On May 4, 2020, amid a pandemic and general chaos, Google released another update of the core algorithm.
The May 2020 core update was the second core update of the year.
And it came at a time when COVID-19 changed the search behavior of many users dramatically.
Sectors such as media, finance, food, and healthcare saw a surge in website traffic, while travel, transportation, and construction saw a sharp decline.
We have found that this core update is in line with Google's growing focus on high quality content, timeliness and E-A-T.
Google said about core updates:
"They are designed to ensure that we are fulfilling our overall mission of presenting relevant and relevant content to the searchers."
This brings us to the topic Cropping content.
What happens if the information on your website is out of date or is no longer correct / relevant?
Based on what we've seen with this latest core update, your website will likely struggle to rank organic.
If your website contains a plethora of old blog posts, product pages, announcements, etc., now is the time to "crop" it.
In other words, you want Google and other search engines to see the content they can trust – not the old stuff you are no longer proud of.
We always talk about how you can add value to your website.
Now let's talk about removing content as a method of adding value.
It is time to sort out the old and polish up the new, especially at a time when everyone is looking for information that they can trust.
Before we go into the details, let's define cleaning up as a concept.
What is content cropping?
When cleaning up content, essentially poorly performing, outdated content is removed from the archives of your website.
This is the stuff that is useless or no longer relevant.
Your website is currently not doing the content a favor. It is therefore better to reduce the unhealthy growth than to let it stagnate.
Keep in mind that not all old content is bad – some can still be useful and give your website authority.
Content that is out of date, has no timely value, is thin or unpopular, but has no place on your website.
For example, a post on the Vine app (rest in peace) written in 2012 wouldn't have much weight in 2020.
Or a post with tips on building links from 2014 would probably be out of date.
Imagine this content as your own weight.
To improve Google's SERPs, you need to remove the balls and chains that are preventing you from getting leaderboards.
Now "cropping" doesn't always mean throwing old items in the trash.
Cleanup can include consolidating, updating, or adding content.
For example, the Vine article is probably for the trash.
The link building piece from 2014 could probably be updated with new tips and data.
Or you can update it and consolidate it into another SEO-related article that gets good rankings.
Essentially, cleaning up content is about reducing the fat in your content library to ensure that you provide good and timely information.
Why do you need to trim regularly?
When we talk about cropping content, we're not talking about a one-off spring cleaning event. We speak of a continuous, ongoing cleanup process.
Think of cropping content as landscaping: the longer you are in between maintenance, the more weeds and ugly growth have time to take control.
Many companies simply leave old content on their website to collect dust – and their rankings suffer.
Check out the analysis from two of our customers below.
The core update of May 2020 had a clear impact: impressions and clicks decreased after the update was released.
When we tried to understand which aspect of the update affected this client's results, we noticed something: One of the main causes was outdated, thin content.
These are blogs that are shorter and contain no real value or relevant information.
After running a content cleanup session, we noticed that clicks and impressions flatten at their regular level.
However, since newer content will be out of date in the next year or two, this process needs to be repeated to keep impressions high.
As a rule of thumb, your team should probably plan to crop content every two years.
You may need to start with a large plum if you haven't done this in years, but you can then go on cleaning about every six months.
According to SEMrush, 51% of companies state that updating old content has proven to be one of the most efficient tactics for SEO.
If your website has more than 1K pages, you may need to crop every three or four months.
As you trim, keep an eye on your website’s analytics to understand where cleanup sessions best fit your workflow.
The benefits of cleaning content regularly
We believe that Google’s latest core update has required regular content cleanup.
However, we recommend that you clean up old content to get additional benefits beyond search engine approval.
Here are some of the big ones.
Enjoy a better overall quality
Who doesn't want a website? better all in all?
Reduce the likelihood that users will encounter embarrassing old content or information that they are no longer willing to.
Cropping makes you proud of everything on your website, not just the content you publish today.
Promote an improved user experience
When someone visits your website, you want them to immediately find the best information you have.
If you have fewer posts – but those that you like to share – visitors can more easily find the exact resource they need.
Link more appropriately
Regardless of whether you link to external or internal sources, you want to create a link Well Content.
Cleaning up content ensures that you only link between relevant sites that are worthwhile.
Increase your crawl budget
Cropping your content makes it easier for Google Bots to crawl your website.
By removing the "dead weight", Google can index more of your content and make each crawl more meaningful.
As usual in this post, carrying extra baggage on your website will drag you down as you work to get rankings on the SERPs.
How to clean content
Here's how to actually do the content cleaning process.
Step 1: define what you want to check
Some old content is evergreen, which means that it still attracts organic traffic and shouldn't be hacked.
However, it can be updated with new statistics, examples and tips.
However, other old posts can pollute your rank and clog your website with low quality content.
At the beginning of your cleanup process, determine which pages are indexed with Google and which have to be evaluated.
Step 2: Identify your underperforming sites
Note the pages that appear to be performing poorly if you have a good feel about the structure of your website and know what else is worth it.
Regardless of whether they get just a few clicks or are no longer relevant to your website, it is important to understand which pages are blocking your website.
Go through every content on your website and use your best judgment.
Step 3: Gather traffic and backlink data
Don't just assume that you know which pages are underperforming, but do a real analysis to understand traffic and backlinks.
Use metrics from the Google Search Console and Google Analytics or your own analysis software.
In general, if content has stopped receiving traffic / clicks in a year or two, it should be cropped.
Step 4: Decide whether posts should be discarded or improved
Now that you know which posts are problematic, you need to make some decisions.
You have two options:
Both: It is up to you to decide whether your old content should be cleaned up and updated.
Reusing old content is a better time-saver than starting over, but it all depends on your team's goals and workload.
In some cases, however, it may be better to write new content on similar topics, but with more relevant and modern data.
Results of proper content cleanup
Let's look at some of the results that the content cleansing process brings.
We'll look at two big examples: HubSpot and a client for which we've done some content cleanup work.
See how HubSpot achieved results.
The SEO giant deleted a whopping 3,000 old blog posts last year and noticed an increase in its clicks almost immediately.
HubSpot does a lot right when it comes to optimizing for Google, like publishing new content and fixing technical issues.
However, there's no denying that the crawl budget has dropped, clicks have increased, and website indexing is faster than ever. This is most likely attributed to content cropping.
Also, look at the results of one of our customers for whom we ran the content cleanup process.
We saw a 37% increase in organic traffic after pruning.
In just a month, our customer received more impressions and clicks than before the Google update and subsequent cleanup.
We could throw dozens of examples at you, but the point is that there are tons of websites that do great results in cropping their content.
Don't just take our word for it, but do your own cleanup process to see how your organic traffic and impressions change.
While some are wondering if we have the math to really decode Google's algorithms, we do know a few things.
Google is increasingly focusing on accuracy, relevance and quality, as well as the timeliness of the information.
With more inaccurate information on the web than ever before, the search engine is working double to prioritize websites that keep their content up to date and reliable.
If you're wondering how to adapt to the latest core update and your website has tons of content, we recommend cleaning up the content.
Reduce the weight that has held you back and make sure that every part of your website meets Google's latest quality expectations.
Selected image: Created by the author, July 2020
In post image: HubSpot
All screenshots from the author, July 2020