Say What? Cutting Site Content May Actually Help Your Online Store

February 22, 2016 by Leah Na'aman

In recent times, we’ve seen cutting site content become a developing trend in the online world – one that’s favored by SEO specialists in the know. Going against the long-running trend of packing your site to its bursting point with new pages and keywords, eStore owners are now reducing the number of pages they index and cutting low-quality content completely.

When you started out, you probably published many of those pages, thinking it would improve your eCommerce store’s SEO abilities and help you grow your eCommerce business; you may have stocked a larger variety of products than necessary hoping to attract all forms of consumer traffic. Whatever your reasons, you made the decision based on certain facts and now suddenly you’re being told to abandon that logic and backtrack. On top of that, if the process is done badly, it could make things worse.

So why do it?

The short answer is that cutting site content in specific cases improves your Google ranking.

How content is damaging your site

Back in the day, SEO specialists stuffed sites with keywords in order to boost their search engine rankings, creating hundreds of useless pages containing weak content that would register for particular searches.

This inelegant solution did work for a while – that is until Google introduced its Panda Algorithm, which rewarded sites with quality content and penalized those guilty of keyword-stuffing.

While in theory, this was a great move in the fight for quality search suggestions, it made life extra difficult for those running eCommerce sites. Between out-of-stock or discontinued items, seasonal sellers, old sales pages and of course, product pages containing generic manufacturer descriptions, eStores were finding it hard to come out favorably.

Google’s algorithm was designed – and diligently updated over the last few years – to detect quality content in the same way a human visitor to your site would analyze your pages. This means that even if you’re doing things by the book and not over-stuffing keywords, weak or low-quality indexed content can ruin the ranking of your entire site, not just that page.

Cutting Content: Why a content audit should be your next move

Here’s the reality: as you sit there reading this article, your eStore’s ranking ability is dropping due to the fact your site’s index contains poor content. Why would you waste any more time?

Auditing your content will improve your eCommerce store’s overall SEO standing, allowing you to appear higher and more often in search engine rankings, therefore, putting you in a position to attract more customers.

When you perform a content audit, it allows you to identify the pages that are making your eStore look good and those that are dragging it down. By assessing the data from each page and also applying an invaluable ‘human eye’ to proceedings, you’ll be able to decide what should stay, what should be made-over and what needs to go.

The process will not be a quick or simple one – but it is invaluable to your store and every day you put it off is another day you lose potential customers.

What content should be removed and what should I keep?

There’s no set rule for choosing which pages need to be pruned, as each site and eCommerce store is different; however, there are some general guidelines that can give you an idea of what to look for.

Discontinued products

You may have left these pages in your index, assuming that the keywords would help from an SEO standpoint, but it’s actually quite the opposite. No doubt you’ll find that these pages have a high bounce rate and this is bad in Google’s eyes.

Out-of-Stock products (long-term)

Of course it happens that a product may be out of stock for a week or two, but if supplies are non-existent for a significant period of time, you need to give this page the boot or risk it damaging your rankings.

Underperforming content

This could be a product that just isn’t selling or a blog post that people don’t care about. These will be pages with no social shares, traffic or registered sales.

Weak content that serves a purpose

There are cases where a page actually has a function on your site, but is technically poor.

Deep category page with no products

They may have been important at one time, but now they’re just dragging you down.

Duplicate content

This can exist on the same domain, or on other websites. It is a very common problem on a very large scale across the eCommerce industry.

Deleting isn’t the only option: How to prune content

First and foremost, remember that cutting content doesn’t necessarily mean removing it from the site entirely; in fact, there are a number of options available.

Temporary removal from index and/or catalog

This is a great option for a product page or blog post that needs to be rewritten. It’s also a good solution if you have a long-term out-of-stock product page that will return.

Permanent removal from index

For pages you don’t want to be indexed, but that serve a purpose on your site and need to be available to consumers.

Permanent removal from index and catalog

For when you don’t want URLs indexed or accessed by search engines or consumers.

Consolidating two pages

Redirecting one URL to another is called consolidating pages. Consolidating two pages is useful if you have a discontinued product on your site and want to use its SEO powers to direct people to the brand’s updated replacement version.

Consolidating more than two pages

Very useful if you have several blog posts dealing with very similar topics. Simply identify the page that is performing the best, update it with any missing information present in the other pages and redirect the other pages to your one ‘super page’.

How to assess where to start cutting site content

Identify the URLs on your eStore

Screaming Frog is a good site crawling tool for this purpose. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools can also help with this process.

Collect data

There are a number of data-gathering tools online you can use to assess how each page is performing, from SEO metrics to traffic to meta data.

Analyze the content

Once you have the data, it’s time to analyze which pages are doing well, which ones have potential to be better with a little help and which ones need to be scapped.

Develop a new strategy

Now that you have your list, it’s time to put a plan together, identifying which pages now need to be rewritten or consolidated and those that need to be removed.

What now?

Well, now that you’ve followed our guide, trimmed your site and made your eStore the best version of itself, it’s important that you don’t just pat yourself on the back and forget all about it.

This was a monster of a job – we know – but the worst of it is done now. Going forward, you should keep an eye on your eStore, identifying when pages are starting to underperform, updating content with relevant information and running tests to see if there are any page errors. Remember that it’s not the quantity of the content that matters most, but it’s quality as reflected by how users on your site engage with it. So cut away at the content that isn’t performance and grow your eCommerce business.



Leah Na’aman