I've inherited a site with about 15,000 pages going back 16 years. Often current events are outranked by previous events. What are the best techniques to make sure that I'm not fighting against myself while still keeping old content (the long tail eh?) available to search engines?

Currently 50% of the site or less is data driven.

  • Just to clarify, previous years' events are ranking higher then the current years' events and that's not what you want, correct?
    – John Conde
    Oct 25 '10 at 3:48
  • Correct. Think of it as a university/academic site that also has perfomances. Two examples: a band performed this summer and last visit in 2006 was outranking us. Same goes for archiving of past classes/programs/faculty.
    – furtive
    Oct 25 '10 at 4:17

You can:

  1. Add a big link at the top of every old page linking to the corresponding current events page - this will let visitors easily find the current page and signal to search engines the new page is the important page.

  2. Submit an XML sitemap to all the major search engines, sitemaps have a priority field that let you specify what are the important pages.

  3. Add <link rel="canonical">(explanation of link rel canonical) to the old pages to tell the search engines to go to the newer version (use with care, this is not the purpose of canonical so it may have side effects, it may get your old pages de-indexed, it may transfer rank or not, it's also quite possible it will do nothing and for all I know there's a chance it will cause flying monkey to burst out of your screen on the next Google algorithm update)

I would do the first 2 and wait for a few weeks to see it it helps, don't do point 3 unless you really want to, I'm leaving it here for completeness only.

  • 2
    That's not the proper use of canonical. That will cause the old pages to be deindexed and only the new pages will show up on search engines. Oct 25 '10 at 7:32
  • Lèse majesté - Thanks, I've updated the answer, I know this is not the purpose of canonical but it will do what the OP wanted - to move all the ranking from the old pages to the newer pages (if Google chooses to honor the tag at all)
    – Nir
    Oct 25 '10 at 7:44
  • OMG, I never knew that sitemaps had a priority field! Thank you!
    – furtive
    Oct 25 '10 at 16:08
  • @furtive - be careful how you understand the priority field though, as it's only used in a very specific scenario when displaying search results. Oct 25 '10 at 20:18
  • +1 for the first two points, but regardless of what "the purpose of canonical" is, furtive wants to keep the old content indexed so you definitely want to ignore canonical. Oct 26 '10 at 9:38

I would not try to "kill off" traffic to the old content. I would link to relevant new content in the old content that's getting the traffic.


Do your URLs contain the date in them? IE example.com/awesome-event-2009 If they don't and are just event pages IE example.com/awesome-event I would move the old content to a new archive page and put this years content on the page that is already ranking well with a link to the archive at the bottom.

This way you don't have new pages trying to out rank old established pages, and it works better for the user because they can bookmark that one page and always return for the most up to date info on the event.

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