We all know that a bit of gentle pruning allows new growth.
The tired, old blossoms fall away, letting the new shoots into the sunlight to be tended and admired.
It’s true of websites as it’s true of a fine clematis – but how do you go about pruning website content?
What content to prune
Pages you’re not linking to any more (like the terms and conditions for an expired offer) should be deleted, not just unhooked from your site’s navigation. They’re not relevant and just clutter up the site map that any web crawler’s going to have to travel through.
If you’re worried visitors will still be following external links to the page, set up a redirect to something else they might find useful, like your latest offer. Make sure you remove any internal links to the page from your site, or send them to the latest offer.
Before you delete the page, check where it sits in your website hierarchy. If it’s been featured very prominently in the top tier of your main navigation, think about how you could just update the content rather than remove it. Check the traffic too – if you’re getting lots of hits, definitely re-purpose the page or go for a redirect.
Pages with low traffic
There’s low traffic and there’s low traffic. 30 visits a day might be huge to a tiny boutique but definitely small fry to a bigger e-commerce venture.
You could argue that all traffic is good traffic so keep an eye on things like bounce rate and time on page. If you’re getting 30 hits a day but no one’s viewing another page or they’re leaving after 10 seconds, ditch it.
Another factor is the time of year: your advent calendars page is going to see low traffic in June but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Seasonality is real and you need to look at your historical peaks and troughs to make sure you’re not removing valuable content.
Pages that are competing with other pages
If you’re blogging regularly, you’ll probably cover the topics of your key sales pages quite often. That means you may be drawing traffic away from a sales page (bad news) or the sales page is stopping your blog post from getting anywhere.
If it’s the first option (i.e. your blog post is getting more traffic than the sales page), try getting rid of the blog post and including that clearly valuable information on the sales page – people seem to love it! If that’s not an option, put a link to the sales page from the blog post.
If it’s just that the sales page is doing much better in search than the blog post (which is the right way round), try expanding the blog post to offer some new information.
When to prune it
It’s generally accepted that little and often should be the approach to website changes. Regularly updated content shows tells search engines that you’re keeping it fresh and giving visitors a reason to return.
Regular reassessing of your site also means you’re far more likely to find copy errors, broken code, old prices and so on.
You can use free tools like Xenu Link Sleuth to find broken links or image tags, which can help you audit your site without having to check it manually. Try to do it once a week so you can pick up problems early.
Now get out your shears and prepare for some careful pruning.
Got any questions? Ask away, dear heart.