Just as we attempt to keep a tree looking great and healthy by pruning its branches, we need to learn the skill on a digital level, trimming the excess from our website content to improve loading times, visual attractiveness and information reliability. When pruning a website we of shave it down to the most relevant pages and cut away the useless phrases to provide a better user experience.
The action of pruning in both arboreal and digital cases has surprisingly similar results:
1. The tree is relieved of branches that block light from the central core – the website is relieved of content that distracts from your core message
2. The tree has damaged, low-functioning branches removed – the website has underperforming areas of text or images removed
3. The tree is clipped and shaped to fit in with the landscape and look its best – the website is redesigned to look great and attract visitors
4. The tree is made healthier through the removal of diseased wood and foliage – the website loads and redirects more quickly through the removal of broken links or heavy data
It is a misconception that, when we consider the relationship between SEO and content, the focus is mainly given to creating new content. Existing content is overlooked and often forgotten. This means it is rarely up-to-date.
In addition to new content, most websites suffer from old news that can negatively influence your Google ranking. The goal of SEO is to convince Google that the entire website is of use to visitors. A regular check as to the relevancy of each page is an important task when maintaining any website of a high standard. Unnecessary or old pages contaminate your site and lower your ranking in search engine results. They must be pruned away.
What content do I prune?
Often, it is just a case of removing a couple of yellowing leaves – perhaps a reference to how vaping has not been proved detrimental to lung health is now out of date in light of more recent research. For visually unattractive sites, entire pages must be removed. Where the forest can’t be seen for the unkempt, spreading website tree you might need to get rid of a myriad of smaller paragraphs or pages which cause the underlying structure to suffer.
In the digital world, all content that has lost its usefulness and relevance needs to be pruned away. From out of date information to pages not receiving visitors, from duplicated content to a near-complete absence of informative content, every page must be considered for its efficiency and functionality towards the overall health of your site. Removing the worthless content also has a positive effect on the link authority of your website. Only the pages with a good link potential remain.
The perfect website only features content that adds value to its quality and ease of use. This content is to the point, does not deviate from a central theme and allows for easy navigation and rapid loading speeds. By pruning the excess content away from your website you ensure that the overall quality of your online presence goes up. Everything that is not useful brings down your quality score.
Content management services maintain your content as well as your product information. They follow a general four-stage journey that ends inefficient content which attracts readers and encourages shares, sign-ups, and sales. For those who manage their own sites, these four stages also apply. At a minimum, basic knowledge of analytics tools and SEO is imperative.
Stage 1: Your Google indexed pages
When Google visits your website for tracking purposes this is called crawling. Only after crawling has occurred can webpage results be indexed and appear in a Google search results listing. Exactly which of your pages Google has crawled is found in your website’s Google Index Status Report. With these results in hand, you can then go on to categorise these pages into good, moderate and bad. Good pages are indexed and should be kept and regularly tested for content quality, moderate pages need adjustment and future testing to ensure the content is sufficient for indexing. Bad pages that are not indexed should be deleted, no questions asked.
Stage 2: Knowing your Google rankings
There are thousands of analytics and SEO tools available – the best of which will identify low-ranking pages and many of these suggesting improvements. Google Search Console and other page rank or SERP (search engine results pages) checkers are all ranking tools which require a little training to get the most out of. However, for a simple check to see if your pruning attempts are paying off, little experience is necessary.
Stage 3: Know which pages underperform
In stage 3, underperformance is not an indication of ranking but the low results of other parameters such as clicks or visitor impressions. With these results, it is possible to determine which pages perform well, which perform in a mediocre manner and which do not perform at all. Good analytics tools also give you insight into the interests your visitors have but require more than basic analytics knowledge. Poorly performing pages need a serious prune before being tested once again to rate their new level of performance.
Stage 4: Remove excess pages from the crawl process
When you have identified those pages that no longer offer added value to your website it is time to prune them away. Often pages need to remain – think of lists and catalogues – but do not contain content that satisfies SEO aims. When removing crawlable content, your goal is to prevent Google from crawling these pages now and in the future. The effects of limiting Google crawls to the pages you know will increase your rankings are positive, immediate and drastic. Reducing crawl times means rankings improve even before any content pruning has even taken place. There are two ways to prevent Google from crawling unnecessary pages:
1. Implementing the robots.txt file (also known as the robots exclusion protocol or standard) to make it clear to Google that this part of the website no longer needs to be crawled
2. Implementing the noindex tag in the metarobots tag to tell the crawler not to index that particular page. Google will continue to crawl any pages linked to that page.
Keeping it short, to the point and simple is a proven content mantra that positively affects Google search ranking results. Content pruning must be an ongoing maintenance task that renders a dependable, reliable and to the point website knowledge base.
Just like trees, websites grow. A new product, the latest blog, backlinks, new office locations, new service areas … the potential to produce an unkempt, slow and badly functioning website is in us all. While website management services can take this additional task from our hands, the opportunity to constantly review the company site often puts us in a position to submit every page through a strict pruning process, once again allowing the light to filter in and highlight exactly what it is we want our visitors to experience.
Through regular pruning of old content and careful consideration of the new, your website becomes an ever more pleasant experience for every target user. You slowly gain a reputation for credibility, authority and a name synonymous with careful attention to detail and keep in touch with your digital persona. Pruning can be a painful process – removing content that has been expensive to produce but does not create the effect we require sometimes requires a reluctant stroke of an axe. Start to sharpen it and be as harsh as you need. Every tree, no matter how perfect or healthy it seems, will benefit from a set of shears every now and again.