At State of Search this week, I asked Gary Illyes from Google about the issue surrounding removing or noindexing low quality content versus leaving it or improving it. It has been a long debated topic from SEOs, especially for those sites suffering from Panda issues.
I specifically asked about whether or not noindexing low quality content would improve the rankings on the remaining higher quality pages on the site, and it seems as though simply removing low quality content isn’t necessarily the “quick rankings fix” many assumed it was.
Its not guaranteed that you will see any positive effect from that. Basically if you have lots of crappy content pages and hopefully you are not going to rank for those pages, but if you do and you noindex those pages, then you are lowering your own traffic by noindexing those pages.
I don’t like the idea of noindexing pages, I would much rather see site owners improve the pages that show up in the search results. For those that don’t show up in the search results, those are not indexed, and if they are not indexed then typically they are not affecting your site.
This is something I also recommend – before removing content, check to see if there are any visitors to those pages and if there are Google search referrals to them. If there are, Google considers them high enough quality to at least include in the search results.
He does state that there are exceptions, such as if a site has been hacked and injected with a bunch of spam.
There are corner cases – for example of there are hacked pages, those will absolutely affect your search presence. Otherwise I would clearly work to improve those pages.
So removing low quality content won’t result in the fast fix with increased rankings across the rest of the site.
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Marie Haynes says
This is such a controversial subject. We’ve discussed this before and I do really feel that some sites can improve by removing content from the web.
I think that the problem is in knowing what content to remove. I see people going crazy removing thousands of old articles that once were valuable. That’s not likely going to help.
But, to me, in some cases it really does make sense to remove content that is not helpful to anyone. For example, some CMS’s will produce tens of thousands of pages with a single image, or review pages (where the review also exists on the main page) or dynamically generated pages that try to rank for every keyword under the sun.
Noindexing content like that just makes sense to me. These are pages that can’t be improved upon.
To me it doesn’t sound like Gary is saying that you’ll never get a ranking boost by removing thin content. He did say that it’s not a quick fix and that’s true. If you have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of crappy pages and you remove those it’s likely going to take months for the algorithms to recognize that the overall quality of indexed content on your site will improve.
With that said, Jen was there with Gary and I was not. 🙂
I do agree with Jen’s comment that we should not be removing pages that are getting visitors from search.
I felt compelled to leave a comment on this article though as I feel that the title should perhaps say, “Removing Low Quality Pages Won’t ***necessarily*** Result in Sitewide Google Rankings Boost”. Again, I still think it is important to remove thin pages, especially those that appear in large quantities. But it is important to know what should be removed and what should stay.