Google’s John Mueller answered a question about what to do with low traffic pages that have poor search visibility and traffic. He acknowledged that there could be quality issues but also noted that low traffic in itself is not mean the pages themselves are low quality.
John Mueller offered solutions to the problem of low traffic web pages.
What to Do About Low Traffic Pages?
The person asking the question was concerned about hundreds of thousands of web pages that are indexed but have minimal search visibility.
He communicated that perhaps these pages lacked authority and asked if he should de-index the pages or canonicalize them because he was concerned about the website’s quality score.
How does Google Treat Low Traffic Pages in Terms of Quality?
This is the question asked:
“We have a site that has a hub and spoke architecture.
A hub page might be Eric Clapton and the spokes are what guitars he uses, and each of those pages are relatively small.
The value from them is from embedded videos or pictures with relatively little unique font content.
Over time those pages have become the majority of our indexed pages, with well over a hundred thousand.
But only a third of those are getting traffic through search.
In the past I’ve heard you say that to affect your website’s quality score, we were considering de-indexing those pages …the pages that are not getting traffic…
However, we were also considering canonicalizing these.
So I was curious how Google would treat that from a quality score perspective.”
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Google Does Not Have a Quality Score for Organic Search
Many in the search industry and Google discuss site quality. Web pages, groups of web pages and entire websites can be judged to be of low quality.
But Google does not have a “quality score” for the organic search results. John Mueller affirmed this important point.
Google’s John Mueller first addressed the issue of the quality score by noting that Google does not give sites a quality score.
“We don’t really have a quality score, in that sense.
I think that’s something that comes from the ad side.
So that’s one thing to keep in mind there.”
How to Deal with Low Quality Web Pages
Mueller next discussed the different approaches to dealing with pages that have low search visibility.
John Mueller continued:
“I think there are multiple things to think about here.
On the one hand, I would consider taking some action if you feel that these pages are low quality.
Taking action could be something like removing those pages, improving those pages, combining those kinds of pages together.
Anything along those lines could be something that you could do if these are low quality pages.”
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Low Traffic is Not a Signal of Low Quality
John Mueller next offered the insight that low search visibility is not a symptom of low quality.
The question of low quality is a good one so it’s always useful to hear what John Mueller or any other Googler has to say about this issue of page and site quality.
Mueller offered the following insights:
“If these are pages that tend not to get a lot of traffic but they’re actually useful on their own then I wouldn’t necessarily see them as low quality. That’s one thing to keep in mind.
On some websites, pages that get low traffic are often almost like correlated with low quality as well but that doesn’t have to be the case.
On other websites it might must just be that a lot of traffic goes to the head pages and the tail pages are just as useful but they’re useful for a much smaller audience.
So they get barely any traffic.
From our point of view, those websites are still useful and it’s still high quality.
I wouldn’t remove it just because it doesn’t get traffic.”
How to Fix Low Quality Pages at Scale
Mueller next discusses the difficult issue of dealing with low quality pages at scale in terms of hundreds of thousands of pages.
Mueller offered these suggestions:
“With regards to the different kinds of approaches there, when I ask the search quality teams about this, usually they say well you should just improve the quality of your pages. which kind of makes sense…
But at the same time if you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of pages that’s really hard to do at scale.
So sometimes people do opt for removing the pages or combining the pages.
The thing to keep in mind with using a canonical to combine pages is that we only take into account the canonical page then.
So if you have one page for example about Eric Clapton’s guitars and another page about Eric Clapton’s shoes, and you say that the guitar page is the canonical for the shoes page then we wouldn’t have that shoe page or any of its content in our index anymore. We would essentially just focus on the guitars.
So if someone were searching for Eric Clapton shoes, they wouldn’t be able to find those pages at all.
So that’s (kind of) with the different approaches, something to keep in mind, so that in a case like that, what I would do is take the content from the page that you want to kind of remove or clean up and include that into kind of a bigger page and make that bigger page stronger.
And by that you’re also making sure that you still have that content indexable somewhere.”
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Identifying Quality Issues and Traffic Issues
In a way, this question was really about two topics.
One topic was about content quality. The other concern was search traffic.
If one decouples the issue of “quality” from the concern about pages lacking search traffic, then the answer to the question of what do with the pages becomes a little clearer.
The question becomes, “What can I do to make these pages perform better in search?”
Google’s John Mueller suggested combining the pages to make stronger pages out of hundreds of weaker pages, if the content itself is useful.
But of course, if the content is inherent useless, it’s possible to rewrite it to make it more useful, get rid of it or redirect it to a page that has a similar topic but is better.
Pages with Low Traffic Aren’t Always Low Quality
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 40 second mark: