Content hygiene refers to the constant maintenance of posts and pages on your site. As time goes by, your site begins to accumulate content that makes it “dated”. Facts that were once true, are no longer so. Comparisons that used to be valid, could do with a refresh. Opinions that seemed correct at the time, might need to be revised. Entire topics and articles that made sense at the time of writing might need to be gutted, or integrated. Content hygiene is important because it keeps your site up-to-date. It tells search engines, that the site is alive, and is being constantly changed to reflect the environment.
A big example is the way articles are written. There was a time when a site could produce “boilerplate” content again and again, and get away with it. These days, you can’t rely on such lazy tactics. We need to be brutal and cut content that doesn’t provide value. Here’s how you do it.
1. Identify Low-Performance Articles
For my site, I use two sources to identify articles that get almost no value. Sometimes, a post sounds like a great idea, but when you finally crunch the numbers several months later, you find that it’s dead weight. The two tools I use are my analytics software and the Google Search Console.
Using the search console, first export a list of your posts and pages into a spreadsheet. Then sort them by “Impressions” or “Clicks”. If like me, you have a large number of articles on your site, you’ll see a long list of them with zero impressions. This means that they haven’t been turning up in the search results for some time (the default past time for reports in the Google Search Console is 3 months). If in three months, your article hasn’t had any views, it’s time you did something about it.
So using this first step, you’ll have a list of articles to work with.
2. Update, Merge, or Delete? Content Hygiene Basics
The second step is deciding what to do with your under-performing content. First, we have to evaluate whether the content is fundamentally sound or not. If it simply doesn’t make sense anymore, then we just have to gut it without apologies. For example, maybe the post talked about an event that never came to pass. Even so, you might be able to repurpose it with some clever wording. But if you can’t, then let it go!
If the content is good, and you feel that it should rank, you might be able to either modify or merge it with another.
3. When (and How) to Modify an Under-performing Page
If you’re convinced that the article makes sense, is well written, and is comprehensive, then you should be able to modify it to improve its metrics. To do this, we optimize the titles, the headings, and do some keyword research to figure out what key phrases the article was originally targeting, and whether or not we can change it to something else.
I’ve got good results with merely rephrasing the title to more accurately reflect what visitors are searching for. Here’s an example of how an article’s performance improved after making the change:
That’s huge right?
4. Merging the Article
Another great option is to merge the article into an existing one that already ranks for similar keywords. Here again, the Google search console is an amazing tool to see which other pages rank for the same set of keywords. Once you’ve identified an article that’s already performing OK, you can merge in the under-performing one at an appropriate point.
Make sure you change the old one to fit in nicely. Remove redundant calls to action or anything else that doesn’t make sense in its new location. And voila!
5. Cleaning Up
After you delete or merge an article, make sure you unpublish the old post so that you don’t get duplicate content on your site. Then add a redirect to ensure that anyone visiting the old page either goes to the merged article, or maybe even the homepage, or something else. Don’t leave your visitors hanging! If you don’t want to use a new WordPress plugin for redirects, I’ve written a tutorial on how to redirect without plugins.
Don’t leave under performing content on your site. Do something about it! Content hygiene is very important to keep your site up to date and ensure that both visitors and search engines are treated to a relevant experience.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!