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How to Purge Your Blog of Underperforming Posts – Rich Brooks
The Agents of Change

How to Purge Your Blog of Underperforming Posts - Rich Brooks

Have you noticed that your blog traffic is dropping off? Or that certain posts aren’t bringing in as much traffic as they used to? Perhaps you’ve been blogging since 2005 and you’ve got a lot of blog content that’s no longer relevant.

If any of these sound like your situation, it might be time to purge your blog. Pull a Marie Kondo. Does this blog post spark joy?

I ran this experiment on our own company blog, and although it’s too soon to know if our rankings, traffic, and business have been impacted, the initial signs are good. For a full breakdown of how I decided on which blog posts survived, which ones got redirected, and which ones disappeared forever, check out the full audio of this week’s episode.

But for the highlights, or if you’ve listened to the episode already and you just need the notes, read on….

Why purge your old blog posts?

There is a belief in SEO circles that cleaning up your blog, getting rid of underperforming posts, and focusing on your best work, will be rewarded with higher rankings and better traffic from Google.

Worth noting that Andy Crestodina questions whether that link is correlation or causation in his blog post, The Life Changing Magic of Deleting Old Content.

The problem with digital marketing is that there are so many things we can do with our time. And they all look important. The key to content strategy is prioritization. I recommend prioritizing the things that are working well. Don’t purge. ~Andy Crestodina

However, I had a two week staycation after nine months of working from home during a pandemic, so I decided to go for it. Sorry, Andy!

How did I manage the blog review and purge?

  1. Log into your WordPress admin and go to All Posts.
  2. Sort by All Posts. (Not required, but I wanted to view the blog as an evolution so I started with our earliest blog posts and worked my way forward.
  3. Open a 2nd tab in your WordPress admin for Pretty Links. (There are alternatives, but this is the plugin I use to create 301 redirects. 301 redirects are the most search engine friendly way to say “the content you’re looking for is now over here.”)
  4. Open a 3rd tab for Google Analytics. Go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Choose a reasonable date range for measurement. (I selected the past 5 years and paid close attention to the traffic in the most recent year.)
  5. Open a 4th tab for Google search. 
  6. Have a tool to take notes. (I used Evernote, but you could easily open a 5th tab and use a Google Doc.)

Once that was all set up, I got to work.

I went to the first tab and right-clicked to open the editable blog post within WordPress (not the live blog post.)

From there, I copied the blog slug, the part of the URL that comes after the domain name.

Then I took the slug and pasted it into Google Analytics in the All Pages search bar.

Based on traffic, alignment with our current offerings, and some other factors, I would what to do with each post.

If it was still performing well and in alignment with our current offerings, I would either keep it as is, or make a note that it needs updating.

If it had fallen off in traffic, and there was a better post in the blog on a similar topic, I’d use Pretty Links to redirect the underperforming blog post to the better one.

How did I decide which blog post or webpage I should redirect it to? I went to the Google search tab and entered “site:takeflyte.com [topic]” and then find the highest ranked page that was similar in topic.

If the post had little to no traffic, especially in the past year, I’d just turn the post into a draft to make it unreachable. I could have also set up a 410, which tells Google the page is no more, but it’s not a feature in Pretty Links and I just didn’t feel it was worth the effort.

Some other posts that maybe weren’t in alignment with what we’re doing today but still had some traffic were redirected to the flyte blog home page. Other posts were redirected to our Crew page, our Portfolio page, our flyte school page, and so on.

What Was the Outcome?

By the end, I had turned over one thousand blog posts into just under 175 posts. I invested about 15 hours of my staycation. I took a trip down memory lane. I got a first hand look at how blogging had evolved over the past 15 years.

I have a list of blog posts that need to be updated, and we’re working them into our content calendar now.

I have identified many content gaps that will need to be filled with new blog posts so that we can rank higher for our services and offerings.

Although it’s too soon to see if this had any demonstrable effect on our search engine rankings or traffic, or the most important metric, sales and profitability, our site health ranking according to Ahrefs went from the low seventies to 89 (out of a possible 100.) We’ll see if that translates into better results.

For a full breakdown of the process and to hear other lessons learned, be sure to check out the audio for this week’s episode!