A while ago I did a couple of much-discussed posts: one on treating outdated pages and one on getting rid of multiple subpages. The important point both of these posts are missing is that before trying to decide what to do with the obsolete page you should first define its SEO value.
A great thread at WebmasterWorld forums discusses the issue of evaluating how much the page is worth. So how can a page SEO value be determined?
- Toolbar PR: a bad indicator. Pages with graybar PR are likely to receive solid Google referral traffic and have backlinks.
- Organic rankings: a bad indicator. Rankings cannot be a good performance indicator by nature. Rankings come and go. There are too many site/ page independent criteria that influence rankings: Google personalization, geo-targeting, new "SearchWiki" Google feature, new competing pages that can take your position, etc. (Note: of course, that also depends on the search term; if the page is top-ranked for something like [poker], I wouldn’t delete that page :));
- Traffic: a bad indictor. As the previous one, traffic can be temporal (but it also depends on the amount of traffic);
- External in-links: a good indicator. If the page is able to pass PR, it does have value. External links can also be removed, of course, but usually (if the page remains live or redirected to a new relevant up-to-date version), there’s no reason for the inbound links to be removed).
From a pure search engine equation, value likely equals external links and historic performance.
So what are possible ways of treating the outdated pages based on the above:
- delete the pages and let the URLs return 404 header (if the page has no value at all);
- move the pages to the archive and amend internal linking to "leak" less internal PR (e.g. remove sitewide links and keep only in-content links from other articles);
- keep the pages but remove all reference from the site (let them be orphan pages): if they have too little value to think more about that;
- 301-redirect the pages to new relevant versions (the best option provided you have new versions to redirect to).
What would you choose?