Content Pruning- Your Guide to Streamlining Content

Content Pruning: Your Guide to Streamlining Content

Have you seen a dip in rankings and organic traffic, or are you simply looking to give your site a spring clean? If so, content pruning is your friend. Time and time again, we’ve seen increased traffic, engagement, conversions and revenue post-content pruning. So if you’d like to know what exactly content pruning is and how you can utilise it on your own site for amazing results, stick around!



  1. What is Content Pruning?
  2. How Content Pruning Works
  3. How Does Content Pruning Help Your Site’s SEO?
  4. What to Consider When Content Pruning
    a) Key Metrics to Determine a Page’s Fate
    b) Keep and Optimise, Redirect or Remove?
  5. Content Pruning: In Summary


What is Content Pruning?

Content pruning is a term we use to describe the process of streamlining a website’s content, in order to improve performance. It’s a form of content maintenance, where any old, underperforming or cannibalising content is improved or removed.

Think of it like a seasonal wardrobe clear out. When you’ve got rid of the pieces you won’t wear anymore, you’ll find it much easier to reach for the ones that you do!


How Content Pruning Works

Recent Google algorithm updates have been centred around experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. This framework determines which websites are rewarded by being ranked higher in search results, based on their credibility and value of their content to the user. In a nutshell, your content has to be helpful and relevant to the user.

Old, outdated (not evergreen) or thin content may not tick these boxes, and essentially weighs your site down, not to mention that it could be cannibalising other pages which have updated, more useful content.

By logically sifting through older content and making data-driven decisions, you can either keep (and optionally optimise), redirect or remove pages. This spring clean will give the pages that warrant their place more visibility, which in turn can lead to increased traffic, conversions and ultimately revenue.


How Does Content Pruning Help Your Site’s SEO?

When information on your site is outdated or no longer accurate/relevant, Google doesn’t consider it helpful or useful to users, and in turn, penalises it by ranking it lower than you’d like in the SERPs.

It could also be the case that your site has two or more pages which are competing for the same keywords. When this occurs, search engines crawlers won’t understand which page to rank, and could end up ranking none at all.

Content pruning makes it easier for search engines to decide which pages to rank for which key terms. The whole process will also give you a much better understanding of which pages you want to rank for which keywords, which will help when deciding on anchor text and keyword clusters for PR campaigns.


What to Consider When Content Pruning

Content pruning doesn’t mean simply removing anything outdated or not up to scratch. In fact, it’s more about consolidating content, updating it, or adding to it.


Key Metrics to Determine a Page’s Fate

When content pruning, you’ll undertake a mini content audit to find out which content is working for the site and what is holding it back. It’s important at this stage to determine what would count as a ‘high performing’ page, which would warrant its place. Is traffic to the page most important, or would you be happy with less traffic but a higher conversion rate? This will vary from site to site, but the question you need to ask yourself is ultimately — is the page doing what you want it to or not?

Here are the key metrics to look into, when deciding your approach for each page:

  • Traffic (organic and overall) – We look at a year’s data to give the page a fair chance and to take any seasonality into account. Don’t write off a page just because the organic traffic is low. It may have a key function on the site as a navigational page, but doesn’t perform organically.
  • Conversion rate – Is the page converting? Or could it be improved? For an informational site, this may not be a key deciding metric.
  • Clicks versus impressions – Are your pages being seen in the SERPs but not getting the CTR you’d hope for? If so, some simple metadata optimisations could be a good place to start.
  • Keywords and keyword ranking positions – Using SEMRush or a similar tool, you can find the exact keywords a page ranks for, and in which position. We find it useful to export all keyword data and sort by search volume (high to low) to spot any potential for quick movement.
  • Cannibalisation – This is a key consideration. Using the data you’ve obtained from SEMRush, is there any overlap in keywords you’re targeting? Or are any pages ranking for terms which aren’t all that relevant to their content and key purpose?
  • Backlinks – Does the page have any significant backlinks that you’d lose if you removed the page?

We’d recommend breaking your site up into sections to tackle a content pruning project. For instance, if you’ve got an ecommerce site, why not tackle product categories first (this is probably where you’ll see the most cannibalisation), then go on to the blog, etc.

We’d also recommend setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of all the data you’ve collected and the decisions you’ve made. Remember to add a column for your notes; your thinking and deliberations are all worth recording, to justify why you did what you did later down the line. Here’s a content pruning template you can use to help you get started. Feel free to make a copy and amend the column headers to suit your site’s specific goals. 


Keep and Optimise, Redirect or Remove?

Once you’ve looked into all of the above metrics and analysed using a human element too (i.e. is there context behind these under performing that the metrics won’t show?), it’s time for some decision making.

Your options are:

  • Keep: These pages warrant their place on the site and target all of the correct keywords. There’s no harm in looking at these pages again, and reoptimising for any high volume or super relevant keywords.
  • Redirect: If the page cannibalises another page, it would be much more beneficial to combine the content into one ‘super page’, and 301 redirect to the most appropriate URL. Even if the page doesn’t cannibalise but it’s not ranking and not bringing in any overall or organic traffic, redirecting is a great way to cut the deadweight and boost your more helpful pages. 
  • Remove: It can be disheartening to see that users simply aren’t interacting with your content, but don’t be precious about it. If a page is simply not performing at all, it will be weighing your site down and there’s an argument to remove it completely.

Remember to keep track of when any optimisations or redirects were made, so that you can monitor the impact of your work. We suggest adding annotations to your site’s Google Analytics, so that it’s easier to report impact on traffic, conversion and revenue at a glance.

Content Pruning: In Summary 

Search Engine Journal summarised on-going content pruning beautifully: “think of content pruning as landscaping: the longer you go in between service, the more weeds and ugly growth have time to take over.”

Content pruning is not a one-off task, but more of an on-going content maintenance strategy. The good news though, is that when you see the results content pruning delivers, it will make you want to do it more and more!


Need some help getting started with content pruning on your site? Or simply want to know more about the benefits it can deliver, with real life impacts we’ve seen our clients experience? Here at NORTH, we offer a range of SEO services. Get in touch and let us tell you more.