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:

10 Cyber Monday & Black Friday SEO Tips for 2022

Optimize your site and generate customer sales with our list of 10 actionable SEO holiday tips.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in 2021. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.

To help your eCommerce store prep for the upcoming holiday shopping season, we’re publishing a multi-part blog series full of digital marketing tips you need to implement today.

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday sales season just a few months away, now is the time to start prepping your site’s SEO strategy.

Based on our work with dozens of eCommerce sites, we’ve gathered 10 tips to make sure your Cyber Monday and Black Friday SEO is in fighting shape.

Check out the full guide below, or use this list to jump to your favorite:

  1. Confirm staff and contractor availability.
  2. Plan site migrations and major updates accordingly.
  3. Identify and refresh any existing holiday website content.
  4. Create new Cyber Monday and Black Friday pages.
  5. Create new sales and discounts content.
  6. Prepare any on-site interstitials.
  7. Ensure your local business listings are accurate.
  8. Create a plan for out-of-stock products.
  9. Create a FAQ/Q&A page.
  10. Confirm your platform can handle traffic increases.

Want assistance creating your SEO holiday strategy? Contact our team anytime for a personalized proposal.

10 Holiday SEO Strategies for Your eCommerce Site

In many ways, your search engine optimization strategy for the holiday season should be no different from your long-term SEO strategy. Your content should be fresh and well-optimized, your site should present a great user experience, and your technical SEO should be in tip-top shape.

However, there are also some holiday-specific strategies to consider. Shoppers behave differently during the gift-giving season (which stretches longer and longer each year), and your site should be tailored to their needs and wants.

Here are 10 holiday SEO tips we recommend from our years of experience working with online retailers just like you:

1. Confirm staff and contractor availability.

Before you can create a holiday-specific SEO plan, you need to know when your team will be available to help you out.

Whether you’re working with in-house SEO staff or contracting your work through an eCommerce digital marketing agency, get on the same page about timelines and projects way before the fall — or else risk your optimizations never seeing the light of day.

We also recommend specifically reaching out to your website development team. If you want to implement or test certain site changes before the holiday season, you’ll need their assistance.

Your developer may be stacked with holiday projects over the next few months; get on their “to-do” list early to ensure your site updates are complete long before the first frost.

2. Plan site migrations and other major updates accordingly.

On the same note, if you do have plans to migrate your site or perform other intensive site updates, now’s the time to make it happen — but only if you can get it completely launched before the holidays. If you launch your changes later in the fall, you’ll not only have less “fix it” time, but you’ll also have fewer opportunities to test your site on shoppers. 

The last thing you want is to implement changes that negatively affect conversion rates before the busiest shopping period of the year. If you can’t get it done in time, we recommend pushing it off until after Christmas to avoid unnecessary stress (and potential disaster).

3. Identify and refresh any existing holiday website content.

When it comes to holiday SEO content, start with the path of least resistance.

Does your site have existing holiday content that you can spruce up for this season? While it may not have been applicable as it was pre-COVID, you can certainly take the time to update it for this year’s customers.

Update your old holiday gift guides with new and popular products, rewrite your seasonal messaging with your brand’s social media team, and look for refreshed images to add to your site.

Magazine Line article: Best Christmas Gift Ideas for Wives. Photo of an Asian man giving a woman a wrapped present. Headers: Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Wife. Good Housekeeping.
An example of optimized holiday content from Note the content was updated in March of 2022 for quality and keywords.

Of course, don’t forget your keyword research/optimization or backlinks review, either.

4. Create new Cyber Monday and Black Friday pages.

Don’t have any existing holiday content from which to mine?

Gather your copywriting team and get to work now, so that your optimized pages have time to rank in the organic search results before the shopping begins.

There are plenty of opportunities for generating holiday sales through SEO content like:

  • Holiday gift guides and online catalogs
  • “Best of” products or sales lists (ex: “Best Black Friday Deals 2022”)
  • Holiday contests and sweepstakes (also great for email list growth)
  • Product comparisons and reviews
  • Holiday gift landing pages (like Nordstrom’s, below)
Nordstrom webpage. A center image labeled Holiday gifts. A woman holds out a present. Text states: Great Gifts are Always in Season.

While your long-term content marketing strategy should always help customers find and learn more about your products, it’s even more important during the holiday season. Remember: Many shoppers are buying based on others’ gift requests, not their own interest in the product.

Short on holiday content ideas? Use SEO tools like Semrush and Google Trends to research holiday keyword possibilities, or start brainstorming with our eCommerce content strategy guide.

5. Create new discounts and sales content.

Similarly, you can also create temporary content for any Cyber Monday/Black Friday sales your business plans to run. The first priority with this strategy is generating holiday revenue; SEO may be secondary, especially if you plan on removing those Black Friday deals from the site later.

For a compromise between the two approaches, consider creating an evergreen “Discounts and Sales” page on your website. That way, you can update it year-round with your current promotions, incorporate it into your link-building strategy, and optimize it for those customers specifically searching for site promo codes.

Home Science Tools Coupons webpage. A banner at the center of the page states: Home Science Tools Coupons. Get 10% off Sitewide with code B E L L S 19. My Science Perks: Earn 2 - 6 % back on your order!

6. Prepare any on-site interstitials.

If you plan on advertising holiday discounts and sales on your website, you’ll want to prepare and test any plugins, pop-ups, slide-ins, and other interstitials ahead of time.

Make sure they work far enough in advance, and don’t forget to push them live at the right time — or you’ll risk losing out on some big revenue. 

Consider SEO factors like page speed, Core Web Vitals, and other ranking factors to prevent any negative effects on your organic traffic. We recommend working with your website developer to create a plan that minimizes impacts on your SEO strategy and maximizes visitor purchases.

7. Ensure your local business listings are accurate.

If you have a brick-and-mortar location, make sure your Google My Business listings properly display your address and hours of operation.

If your store will be open at different hours during the holiday season, make sure that is communicated, too. Otherwise, you risk frustrating customers who show up to a locked door with no notice.

Local SEO is important for online businesses, too. Make sure you’ve claimed your Google My Business listing; this will give you control over your listed contact information in the SERPs. Your GMB listing also allows for Google reviews, which can be a boon to your brand awareness.

8. Create a plan for out-of-stock products.

COVID-19 caused a long-term disruption in the supply chain for many online businesses. While we can hope those issues will be resolved prior to this year’s holiday season, you need to plan for the possibility that they won’t be.

Communicate with your suppliers and manufacturers now to get a lay of the land. Then, decide what steps your team will take to avoid customers turning to your competitors if the product they want is unavailable.

We recommend:

  • Enabling pre-orders on product pages
  • Enabling email notifications when products are back in stock
  • Internal linking to related products
  • And more, as detailed in our “out of stock products” guide

Pro tip: Keep our Out-of-Stock SEO Flowchart handy in the months to come.

Out of Stock S E O Flowchart. Logo: Inflow. Attract. Convert. Grow.

9. Create a FAQ/Q&A page.

An increased number of customers to your website will also mean an increased response from your customer service. Head off some of the repetitive questions with a FAQ or Q&A page that’s easily accessible from your homepage, if you don’t already have one.

Use this page to address some of your customers’ biggest (and most searched) concerns about your brand, including:

  • Shipping and return policies
  • Product how-tos/details
  • Phone orders
  • Order statuses
  • Use of personal information
Mountain House F A Q page. A banner at the top states: Frequently Asked Questions. Still not finding what you're looking for? Reach out to our team and they'll get back to you with an answer. Below the banner are six tabs indicating 6 different categories of F A Q questions. Seven questions are displayed under the first general tab.

10. Confirm your platform can handle traffic increases.

Finally, ensure that your eCommerce site can handle increased traffic during the busiest time of the year. 

While there are plenty of predictions for how this year’s online shopping season will go based on last year’s Black Friday performance, no one actually knows how (or how much) shoppers will spend. Be prepared for the best-case scenario — that browsers will flood your site — and make sure that your eCommerce platform can handle it.

Speak with your website developers or your platform representatives to discover which preemptive steps you can take to prevent a dreaded site crash.

Kick Off Your Holiday SEO Marketing Campaigns Now

Your SEO strategy will take time to implement and start working, and Google’s algorithm won’t work twice as hard just because it’s the holiday season. So, if you want your site to attract and retain holiday shoppers, now is the time to evaluate your SEO strategy and start making optimizations.

Work with your digital marketing team or agency to identify your biggest priorities before the holiday season, and use our tips above as guidance when determining your strategy. 

Want a helping hand (or just an extra set of expert eyes)? Request a free proposal from our eCommerce SEO marketers anytime.

In the meantime, review our other digital marketing holiday guides at the links below:

Google Algorithm Changes: Step-by-Step Guide to Find Out If Your Site Was Affected

Was your website affected by the most recent Google update? Follow our step-by-step process to find out.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in 2021. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.

Just in case SEOs aren’t busy enough, Google is keeping us all on our toes with more core algorithm updates than ever.

Just as we recovered from 2021’s long-awaited Core Web Vitals update and double summer updates, 2022 came in with a bang, giving us the March Product Reviews update and the May core update. At the same time, you can bet Google’s continuously tinkering behind the scenes between each and every update — leaving us digital marketers to play catchup.

But, while you may feel at the mercy of Google’s algorithm changes, your SEO strategy doesn’t have to be.

Today, we’re sharing our approach to post-update SEO for eCommerce websites. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why we’re not too worried about it (no, really)
  • Which tools we use to evaluate post-update site performance
  • Which contributing performance factors we watch for
  • And what we recommend for eCommerce websites

A Brief History of Recent Updates

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s recap the last few search ranking updates we’ve seen, starting with the unprecedented year that was 2021.

In a rare move, Google split its summer 2021 broad core algorithm update (known as the “Page Experience Update”) into two parts released over two months. At the same time, Google finalized its user-experience-focused Core Web Vitals update last June, confusing many marketers who attempted to attribute organic traffic changes to one update or another.

Three Google SearchLiason Twitter posts dated Jun 2. Each post discusses the June 2021 and July 2021 core update.

Google’s final 2021 update rolled out in November, giving us more than six months of breathing room before the next one would rear its head.

In May, Google returned to form with a one-part summer update, which rolled out over the course of a few weeks. That means, as of this guide’s updated publish date, any effects from this most recent Google update should already be seen in your site’s performance — for better or for worse.

For a comprehensive look at Google’s core algorithm update history, check out this compilation from Search Engine Land.

The Hard Truth: The Damage is Already Done

Whether your eCommerce site is recovering from algorithm updates in 2022, 2021, or even earlier, take comfort in knowing that no quick fixes could have saved you from harm.

Google’s webmasters are notoriously vague about which ranking signals are tweaked when each core update is released, meaning you can’t make last-minute changes to your site to avoid a hit to your organic traffic. 

As we all know, SEO is a long game. The only way you can “take advantage of” a core update is to already be implementing a solid eCommerce search engine optimization strategy of quality content across your site.

However, in some cases — like last year’s Core Web Vitals update — Google will provide helpful tools for analyzing your site’s current performance ahead of time, giving you benchmarks to work toward. (If you haven’t already, use the Page Speed Insights tool to check your site, and then learn how to improve your Core Web Vitals scores accordingly.)

That’s why we highly recommend working with an expert SEO professional who stays up to date on any latest news, so they can prep your site as needed.

eCom Business? No Need to Worry

We’ve been shepherding dozens of eCommerce brands through Google updates over the years, and the vast majority have avoided any volatility in performance due to updates. In fact, most of their sites keep moving along like nothing has happened, even after this year’s product reviews update. (While the update wasn’t expected to impact eCommerce sites as an industry, we still closely monitored our metrics — just in case.)

Save any upcoming eCommerce-specific updates, we anticipate the same for the future.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t care. Even if a core update doesn’t affect your site, it’s still a good indicator of how Google’s algorithm is evolving and good education for your ongoing SEO strategy. 

We recommend paying close attention to what digital marketing leaders are reporting, so you can adjust your long-term approach to what is (and isn’t) performing well for the SEO community.

How to Evaluate a Google Core Update’s Effects on Your Site

Admittedly, there’s a lot of mystery wrapped around Google’s ranking algorithm updates, but you don’t have to be in the dark about its effects on your site.

For this summer’s updates and future ones to come, identify any clear changes to your organic performance by following our approach:

Step 1: Monitor site performance during the rollout period.

Google will frequently announce upcoming core updates ahead of time, so you’ll know exactly when to start looking for traffic changes. Most updates take a few weeks to roll out completely; when evaluating site traffic, look at a time span of about a month for the most accurate picture.

If your site has felt an impact from the update, it will be easy to see.

We initially use Google Analytics to evaluate any core update effects on our client’s sites. Our strategists typically check traffic reports every day (or every few days, depending on the size of the update) for a few weeks following the confirmed update. As mentioned, most of our eCommerce clients’ sites haven’t historically been impacted by recent updates — but, if they were, we’d see it in Google Analytics right away.

Step 2: Look for seasonality.

If a Google core update is rolled out during your business’s slow or busy season, you’ll need to rule out seasonality as a contributing effect. 

Let’s say your online store sells school supplies. If you see a jump in traffic and revenue after this summer’s update, it may not be an effect of the update at all — just a normal increase in parents getting ready for the back-to-school season. 

If your site sees a change in traffic after a Google core update, look at week-over-week, month-over-month, and year-over-year trends. Compare the results; if this traffic change is new to this summer, it could be an indication that the Google update has affected your site.

Another example: One of our former eCommerce clients (a seller of cigars and cigar products) was concerned about a drop in organic traffic following a Google update in the winter of 2017. But, when we compared their January 2018 performance with that from a year before, we saw the same drop in traffic: 

A line graph with two plotted lines. The horizontal axis ranges from April 2017 to January 2018 in increments of three months. Two lines are plotted: Jan 1, 2017 to Jan 31, 2018 Users and Jan 1, 2016 to Jan 31, 2017 Users. Both lines remain relatively constant except both lines decline sharply in January 2018.

Don’t have accurate YOY data to mine? You can also compare your site with Google’s overall trends.

Here, we see a steep drop in “cigar shop” interest around January, indicating our client’s drop in traffic was indeed due to seasonality, not that winter’s Google update.

Google overall trend line graph titled Interest over time. The horizontal axis has three marks at Feb 12, 2017, June 18, 2017 and October 22, 2017. Five lines are plotted: Cigar shop, buy cigars, best cigars, cigars price, Cuba cigars. The cigar shop line increases to a peak at approximately December 2017 and decreases sharply in January 2017. All other lines remain jaggedly constant.

Of course, remember that YOY comparisons may not be 100% accurate, depending on COVID-19’s effect on your industry in 2020 and onward. We recommend comparing multiple years, just in case. (Here at Inflow, we’ve been using 2019 as a “baseline” for most of our clients.)

You can also look at competitors’ performance to confirm a seasonality drop.

Using these processes, we were able to eliminate the update as a contributing factor, understanding that this change was just a normal drop-off in cigar interest around the new year, perhaps due to New Year’s resolutions.

Step 3: Consider searcher intent.

Even if you see a drop in traffic to your site after a Google update, it may not necessarily be harmful. Google often uses core updates to clean up keyword search results, reducing the number of irrelevant web pages for search queries.

If your site was inadvertently ranking for an unrelated keyword or topic, the core update may have fixed that mistake — or, in the case of our own site, introduced the mistake!

While unrelated to a core update, an unconfirmed change in Google’s algorithm caused Inflow’s organic clicks to spike on March 25, 2021. Just a few days later, they dropped back down to normal levels.

A line graph. The horizontal axis ranges from 3/17/21 to 4/4/21 in increments of 2 days. Two lines are plotted: blue and purple. The blue line spikes to a peak on 3/25/21 and is in a trough on 3/27/21.

Upon further investigation, we found out that our guide to Majestic SEO had suddenly started ranking in the Google search results for the phrase “explain the majestic benefits” — likely searched by students trying to avoid doing their homework for an unrelated topic. When it became clear that our guide was an irrelevant result, Google’s algorithm made the adjustment to the SERPs.

Ranking for irrelevant keywords isn’t an uncommon issue, especially in eCommerce sites with thousands of blog, product, and category pages. If you see similar fluctuations in sessions or keyword rankings over the next month, make sure to look at your revenue. If conversions and revenues are holding steady (or increasing!), there’s likely no reason to worry.

Irrelevant keywords may have been the source of the traffic change, not a negative hit from the core update.

What to Do if Your Organic Performance Drops

If your website traffic takes a hit after a Google update, and it can’t be explained by seasonality, keyword cleanup, or another obvious reason, try to confirm the algorithm’s effects through additional tools, and then reevaluate your overall SEO strategy.

Step 1: Connect the free Panguin tool to Google Analytics.

The Panguin tool (not to be confused with the Penguin update!) is one of our favorites for evaluating the timelines of Google’s updates as they compare to our site’s performance. It’s easy; authorize Panguin to view your Google Analytics data, and the tool will overlay Google’s updates on your performance data.

Panguin tool line graph titled Google Organic Users. The horizontal axis ranges from Jan '21 to Jun '21 in increments of 1 month. The vertical axis labeled New Google Organic Users/ Google Organic Users ranges from 0 to 1600 in increments of 400. Two jagged lines are plotted representing New Google Organic Users and Google Organic Users. Three vertical lines extend from the horizontal axis at approximately the beginning of Feb '21, beginning of April '21 and beginning of June '21. Icons for different functions in the tool are located below the graph.

You can use the Panguin tool to look at older Google core updates and their effects, too.

Step 2: Check for patterns with Google Search Console.

If your site sees an unexplainable drop or increase in traffic, identify exactly where those changes are coming from with Google Search Console.

We use Google Search Console to see if a pattern of page types or keyword buckets has dropped or increased in search traffic.

See our example below:

Within a space of two months, one client saw a steep drop in clicks to a certain group of keywords. While this particular example was unrelated to a Google core update, if there had been an update around this time, this pattern would indicate we needed to look into the site performance a little closer.

Google Search Console table with four columns labeled from left to right: Top queries, Clicks 2/14/20 - 2/21/20, Clicks 3/14/20 - 3/21/20, Clicks Difference. The phrases in the Top queries column are blacked out. Each number in the Clicks 3/14/20 - 3/21/20 column is lower than the clicks in the 2/14/20 - 2/21/20 column as shown in the Clicks Difference column as follows: 515, 294, 193, 224, 191, 171, 173, 132, 145.

By comparing this data with core update reporting from SEO experts, we can then determine whether those patterns are in line with the suspected algorithm changes. (Although Google typically doesn’t give details for which types of pages and industries are affected by a core update, digital marketers can often deduce what they are based on with a little detective work.)

If we see a similar pattern in page or keyword type, we automatically know what to focus on as we reevaluate our SEO strategy for that site.

Often, the pages that take a hit are those we’re already aware of — those with thin content, overly long content, or other low-quality SEO approaches — and give our clients even more motivation to tackle those issues.

Step 3: Reevaluate your SEO efforts.

Not all Google algorithm updates are obvious. Usually, it’s difficult to identify exactly which technical and content SEO strategies are being rewarded with core updates. We just see the final result in which kinds of industries and websites are most affected.

However, a core update can be the motivation your brand needs to reevaluate your current SEO strategies. If you’ve got thin website content, now’s the time to beef up your SEO copywriting techniques; if your tech SEO setup leaves something to be desired, get a developer on the phone.

Some of the biggest SEO offenses we see from eCommerce sites?

  • Lack of content on product and category pages
  • Poorly optimized content on product and category pages
  • Extensive blog-like content on product and category pages
  • Technical site speed and performance issues (especially in regards to mobile search)

While solving these issues won’t help before this summer’s update, it will put your site in better shape for the Google core updates of the future.

Start identifying these common issues with our DIY guides:

The Best Core Update Defense: A Good SEO Offense

When it comes to Google’s core updates, the best use of your time isn’t trying to “game the system” with backlinks and other quick fixes; it’s creating a long-term, well-rounded SEO strategy that builds high-quality content based on proven strategies. 

Need some help figuring those out? Our SEO strategists are always happy to help. (Contact us anytime for a free proposal.)

We also recommend digital marketers and eCommerce brands stay up to date on Google’s algorithm changes as they continue to roll out. For the best real-time coverage of ongoing updates, check out reporting from: