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A health website has 3,000 articles, but about 1,000 of them get less than 10 visits per month. This is mainly because the writers have decided to write about topics that are too hard to rank. The top 500 visited articles have 200 - 7,000 visits per month each.

Question: Does it make sense to delete (and 301 redirect) those 1,000 articles as an attempt to improve the website's "score?" Has this ever worked for everyone?

Most articles are 1,000-2,000 words long, written by doctors and should, by themselves, not be considered "thin."

In best times, the site got several millions of visits per month, now it's only about 450,000. The site got hit by several Google algo updates in last 12 months. I was thinking a lot of low-traffic articles was one of the causes.

Who suggested that deleting less visited pages can help:

  • A known SEO Marie Haynes reported that they completely removed a large forum with a lot of non-visited pages from a website, which then recovered in two years (that was in 2012/13).
  • On the Oncrawl.com they say : "Sections that don’t drive organic visits are not providing any SEO value, so remove them from Google’s index..."
  • Of course, it helps... thin sites get Pandalised. – Simon Hayter Sep 7 '18 at 17:16
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    @SimonHayter why do you think it is thin content...it is written by doctors(unique content)...I don't consider any content as thin even if it get 0 traffic from SERP. – Goyllo Sep 7 '18 at 17:26
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    Jan@are you sure your site is hit by Google panda algo because may be someone just doing better job then your site....You should look more into your search analytic report and position changes over time... – Goyllo Sep 7 '18 at 17:31
  • Goyllo perhaps because she/he wrote the question as Has deleting thin content... also Google has always favoured 'long' content, this is no hidden secret and 1,000-2,000 words are neither thin or long. It doesn't matter how well written an article may be, if no one is engaging then it's not doing any favours for the site. Nowadays, post less often, with more engaging content is the key. Thousands of articles with little interaction is bad SEO. – Simon Hayter Sep 7 '18 at 19:03
  • I'm trying to be aware of the whole picture (keyword stuffing, authority issues, etc.), but here I'm strictly asking about deleting less-visited articles. In both seo and medicine, plain logic can be deceiving, so I'm interested in practical experience. I have Semrush and Google Analytics data available. I added 2 sources above in the article. – Jan Sep 8 '18 at 9:36
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Having low traffic articles doesn't usually hurt sites. This site has 100 or more low traffic questions for each question that gets a decent amount of search traffic.

Unless you have evidence that it is actually a Google algorithm that targets low quality pages, I wouldn't suggest trying to remove thin content. In any case, 1,000 to 2,000 word articles written by doctors don't seem to me like the kind of content that Google wants to target with a low quality traffic filter.

Some sites that have been hit by Panda have used search traffic as a metric to determine which pages are low quality. If you know you are hit by Panda, that makes a little sense. However, from what I've read, a lot of the low quality problems aren't with the content itself, but often from how it is presented. For example, this Moz article lists these problems that cause Panda penalties:

  1. Heavy Template Footprint
  2. Empty Content
  3. Overlapping and Redundant Articles
  4. High Ad Ratio
  5. Affiliate Links and Auto Generated Content

I'd also add "Inappropriate keyword targeting" to that list. That is using high traffic words and phrases in the title that are not fully addressed in the body. For example titling this question "SEO problems" is way too general and would frustrate 99.9% of users that searched for that and landed here.

To summarize, I wouldn't suggest removing content just because it has few search engine referrals. Even if you are hit by Panda, you should fix problems with your template and ads first. Check to see if you titles are too broad. Then look at removing thin content that has low word count, or high bounce rate.

I'm also doubtful that Panda or other thin content algorithms are the culprit at all. I haven't heard much chatter about them in the last year. Here is Moz's Google algorithm change list which doesn't have much about thin content for 2017-2018. Panda rolled out on February 23, 2011. The list does however have the "Medic" algorithm from August 1, 2018 that disproportionately targeted health sites.

  • Your example of "titles are too broad" would be "SEO problems" in the sense it should be more focused or using long-tail kws? About duplicate content: if there are 2 articles on a website with very similar title but both written from scratch (not nearly 95% same code as considered duplicate by MOZ) and they both get lot of visits, can I safely assume they were not hit? And there are <50 articles out of 3,000 that are similar. – Jan Sep 8 '18 at 10:36
  • The title of the article should accurately and narrowly reflect what the article is about. This question is about SEO problems, but most people who have SEO problems wouldn't find it useful. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 8 '18 at 11:42
  • I'm not exactly sure what happened to your site or how you should fix it. From the little you told us, I really doubt that thin content is the problem or that weeding out some articles is the solution. You might find this question useful: How to diagnose a search engine ranking drop? – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 8 '18 at 11:43
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I do not think that simple removal of content is the best solution. This is similar to ignoring the problem in the hope that it can be resolved by itself. If you do not constantly work with website optimization, you can reach a point when need to delete the entire website but not just a portion of the content. Search engine optimization is not an event but a process.

As you know, Google does not disclose the details of its search algorithms, so we can only guess. According to the Search Quality Raters Guideline of Google the website with medical content falls into the category Your Money Or Your Life: YMYL and must meet the requirements Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: EAT. Here's what it tells us:

Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL pages:

...● Medical information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.

And further:

Here are the most important factors to consider when selecting an overall Page Quality rating:

● The Purpose of the Page

Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.

● Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.

● Website Information/information about who is responsible for the Main Content: Find information about the website as well as the creator of the Main Content.

● Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the main content: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.

● High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.

What makes a High quality page? A High quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well. In addition, High quality pages have the following characteristics:

● High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).

● A satisfying amount of high quality Main Content, including a descriptive or helpful title.

● Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.

● Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the Main Content on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.

For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:

● The authoritativeness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.

● The trustworthiness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.

Here you can see the main goal: important for life and your users money information from identified experts who have authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Also here, the goal is to increase the trust and reliability of websites that have an identified person or organization responsible for the website. This goal may be an obstacle to the false information and deceit that is on the web.

How can this information be useful for your medical website?

  • It is probably necessary to indicate on your website full legal information about your business: legal business name, registration number and name of the registration institution, business address, the Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number, the Global Location Number (GLN, sometimes also referred to as International Location Number or ILN), the number of The International Standard of Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC), Revision 4 code, the Lei code as an organization identifier that uniquely identifies a legal entity as defined in ISO 17442, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, the Tax / Fiscal ID of the organization or person, e.g. the TIN in the US or the CIF/NIF in Spain, the Value-added Tax ID. It is not a requirement to specify all of the data, but the higher the level of information the higher the trust to your website.
  • It is probably necessary to state clearly on the home page the person or organization responsible for the content of the website. It will be useful here to create the opportunity to identify this person or organization.

  • If your website represents a business and / or is connected with sales, you should clearly indicate the customer service department and the person responsible for this with his contact points.

  • If your website has medical articles (for example, a blog), then you need to specify the author of each article and create the possibility of identifying this author as a medical expert. For this, it may be useful to create separate web pages for each of your author. On these web pages, create complete information about the author as a medical expert. Create an opportunity to identify the author as a medical expert, for example: indicate the place of his study/training and install a link to a digital copy of his dimloma, create links to awards of him, create links for medical societies, associations and programs in which this author participates, create links to previous author's publications in extraneous websites and so on.

  • The same is likely to apply to your medical staff if your website represents some kind of medical business.

It may also be important how your website is optimized with technical SEO (this is always important): download speed for mobile, information in meta tags, website architecture and hierachic structure of each web page, usability, UX and so on.

Check how your website meets to the requirements Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: EAT and optimize the website in accordance with this.

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