Google – Old content is not always synonymous with poor referencing

CNET, the famous technology news site, has recently cleaned up its web pages. The site has removed thousands of pages deemed obsolete or of low quality, with the aim of improving its Google ranking.

But is this strategy effective? What does Google itself think? That’s what we’re going to find out in this article, based on the words of John Mueller, Google’s Head of Webmaster Relations, who spoke about the CNET case.

What impact does deleting pages have on SEO?

This August, many people were surprised to see the famous CNET site delete some of its pages. Naturally, this caused quite a stir, even though the company claims to have done so according to a precise plan.

John Mueller finds CNET’s plan reasonable. However, he says it’s unlikely to have a noticeable impact on the site’s ranking.

In a document, CNET published its plan to remove content that would not be useful or appropriate for their audience.

According to the site, deleted content is content that is out of date or duplicate. These pages could therefore confuse or frustrate users who need fresh content.

On this subject, Mr. Mueller said on Mastodon:

I think their plans are pretty reasonable and well thought out. The effects on SEO are unlikely to be noticeable, but it still seems like a reasonable direction.”

John also explained that“obviously, the plan can be adapted and implemented more radically, but it certainly goes beyond the simple concept that old content means bad SEO“.

Regarding the concept of “old content means bad SEO”, Google recommends not deleting them:

Why is CNET deleting its pages?

The site has decided to remove several of its pages based on criteria such as :

  • Page views.
  • Backlink profiles
  • Time since last update.

Although this action is drawing a lot of criticism, CNET defends itself, writing in an internal memo that:

Deprecating content sends a signal to Google that CNET is fresh, relevant and worthy of being placed higher than our competitors in search results.”

According to Gizmodo Taylor, CNET’s director of marketing and communications:

Our teams analyze numerous data points to determine if there are pages on CNET that aren’t currently serving a meaningful audience.

This is an industry-wide best practice for large sites like ours that are primarily driven by referral traffic. In an ideal world, we would leave all our content on our site in perpetuity.

In summary

It’s worth remembering that deleting content doesn’t always have an effect on SEO. In fact, Google suggests not deleting content on the sole basis that it’s obsolete and could harm SEO. As long as they’re useful, you can keep them on your website.

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