We have a website with about 5000 pages.

1000 of them have high quality content. The other part is pretty bad : it's basically just category listing pages, with basic "generated" content. We have about 20 different descriptions (150 words, with a few variables), so their similarities are very high.

We created these pages in 2013-2014, thinking that it may help us get long tail. It kinda worked, as those pages attract about 20% of our users today.

But we realize that these pages might be the reason the website doesn't rank as much as it should on the "high quality" pages : compared to our competitors, we have good metrics in the "technical" seo aspects. We also have good internal linking (no more than 4 level deep), and very good, high-authority backlinks. But we're stuck on page 2, or the bottom of page 1 for at best.

So we're thinking about removing these pages, but we're not sure on how we should do it :

  • Go hardcore, and remove all the pages. 404 everywhere. Or even 410 for those that we don't want to create content in the future ?
  • Remove only the pages that drive less than x visits a month, with 404/410.
  • Remove only the pages that googlebot visits less than x times a month. 404/410.
  • We could 301 redirect all these pages to their "parent" category. Either all of them, or only those that doesn't rank, or only those that googlebot doesnt visit often.
  • Keep all the pages, but with "noindex" (but that would still use crawl budget ?)
  • Kill the pages gradually : instead of removing 80% of our pages at once, we could remove x% every week for a few month ?

Do you think removing the pages will help ? If so, what do you think is the best way ?

  • 1
    Those pages will always use crawl budget. Googlebot will continue to crawl them even if they are 404. A several year old site should get plenty of crawling to handle thousands of URLs, so it shouldn't be a problem. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 23 '18 at 12:19
  • Your last point looks to be most valid. Instead of killing all of the at once, remove few pages per month. That way you will also be able to analyse if that helps in improving the ranking. Also, when you remove the pages try and compensate the internal links on those pages from other pages if possible. That way you will maintain the internal links count. – zipkundan Nov 26 '18 at 5:46

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