With the frequency that Google updates their algorithm, it’s easy to forget about older updates that had a dramatic impact on SEO. Five years ago, Google’s Panda update sent shockwaves through the Internet by ripping many high ranking websites from their perch atop of organic search results. With Panda, Google sent a message that content for content sake alone wouldn’t be enough to improve a website’s search ranking, and that featuring poor quality content would actually lower a site’s search authority.
While Panda’s focus on high quality, original content has forever changed the way many websites create content, the vestiges of the updates still exist in Google’s current algorithm as it continues its mission to scour the web for pages that don’t meet its standard for quality and to penalize sites with substandard content.
Some believe that older content on websites doesn’t really matter because Google’s algorithm knows that older content is typically ignored by readers and is less irrelevant from a search ranking perspective. However, many within the search marketing community would disagree with that opinion. Poor quality content, no matter how old, does hurt a website’s ranking, and will continue to do so for as long as it remains on your site and is accessible through a Google search.
For many small business websites that never got around to purging old content, they may be sitting on a fortune worth of lost SEO value they can reclaim with just a few clicks.
In the days before Panda, the common SEO practice was to write short, informative blog posts of about 500 words or less that were filled with relevant keyword terms. In today’s current SEO climate, posts of 1,000 words barely make the cut, with the ideal word count sitting closer to 1,600, according to Medium. In fact, studies that have examined posts found in the top 10 search results for a variety of topics discovered that the word count averaged closer to 2,400.
Identify What Needs Fixing
If you own an older website, you could be facing the daunting task of going back through and evaluating hundreds or potentially thousands of blog posts. Chances are you’ll find a significant percentage of these posts to be under the 1,000-word threshold. If you don’t feel like going through each post individually – and who could blame you – there are some alternatives.
Panguin, a tool created by Barracuda Digital, taps into your website’s Google Analytics to scan your search traffic history. The app compares the traffic recorded on your webpages with the known dates for Panda, Penguin and other algorithm updates from Google. Any page Panguin detects that suffered a significant drop in traffic will be flagged for you to review. Unfortunately, the app only works for pages that were added to your site while Google Analytics was active.
Fixing What’s Broken
When you find older content that doesn’t meet today’s current standards for quality, you need to take action. However, you have a few options when deciding what course of action to take:
Evergreen content can be rewritten. Topics that relate to your business or niche that remain as relevant now as when first written can be fleshed out with more detail and updated. So, for example, you can take your old 500-word post about widgets, update and add new material to transform it into a 1,500 or 2,000 word post you can then boost through social media channels.
Combine smaller posts on the same topic into one larger post. One great way to utilize this approach is with old FAQ posts. If you separated your questions and answers on a similar subject into different posts, you can merge them all into one more in-depth post that better meets today’s SEO standards.
Redirect older posts that relate to newer, more updated content. If older posts contain information that’s a functionally shorter and less valuable version of a better, more recent post, redirect the old posts to the new URL. Redirecting helps to preserve the value any older links possessed.
Delete older content with no value. Posts containing little relevant information that would be worthless to rewrite today have little value. While it might be painful, deleting these old posts will prevent them from doing any damage to your website’s SEO.
There’s nothing wrong with deleting old or out of date content. If there was the phone book would have been hundreds of thousands of pages long. Eliminating old content or rewriting, rerouting or improving it can drastically improve your websites search rankings. Not only will the process help to reclaim older traffic, it gives Google a better overall impression on the quality of your website.