When is it appropriate to delete content?

Knowing whether or not it’s appropriate to delete content on a website can be tough.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to tell what you can get rid of, without the risk of a decline in SEO?

In this article, I’ll walk you through how to find out what content you can shred to help make sure your site is in a happy, healthy place.

To start you’ll need:

  • To have access to the last years worth of data on unique pageviews.
  • To have access to your sitemap – detailing all of the pages on your website.
  • A spreadsheet – if you don’t have Microsoft Office, then Google Sheets or similar software will help you out massively.
  • A strong cup of tea or coffee and perhaps a biscuit or slice of cake (needed an excuse?)

Step 1: Creating your reference sheet

The first step is to create a list of all of the pages on your site.

I’m not asking you to go through your entire site and jot down the URLs – no, that would require substantially more cake.

Instead, I’ll show you how to find a handy list of all the pages you care about:

All of your pages are listed in your website’s sitemap. If you don’t know where yours is, add /sitemap.xml to the end of your website address.

Clever huh?

Now, paste the entire list of website addresses into a spreadsheet so that each URL is in a new row. Don’t be fooled by sitemaps that sub-categorise by types of page. Just keep on pasting until you’ve covered every section.

Name this sheet ‘sitemap’ (right click on the tab at the bottom to rename it).

Step 2: Finding out what pages have been seen.

Now that you have a frame of reference, the next thing you need is to find out which pages have been seen. For this, you’ll need to dig into Pageviews – which shows which pages have been seen.

  1. In Google Analytics, go to Behaviour > Site content > All Pages.
  2. Change the date setting to the past year to show all pageviews over the past year.
  3. At the bottom right hand side of the table, change the ‘show rows’ to make sure that you can see all of your website data.
  4. Back to the top once all your pageview data loads and click on ‘export’. Export your list in any format that you’re comfortable working with.
  5. In a new tab for the spreadsheet you’ve been working in, paste your shiny new data.
  6. Add in a new column B (with your Google Analytics URL without the domain in column A).
  7. In cell B2, add this formula (replacing DOMAIN with your site domain to match your sitemap, eg http://SITENAME.COM (without the forward slash at the end)). =”DOMAIN”&A2 – so this site would be =”https://jellyyo.co.uk”&A2
  8. Copy the formula down to the end of your list.
  9. Name the sheet ‘All pageviews’.
  10. Check that column A shows the end URL (without the domain), column B should show the new full URL, C should show Pageviews and D should show Unique Pageviews.

Step 3: Compare your lists.

Now that you have your reference list and a tab with pages that have been viewed, you’ll want to match them up to find out what pages are getting views and what haven’t been seen at all.

Urgh. Really?

Yes. But don’t worry – it’s not manual.

  1. In your sitemap tab, go to the next empty column and in row 1,name the column ‘Unique views’.
  2. With your URL in column A, in your new Unique Views column, use this formula:

=vlookup(A2, ‘All pageviews’!$B$2:$D$5000,3,FALSE)

  1. Drag this formula down so that all of your pages have a formula against them. If you have more than 5000 rows, increase this number accordingly.

Don’t worry about the formulas that come back as #N/A. These are actually the pages you’re interested in.

  1. Next you’ll need to filter your data. To do this, most spreadsheets will follow the same logic of finding the ‘data’ tab and clicking on ‘filter’. This will add a filter ability to the column headings.
  2. Filter your unique pageviews column to show those with #N/A. This can be done by clearing the selection of filtered and only clicking on the #N/A option.

This is now your master list of all pages that have received 0 pageviews in the past year. Nada. Zilch.

Was that what you expected?

What’s next?

It’s now over to you to look through the list and using that knowledge – that nobody has viewed it (so it’s of no value to your site), whether you delete it, or give it another shot.

I would suggest adding a new column with ‘Status’ and either enter:

  • Delete
  • Recycle
  • Legacy

Come back next week after you’ve created your list of pages to delete, recycle or keep as legacy content to find out what to do next.