Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on December 8th, 2010

SEO Mind Trick: How to Remove Content Without Losing Link Juice in Three Easy Steps

In nearly all facets of the search engine optimization process, you learn that adding content to your site and to the external strings of the Web will help build your authority as a business and brand. But there are instances you want to remove content from your site. For example: promotional pages that are expired, products and services you no longer offer, a website redesign, outdated contact information, confidential information, or even something that you’ve been requested to take down by another entity.

Now that you’ve done all that work to search engine optimize a web page with inbound links, you don’t want to lose all the link juice when you delete the content. The good news is you don’t have to lose any of that sweet, succulent link juice dripping from the page. You just need to flex your Jedi skills and perform an SEO mind trick. Follow the following steps to learn how to remove content without losing link juice.

Step #1: Save Your Link Juice with 301 Redirect

If you want to save the inbound links pointing your page–and the traffic that comes with them– keep these relationships by setting up a 301 redirect. By setting up a 301 redirect for every web page you care to delete, you are redirecting your link juice from hitting a 404 page–aka “page not found”–to the new page. For a step-by-step tutorial, check out a blog post I wrote last month: Drupal SEO Tutorial: How to Set Up 301 Redirects.

Step #2: Delete Your Content

In most open source CMSs, you can just select the blog post or web page and delete it. But don’t under-value taking your time with this step. This will ensure that you are deleting absolutely everything you need to delete from the content node. Here are the main components that need your attention:

• Delete meta keywords, meta description, page title, post summary, and anything that stems from plug-ins or other modules. Then delete the main copy of the node, including comments.

• Disassociate and delete any and all tags and categories you created for this content node. These could contain keywords you are targeting, which you do not want the node to rank for any longer.

• Once you have completed those two actions, save the post. Once it is saved, delete it completely.

• Remove any and all additional internal links that you put in place, such as keyword-rich links pointing to the node in your sidebar, home page, or other pages that point back to it.

These steps should effectively remove all references and relevance the content node from external and internal links, while redirecting all traffic to another relevance page, such as your home page.

Step #3: Update Your XML Sitemap with Google

Instead of waiting for Google’s spiders to crawl your site again–which could take weeks– you can submit a new XML sitemap to Google in Webmaster tools. Need a refresher? Check out this quick guide: X(ML) Marks the Spot: Your Drupal SEO Guide to XML Sitemaps.

If you want to ensure a speedy process, you can also submit the URL of the original post in Google’s URL removal tool in Google Webmaster tools. Then, you can set up a Google Alert for when the page or content node has been removed from Google’s indexing. You will receive an email and–WAPOW!–it’s gone!

Another way to get Google’s attention for an old content node is to activate your loyal followers to tweet, retweet, and post to Facebook the original URL. This should draw Google’s ‘giant eye in the sky’ to see that your page is no longer found and erase it from existence.

The ultimate goal is to delete your content from the Web as soon as possible, while salvaging all the SEO efforts that were made for said content. It can take a day–if you’re lucky–or it could take a week or two. The more thoroughly you follow these steps, the faster you will remove content that contain information you no longer want published for all to access online.

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