Blog Post

Video Response - Koozai Experiment: Will Deleting Old Content Help Your Website?


Koozai, a digital marketing agency, released a blog post a couple of weeks ago about an experiment they conducted with their own website. They deleted 900 of their old blog posts, based on a few characteristics, including if the posts had any backlinks and how much traffic they were getting. They saw some pretty interesting results, citing that they had a 10% increase in organic traffic after deleting the old posts. This housecleaning experiment could provide some insight for how best to optimize onsite content, but there are some factors that might confound these results. Watch this video response to Mike Essex of Koozai to learn more about the experiment they conducted, the results they saw, and what we think about how small businesses should move forward after analyzing the results.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we’re going to be doing a video response to an update that Koozai Marketing did on their website recently. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. This blog post that we’re highlighting was written by Mike Essex over at Koozai, and we think this is kind of an interesting topic. Just like we’ve done in our previous series, sometimes we come across interesting things we want to share with our community, we want to debate some of the topics, and maybe offer contrarian point of view and get a discussion going. So what they did, and this is kind of interesting Chad, is they decided to delete a bunch of content off their blog--approximately 900 blog posts is what they’re recording on the Koozai website. What Mike talks about is their rationale on why they did that, and what the outcomes were. So I want to talk a little about their process because I think this is interesting, and then pros and cons, and then of course evaluate the outcome, Chad.

Process

So what I thought was cool was they first indexed everything they had, and they had been producing content like a lot of people do who are in the content marketing space fast and furious for many, many years, and they point out, and we agree with this, that the tactics for content creation has certainly changed. A number of years ago you could probably have thinner content that ranked pretty well, but that doesn't work as well anymore. The recommendations on how long content should be have come and gone and changed. I know Moz has weighed in on this, and we've covered that before, what Rand has said the optimal length is, and for a long time he said you don’t really have to go past 400 words--there’s diminishing returns. I think other people think long-form is now better because it’s a signal of quality.

But back to what they did at Koozai was that they deleted 900 blog posts because they felt, well, some of this stuff just isn't as valuable or isn't as effective as it used to be, and they were trying to be proactive, Chad. It wasn't because they had a penalty or any problems. What they were trying to do was just do some housekeeping, really just set up their website for future updates.

Analysis

I thought their analysis was interesting. They looked at blog posts that were too short, you know they were maybe 100 or 200 words, or under some threshold. They looked at blog posts that had no inbound links to them, so they had not attracted any backlinks, and they looked heavily at traffic and tried to isolate where the traffic was coming in on--which blog posts. From there, they sort of went through a weeding out of blog posts that they felt like didn't matter. So I think first off here, Chad, what do you think of that methodology and what they are trying to do here.

Well I think it’s really interesting to look at where you’re getting traffic, and I think it’s far too easy, and we do this on our own website, to sort of forget about content that still is out there and ranking and getting referrals and all of your energy goes into the new stuff. Going back and doing some housecleaning and identifying places where you’re getting traffic and maybe not putting your best foot forward makes a lot of sense.

I think the other part of being proactive and saying, well, we’re worried that there could be an algorithm update so we’re going to go and delete this content, I’m not sure that I would recommend that to people. you know, that’s a lot of effort for something that you’re not really sure is going to actually happen. But in this day and age with SEO, people are worried about what the next big update is. If you’re looking for peace of mind, I can kind of see where they’re coming from. What do you think, Adam?

Well let’s talk about the outcome. Again, this piece over at Koozai I think is really interesting because it had data and we really appreciate Mike for sharing this so publicly, which is why we wanted to highlight it today. So what they saw after they deleted these 900 blog posts was initially a bit of a sag in some of their traffic. It wasn't huge, I think it was 10%-ish, and they said there was seasonality that may have caused it anyways so they weren't sure of cause and effect. That went for about two months, and then on about the third month after deleting the content, they did see that overall organic traffic was now up a little bit, maybe about 10% from where they started.

Our Point of View

So, a lot of confounds, of course, in that sort of data, seasonality, trying to establish cause and effect, and I think this is where the debate begins. I think, Mike, again, we think this is a great blog post but we want to take a little bit of a contrarian point of view in the hopes that you’ll respond and get some discussion about this. If it is the fact that actually deleting the content caused the 10% rise, that might be interesting, but I guess I could easily argue that the time they spent doing this whole analysis could have gone into new, excellent content for content marketing, good promotion, and probably maybe exceeded the 10% increase with an emphasis on newer, trending topics. So, I was interested, Chad, (a) do you think that those results justify the project, and (b) would you have spent that time that way or is there another way you would recommend people go at this?

Well, I’m not sure that Mike had exactly the amount of time they spent and put a dollar value on it, Adam, but I do tend to agree with you that probably the investment in new and better content would--and I think they said they had been doing that already, writing better content, starting in 2011--but continuing that approach would have made a lot of sense. I definitely think that the results are very difficult for you to say whether the 900 blog posts that they deleted, whether that’s statistically significant that his traffic patterns without going back and looking at a lot of other factors. I’m not sure, I think that if anything you could kind of say that it didn't hurt us too bad, but I’m not really sure that it’s enough to say what value you can definitively say you’re getting from that effort in terms of future-proofing yourself against another thin content issue that you might run into down the road with another algorithm. It’s hard to say, Adam.

Yeah, I agree, and the other point I want to offer, again I want to be contrarian here, we hope Mike will chime in with some of his counterpoints, but I tend to believe that Google’s really good at discounting the things that it doesn't want to show to users. So in some ways I think the time spent on deleting 900 blog posts, Google’s already doing that for you. And, unless you’re facing something really draconian like duplicate content, or something super ugly that you did, which is not the case here, we’re talking about within the realm of super good content to just average content. I’m not sure you need to do this. I do think the idea of studying the pattern of where the traffic’s coming from and where you’re earning links is smart, so I like that activity that Mike outlined; but I think I would do that in the context of better, stronger content marketing moving forward and really put your emphasis on promoting that, getting it out to social media, sharing it with your network, getting people to comment on your blog, and then get some spread on it, you’d probably see more than that 10% increase. So, I tend to agree.

Let's Keep the Discussion Going

I’m not sold that you need to go do this and go delete 900 blog posts. I think Google, again for a healthy site where nothing tricky has been done, is probably doing this for you in a non-punitive way. And really, the path forward is probably to focus on excellent content and getting promotion. But we really appreciate Koozai for sharing this, it was a great discussion for Chad and I, something new to think about. The data is always helpful. And, Mike, we hope to hear from you, let’s keep the conversation going.