If your brand has been creating content for some time, you’ll likely reach a point where some of your newer content overlaps with existing content. Or you may have several related, but relatively thin pieces you’ve published. Since many people have been sold on the idea that more content is better, the potential problem here may not be obvious.
If left unchecked, this may create a situation in which you have numerous pieces of content competing for the same search intent. Most of the time, Google’s algorithms aim to show no more than two results from the same domain for a given query. This means that, while you’re probably already competing against other businesses in the search results, you might also be competing against yourself and not showcasing your best work.
Why content consolidation should be part of your SEO strategy
Consolidating content can help you get out of your own way and increase the chances of getting the desired page to rank well in search results. It can also improve your link building efforts since other sites will only have one version of your content to point back to.
And, it can also make it easier for users to locate the information they’re looking for and help you get rid of underperforming content that may be doing more harm than good.
Nervous about content consolidation? Think quality over quantity. When asked by Lily Ray of Path Interactive during a recent episode of Google’s SEO Mythbusting series if it makes sense to consolidate two similar pieces into one article and “doing a lot of merging and redirecting” for SEO, Martin Splitt, developer advocate at Google, replied, “Definitely.”
In fact, Google itself adopted this tactic when it consolidated six individual websites into Google Retail, enabling it to double the site’s CTA click-through rate and increase organic traffic by 64%.
Opportunities to consolidate content
Thin content. Google may perceive pages that are light on content, such as help center pages that address only a single question, as not necessarily providing value to users, said Splitt.
“I would try to group these things and structure them in a meaningful way,” he said, noting that if a user has a question, they are likely to have follow-up questions and consolidating this information may make your pages more helpful.
Duplicate content. In the majority of cases, Google doesn’t penalize sites over duplicate content. However, for larger sites, having multiple URLs that host the same content may consume crawl budget and dilute signals, inhibiting a search engine’s ability to index and evaluate your pages. Even if your site is relatively small, identifying and addressing duplicate content can improve your user experience.
While there are many tools that can help you identify duplicate content, “I highly recommend researching duplicate content issues manually to completely understand the nature of the problem and the best way to address it,” said Chris Long, director of e-commerce at Go Fish Digital, suggesting that SEOs perform a Google “site:” search of their domain followed by their core keywords. “If I see pages with similar meta data in Google’s index, this is a red flag that they may be duplicates,” he said.
Outdated or obsolete content. Every year, brands and publishers create content predicting trends for the following year. However, 2020 has turned out to be a year unlike any other, rendering most predictions irrelevant.
A user stumbling onto your outdated predictions post is more likely to bounce from your site, taking their business along with them. Removing the outdated content from your site may be a better option than leaving it up, or you can update that article with new predictions and change the publication date if you’ve made substantial changes to the copy. This is just one example of how an old or obsolete piece of content may be repurposed to keep your content flywheel going.
Content that doesn’t get any traffic. You can use Google Search Console and Google Analytics to identify which pieces of content are failing to help you reach your business goals.
“If you are seeing that you get a lot of impressions, but not that many clicks, you might want to change something about the content,” Splitt said, “If you are getting a lot of clicks through it but then you see in your analytics that actually not much action happens, then you can ask yourself, ‘Is the traffic worth it or do I need to change my content there?’”
Using these tools to keep tabs on your page views, bounce rates and other engagement metrics can shine a spotlight on the pieces of content that may be right for consolidation or outright removal.
How to consolidate your content
Remove content that doesn’t provide value. “If it’s very thin content, then . . . we might just spend crawl budget on pages that are, in the end, not performing or not even being indexed anymore,” Splitt said during SEO Mythbusting, adding, “It is usually a good idea to see [whether a] piece of content really does not perform well; let’s take it down or at least change it.”
As mentioned above, Google Search Console and Analytics can be used to identify which pieces of content may just be taking up crawl budget or cannibalizing your keywords without providing any value to your audience.
Combine content that serves a similar purpose. Users typically have more than one question, and those questions are usually related to whatever stage they’re currently at in their buyer’s journey. For example, if someone has just started to think about buying a new car, they’ll probably want to learn about its fuel economy, safety ratings, special features, and other similar car models.
Instead of having numerous articles addressing each of these particular questions, brands and publishers could consolidate this information as it is all pertinent to the same stage of the journey that the user is in. This can reduce the amount of content you have competing over the same (or similar) keyword sets, and it will also improve your user experience by centralizing all the information that a potential customer may need onto one page.
You can then implement 301 redirects, canonical or noindex tags on the pages that have become redundant to consolidate ranking signals.
Refresh existing pages (instead of creating new ones). In some industries, the landscape changes every year (for example, in the automotive or smartphone industries where new models are released annually) meaning that new content is required even if you’re publishing about the same topic.
In other industries, however, there may be an opportunity to update existing content instead of creating something from scratch that heavily overlaps with what you’ve already published. For example, an instructional article on how to winterize a sprinkler system is less likely to contain different information year-to-year.
“I wouldn’t create a new page that basically says the same thing because, especially when they’re really similar, [Google] might just think one is a duplication of the other and then canonicalize them together, no matter what you do in canonical tags,” Splitt said, suggesting instead that marketers update the existing content and reposition it more prominently on your site for visitors to see.