Mueller Explains Time Google Takes To Re-Rank Rehabilitated Sites
Online businesses and site owners are always on the look-out for the latest, most effective methods of improving their website SEO rankings. In a Google Office Hours hangout, Google's John Mueller outlined to website SEO agencies how long it takes for the search engine to re-rank a website that had previously contained low-quality content.
Usually, Google will take a while before it recalculates a site's quality after the webmaster has decided to remove large numbers of low-quality pages. Mueller sought to explain in the hangout why the process takes so long. The person who asked the question divulged that the website he was asking about had contained around 80 per cent of low-quality pages. The agency sought to rehabilitate the website because the search engine had crawled it poorly.
Low-Quality Content Affect Site Crawling
The specific question related to a wider scenario in which Google had insufficiently crawled a site, leaving thousands of web pages unindexed. After Mueller fielded several follow-up questions, the topic drifted towards the implications of taking down the 80% of low-quality web pages, hopefully enabling Google to better crawl the remaining 20,000 higher-quality pages.
The major concern was how long would it take the search engine to recalculate the site's quality and reputation - and crawl, index, and rank it - after making such a radical change?
Mueller explained that improving the site's quality overall is more of a strategic issue than a technical one.
In this situation, a site owner or manager could approach the issue by reducing the overall number of web pages being ranked. For instance, if there were 100,000 pages, but many of them were low-quality pages, one approach would be to select the smaller number of pages with top-quality content, in this case, 20,000, and ask the search engine only to crawl and index these. The reduced number of pages would make it far easier for Google to carry out its processes and adjust the site's ranking.
Once the search engine had crawled those web pages, it would see the site in a new light. From there, it could then expand its crawling and indexing to cover the rest of the site. Mueller says this strategy is what many website owners usually choose to do, and he thinks that overall, it's a good one. Doing this also helps webmasters refine their sites and really start thinking about what makes a web page high-quality.
How Long It Takes To Re-Rank A Rehabilitated Website
The same person then asked Mueller a follow-up question: how long will it take Google to re-rank a website if they follow the advice of throwing away the 80,000 low-quality pages and leave 20,000 up?
Mueller said that he thinks it would take anything from a couple of months to half a year for Google to completely recalculate the ranking of site in question. He said that the search engine needs to take time to understand the new website. Google can analyse some parts of the website fairly quickly, but it takes longer to evaluate and comprehend the site's quality overall.
That statement by Mueller is similar to the answer he gave in a hangout in April 2021. Then, he said that if there were significant changes in the quality of a site, it would take three to four months before the search engine could fully evaluate it properly.
Overall, it was interesting to note that Mueller tends to regard a newly rehabilitated site as a whole new website. That suggests that any site owner who makes drastic changes to their website in terms of its content will find that Google perceives it in an entirely new light as well.
What Is Thin Content And How To Deal With It?
Thin content refers to any kind of useless content, such as doorway pages, duplicate pages, pages with a sparse word count, ad-riddled pages, and articles or blog posts that lack depth and readability.
All these kinds of low-quality content could harm your site rankings. Every page on a website uses crawl bandwidth and link equity, which for Google are limited resources. When these resources are used on thin content instead of the more important web pages, a site's organic rankings and authority significantly drop.
What's more, thin content results in poor usability. If visitors leave the website after just five seconds, that convinces Google even more that the pages don't deliver a particularly good user experience, which will again impact on page authority.
How To Evaluate Site Content
You can fix thin content issues by running a site crawl and using Google Analytics and Search Console metrics. SEOs can download the data and enter it into a spreadsheet so they can carry out more subjective analysis. This gives space for them to label each URL with whether they want to "improve" it, "consolidate" it, "remove" it, or "leave" it. Each page title, content, and search query that drives traffic can also offer insights, allowing SEOs to compare how these pages measure up alongside those that rank well.
Thin content is often repetitive and obvious, which can make cleaning it up much easier. Most low-quality content has one or two of the following characteristics:
- Contains irrelevant keywords or topics.
- Does not include target keywords and provides little value.
- Is outdated, like old company news and trend stories.
- Is extremely short and redundant, including no meaningful information.
- Has category pages with little to no content.
Website SEO agencies can group pages by topic or keyword to easily determine whether the content repeats itself. Afterwards, they can consolidate the information on the highest authority page in a bundle for the same topic.
For poor web pages that nonetheless attract important traffic or backlinks, SEOs are advised to keep them in existence, but improve the content.
As for pages that have SEO value but are not worth keeping, you can use 301 redirects to its closest topical neighbour pages to prevent readers from receiving a 404 error dead-end. However, web pages with no backlinks or traffic don't need any redirects because they have no authority to pass on, and users almost have zero chances of ending up on those pages.
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