The following is a Facebook post from Casey Markee on the topic of deleting vs. re-writing content. We've republished it here with his permission.
It's amazing how much incorrect and just plain WRONG information about Google, content, and auditing exists out there.
And yet Google has made clear statements that show, clearly, WHY and WHEN removing content benefits the site user and their algorithms.
Hopefully, this can clear up some of that misinformation.
TL:DR -- Yes, removing content that is thin, low-quality, or expired is recommended and WILL help you generate more traffic by making it easier for Google to crawl and find your best content algorithmically.
First, I have audited 500+ food, DIY and lifestyle blogs in the last 5+ years alone. The vast majority of these blogs have deleted cumulatively THOUSANDS of posts and have, in turn, experienced paradigm shifts in overall traffic increases.
Go read the reviews on my Facebook page. Talk to Nagi with Recipe Tin Eats. Read my content presentations here which cover this issue in more detail:
Some bloggers just accumulate a ton of "cruft" or low-quality content that no longer matches their niche, consists of expired giveaways has clear spam signals or is just not worth "reworking" for their current audience.
Deletion of this "cruft" is easier than attempting to update and republish these en masse in many cases.
Think of your site as a garden. The "low-quality" content are your weeds. The "higher-quality content" are your flowers. If you do not PULL THE WEEDS in a garden they can kill your flowers. It's the same with site content.
Because Panda, Google's main content algorithm works on the PAGE LEVEL but scores on the HOST-LEVEL. Meaning that if you leave a ton of low-quality content on your site or just don't "audit regularly" then that can bring down the quality score of your entire site. This is not debatable. Google has said this.
Here is a direct quote from John Mueller with Google talking about content auditing where he says that for many bloggers IT IS NOT PRACTICAL to improve all content and REMOVING THAT CONTENT would be a better use of your time:
"It should, it should. I mean especially if this is content that you don't want to have index because you know it's low quality. Then removing that does help us to understand the rest of the site better. And it's something that I suspect is not just theoretical. Like I've seen various presentations at conferences where people are saying I removed I, don't know, one third of my site and the rest of my site is ranking a lot better because of that. So that's something that's certainly an option."
John continues on and says that Google doesn't like to tell people to remove content because THEY CAN SCREW THIS UP but then he finishes with this statement:
"From a practical point of view, of course, like depending on the site, the kind of content you have, sometimes you can improve it, sometimes it's just low-quality cruft that you've collected over the years that doesn't really make sense to improve on a kind of point by point basis."
I think the above is pretty clear. Your goal with your site is to make every page THE BEST IT CAN BE so that it stands competitively on its own merits.
As such, sometimes, that may mean just NOINDEXING or DELETING some of your older content from years ago that you know is either terrible in comparison to what is out there or you just do not have the time to "invest" in making it match your current more "high-quality content.
Now, in my audits I teach a bucket approach to content and that is detailed in the resources above. I ALWAYS ADVISE TO SALVAGE AND REPUBLISH AS MUCH CONTENT AS POSSIBLE. But some things are best deleted.
But bottom line: YES, content auditing works, it should be done REGULARLY and there are clear competitive advantages in Google (and for your audience) to do be doing this at scale.
I hope that clears up some confusion. Good luck out there!
So how do you find low quality content? My first step is to head to Google Search Console, view your "Search Results" for the past 12 months and sort by clicks ascending - which are pages that get the lowest number of clicks from Google.
Note: it's important here to sort by 12-months (1 year), because a lot of content is seasonal. Just because your Christmas recipes received no traffic in May-June-July, doesn't mean they won't receive traffic in October-November-December.
You'll notice a lot of these are the old "blog pages" which we recently recommended moving away from.
Next up, you may see some paginated categories. Here again, we recommend setting your category pages to display 20 posts per page to decrease pagination, and splitting categories once they hit 20 posts to eliminate pagination altogether.
Doing this also reduces the click depth of your formerly buried posts, which should give them a little boost in search engines.
Per this post on categories, make sure you're adding 3-4 sentences to each category so that they're not thin-content pages.
Finally, there are going to be the posts. Some of these you'll want to rewrite, but many would be best being entirely deleted (and serving a 410 content deleted header). You have a limited number of hours, and salvaging unimportant posts isn't a top priority. Here's where you start to "bucket" your content:
Bucket #1 – Content I’m going to keep. Maybe looking at it I know I haven’t touched it years, it has thin content issues, no process shots, no demonstrated expertise, etc. This is content I just never gave Google a chance with. I’m going to republish this.
Bucket #2 – Seasonal content. This is content that shouldn’t generate traffic right now. It’s holiday related or there is a “just in time” component here that is resulting in the content generating no traffic. I’m going to note this and UPDATE it as it because seasonally relevant. Right now is when I would be looking to focus on Halloween and Fall-themed content as an example.
Bucket #3 – NOINDEX/DELETE. This is content I just know has no place on my site. Maybe the recipe has no chance or ranking because of poor previous KW research. Maybe it’s an expired giveaway or an old sponsored post? Maybe it’s a personal post about the family, an event or a blogging conference. In most cases we NOINDEX personal content and DELETE mostly everything else.
Setting a threshold
How many clicks do you set as the cut-off? This is going to vary from blog to blog, and even as your site grows.
If you're doing 1 million visits per year across the blog, a page that gets 100 visits may not be that important.
But if you're only getting 10,000 clicks per year, 100 visits is almost 1% of your total visits.
At minimum, anything getting less than 20 clicks per year is on the chopping block.
There are going to be exceptions to this as well: your "about me" page may not get that many visits, but is still an important part of the blog and shouldn't be deleted.
Check against Google Analytics
While some pages may not get a lot of clicks from search engines (which is all that Google Search Console shows), they may still get a lot of pageviews.
These pages contribute to your site by increasing pages-per-session and decreasing bouncerates: they're actually useful pages for your visitors. Don't get rid of these.