So I screwed up. ROYALLY!!
As most of you know, I keep saying that for Google size matters and plan big sites but I went against my own advice. I am working on an 18,000+ page site.
After reading an article of Brian Dean, of how he helped someone improve their ranking by deleting no-traffic pages, I got inspired and did the same. (I’m a big fan of his work and I am sure his strategy works and I maybe didn’t implement it properly). Anyway, I deleted 8,640 pages which didnt get any traffic or backlinks.
[For beginners: Meanings of words used:
- 301 redirect – when you permanently redirect a page to another
- Indexing: Google adding your page in their search results
- Sitemap: a page which records a list of your pages
- .htaccess file: Some complicated file hidden on the server which you can use to instruct Google and other search engines on stuff to check or not check on your site
- Link Juice: The assumed benefit of a link
- DA: Domain Authority, a term coined by moz for understanding the strength of a site. It comprises of many variables including links, etc. The higher the better}
The strategy I used when deleting was:
- I made a list of of all the pages which were either (a) not indexing, (b) pages which were indexed but didn’t get any traffic over the last 6 months and (c) had no external backlinks to them
- I then checked all the pages that were linking to them and removed those links from the pages
- I deleted those links from the sitemap
- I did a 301 redirect from the 8,640 pages to the main domain from the .htaccess file so that in case anyone ever visits the pages they will be redirected and Google knows that its a permanent redirect.
- That the main page will get a boost for its keywords
- The link juice from the main page will trickle down across the rest of the pages and their rankings should rise
- Since there were lesser pages, there should be more external link juice that comes to the main page to share around with the rest of the pages as there will be less external link juice dilution
- I kept in mind that the DA may reduce due to lesser pages and lesser interlinks but I didn’t expect a huge impact
- The average ranking for the keywords fell by 10 positions
- The average ranking for the Top 50 money keywords fell by 40 positions.
Since this is an earning, money site, such a HUGE drop caused a significant drop in earnings.
After two weeks of research and implementation, I am getting the rankings back and I feel that this is a good learning opportunity so I should share it on the site:
The main reason for this post:
There is a vast difference in the fall in the Top 50 money pages and the rest of the pages.
The Top 50 money pages where uniquely positioned to benefit from the link juice of all the pages on the site:
The below is a sample of the positioning of the Top 50 pages in the sidebar:
(above is a random snapshot and not of the real site for privacy reasons)
Since the Top 50 pages got internal links from 18,761 pages, they were dominating the serps with very few external links.
When the number of links dropped from 18,761 to 10,121, the number of internal links to these 50 pages were directly impacted and there was the HUGE drop of 40 positions on an average.
This did not impact the other pages as much as they were anyway not getting too many internal links and the average ranks for the rest dropped marginally by ten positions and are slowly rising back on their own.
- If you want to rank for low competition-high value keywords without external backlinks, if add them to a permanent sidebar which is constant across the site and if your site has a large number of internal pages, you should see a significant increase in ranking.
- If your rank can drop by 40 positions with removing 8,640 internal links, the main reason for Page 1 ranking would be internal links.
- If you are experimenting on something, especially on a money site, keep your experiment small. If I did this experiment with 1,000 pages rather than 8,640 pages, I may not have caused such a huge drop in earnings. Having said that, I would not have been able to prove this theory so in a way my over confidence will help me in the long run (atleast I console myself saying that)
- Internal links matter and the more you have the better. Some SEO experts say that 2-3 relevant internal links are enough. That may be the case, but the more you have, the higher you rank.
- The more pages you have, the more you can interlink. Having said that, don’t just create crappy content pages for a higher DA and more interlinks. If you content is good, you get backlinks too from other sites and social signals which increase the overall site ranking.
My plan moving forward on this project:
Since this is a good money making site, I have kept my other niche sites aside for a while and I am focusing and researching white hat seo techniques for this site to not only bring it back to its earlier position but also increase revenue by 100% within 6 months. So my immediate plan is:
- Reduce the number of pages in the sidebar from 50 to 17 – I saw that if 17 of the Top 50 pages rank in the Top 3 of Google for their respective keywords we can get over a 100% increase compared to the pre-goof up revenue. The below is a bit complicated maths so in case you want a quick gist, increase the number of links to your money pages by reducing the number of money pages. My logic behind this is, that if currently 10,121 pages are linking to 50 pages, there is a significant dilution in the link juice. If the pages are reduced to 17 pages, there will be more link juice for the 17 pages and should help increase the ranking. In theory, 18,761 links (pre deletion) to 50 pages would be ~375 internal links per page. After deletion, it would come down to 202 links per page. If I change the sidebar from 50 to 17, it should increase back to 595 links per page. I apologize if this sounds complicated. Also, please note, this is a “Theory” I am trying, it may or may not work. If you want an update on it, subscribe below and I will send you an email on the outcome.
- 301 redirect from the 8640 pages to the 17 pages individually instead of to the home page: This is something I should have done in the start but was too lazy and went for an easy home page 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is essentially telling Google that you are permanently directing the page and all its link juice to the destination page. So I will be categorizing the deleted pages by relevance and redirecting them to the 17 individual pages. The ones which are not relevant I will continue to have it redirected to the home page.
- If neither of the above to work: If in a month, neither of the above two strategies work, I will revert back to an earlier saved back up and hope to get back the earlier rankings. And then I will focus on external link building. I hope I dont have to do that as I hate link building. Also, I hope that the internal link building will suceed so that you and I can focus on imroving the rankings of our niche sites with great content and internal links rather than depend on backlinks.
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