Deleting hundreds of pages of content from our website actually helped our SERP rankings.


Senior Member
Mar 16, 2018
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Our brand, and our founder, are well-known across the state for our over-the-top commercials. As a result, our website is also the most highly trafficked in comparison to all of our competitors within the same regions (according to search data). In fact, most of our competitors will lurk our website and copy many of our SEO strategies (what they can spot at least).

Last year, my IT Director and I took a trip to SMX in Seattle and got to attend a talk with a Disney marketing executive. He mentioned how he was always looking to increase his website's "value" in the eyes of Google.

He knew that if Google wanted to yield search results that quickly answered a users queries that he'd have to create content of value and not just bog down his site with useless pages just "for the sake of adding and creating more content."

He then had his team go through all of their search analytics and data platforms to determine which pages on the Disney website seemed to be unimportant to Google and told them to remove them. The crazy thing is that 90% of these pages didn't even get a 301 redirect. He just straight up 404'd them. His theory was, "If it wasn't important to Google in the first place, then why would you tell Google that content can be referenced on another page? Tell Google it provided no value so we killed it."

The jaw of another guest speaker dropped. She claimed that all of those pages should have been 301 redirected and what he did was a big no-no.

My IT Director and I thought the Disney executive's theory was sound. So we did the same thing and began removing unimportant pages leaving them 404'ed with just a few redirects where necessary, of course.

After spending roughly 4 weeks combing through search data on hundreds of pages on our website and removing pages that received little to no traffic, hits, or click-throughs, we noticed our ranking in the SERPs increasing, our contact forms being filled out more, our phones ringing off the hook, and our revenue increasing.

Was this coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. But we like to think more than likely not.

SUMMARY: don't create content just for the sake of creating content. You're only telling Google, "Hey! Look at me and all of the useless content on my website." Before creating a page, blueprint it. Ask yourself why you're creating the page, what purpose will it serve, and how will it help your visitors? Create meaningful content that Google will want to serve to its users and you'll be golden.
Great share.

However, so I have one question, that the pages you removed must have some links. Some of the backlinks you created must be pointing to them. So after you decluttered your pages didn't your backlinks decreased?

It's a miracle if they ranked.
I too read this in backlinko blog that deleting jombi pages will improve site rankings.
yes, I have seen competiting websites rank with less than half the content- in local seo. Also plenty of local serp results rank with less than 500 words
I posted about this on the forum back in 2016 as I ran a similar experiment on my business site at the time.
Another great article Tommy, but damn it, you beat me to it; I've been planning on writing a guide on this topic here for 3 months! :p

Concerning #3 (redirects), I actually ran an experiment back in April which I documented on my business site that you might be interested in. I basically removed about 200+ articles on my business site that were receiving little to no organic traffic each month (but all of them were indexed and ranking) without 301 redirecting any of them and this is what happened.

For the first two weeks, the site's rankings and traffic fluctuated to the point where it dropped to a historical low. However, and this was unexpected, on the same day Google deindexed the pages I removed, my rankings and site traffic shot up even further than what they were before the experiment. The traffic and ranking increase is ostensibly "permanent" and there wasn't even an "increase in 404 errors" message in my Google Search Console.

Anyway, I'm glad you posted this guide. Many SEOs forget about technical SEO and occasionally on-page SEO, so hopefully this'll help some members improve their tactics.

A lot of white hat SEOs think 404 errors are bad and need to be eliminated completely, although there's even an (older) article on Google's site essentially stating not to 301 redirect a post just for the sake of clearing a 404 error.
Q: How do I know whether a URL should 404, or 301, or 410?
A: When you remove a page from your site, think about whether that content is moving somewhere else, or whether you no longer plan to have that type of content on your site. If you’re moving that content to a new URL, you should 301 redirect the old URL to the new URL—that way when users come to the old URL looking for that content, they’ll be automatically redirected to something relevant to what they were looking for. If you’re getting rid of that content entirely and don’t have anything on your site that would fill the same user need, then the old URL should return a 404 or 410. Currently Google treats 410s (Gone) the same as 404s (Not found), so it’s immaterial to us whether you return one or the other.
  • Fix Not Found errors for important URLs with 301 redirects. While it's normal to have Not Found (404) errors, you'll want to address errors for important pages linked to by other sites, older URLs you had in your sitemap and have since deleted, misspelled URLs for important pages, or URLs of popular pages that no longer exist on your site. This way, the information that you care about can be easily accessed by Google and your visitors.
1. So basically, what's happening is a bunch of junk that added no value whatsoever, confused google as to what the aim of the site was and ultimately undermined the site's integrity, was removed and Google was left with "RELEVANT" content people actually found useful (stayed for longer, looked up more often, easier to navigate, etc)?

2. Or was it that, even if the content that was removed was actually SUPER useful and relevant, but absolutely nobody gave a fuck and you yourself had no use for it (in terms of refering to it as a legit useful source), google was sent better engagement signals with the content that was left and that's what caused the upwards trend in rankings (because now the site seemed more useful as a whole in terms of statistics alone)?

Which one is it?

I feel the future of Google algorithms are going towards the 1st option, but is option 2 currently the black-hat exploit? (black hat, because there's pretty obviously the direct intention of gaming the system rather than supplementing the usefulness of site's content)
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