Before you start, I guess if you read this article, you have already read the previous ones. If this is not the case, here are the links:
- What is the “Active Pages on 1 year” method?
- The main causes of a bad SEO
- How to get a better SEO with this method
So you are here to understand how to deal with inactive pages on a site (generating no visit in 1 year, or very little).
I alert you on 2 major points:
- Before any deindexation or deletion, it is necessary to understand the cause and always try first to preserve the page by improving it.
- Even if the tools help enormously in this type of analysis, it is a human reflection that must have the last word. Do not rely blindly on automated recommendations, it’s up to you to decide.
First, I will start by dealing with some special cases.
Special cases of inactive pages in SEO
I advise to let these pages be crawler and even index, because they play an important role for the analysis of the seriousness and reputation of the site (see EAT analysis ). Some people might even look for them from Google and be surprised not to find them for your site. It is quite common that these pages are active (over 1 year). Finally, these pages probably represent only a very small part of your pages.
Should we delete the old news?
If the user arrives on a very old news but the date is clearly indicated and it is logical that the content has not changed (because it did not require it), I do not think that this is a problem.
That said, it’s up to you to choose, if you want to remove really old news and never consulted, this method helps you to locate them.
If the article is not news but rather advice or a tutorial, it is very different. We could even say that it is the opposite, the age of the article does not play in its favor, especially because the user may have a negative prior to the reliability of information.
What to do (old) discussions of a forum?
More broadly, should we delete inactive pages whose content is generated by the user (UGC)?
Often, after a certain time, these pages generate no or very few visits per year.
Why keep a discussion that had no answer? Or the case of a request for help very specific to a site, solved for years? Or to tackle a subject or techno totally outdated or unused today?
In my opinion, it is mainly a choice of the owner of the forum: does he wish to keep a whole history – in principle, or does he prefer to be pragmatic and remove all that has no chance to interest him? world in the future?
The other problem is the time it takes …
I started doing it on WebRankInfo, but with 1.5 million messages since 2002, it takes a lot of time to “clean up” …
Does the page have a good internal mesh?
In all the audits I did, I noticed that it is still very common that the internal mesh is very insufficient. If you do not make enough links to a page, or poorly done, then the page is disabled from an SEO point of view.
If a page is idle or very weak, check that it has enough internal inbound links:
- if it has only one link, it is often insufficient
- the minimum number of links depends on the size of the site, but try to have several
- as long as you do, check that the anchors of the links to the page are varied (this optimizes for the long tail)
- but above all: avoid that the page receives only one (or more) link from pagination (page 2 and more)
To check all this, if you did an online audit RM Tech , you have all the information:
- the depth analysis tells you if the page is too deep
- it also tells you how much the page receives from backlinks, as well as from separate anchor text
- in the conclusion, the second appendix lists all the internal backlinks follow of all the URLs studied, with the anchor of each. You will know if your page receives links other than pagination.
Sometimes the problem does not come from the content of the page
If the page does not generate any or very little visit to the year, the reason is not always the page itself and its contents. Before considering deleting or de-indexing it, check everything that impacts its SEO performance:
- download speed and full load
- depth, internal backlinks, variety of anchors in internal backlinks
- mobile compatibility
- user experience
- does it have competitors on the same site (“cannibalization”)?
If you have started a RM Tech audit, you already have most of this information for each page.
Correct all these points first, wait a few weeks and then re-run a full audit to see if they are still inactive.
Can the page be considered as a satellite page?
Ask yourself if the page is created primarily for SEO and not to answer a real need of the user or to present your offer …
Is the page part of a (very) large collection of pages built in a very similar way? For example the only thing that changes is the name of a city, and very little else in the content. In this case, we must ask ourselves if these pages are really of a high quality.
See how much Google has indexed from this collection of pages. If the rate is low, it’s a bad sign.
Consider doing fewer pages (grouping them together) but of better quality.
Should I delete the inactive pages?
What to do with each page inactive? Several solutions are possible:
- 📝 improve the page
- 📎 the merge with other pages
- ⛔️ the deindex while maintaining the on-site
- 🗑 remove it completely
- Do nothing , leave it as it is (and hope for a miracle)
To know what to do, you need to retrieve other site-specific data and then make a “human” decision.
Here’s the data I’m used to recovering, and then merging into Excel with RM Tech’s general appendix:
- number of visits to the page (number of times it has been displayed, whether it is a landing page or not, whether the support is SEO or not), so as not to delete a page consulted even if inactive SEO
- number of words or characters of the content (if I can easily know it, for example by my CMS ), in order to refine the evaluation of weak content
- number of responses to the first message when it comes to a discussion
- date of publication or last modification, in order to calculate an age
- type of content (news, tutorial, tips, category of articles, product sheet, product category, classified ad, category of ads, etc.)
- revenue generated or associated with the page so as not to delete a page that generates revenue
- number of sites making backlinks (or other indicators of netlinking) so as not to delete a page having PageRank without knowing it or without redirection
“Zombie” because the higher this index, the more the page is unrecoverable. It is also a reference to a term used by Brian Dean of Backlinko who shares exactly the same vision as me: a site should have a large majority of pages of high quality, active, and very few zombie pages. It’s even the first thing to do according to him in this video .
Several solutions are available to you. A simple enough is to multiply all that is harmful (noted N), to multiply all that is positive (result noted P) and to divide N by P. Then you sort according to this index, even to multiply it by 10000 and hide decimals.
For example :
- N = age_years
- P = (1 + nb_generated_sessions) * (1 + nb_consultations) * (1 + nb_words) * (1 + CA) * score_netlinking
I add “1” for some elements to avoid finishing with zero as soon as I multiply by zero. This formula can easily be improved (give your opinion in comments)!
Now that you have all the information and studied the page, follow this:
Case # 1 if the content of the page is improvable , it is the best thing to do. Fill in the information, update it, check if you are targeting the right keywords and that the semantic richness of the text is superior to that of your competitors in Google, improve the UX , add links to other internal pages , specify your sources (with outgoing external links), highlight the author, illustrate with images or videos, etc. Add inbound internal links and promote them on social networks or in your mailings satellite-feedback.com.
Case # 2 otherwise, if the content is just too weak and other pages are concerned, group them together 📎 . Choose the best of this group (cluster), merge the contents and reformat the final result. Do not forget to remove other pages from the cluster and make 301 redirects to the URL that will group them together. Sometimes, no existing URL is suitable for grouping: you can create a new one and redirect all others to it. In no case should we make massive redirects to the same URL, especially having no content equivalent to deleted pages (the classic move is to redirect mass to the home: error to avoid).
Case # 3 otherwise, if the content can still interest users or generate income, deindex the page but leave it online. Except in special cases, this means that you do not touch the internal mesh: the links to the page remain in place. If you need help, I have a tutorial to learn how to deindex a page .
Case # 4 otherwise, the content is unrecoverable and the page must be deleted 🗑 (and de-indexed). It must therefore return a code 410 . If you can not do the 410, return a 404. It does not change much but it is to avoid polluting your 404 error report in Search Console including. Check that no more internal links are pointing to it.
This article is part of a series on what I have called the “1 Year Active Pages” method :
- this method allows to realize the SEO weaknesses of a site (which often go unnoticed, even among experienced SEOs)
- you will find completely inactive pages over 1 year: you must decide in priority what to do with them, this is the purpose of this article
- it will also attack you pages that generate very few visits per year
- this helps to raise the Google visibility of a site that had too many low quality pages
- but also to further improve the natural referencing of a site that already performs well