301 redirect or 404 the URLs with low to no traffic when updating a site?
 by Kristi Hagen

301 redirect or 404 the URLs with low to no traffic when updating a site?

  • Over the years I've built a website with quite a few pages using long tail keywords on a similar topic but arranged differently.

    Recently, in search console, I've discovered a lot of pages consistently aren't getting many clicks or views. So, since I'm redoing this website right now, I looking to consolidate the content of the poorly performing pages into the best of the remaining pages. Then I plan to 301 redirect the old "bad" pages to the remaining "best" pages.

    I'm wondering, would it be better, instead, to simply delete the poorly performing page URLS vs.taking the time to 301 redirecting them? I still plan on improving and consolidating content regardless.


Typically when faced with that sort of decision we look to see if those pages you're considering dropping (404) have any links, or any inbound traffic from other sites. Start by looking within your Google Analytic's reports to see if the pages have gotten any traffic in the last year at all. That report will allow you to isolate the content that's performing the worst. You can also isolate your lowest performing page from Google's perspective based on the Search Console Performance report. Then you'll want to look at the links pointing at those pages. You can do that with Sitebulb or WebCEO's tool suite.

Any URLs having solid links pointing at them should be 301 redirected or updated to make them more powerful. If you just delete those pages then you'll lose those links, which can be very hard to replace.

The URLs showing little or no traffic or links pointing at them are pages that we would typically just delete and let go 404 page not found.

Be sure to update your sitemaps so that those old links aren't still sitting in there. Once that's done, Google will see those 404s and drop them pretty quickly from the index.

And yes, if you have content on those pages, consider adding the content to other pages. Or, you can bundle like-minded content to create one solid resource and then 301 redirect the pages you're consolidating to that one URL you've chosen out of the group that's most authoritative in regards to age, links, or rankings.

The take away is this; there's really no good reason to redirect or save pages...