Content Consolidation & Pruning: Benefits, How-To, & Examples

Learn how your eCommerce site can benefit from content consolidation and pruning — and follow our step-by-step process to get started

If a little is good, a lot is better, right?

Not always.

It’s common for new digital marketers and SEOs to believe that more content on a website is always better. After all, it shows depth and breadth and gives crawlers more places to look!

But, if that content is low-quality or redundant, your optimization efforts would be better off without it.

Finding low performers among potentially thousands of pages can be challenging. Knowing which ones to merge or prune can be an even bigger headache.

Today, we’re going to share the strategies we follow when it comes to consolidating and pruning content for our eCommerce SEO clients. This step-by-step process will show you how to get started in order to see greater impressions, clicks, and even revenue with improved content density.

Along the way, we’ll also tell you how this process helped one of our clients see a 70% increase in impressions and a 92% increase in clicks — results you could emulate for your site with a few easy updates.

What is Content Consolidation?

Before we get too deep into the process, let’s understand what content consolidation is.

In short, content consolidation involves taking low-performing webpages (often targeting similar keywords or discussing similar topics) and merging them into one, to streamline content marketing and SEO efforts. 

Here’s a common scenario: 

Let’s say your eCommerce site has been around a while. During this time, you’ve been creating content regularly to keep your audience informed and to keep the crawl bots happy with new information. 

Even with the best content marketing strategies, it’s likely you’ll eventually reproduce pieces that cover some of the same topics.

Remember that a search engine results page (SERP) will usually only show one or two results from a website for any given request. That means that, if you have duplicate, redundant, or thin content, your own website might be competing against itself for search engine rankings — not just with your competitors’ sites.

Conducting a complete content audit is a great starting point to understanding the current state of your site’s pages. Once you have a clearer lay of the land (and know which low performers to focus on), you’ll be able to develop initiatives to clean up your content and provide more value to your customers — often, through content consolidation.

Benefits of Content Consolidation: An eCommerce Case Study

Removing subpar website content (also called content pruning) can seem like a small effort — but it can lead to big results in your SEO.

Take our client BlueWater Technologies, which came to us looking for greater engagement on their web pages. During our initial audit, we identified two pages that contained similar content and were good candidates for consolidation.

After updating and merging them, we conducted a five-week test period to see what the results might yield. In that time frame, we saw a 70% increase in clicks per day and a 92% increase in impressions!

Test results comparing two two-month time periods. Clicks per day: Control period. 0.88. Test Period. 1.5. Change. 70.27 percent. Impressions Per Day: Control Period. 306.38. Test Period. 589.83. Change. 92.52 percent. Average position: Control Period 50.02. Test Period: 47.09. Click Through Rate: Control Period. 0.29 percent. Test Period. 0.25 percent. Queries per day: Control Period. 67. Test Period. 106.

It was clear that the two pages were cannibalizing each other’s rankings and damaging their digital marketing efforts. Now, with a single dedicated page for that information, this eCommerce site is on its way to better revenue and engagement.

Keep in mind: These improvements were the result of consolidating just two pages into one. 

Can you imagine how many more clicks and impressions you can get when you take on your entire website?

How to Consolidate Website Content

Quality content over quantity of content is the name of the game for this website upgrade. 

During pruning and consolidation, we want to remove low-performing pages that are doing more harm than good — in turn, making it easier for search engines and your audience to find the content they’re looking for. 

Below, we’ll introduce you to the step-by-step process our team uses to consolidate and prune website content, so that you can improve your eCommerce website’s SEO strategy & boost link-building efforts, too. 

These steps include:

  1. Identifying potential candidates
  2. Choosing whether to consolidate or prune
  3. Creating a consolidation content brief
  4. Updating your content
  5. Redirecting the pruned URL

Step 1: Identify potential candidates for consolidation.

Any duplicate content and cannibalizing pages tend to surface during our comprehensive content audit. That’s because, while we’re gathering the data for the audit, we start to notice similar URLs, which tips us off to potentially parallel content. 

Most websites have duplicate content in their blog posts. But, when it comes to eCommerce websites, you also need to assess other types of content, including product and category pages and internal search results.

For example, if you sell knives and knife paraphernalia, your product categories could be sheaths and knife sheaths, or perhaps large knife sheaths, medium knife sheaths, and small knife sheaths. Over time, some of this content could start mirroring other pages, which can hinder the performance of all involved.

While a complete content audit is the best way to collect this information, there are other ways to find consolidation and content pruning opportunities, if you’re not opting for that level of deep dive quite yet. 

Some of these tools are:

The Search Analytics for Sheets Chrome plugin

Between a content audit and these website survey tools, you’ll end up with a good list of potential candidates for the next step.

If you’re ready to DIY a full website content audit, download our eCommerce Content Audit Toolkit for free templates and a step-by-step guide.

Download our eCommerce Content Audit Toolkit Now. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

Step 2: Choose whether to consolidate or prune completely.

Once we have our list of URLs, we consider multiple metrics and purposes to choose the best path forward for each.

There’s no black and white way to determine whether a page is worth merging or whether pruning content would be better.

Start by reviewing your existing content for thin, duplicated, obsolete, or outdated pieces, along with lonely pages that don’t get any website traffic. Then, make a list of URLs to examine further. 

Once you have that list, review important KPIs for each piece. Determine whether the page is receiving organic traffic or revenue, as well as the amount of dwell time, high bounce rates, or cannibalization of keywords by similar pages. 

Sometimes, the best thing is to remove or deindex a page entirely. In most cases, however, there will be some content worth saving that can be moved to another page; you just have to identify what that is.

For example, if you’re getting a decent amount of impressions but hardly any clicks, does that content need to be updated or deleted? (An update to your meta description might be the better first step.) 

If you’re getting clicks but no further activity and no revenue, how can you improve the on-page content itself? 

For duplicate or similar pages, which is performing the best? How can you best merge the content and topics of each so as to point all relevant traffic to a single page, funnel link equity, and boost rankings?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your SEO marketing team.

Step 3: Create a consolidation content brief.

Once you’ve decided which pages need to merge, you have to decide how best to do so.

Review all related posts, and determine which content is unique to each and which is duplicated. By first identifying the goal of the new, consolidated piece, you can then arrange the combined content so that it provides value to your customers. 

During this process, you should also conduct research on your target keywords and identify other SEO improvements, so that those goals are incorporated into the new, improved content as well. 

You can make this process more organized with a content brief that gathers the content from both pages, reevaluates keyword targeting and SEO possibilities, and clearly identifies the intent of the page.

Step 4: Update your content.

When it comes to updating your content, focus on bringing the best of the related pieces together and cutting out the redundancies, while prioritizing user experience. 

For example, if you’ve previously published blog posts that answer multiple customer questions on disparate pages, bringing them together into one FAQ page will provide more value to your audience.  

Best practices for updating your pages include balancing value-forward content for your customers with technical SEO-focused efforts. We have a few resources that might help you, including our SEO copywriting guide and an eCommerce copywriting guide.

And don’t forget the benefits of improving the content structure. Adding visuals/headers/subheaders and breaking up big blocks of text with ample white space goes a long way in boosting the content itself.

As you create new content for your site, keep these guidelines in mind. If you want to add to or update old content you’ve already published, don’t reinvent the wheel. Take the outdated content and optimize it for the current state of the market to avoid cannibalization.

eCommerce Content Optimization Checklist. 1. Rewrite or expand on-page content. 2. Update your product descriptions. 3. Add new images or videos. 4. Prune old, underperforming content. 5. Add user-generated content. 6. Refresh your content for accuracy. 7. Improve your content structure. 8. Update your CTAs. 9. Optimize your metadata. 10. Add internal links and remove broken links. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

Step 5: Redirect the pruned URL.

Once you’ve spent all that time researching, pruning, and consolidating, you arrive at the most important part — redirecting the URL!

Without taking the time to set up a redirect, the pieces of content will continue to compete with each other, split up traffic, and prevent any SEO gains.

Removing, deindexing, and redirecting URLs are some of the biggest possible improvements for the least amount of time and effort invested. Remember: Your site authority is determined by all of your indexed pages. If you have content on your site that is not bringing value, it might be dragging your whole site down with it.

Check out our step-by-step guide to 301 redirects now.

Start Improving Your Content Performance Today

With just a few simple steps, you can start realizing improvements in impressions and clicks, just as our clients have. Keep this guide handy during your SEO strategy planning, so you can quickly follow these five steps whenever an opportunity arises.

These easy fixes are an important and effective part of any SEO content strategy. To flesh out your site’s strategy, we recommend downloading our eCommerce Content Audit Toolkit. It will give you a thorough look into maximizing your SEO efforts and identifying which pages should be pruned or consolidated on your site. 

Not sure where to start with your content consolidation strategy? Let Inflow’s team of eCommerce SEO experts craft a customized SEO approach just for your website. 

Request a free proposal today to get started.

How to Create an SEO Content Brief: Free Downloadable Template

In our how-to guide on creating SEO content briefs, we give you a step-by-step process, a successful case study, and a free downloadable template.

Whether you’re creating a piece of SEO content from scratch or updating a piece affected by content decay, you can’t just jump straight into writing. Instead, you must put in the preemptive work, evaluating your readers’ needs and the SEO opportunities for that particular landing page.

For most businesses, this means creating an SEO content brief.

Today, we’ll walk you through the five integral factors to include in your content briefs for maximum organic search performance. We’ll also share our in-house template (available to download for free!), so you can replicate the results our eCommerce SEO clients see daily.

Let’s get started.

What is an SEO Content Brief?

An SEO content brief is an outline for your content, incorporating not just key parts of the usual writing process but also important factors for search engine optimization.

Every team’s brief will look different. As you advance your content marketing strategy, you’ll identify which aspects are more (or less) important to your team, whether your content writers are in-house or outsourced.

When you’re just getting started, we recommend creating as in-depth a brief as possible. That way, you can tweak your template as you discover what your team does (or doesn’t) need during the writing process.

Typically, an SEO content brief will include:

  • A content outline
  • Alt text suggestions for images
  • Target keywords
  • Updated metadata (page titles and meta descriptions)
  • Insights on competitor content
  • Suggested topics to cover
  • And more

Download our SEO Content Brief Template below as a starting point.

Download our SEO Content Brief Template Now. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert.

Why Content Optimization & Re-optimization is Key

You can have the best-written content in the world — but, if you don’t optimize that content with SEO tactics, it can get buried in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and never get seen by your target audience.

By incorporating SEO techniques into your drafting (or rewriting) process, you make it easier for search engines to recognize the value of your content, giving your pages a leg up on your competition.

Remember that Google’s algorithm is always changing, serving up new results in the SERPs as it sees fit. Using an SEO content brief for your content decay strategy allows you to improve your existing content based on what’s working now, not when the original content was published.

Take, for example, a blog post on Restorative Practices in Schools that we recently updated for our client Next Generation Learning Challenges. While the original content was extremely well-written and in-depth for readers, it wasn’t very digestible for readers and search engine bots.

By improving key SEO factors — metadata, keywords, etc. — and reorganizing the copy with better headers and images, we aimed to drive more organic traffic to the page.

And it worked.

After we implemented our brief in late September 2021, year-over-year traffic improved by about 428%, with a 420% increase in new users to the site!

Screenshot of Google Analytics report for a URL, comparing September 29, 2021, through January 31, 2022, to September 29, 2020, through January 31, 2021. The line graph of sessions for the former period outperforms the latter, with an increase of 427% year over year.

The blog’s keyword footprint improved as well, almost doubling since the page update:

Ahrefs organic keyword footprint report. Highlighted is the date September 28, 2021, after which the keyword footprint dramatically increases.

With the right content brief, just a few hours of work can pay off in dividends, as this example shows. 

So, let’s talk about the key points of the brief that made this update work — and help you start crafting your SEO content briefs today.

How to Create an SEO-Focused Content Brief

As mentioned above, your SEO content brief will be unique to your team’s needs. You may need more detail in each brief as you begin, and then slowly reduce the amount of time and data you incorporate before the writing process.

Whatever you do, make sure to include the following important aspects every time. That way, you’ll maximize your organic performance and keep your content high-quality for your readers.

  1. Identify Your Goals.
  2. Conduct Keyword Research.
  3. Review Competing Content.
  4. Identify Multimedia Opportunities.
  5. Add Original Content & Notes.

Step 1: Identify Your Goals.

Before you start writing or even drafting your content, you need to decide what your goals will be.

Obviously, improving your organic performance (traffic, sessions, etc.) is part of this. But you also need to take into consideration your audience, brand voice, buyer personas, their buyer stage, and their needs.

Remember: You’re not creating content for Google. You’re creating content to educate and inform your readers about your products, services, and brand.

Consider writing a brief statement for each piece of content, identifying the page’s goals and how it will serve your audience. Don’t forget to include a statement on how this content will help you achieve your business goals, too.

Here’s an example for this blog:

“The goal of this content is to help readers understand the different aspects of an SEO content brief, so they can replicate it on their own. By offering a free downloadable template, we can help our readers kickstart their own SEO strategy. Because this is a top-of-funnel piece, most of these readers will be developing their own strategy from scratch or, contrarily, look to improve their existing processes. This blog will not only provide value to those readers; it will also add to Inflow’s position as a thought leader and go-to resource within the industry.”

Step 2: Conduct Keyword Research.

The base of any good content brief is your keywords. By deciding which phrases and terms to target, you can better control where your pages end up in the SERPs — and ensure that your content addresses your readers’ needs.

This research is a vital part of the content creation process. It will not only help you determine search intent and find related keywords but also subtopics that need to be included when writing content. Take advantage of free and paid keyword research tools, from Ahrefs to Google Search Console.

Many new digital marketers start by going after high-volume keywords in hopes of drawing in as much traffic as possible. For the highest-quality traffic with the most potential, we recommend using an intent-focused content strategy, instead.

Let’s take this blog as an example. It can be tempting to target keywords like “content brief,” which overshadow more niche phrases in terms of search volume. But, by focusing on lower-volume, long-tail keywords like “SEO content brief” and “SEO content brief template,” we more accurately represent our content to search engines and have less competition.

Keyword report for "content brief" keywords. Highlighted are phrases "S E O content brief" with search volume 30 and "S E O content brief template" with search volume of 20.

Of course, a well-rounded keyword strategy will also include a few of those higher-volume search terms for relevancy, even if they’re not the primary keywords.

For more guidance on selecting your primary and secondary keywords, read our advanced keyword research strategy now.

Step 3: Review Competing Content.

As you create your brief, don’t forget to review your competitors. Understanding which content is currently being served in the SERPs can help you improve your own. 

Look for content opportunities like:

  • Headings and subheadings
  • Popular image and video types
  • Featured snippets (like “People Also Ask” and other highlighted sections)

For example, when looking at competing content for this blog, we see that most results in the SERPs follow a “how-to” structure, with a list of aspects to include. If we hadn’t already planned to structure our piece in that way, we would consider changing up the outline to better reflect those pages in the results.

Google search results for S E O content brief. Results include a People Also Ask section, as well as organic results: How to Write an S E O -Focused Content Brief, How to Write a Better S E O Content Brief, Most Powerful Way to Create an S E O Content Brief, How to Write an S E O Content Brief: 10 Essential Elements.

Be wary of becoming a copycat, though. There are thousands of content mills out there that use AI and other tactics to quickly churn out almost identical content to what’s ranking in the SERPs. 

Your goal is to provide something new in this space, whether it’s by structuring your content differently, incorporating additional resources (like a free template), or taking a stance that goes against conventional wisdom.

If it doesn’t work, you can always reoptimize your content with a different strategy later on.

Step 4: Identify Multimedia Opportunities.

No one wants to read a block of text. So, as you’re creating your content brief and outline of topics, identify opportunities to add multimedia elements (like screenshots, video embeds, and infographics).

If you’re reoptimizing an old piece of content, review the images currently on the page. Should they be replaced with more modern versions? Are they really serving any value to your readers — or are they stock images you could find on any run-of-the-mill site?

Work to make your multimedia as unique and valuable as possible. It may take more time to create new images than simply use the old, but fresh multimedia will keep your readers on the page longer.

Don’t forget about alt text, which describes an image and makes your content more accessible for readers who are visually impaired.

Step 5: Add Original Content & Make Notes.

Now that you’ve done all the preemptive work, it’s time to update your content outline — or, if you’re reoptimizing a piece, add in your existing content and make some notes.

An outline is crucial to delivering a piece that meets your goals and standards (even more so if you’re outsourcing your writing to freelancers). The more detail you can provide in each section, the more on-target the final product will be.

Go through your outline or existing content with a fine-toothed comb before you start making edits, noting opportunities for:

  • Content length
  • Important topics to cover
  • Keyword usage
  • Multimedia placement
  • Internal and external links (with proper anchor text)
  • Brand mentions and CTAs

If you haven’t already, create brand standards and copywriting guidelines to reduce edits and rewrites later on.

Putting Your Briefs Into Action

While it’s tempting to “save time” and jump right into the writing/editing process, an SEO content brief will actually save your content team wasted hours later on. And, since SEO is a long game, the better your content is when first published, the better results you’ll see and fewer pain points you’ll run into.

To help you get started, we’ve created an SEO content brief template that you can download today for free. 

Download Our
SEO Content Brief Template Now

Our template is always evolving, and so should yours. Use this version as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to add and remove certain aspects based on what works best for your content creators.

When you’re ready to dive in on your content writing or rewriting, we’ve got plenty of other resources to help: