Out with the Old: How Content Pruning Boosts Your SEO


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-evolving field with one constant: search engines love relevant, fresh content. More content equating to better SEO is only true if that older content is still relevant.  Migrating years’ worth of old news could hinder your new website from growing.  So, whether you’re getting ready to migrate your website to a new provider or if you want to do a better job at ensuring you keep the best SEO scores you can let’s explore how a spring cleaning of your site’s content can positively impact your SEO.

Understanding the Impact of Outdated Content

“Outdated content” is no longer accurate, relevant, or valuable to your audience. This could range from old news articles, event announcements, old service descriptions, or any other page that you can see does not work toward your online goals. The presence of such content can:

  1. Dilute your website’s relevancy: Outdated content can confuse search engines about what your website is about, making it harder to rank for current topics.
  2. Impair user experience: If users stumble upon old posts that are no longer relevant, it may lead to a poor user experience, increasing bounce rates and reducing the likelihood of return visits.
  3. Hinder crawl budget: Search engines allocate a crawl budget to each website. They’re only going to go back so far anyway. Older content will consume part of this budget and potentially diminish more relevant/newer pages.

A case study by Search Engine Journal demonstrated how removing nearly one-third of content from a large, well-known site led to a 22% increase in organic traffic. The outdated and irrelevant content was removed because it wasn’t receiving traffic.

Another example is detailed in a Google Search Central post where Google encourages site owners to focus on high-quality content, which can involve pruning or improving older, lower-quality posts ([Google Search Central Blog] ()).

How to Safely Remove Old Posts and Content

Removing content is not as simple as looking at publish dates and hitting the delete button. You’ll likely be safe to do this with older news and event posts. Any other older content, like Evergreen content, requires a more strategic approach to ensure that the SEO benefits are maximized and that any potential negative impacts are mitigated.

  1. Conduct a content audit: Identify content that is outdated, underperforming, or irrelevant. Tools like Google Analytics can help by showing which pages have low traffic or engagement.
  2. Assess the quality of content: Use metrics such as bounce rates, time on page, and conversion rates to determine the value of your posts to your audience.
  3. Check for backlinks: Before removing a page, check if it has valuable backlinks. Using tools like Ahrefs or Moz’s Link Explorer, you can see if a page is contributing to your site’s domain authority. You should not remove pages that are linked to other pages. Links to missing pages can hurt your SEO scores.
  4. Redirect if necessary: If a post is outdated but has valuable backlinks or traffic, consider redirecting the URL to more relevant or updated content using a 301 redirect. If you are using a popular content management system like WordPress, there are plugins available that can facilitate this.
  5. Update rather than delete: In some cases, it might be beneficial to update a post with current information rather than remove it, especially if it’s performing well in search. Only update the copy, not the URL.
  6. Remove with care: Once you have decided to remove a page, make sure to update your site’s map accordingly. Additionally, it’s important to keep an eye on your site’s performance to ensure no unexpected drops in traffic.
  7. Inform Google: After making significant changes, use Google Search Console to resubmit your sitemap and request reindexing of your website.

In BBC’s pruning experiment, they removed over 10% of their content, leading to a notable increase in their organic visibility. They also witnessed a drop in crawl errors, making their site more efficient for search engines to index.

In another instance, HubSpot decided to either update or remove older posts with little to no traffic. This resulted in a double-digit percentage increase in organic search views for the updated articles.


To maintain strong SEO, it’s crucial to regularly audit and update your content. Updating your website’s content regularly can improve its search engine rankings and overall performance.

Remember that content is not just about having more; it’s about what you have to offer to be fresh and relevant to your audience so they visit often and share it. In the world of SEO, quality usually trumps quantity. A leaner, more relevant website could be your ticket to higher visibility and increased traffic.  And more traffic equals more revenue opportunities.

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