Delete, Combine or Reoptimize: A Guide to Reworking Old Content

Delete, Combine, or Reoptimize A Guide to Reworking Old Content

If you’ve been following the “content is king” rulebook for any length of time, your website is bound to have hundreds (maybe even thousands) of articles on it. Consistent content creation is a critical part of an overall SEO strategy. However, another critical part is knowing when to revisit that old content.

Not everything is going to age well. Consider how much SEO has changed in the past five years alone – an article that you wrote on optimizing in 2015 likely isn’t going to ring true in 2020. Sure, some rules are timeless – see “content is king” again – but there have been hundreds of updates to Google’s algorithm, Facebook’s image standards, and website schema configurations.

When it comes to old content that is no longer performing well or is outdated, you have three basic options: save and reoptimize it, combine it with like articles or delete it. 

How to Perform a Content Audit

Before you do anything else, you need to perform a content audit. There are a couple of different tools that can give you a really good overview of your content and what it’s doing:

The first two are free and if you’re not already using them, you absolutely should be. They can give you great insight into what’s working and what’s not on your website. Seeing things through Google’s eyes gives you a significant advantage when you’re optimizing your site.

You can use Google Analytics to see important metrics like page traffic, time spent on page, bounce rate and engagement. All of these factors should help you decide what to do with the page. It’s important to look at these factors together to evaluate the page as a whole.

While they each provide information individually, getting a comprehensive look lets you know whether a page is popular but not converting or whether the title is misleading and isn’t getting people to the topic that they’re looking for.

The more you’re able to understand about your page, the better you’ll be able to optimize it!

Google Search Console will show you which keywords you’re ranking for and which pages are ranking for those keywords.

This information will help you break your content down into three buckets: keep, reoptimize/combine, delete. 

The Keep Bucket

Any articles that are ranking in the first or second spot on the first page of Google should be left alone. Those pages are doing their job and are likely very well-optimized – you may even want to take a close look at them to see what you did differently on these pages.

These articles can be great learning tools. Compare them with each other and see what they have in common. Is a certain theme resonating? Are you using headlines that are drawing people in? Is there better optimization on the backend?

When you know what you’re doing right, you can often use the information to replicate success.

The Rework/Combine Bucket

Pages that either used to get good traffic or currently get good traffic but aren’t converting or have low engagement rates are ideal candidates for reoptimization, especially if they’re on the first or second page of Google. 

Usually, these pages are just missing a couple of elements that can drive them to the top and help them perform better. This is where looking at all of the metrics comes in. Are people clicking consistently but jumping off the page too fast? Maybe you need to provide the core of the information higher up in your content.

The Delete Bucket

If a page isn’t ranking, doesn’t have any notable social shares or backlinks and is basically just taking up real estate, it’s time to either fully rewrite an article on that topic or scrap it altogether. You want to be careful about deleting articles, though. 

Check to make sure that other sites aren’t linking to them and that it won’t make any significant difference to your site if you take them off. 

Reoptimizing: 6 Quick Tips

This is where a content analysis tool will come in handy. You’ll be able to view your titles, headers, image alt tags, content length and other quality metrics. Additionally, you can view related keywords and see what you need to tweak to make the content stand out. 

The six top things you should be looking for when considering reoptimization include:

1. Title optimization – Be sure that your title is reflective of the article as well as attention-grabbing. Keep an eye on length, too.

2. Meat and potatoes of the content – A page should be 500 words at minimum and contain 2-3 headers. Make sure that the content is on topic and up to date. This process is also a great opportunity to fill the content out even further.

3. Media – At the very least, the page should have one image on it with a relevant alt tag. However, including other media such as videos or infographics that complement your content can help it rank higher.

4. Linking strategy – Each page should link to a trusted, relevant external source as well as any interior pages on your site that make sense. If you don’t have a linking strategy, it’s important to create one.

5. URL – Your URL should be short and sweet and include the keyword. Beware of automatic URL generators.

6. Create a super page – When you have a topic that you can really expand on to 5,000+ words, you can start pulling real authority in that subject. Creating a super page will help. This page should include as much information on the topic as possible and include images, videos or other forms of multimedia. This content should also be able to keep reader interest and, ultimately, be unique.

Start with these factors. If the page still isn’t performing, you may either need to dig deeper or consider a rewrite.

When to Combine Articles

Over the course of a few years of writing articles, you’ll inevitably write articles that are very similar. The topics may not be exactly the same but if they’re similar enough, combining them can improve their overall authority.

Choose the page that is already receiving more traffic and combine the articles on that page, pulling over content from the other article. Ideally, articles like these will end up being somewhere between 800-1,000 words of high-quality, high-authority content.

Make sure that you delete the post that you pull over to combine and create a 301 redirect to the page that you keep.

Important Things to Remember When Deleting Content

Deleting is a last resort but it’s an important part of the process. You only want to fully delete content if it’s not pulling in much traffic, doesn’t rank highly in Google and if no one will miss the content when it’s gone. 

There are a couple important things to keep in mind when you’re taking content off of your site altogether:

  • You’ll either need to do a 301 redirect to a relevant page or deindex the page. Deindexing is only recommended if there are no other sites linking to that page.
  • It’s a good idea to make a note of the topic for a possible future article. You may find inspiration down the road to create something more relevant on the same topic.

You can learn a lot from content that doesn’t work, too. Was the topic not relevant to your target audience? Were you having an off day when you wrote it and it just isn’t written well? Is the information so outdated that there’s no salvaging it?

Take some time to consider these questions; they can help you make informed decisions about your content in the future.

Well, there we have it – the basics of reviewing and categorizing your old content. You should do this periodically, whether that’s bi-annually or annually, to keep your content fresh and improve your rankings. 

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