Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. As an avid gardener, both indoors and out, I’m always searching for how to improve how my garden grows. As a search consultant, I am always looking for how to improve a site’s organic search performance. The nexus of these two quests lies in the site’s content.
Search has become content-driven. Google is hungry for quality, fresh content and rewards it in the results; but, like a garden, content must be pruned.
Like amateur gardeners, many site owners have added loads of evergreen content to their sites and layered more content on top of even more content. It is sometimes lost that each new layer of content must balance and play off the existing content; otherwise it can obscure and diminish the desired result. The site can easily become — in gardening terms — overgrown.
If you have added extensive content over the past two-to-three years, it is probably time to step back, assess organic search results and prune your content. You may even need to reorganize some pages and site areas so that they are more visible, just as a gardener moves a plant to improve its exposure to sun and moisture.
Here are some suggestions for how to prune and garden your content:
Content Pruning Differs From Content Curation
Content curation involves the process of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds a specific subject matter. It does not specifically involve the generation of new content. The activity of content pruning is somewhat different, in that it specifically addresses content created to improve search performance.
Why Prune Content?
Pruning, in gardening parlance, is clipping or cutting away of branches, buds and leaves, both living and dead, that sap energy from the plant. A properly pruned plant grows healthier and stronger. Because SEO content is developed to support traffic to specific pages, SEO pruning can yield a page that provides a stronger set of search signals and yields improved performance.
When and How to Prune?
Your business cycle will set the proper time for SEO pruning. It is not a task that should be undertaken during peak sales season. Schedule it for off-peak times.
Begin by evaluating how long your so-called evergreen content has been sitting without being critically evaluated for how well it is performing. For each page and section, ask yourself:
- Is the page being found for your keyword targets?
- Does it compete with another page on your site?
If so, then some serious pruning needs to be done. You may find that the page simply needs to be tightened or freshened. If it has links, check if any are broken. If so, then these need to be fixed immediately, for broken links are deadwood. Do you have newer, stronger imagery that can add impact? If so, this is the equivalent of enhancing new growth in a plant.
For a large site with a substantial amount of older evergreen content, the results can be startling. If you have done the process critically and removed the deadwood and made the main thrust of each page, and by extension each site section, more clearly defined, you will be sending a clearer set of search signals. Watch the results and just as with gardening, you will enjoy a more bountiful harvest of search traffic.