Today I set out what I do with content that’s performing badly.
In my recent email with the subject line “What’s the goal of your article?” I talked about how some content will inevitably fail.
Today I want to follow up on that thanks to a good question from a reader.
Here’s the recent question from an FS reader:
“What do you do with articles that bring little to no traffic per month? Do you update them only or do you also merge and delete them?”
This requires a multi-part answer.
Part 1: What I did a couple years ago
A couple of years ago I actually purged some really bad content. It was around the time when bloggers started talking about how getting rid of bad content can help a site overall. I didn’t go too nuts but I did purge about 50 really bad articles. There was no redeeming them. They didn’t target any particularly good keywords. There was no redeeming this content.
While 50 articles sound like a lot it was a very small percentage of the overall site at the time.
IMPORTANT: Purging/deleting content should be a last-resort option. Before purging, you must assess whether it can be moved to a cornerstone or another article or improved and remain a stand-alone. Almost always, less than stellar content can be handled in one or both of these two ways.
Part 2: What I’m currently doing with updating content
Currently, I’m focusing on improving “near hit” content. This is content sitting in spots 2 through 30 in Google for their intended keyword.
I consider this a high-impact activity.
It’s content that Google kinda likes which means there’s hope.
It’s one of those low input, high impact activities.
Realistically, most of it will land below #1. That’s okay.
If it hits the top 30, that means there’s potential.
Potential means it’s worth turning writers and MarketMuse (or SurferSEO) loose on it to improve it. I add some internal links to it, some linkable assets, and additional schema markup if applicable.
I give it the A-treatment.
Then it’s a wait and see again.
How methodical about this am I?
I’m not methodical at all.
I’m an absolute organizational mess.
All I do is fire up Ahrefs, filter out all keywords ranking in positions 2 to 30, and add those to a Google Sheet for updating/improving.
I tend to cherry-pick the keywords with higher search volume since there’s quite a bit there, but that’s about as systematic as I get.
Again, this entire business is a numbers game.
I’m not going to hit #1 with every article I improve.
I’m just doing all I can with the least amount of inputs necessary, to put the ranking odds in my favor.
Part 3: What I’m going to do
Once I’ve updated a good chunk of that content sittin’ pretty in spots 2 to 30 (and there’s a lot of it), I’m going to tackle the content getting little or no traffic.
There are lots of this too.
I will assess each article and do one of the following:
- Improve it only if it’s targeting a decent keyword,
- Merge it with another article, or
- Purge it.
Most of it I will improve but I didn’t always do good keyword research which means I have content that no matter how good it is, will never get much traffic because I didn’t go after any decent keywords.
In this case, I will merge or purge.
If merge or purge, I will 301 redirect that URL to the article I merged it with. In the event of a purge, I’ll 301 redirect to an article on a very similar topic.
My work is never done
The bigger my sites get, the more work I have to do. It will never be done. I will never have a perfect website.
It’s like a building or a house.
If you have a small 1,000 sq. ft. cottage on a small lot, you could probably make it near perfect by yourself and keep it near perfect condition.
If you own a 5,000 sq. ft. house on an acre, it’s nearly impossible to keep it in perfect condition by yourself. Something always needs doing. Sure, if you have $5,000 per month to pay for the help, you can keep it in near-perfect running order, but is that $5K/mo. worth it?
Similarly, if I poured $60K per month into my sites I’m sure they would be in much better shape fairly quickly but I’d lose a lot of money. I doubt the improvements would pay for themselves all that quickly, if at all.
It’s a constant balancing act.
I must do the best I can with limited resources.
I do reinvest in every site every month but those resources are limited.
Even Google has a limit on how much it can reinvest in its business each month.
I suspect Google has a huge “to do” list that it may get to in time, but due to limited resources, must be patient.
Accept that you are never done.
That’s the beauty and the curse of this business.
I like that I always have something to tackle.
On the flip side, there has never been a day in the last 9 years when I could declare “I’m done” at the end of the day.
There will only be one such day and that is when I sell the last web property and retire. That’s not happening any time soon.
As Frank Sinatra sang (written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon):
That’s what all the people say
You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June