Attached to this data, the server sends a status code. The screenshot below displays a snippet of this browser-server communication. It captures the request that retrieves our web design service page.
In the image above, the 200 status code indicates that the request completed successfully. The green light helps onlookers identify this fact. Other popular codes include 404, 301 and 302.
A 400 response signifies an error occurred (see Blugegg.co.uk above). Common errors include missing data, incorrect request parameters and failed authorization. The 300 series indicate the request location exists elsewhere; they tell browsers to perform the request from there instead.
A 301 redirect is a permanent virtual relocation—a change in the website’s address. For temporary relocations, websites can use 302 redirects. This type of redirect tells crawlers that the page still exists. Thus, it signals to search engines not to de-list or replace it.
Here are some instances besides killing blog posts that warrant a 301 redirect:
- Moving domain names (i.e. “example.com” to “examplewebsite.com”);
- Cleaning up URL structures (i.e. “/blog/this-is-a-good-post” to “/blog/good-post”);
- Removing broken URLs;
- Preventing duplicate content.