CNET Deletes Thousands of Old Articles To Game Google Search – Slashdot

CNET Deletes Thousands of Old Articles To Game Google Search – Slashdot


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from the bamboozling-Search dept.

According to Gizmodo, CNET has deleted thousands of old articles over the past few months in a bid to improve its performance in Google Search results. From the report: Archived copies of CNET’s author pages show the company deleted small batches of articles prior to the second half of July, but then the pace increased. Thousands of articles disappeared in recent weeks. A CNET representative confirmed that the company was culling stories but declined to share exactly how many it has taken down. The move adds to recent controversies over CNET’s editorial strategy, which has included layoffs and experiments with error-riddled articles written by AI chatbots.

“Removing content from our site is not a decision we take lightly. Our teams analyze many data points to determine whether there are pages on CNET that are not currently serving a meaningful audience. This is an industry-wide best practice for large sites like ours that are primarily driven by SEO traffic,” said Taylor Canada, CNET’s senior director of marketing and communications. “In an ideal world, we would leave all of our content on our site in perpetuity. Unfortunately, we are penalized by the modern internet for leaving all previously published content live on our site.”

CNET shared an internal memo about the practice. Removing, redirecting, or refreshing irrelevant or unhelpful URLs “sends a signal to Google that says CNET is fresh, relevant and worthy of being placed higher than our competitors in search results,” the document reads. According to the memo about the “content pruning” the company considers a number of factors before it “deprecates” an article, including SEO, the age and length of the story, traffic to the article, and how frequently Google crawls the page. The company says it weighs historical significance and other editorial factors before an article is taken down. When an article is slated for deletion, CNET says it maintains its own copy, and sends the story to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The company also says current staffers whose articles are deprecated will be alerted at least 10 days ahead of time.

What does Google have to say about this? According to the company’s Public Liaison for Google Search, Danny Sullivan, Google recommends against the practice. “Are you deleting content from your site because you somehow believe Google doesn’t like ‘old’ content? That’s not a thing! Our guidance doesn’t encourage this,” Sullivan said in a series of tweets.

If a website has an individual page with outdated content, that page “isn’t likely to rank well. Removing it might mean, if you have a massive site, that we’re better able to crawl other content on the site. But it doesn’t mean we go, ‘Oh, now the whole site is so much better’ because of what happens with an individual page.” Sullivan wrote. “Just don’t assume that deleting something only because it’s old will improve your site’s SEO magically.”

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