A lot of websites have a problem that doesn’t get much attention: dead pages. These are pages on a website that nobody ever visits—and you may not even be aware they exist.
Some dead pages are so outdated you wouldn’t want anyone to see them. They might be based on old data, use terms you don’t use anymore, or contradict your current perspectives. Maybe they’re leftover from old advertising campaigns. They could also just be lower quality than you’re comfortable with now.
Whatever the case, these pages have far outlived their usefulness to your brand.
You might be wondering: if no one sees these pages, what’s the big deal? Well, leave enough dead pages laying around your website, and Google starts to see your website as a ghost town. Think about it: if your website has 200 pages, and 150 of them get zero visits per month, is Google going to see you as a quality website? Nope.
Google doesn’t like sending people to ghost towns. And you don’t want your brand to be the mayor of one. But it actually impacts your website visitors, too. Imagine someone is looking for a specific page or topic on your website, but when they click on your dropdown menus or use your search bar, they find links to dozens of pages that aren’t the ones they want.
Dead pages often take up space, and your website visitors may have to tiptoe around them to find what they’re looking for.
Don’t want your website to be a ghost town? Here’s how to avoid that.
1. Identify Your Dead Pages.
Unless you’ve been doing regular blog clean ups and site maintenance, your website will inevitably accumulate dead pages. To find yours, you’ll want to use Google Analytics or another tool that measures how much traffic your pages get. Look back over the last year and list any pages that don’t get visitors (or fall below another threshold you’ve set).
2. Revamp Any Pages You Still Want to Keep.
Just because a post is “dead” to Google doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to your brand or your visitors. Maybe you have a page that addresses a core problem your customers have, or a belief your organization holds that is still important to reference or have available. Or maybe it’s holiday-specific, so it only gets attention once a year. You don’t want to delete anything that you’d just have to rewrite later.
Instead, when you find dead pages that still serve a purpose, explore ways to refresh and update them. Maybe there are new statistics or figures you should be referencing, or your position on a topic has changed. Or you could expand the page with more insights. Find ways to make the page more valuable, and then share it again with your audience.
3. Redirect and Remove the Rest.
If a dead page isn’t serving a purpose, you need to decide what to do with it. In most cases, you probably don’t want to just delete it (if there are links to this page from anywhere, those links will all be broken and you’ll have to fix them). The only time you should outright delete a page is if you aren’t linking to it anywhere (and neither is anyone else).
Usually, you’ll want to identify an appropriate page to show people instead of the dead page. Ideally, this would be another page about a similar topic, but in a pinch, it could be your home page or another major page on your site. Creating a redirect to this page will make it so that anytime someone clicks a link to the dead page, they’ll be sent to this new page instead.
Then you can delete the old page.
4. Create a Long-Term Strategy for New Content
Let’s face it: if your website is a ghost town, you’re being haunted by months or years of bad strategy. Dead pages accumulate quickly when you aren’t paying attention to what kind of content you’re producing and thinking about the purpose each piece serves as part of your website.
As you think about new pages that belong on your website, think about how it will look months from now. Will this still be useful next year? Will you need to update it down the road? Can you share it again later? Asking these questions now can save you a lot of trouble (and tedious clean-up work) in the future.