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You have to cut your content, prune, merge. This process is called content pruning in English. This way, you fight keyword cannibalization, and you strengthen the good content to score better in Google. How do you prune that content now? Where do you start?

Why content pruning?

There are actually several reasons why you should prune content.

  • prevention of keyword cannibalization
  • keeping your content up to date
  • exclude  thin content

According to some, your crawl budget would also be a reason.

Don't you keep track of your house and garden?

You don't want clutter in your house and an overgrown garden, do you? So keep it up to date by tidying up, regularly getting rid of things, and pruning plants, bushes, and possibly trees. That is exactly what you do with content pruning. The English word  pruning also  means 'to prune.' So that's what you are going to do with your content.

For this reason, among other things:

Content pruning against keyword cannibalization (decades?)

If your website has been around for several years, you run a great risk that there are pages that compete with each other. These pages overlap in the main topic or sub-topic and therefore score on the same search terms. There is then keyword cannibalization, in good Dutch 'search term cannibalization ' (or ' keyword cannibalization, 'but I don't think 'keyword' is such a successful concept ). You don't want to compete with yourself, which can even have negative consequences for your SEO. You don't have to. We will discuss how that works, how you detect it, and how you solve it.

Efficiently keep your content up to date.

"Google likes fresh content." Oh? I think that's way too black and white. Your visitor likes fresh content. Or maybe not. However? Just think to yourself: if you read a good piece, in fact, it doesn't matter how old it is. Maarrrrr: it must be relevant and correct in terms of content. And yet: if you see a date in the search results that are older than 2 years, what do you think? So it is good to keep your content up to date. And actually, last on that date.

In fact, you will also have regular pages where there is no date in the search results. Then this is not an issue at all.

But still: current content

Be that as it may, with content pruning, you can update your content. Whether it delivers fresh content for Google or simply pleasant for your visitor, just go ahead and do it. Because: your content will age anyway. Bet you don't actually find any lyrics from a few years ago to peek at? Or that something has changed so that what it says is not (completely) correct anymore?

If you do it for your SEO ...

And if SEO should be the reason: if you regularly improve your website, the search engine bot will, in any case, come by regularly. Not that it necessarily helps you get higher in Google, but it does help the search engine recrawl and index your pages. And if you keep improving your web pages, it can certainly have a positive effect.

Excluding thin content: good for SEO

You may also have heard the term thin content. Thin content; pages with very meager information. You probably also know that you want to read a piece with anticipation and then think: "a waste of my time, learned nothing new." And although content pieces are often long, length is, of course, not the measure of good content. Above all, assume the best content that you would like to read for yourself.

And be honest: if you read back some of your old pieces, are you really proud of them?

For me, that was the reason to delete or rigorously rewrite some of my first blogs.

So prune your content.

Time to really dive into content pruning: pruning your content. Because you also want things not to be overgrown, don't you? Remove bad content, update outdated content and turn multiple articles that may or may not partly overlap into 1 powerful article.

How do you go about it?

You now know the reasons, so how do you proceed if you cut back on your content? You do not want to let it be at the expense of your findability, and if you are not very involved with SEO yourself, are you not putting yourself in trouble? A few steps in which you can use both paid and free tools.

1. Map your pages and their findability

First, you want to avoid losing findability. Especially when you are going to delete pages, you do not want to miss out on visitors. Unless they are not relevant visitors to you. For example, I am also found on several search terms that do not really bring me visitors who may become customers. It's a more common consumer issue, but I like to help others, and if those articles contribute to it, that's fine.

How do you discover this findability? With tools such as:

In any case, you want to be clear which pages rank on which search terms. Then you can also determine whether there are pages that rank for the wrong search terms, for example, and adjust accordingly.

2. Determine which pages are competing with each other

You also want to know which pages rank on the same or almost the same search terms. This way, you can merge them or adjust them in another way to make the correct page rank for a specific search term. If the search engine does not understand which page is exactly what it is, you are competing with yourself in Google, which can hinder your findability.

3. Determine which pages should rank for which search terms

Now that you know where things are going wrong, you can determine which page should rank for which search terms. Note: a web page can rank on multiple search terms, and that is not wrong. You now have the search terms. Put them on the page that should score on them.

Since backlinks are still essential to your SEO, you don't want to lose backlinks. So you also check whether there are backlinks to those pages. Some free tools you can use:

* Mangools tools can be used free of charge for 10 days, after which there are various subscription options.

And also various paid tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic, and Moz. Preferably use a combination of at least 2 tools, so you get the complete picture. Not every tool is up-to-date, and every tool sometimes misses something.

You see 6800 backlinks in LinkMiner from 419 referring domains.


Ahrefs has 2360 backlinks from 309 referring domains.

Ubersuggest found 1 914 backlinks on 474 referring domains. So map it out with all those tools before you start with content pruning.

Make sure you know which pages you are going to work with already have backlinks. Should you delete or merge a page with another page under a different URL, please ask the website owners or editors to update the link to the new URL. A redirect is also a solution, but you'd rather have a good link right away. The redirect will be discussed in a moment :-).

 5. Delete, rewrite, merge

Now you know what to do. However? You have given your content pruning hands and feet. You know which pages you are going to delete, rewrite, update and/or merge. So you are going to do that now. Feel free to take your time, step by step. It doesn't all have to be immediate.

6. Provide redirects

Pages that disappear or pages where you change the URL can cause website visitors to end up on a non-existent page. Whether that is because they think they are going to that page via an external link or because they have saved that link themselves or whatever. That is a disappointing experience, and you want to avoid it. Changing the backlinks is the first step, or actually the second. You prefer to create a redirect immediately.

Prevent cannibalization within your own SEO: content pruning

Have you become inspired to get started with content pruning yourself? Could you pick it up? You have a step-by-step plan that you only have to implement. Do you have any questions, comments, or additions? Be welcome to share it below.

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