How Zombie Pages Hurt SEO

Why “Zombie Pages” Might Be Eating Your Site’s Performance Alive

They’re coming to eat your brains! Well, maybe not your brains so much as the products of your mind and your hard effort. They’re called “zombie pages,” and they can gnaw away a huge chunk of your website’s traffic without you even noticing. Having too many zombie pages shambling about can also be a big reason why you aren’t ranking on search engines.

Worst of all, like a true zombie plague, a zombie page doesn’t just keep to itself. If you ignore them too long, the infection could spread!

Zombie pages have no soul and no value to visitors. They exist because of a mindless desire to rank for certain keywords. Others might serve as a placeholder page someone once thought was necessary but that really serves no purpose in navigation. In both scenarios, these types of pages hurt your performance metrics. Since they don’t contain the information people are looking for when they search, they also get ignored by search engines.

The only way to handle zombie pages is to quarantine them. Once you identify the “infected” pages hurting your performance, you can take measures to bring them back to life. Or, if it’s a page that really doesn’t need to exist any more, you can put it out of its misery.

So, are you ready to start the zombie hunt? Well, as an experienced web content writing company in Atlanta, we feel qualified to say we’re expert zombie slayers. Read on to learn what, exactly, zombie pages are, as well as 3 easy steps you can take to exterminate those pesky zombies once and for all using some smart content pruning.

So What Are “Zombie Pages” in Terms of SEO?

The interpretation of “zombie pages” varies, but nearly all definitions refer to them as pages with stale content and stagnating performance. Over time, their performance decays so bad that they end up as “dead pages,” meaning that they are rarely seen by anyone.

Since search engines use performance metrics like traffic volume or pages viewed per visit as ranking signals, a dead page may be shoved back to the fifth page of Google… or get de-indexed altogether.

What separates a “zombie” page from typical a “dead” page, though, is that just like in the movies these pages are the living dead. See, a normal dead page exists on some far away corner of your site. It could be a blog from six years ago no one remembers or an obscure product listing no one buys. Yeah it’s dead, but it’s not exactly getting attention stinking up the place, either.

But living dead pages do get some measure of attention. They could be a years-old version of a main navigation page that offers no value. Or, they could be outdated pages website owners try to keep on life support with occasional updates.

Zombie pages are therefore dangerous to SEO because they represent missed opportunities. If a main navigation page isn’t worth looking at, people won’t bother to click deeper into the site to look at more specific information. One page’s poor structure or poor performance thus causes others to suffer.

Pages that suck up your time and effort just to deliver bad results can also act like an undead parasite. You give them your energy, and they offer nothing in return.

Either way, zombie pages are dead pages that just refuse to die. They feed off the performance signals of other pages, draining their energy, and they siphon off your personal resources when you try to maintain them.

So, how do you get rid of zombies? Go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over? Nope! You identify which pages are zombies and decide what to do next accordingly.

Here’s how to get rid of your zombie problem in three steps before they can take over the rest of your site.

Step 1: Identify Signs of Infection

The performance difference between healthy pages and dead/undead pages is easy to spot. Take a look at the following metrics:

  • Total visits (Pageviews)

  • Unique Pageviews

  • Avg. Time on Page

  • Bounce Rate

  • Exit rate

  • Pages per session (Pages/Session)

Pageviews can quickly separate poor performers from the rest of the pack, but don’t think of them as inherently valuable. You want visits from users who stick around and don’t bounce quickly from the page. Aim for a high number of views per session. Think quality over quantity.

Step 2: Put Your Corpses to Rest

Performance metrics let you know which pages are dragging your site down, which allows you to then revisit your overall website strategy and consider whether certain pages are well and truly dead. They may no longer serve a function, or they may have always been a page that failed to earn attention. If so: RIP.

You can effectively put these dead pages to rest by deleting their HTML files and removing their listing on your sitemap. Do your best to probe around for other pages that link to these pages and remove the link or change it to a more appropriate URL.

Even still, there may be links to the dead page you might not know about. To resolve this issue, you can instruct a browser to retrieve what’s known as a 410 error: “Page no longer exists” This error is different from a 404 “not found” error since a 410 shows the page did exist but was removed.

Or, you can decide to instruct a 301 redirect to a more important area of the site. 301 redirects are especially helpful if the zombie page has valuable backlinks you don’t want to lose.

Step 3: Triage Your Zombie Pages

Ok you’ve dealt with your dead pages’ desiccated remains, but what about the undead?

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Deciding how to handle your individual zombies is up to you. You can:

  1. Completely redo the page, using quality content and best practices. This strategy works well for pages that have an important purpose in navigation but don’t deliver on value.

  2. Make the page an organ donor by taking chunks of its content and putting it into other higher or lower-level pages. This strategy works for pages that have some good content or minor purpose but don’t deserve their own URL.

  3. Bring new life to the page by adding more quality content and double-checking all your technical SEO elements. You can also try to boost the page’s performance by pointing more internal links to it from higher-up in navigation, giving it outbound links, or earning backlinks from other websites.

  4. Send the page to oblivion, where it belongs using either a 410 or a 301 redirect. Sometimes, there’s no salvaging a page despite our best efforts. You’ll need to account for the missing page somehow by revising your navigation path and peppering information it once provided (if any) throughout other areas of the site.

Determining which of these strategies to use depends on your overall website content strategy. If you’re having trouble identifying which course of action is best or how to handle your zombie pages, you can always look to a qualified web content writing company in Atlanta to handle your content pruning needs.

 

Do Not Fear the Zombies. Do Not Pity Them. Be Ruthless. If You Need Help, Look to a Web Content Writing Company in Atlanta

The key to addressing the zombie pandemic is to cut off the infection before it spreads. Beware the “sunk cost fallacy” remorse you may feel dealing with pages you don’t have the heart to kill. Your choices should always look to the future — what’s the best decision for you site moving forward?

And if you can’t bring yourself to get rid of your zombies or even identify where they lurk, know that we at Antarsia Marketing are here for you. We want you website to function as a healthy, holistic unit that helps you earn both search engine rankings and great on-page performance.

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Ready to take the next step towards revolutionizing your site? Take a look at our Atlanta web writing services, and then contact us today!