In 2014, a revolutionary concept of organization swept through the US, to the delight of minimalists and Pinterest lovers everywhere. The KonMari Method, founded by organizational consultant Marie Kondo, is detailed in her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Millions of readers and once-messy converts swear by this method.
Essentially, you have to ruthlessly and decisively declutter everything in your home by asking yourself one simple question: “does this item spark joy?” (yes, it’s a little crunchy granola.)
So it seemed natural to me that I apply this process to my own website, right? As it turned out, not so much.
Prepping My Site for a Rebrand
I’m rebranding, as well as condensing two sites into one. My web designer, curse him, gently forced me to go through every page and post and remove outdated, irrelevant information. As you can imagine, since I started blogging to kickstart my business in 2009 as a website copywriter and freshly minted blogger, things have changed. A lot.
So let’s recap: I have 9+ years of blogging under my belt and except for condensing and changing pages here or there, I’ve never done a big sweep through my site.
My results of using the Kon Mari method to declutter my website led to a surprising find: it is a load of crap.
Using that process did not serve me. 99% of my old blog posts—as embarrassing as it would’ve been to think that someone else might stumble upon them today—sparked joy as I was going through them. Fondness. Nostalgia. Especially those early ones.
So I quickly scrapped Kon-Mari’ing and turned to another expert. As Stephen King famously admonished (he was quoting William Faulkner at the time) in his book, “On Writing”: “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
The curse of writers is that we love our own writing. But the show must go on and I scrapped over 100+ posts that were no longer relevant and no longer served me in the direction of my business.
“Cleaning Up Your Site” Vs “Preserving Your SEO During a Redesign”
Let’s stop and clarify something. There is a big difference between “cleaning up your site” and “preserving your SEO and traffic during a redesign.” There is a lot involved if you’re going through a redesign or a site overhaul: switching domains, changing your site architecture, condensing and removing core pages, etc.
This blog post is not addressing that. That is a much bigger conversation with many nuances that have to be considered for your unique situation. You can find great resources here about preserving your website’s SEO:
Read through these and you’ll quickly find the common themes to establish a checklist for your site. My insight below is just one piece of an overall puzzle of doing a site redesign, FWIW.
Tackling a Site Clean Up for a Rebrand
Here are the questions I asked myself in the process of reviewing each and every page, and a few basic rules of thumb around cleaning up your site:
- Crawl budget: Is this page taking Google’s bandwidth away from other more important pages and posts on my site? Does Google really need to crawl, index, and rank this page? Smaller sites don’t really need to worry about this so much so much, but small changes add up. Here’s a good article from Google if you want to read up on this.
- Site Speed: if I do a drastic clean up, my site speed theoretically should increase, right? Do I really need to hang on to this page if it might be, albeit very incrementally, be slowing down my site? As mentioned above, each tiny little change, when done in bulk, adds up for sure.
- Deleting vs Redirecting: Advice from Yoast on cleaning up old posts and pages: “If the value of the post was truly only temporary, don’t be afraid to delete it. However, if people are linking to your old post and you delete it, you’re throwing away link value. That’s why, when we delete old content, we redirect the URL to the most appropriate URL on the site. ”
- There is SO much more you could do to clean up a site: go through your plugins, compress images, review your tag and category strategy, check for broken links, messy redirects, cleaning up junky code…. this articlegoes through a lot more technical details WordPress users could consider.
- Is this page reflective of my current business? If someone found this post in Google or stumbled upon it on my site, would it reflect well on my brand?
- Keep a post if the content is still accurate, if it’s optimized for a relevant term to your current business, and if it gets decent traffic.
- Google Analytics and Google Search Console are your friends: look at the data in your accounts to discover what are the pages and posts that get the most traffic, that drive the most SEO traffic, that have the most links—but be strategic about what you see. One of my most successful pages is a PDF of a white paper I wrote in my early copywriting days about how to build cancer centers. I wrote this piece for an architecture firm and linked to it from my portfolio page. Dang but that PDF is popular! Popular, but completely irrelevant. I let it go. Should I expect my traffic to drop, but conversions to go up? Yes. Setting expectations is critical if you’re working with a team.
In the end, I let go of over 100 posts and pages. I’m keeping about 15 core pages, and re-tagging and re-categorizing the remaining posts. Making changes that are focused on the future feels very liberating.
Disclaimer: Undergoing the process of a website overhaul? Consult a professional, people! ? Call your web designer before doing anything drastic.