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I am working on a client's website. It currently runs on WordPress and has a ton of pages which are badly created keyword stuffed, and not user friendly at all.

Our plan is to completely overhaul the website and delete all pages on the domain.

We are not going to use WordPress and will create pages ourselves.

Let's imagine we have created perfect pages and done everything correct according to the book, how will the removal of ALL the old pages on the WordPress platform affect our ranking?

Will this domain get a bad reputation because of the removal, even though the new pages are perfectly optimized and legal?

  • 3
    Required reading: Cool URIs don't change. – Kevin Oct 1 '15 at 18:13
  • Note: i did this EXACT same thing to my website and i found the smarty template engine (smarty.net) to be really helpful... FYI – DeveloperACE Oct 10 '15 at 22:46
  • @Timothy, how this went? Did you managed to sort things out? – Josip Ivic Dec 2 '15 at 9:03
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    @JosipIvic it went brilliant and we started ranking on page one (bottom) for great keywords within 10 weeks - what does client do? Not prepared to wait another 6/7 weeks to get to the top of page 1, pulls the plug and ends the project. Dumb Dumb idiot. But for future reference this can be done without much harm, I would say if anything it can improve rankings providing new site is better in terms of quality – Timothy Coetzee Dec 2 '15 at 16:06
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Nice question, here are some guides for doing that on that level.

1. CRAWL YOUR SITE

When you redesign your website, there’s a good chance that URLs will change. If URLs change, you absolutely have to inform the engines where those older URLs have moved to. If you don’t, you can destroy your SEO power. All of the equity those old URLs have built up can be wiped out. And when that happens, your rankings drop, organic search traffic drops, sales drop, revenue drops, and heads roll. That’s why understanding all of your current URLs is critically important.

The good news is that there are several ways to understand your current URLs. I highly recommend you crawl your own site, which can reveal many of your current URLs.

2. Perform an Inbound Link Analysis

Inbound links are incredibly important for building SEO power. And, there’s a huge risk in losing those powerful inbound links if you change your URL structure. I highly recommend performing an inbound link analysis to fully understand your link profile. Know the pages linking to you, and where they are linking. Then make sure your developers understand that those pages must be migrated. And make sure you utilize 301 redirects when pointing your old URLs to your new ones. More on 301’s in the next section of this post. There are several tools you can use to perform an inbound link analysis, including Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO Tools. Get familiar with them, and don’t skip this step during a redesign or migration.

3. The 301 Redirection plan

This is the heart of your migration from an SEO standpoint. If there is one thing you need to get right during the redesign, it’s this step. As I’ve explained already, you need to make sure all of your older pages 301 redirect to their newer counterparts. 301 redirects will safely pass PageRank from your older pages to the newer ones, and will enable you to maintain your Search Equity. If you fail at this stage, your trending could very well look like the graphs I included earlier. Don’t botch the 301 redirection plan.

4. Analyze Site Reporting

When redesigning or migrating your website, you should absolutely analyze your current site reporting. Specifically, you can focus on the top content, landing pages, and referring sites reports. They will help you gain a solid understanding of which pages are visited most, which are the top landing pages, and which pages are receiving the most referring traffic. And by the way, if you have landing pages receiving referring traffic, then that means there are external links pointing to those pages.

5. Don’t Drop Optimization During the Redesign or Migration

Imagine you have 500 pages of optimized content on your current website. You have strong rankings and traffic, and life is good. Then you redesign your site, and drop most of your on-page optimization when the redesign is launched. Needless to say, your rankings and traffic could suffer greatly. I wish this was rare, but it’s not. Many times, marketers don’t understand the power of on-page optimization, keyword research performed in the past, uniquely optimized pages, etc. Then the new pages either have the same general optimization across the site, or a scaled down version.

  • Thank you very much for taking your time to provide a detailed answer....So in short you are saying I should use 301 redirects for main pages? The old site has about 300 pages where the new site will only have about 50. What do I do with the rest of the 250 "junk pages"? Can I safely delete them, since I believe they are irrelevant and not good for rankings. Please advice help greatly appreciated – Timothy Coetzee Oct 1 '15 at 9:34
  • The other problem is the old site was running on wordpress so the directories are all screwed. Im really stuck on this one – Timothy Coetzee Oct 1 '15 at 9:36
  • Sure, you can delete "junk pages". That's no big deal. But as me concerned, I'd do a new page from scratch. Gather all data, and do it from bottom. It's easier for me to do that, because I would know every part of page, and where is what. :) – Josip Ivic Oct 1 '15 at 9:39
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    @TimothyCoetzee "...wordpress so the directories are all screwed" - what do mean by this? However, regardless of the URL structure you can still set up 301 redirects as required. – MrWhite Oct 1 '15 at 9:45
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    @JosipIvic what a great answer I fixed something today with 301 Redirects that I should have done so long ago to get the search engine monkeys off my back – zod Nov 9 '16 at 0:28
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In addition to post-launch actions, I don't think you should completely ignore what's already there. You're speaking in future tense, so I presume the new site isn't ready yet; use that to your advantage and do a bit of tidying before you even make the switch.

If you have pages that will have a replacement (to which you'll want a 301 redirect) then take a little bit of time and remove excessive keywords. It's WordPress, so you can probably push this back onto your client a bit. Explain that even 5-10 minutes on each of their top pages will help raise the existing profile enough to benefit the new version of that page when redirected.

If they're just absolutely unredeemable then go ahead and scrap the existing text and give it at least a paragraph or two of better content. Your client must have content prepared for the new site (or at least underway) so go ahead and start dropping that into the old pages.

For URLs that won't have relevant pages on the new site, you can start dropping them early. You can either:

  1. Remove the page and send a 410 (Gone) response for those pages to inform search engines they're gone. This is a quick way to start dropping bad content from the site for pages you aren't going to need.
  2. Add a <meta name="robots" content="noindex" /> for pages required for the old site but which won't exist in the new site.

This may make your switch to the new site seem like an easier transition to both your client and their end-users. It should also help search engines start seeing positive changes early on, meaning they'll want to crawl new changes sooner once you do have the new site launched. As long as the existing site isn't completely pants then the staggered improvement should make the upgrade smoother SEO-wise.

  • Andrew Thank you for your answer. Quick Question if I add <meta name="robots" content="noindex" /> to pages which have already been indexed, WILL THOSE PAGES GET REMOVED FROM INDEX? What is the best way to remove pages from index? – Timothy Coetzee Oct 3 '15 at 6:46
  • That's the idea. It won't be immediate, but it sounds like you have a bit of leeway. – Andrew Lott Oct 5 '15 at 10:07
  • The best way to remove pages from the index is to do 3 things: (1) use the URL removal tool in Webmaster Tools, (2) block them via robots.txt , and/or set the Meta noindex tag on the page. (3) update all internal links pointing to those page to direct users elsewhere – FarhadD Oct 9 '15 at 20:33
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+50

...a ton of pages which are badly created keyword stuffed, and not user friendly at all...

...pages contains junk content and are very similar just differently keyword stuffed on each page...

...Will this domain get a bad reputation..?

...how will the removal of ALL the old pages on the WordPress platform affect our ranking?

After reading your description of the current site's state, i think the questions about getting bad reputation or loosing a good reputation don't match the problem.

  • Could such site have any good reputation? Answer is: no.
  • Has the site any positive ranking, which could get lost? Answer is: no.

Be sure, Google knows much more bad things about this site, as you know, and deleting all pages of this site will not do any thinkable reputation damage - i'm pretty sure, the site has all bad reputation of the world and there is nothing more to loose.

...I would like those pages removed from the index

This could be accomplished with putting noindex with X-Robots-Tag and/or suppressing pages with Search Console API

...All the external links are directed to the index page, there are a couple of real high quality links keep them linking to the homepage

...mozscore of 35 (for what that's worth)

Mozscore is a reflection of the link quality/equity of the site. So the site earns it only with this couple of real high quality links you will keep. The content is worthless.

it would be seen as spammy or foul play by google for 1400 pages just to dissapear... What am I to do here?

To delete 1.5K spammy pages is less spammy as to keep them;) so don't worry. At Google are both people and robots at work:

  • for robots it hasn't much importance - pages come, pages go.
  • For people (human quality rater) deleting of spammy pages, relaunch and improving the quality is understandable and is a step into the right direction.

The relaunch procedure could look like:

  • check, what to keep and what to delete
  • keep good links to the homepage, if good links link to bad pages, redirect them with 301 to the homepage
  • establish new, good url structure and begin to fill it with new good pages
  • set to noindex the old bad pages with the old url structure. In relation like: for one new good page set 10-50 old bad pages to noindex. On this way you achieve, that all 1,5 K pages will not disappear suddenly.
  • set up new sitemap and update it: include in it newly created good pages, but exclude old pages, which you set to noindex.
  • don't exclude old bad pages from crawling (with robots or similar): they should remain crawlable, so Google can get their noindex tags. Check this twice - if old bad pages aren't crawlable, noindex will not work and they remain in index.
  • to speed up indexing of new pages, fetch and render them as Google in your search console.
  • to speed up removing bad old pages from index, use the search console option "remove url", after you set old bad page to noindex.

Don't worry, dude, you will get it. the only thing you could loose is the mozscore, and you keep it with keeping external links to the homepage and/or redirecting external links, which link to the deeper pages, to the new pages.

PS: and, surely, don't forget to give out the correct 404 answer for requests of deleted pages

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So, here's another answer for you.

First things first:

  1. Setup page on your local computer.
  2. Design the page in the way you'll like.
  3. When the process is over put your page on production.
  4. Do the SEO again, reindex stuff, do not care about the links, client won't change domain, domain is what is important.
  5. It won't be spammy or foul play by google, because if site has big traffic, and if they want to redesign it, there are going to be new links. You can't avoid that. You need to tell them that. It's www.domain.com what's important, and www.domain.com that is going to be reindexed again.

They won't be so affected, it's content that matters. Not the link.

If they want to keep the links, you can always do the redirection of that links to another ones, and then, in few days, weeks, you simply delete the old stuff.

I'm willing to help you here more further, just need to see what is your angle of approach to this.

I would design the new page and I'd delete the old one. (don't care about google or seo, I just want it to be more functional than the previous one). Domain is important here. With redesigning the page (especially if it goes from CMS to no CMS site or another CMS) means that you are going to get new links and new everything. If the client wants you to do redesign on existing page, then there are going to be the links that the old page had. If he wants to do it all over, tell him that that's bad idea.

The SEO and Google are not an issue here. The site is going to function normally, just you need some time to reindex stuff.

BUT!

If he wants to have few links from old page, you can put them like that up there. But generally, change the rest.

I'm hoping that I cleared some stuff for you.

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  1. Sort page based on usefulness( visits, user responses , spam factors etc)
  2. Remove spammy pages from google index( slow and painful)
  3. Simply Add a extra information ( Meta Robot - noindex)
  4. Work on best performing pages ( Content + User Experience Factors)
  5. Disavow bad backlinks

Summary is to maximize the best and minimize the worst. This will work.

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