How to Identify & Fix Old Content to Improve Site Rankings

How to Identify & Fix Old Content to Improve Site Rankings

As search and user behaviors evolve, so too do the parameters of what constitutes “good” versus “bad” content. In fact, while content pages that were around 250 words on a generic topic would have been considered to be good about five years ago or so, today that piece of content may end up having a negative impact on a site – especially if that site has a lot of thin, generic content.

One of the reasons for this is that Google is continually updating its content-evaluating algorithms (like Panda) in order to better evaluate the quality content users are looking for. This, in turn, means that having high-quality content across your site can be integral to good rankings in search engines, as well as to the user experience, user engagement and higher conversion rates.

So, if your site is more than a few years old, taking time to do a content inventory and cleanup now can help you position your site for better results in 2016.

Identifying Low-Quality Content

The first step to fixing poor quality, outdated and/or thin content on your website will be to identify the specific content pages that are problematic. When going through the pages, posts, articles and other pieces of content on your website to pinpoint the content that needs attention, here are some red flags to look for:

  • Pages with less than 300 words – Search engines will generally consider these pages to be “light” on content because this type of “thin” content is not typically seen as adding value to the user. Consequently, thin content is usually not ranked favorably by search engines.
  • Poorly written and/or formatted content – Pages that are riddled with grammar errors and typos and/or that are sloppily formatted will also not typically do well with users or search engines. So note these pages as well.
  • Content on irrelevant topics – News stories can make for good content, but once those stories are old news (and no one is really interested in the story or topic any more), the content piece is also no longer relevant (or necessarily valuable). So add outdated content to your inventory also.
  • Pages that have seen big drops in traffic – Another source of problematic content can be pages that simply are not providing users with the information they are looking for. And this can be seen by reviewing the analytic data for a site and looking for the pages that have large bounce rates and/or that have experienced big drops in traffic.

Options for Fixing Low-Quality Content

Once you have an inventory of the low-quality content pages on your site, here are some options for fixing them:

  • Bulk it up – For thin content on subjects that are still relevant, add a few more paragraphs to these pages to make them more substantial. Refreshing these pages by adding more content (and, ideally, more niche content that offers unique insights) can turn light, poor-quality content into high-quality, well-ranking content.
  • Revise poorly written or formatted content to clean it up – For the pages with typos, grammar errors and/or poor formatting, the fix can be to revise these pages both in terms of language and formatting, cleaning up the errors while making the format more visually appealing (by, for instance, adding headings, bullets, etc.).
  • Update the piece with new information – Not all news stories from the past will be irrelevant today. So figure out what outdated content still pertains to topics that are relevant and consider updating these pages with new information.
  • Consider scrapping some content – Unfortunately, not every page of older content is worth saving or fixing, so don’t be afraid to throw out the pages that are simply not worth fixing. After all, it can be easier – and, in some cases, cheaper – to write a new page from scratch (instead of fixing a poorly written, outdated, uninteresting page). So keep this in mind during your content cleanup efforts to make them as effective and efficient as possible.

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