What to do with Aging Web Stories
At Nicole Barker VA, we have been researching, tracking, and creating Web Stories for nearly 4 years now. In that time, we have created over 7,000 Web Stories for clients that total tens of millions of impressions.
One of the things we love to do is really dig into the data and find common threads of success that can be applied to Web Stories to give them a higher chance of success.
A recent subject that we have been hearing bouncing around social forums is what to do with outdated and aging Web Stories. Here is our experience, advice, suggested processes when dealing with older Web Stories.
Aging Web Stories Can Still Have Value
We have recently come across one industry SEO professional who is encouraging the immediate deletion of older Web Stories. His reasoning is that older Web Stories
- Can outrank the original post
- Can take up Google crawl resources.
Let’s dive into both of these reasons.
Outrank regular recipes
While it can happen that viral stories can outrank the post itself, to us, it doesn’t make sense to highlight this as a reason to delete older non-performing stories. If the story is no longer performing, then it wouldn’t be outranking the post. It is essentially just dead and Google stops displaying it in Discover feeds. So I don’t see older Stories as a threat to post rankings or as a primary reason to immediately delete a Story.
This is a topic that I hear discussed often that I also believe to be overhyped. Google crawls things strategically and generally based on the information it is receiving from your sitemaps. It takes on updated and new content first and then of course, moves through internal links to spider through other parts of the site. Older web stories that have not been changed, do not register as changed on your sitemap and therefore, Google would mostly disregard them with their crawlers.
Stories also rarely receive backlinks from other sites, so again, Google crawlers will mostly disregard them if they aren’t ever updated. So to me, this also doesn’t seem like a major reason to just go delete all older Stories.
Should I Delete Older Web Stories?
Let me first say that I do agree with ensuring all content on your site is high quality and relevant to your site theme. That process can sometimes mean simply deleting content. Google has made mention of it’s dislike of “thin” or outdated content a number of times and so I think curating all content is important to the SEO health of the site. I fully subscribe to the “pruning” process described in this search engine land article. Pruning isn’t just deleting at will, it is a full curation process that shows Google you are an authority on a topic.
Applying “pruning” principles to Web Stories means evaluating more than just their age. We recommend evaluating 3 major factors when determining what to do with an older Story.
- Was it viral in the past. If a Web Story was viral in the past, it means that Google found the content to be solid enough to show it to users in a variety of ways. It would be wise to note the topic and timing and consider publishing a similar Story during the same time of the year. One that is fresh and new, but holds a similar topic.
- Does it still have traffic. Most Web Stories pick up traffic within about 2-5 days of being published. They then have their “time in the sun” for anywhere from a day to sometimes a couple of weeks. After that, most Web Stories will die off and not receive much of any traffic going forward. Some however, continue for years to get a reasonable number of impressions in Google Discover. So check the overall traffic trends before doing any kind of a delete.
- Was the Story release at an appropriate time of the year. Web Stories are mostly shown in Google Discover traffic which is basically a news and interest feed for Android users. You could publish the best Story ever, but if Google thinks no one is interested in it because of timing or content, it will go nowhere. Hitting the most viral times of the year for a given topic is vitally important for Story success. If your publish schedule had a BBQ Story that went out in November, you may want to consider moving that Story to draft and then republishing at a more appropriate time, versus deleting it because it didn’t perform well originally.
- Was the Story Content Good. Our definition of good is a minimum of 9 slides, bright full images, catchy headlines, and enough content to keep Google interested and still leave the user wanting more (clicks to your site).
As you evaluate all of these things, you may find some Stories just failed and maybe isn’t a topic Google is going to be interested in. If that’s the case, deleting the Story and being done with it is totally fine. Make sure you put a “410 content deleted” entry into your site so Google knows that Story is forever gone.
We hate recommending deletion of content as that content represents time and money. So before you just throw something away because of reasons an SEO guy says might be good, really evaluate each Story and see if it still has potential.
If you determine that with a few tweaks, the Story could take on new life, we recommend the following.
How to Curate Older Web Stories
You identified Stories that maybe once had interest, but have since quieted down. Maybe they are Stories that could be published with a more catchy title at a different time of the year.
To republish an aging Story as new…
- Duplicate the Story so you can save the basis of the content.
- Delete the original post and add a “410 content deleted” entry to your site. That tells Google, the Story is permanently gone.
- Update the content to make it more robust and fit a broader audience. Updating the title to be more “headline focused” can have good results.
- Ensure the SLUG is new and different from the original Story.
- Schedule the new draft of the Story to be published during a time of the year that makes sense. If the Web Story was viral in the past, but then died, consider publishing the new draft at a similar time to the original Story.
This process ensures you aren’t just throwing away time and money spent on Stories in hopes that deleting content will somehow have a positive effect on the rest of your content. Get additional life out of that money by quick evaluations, editing, and republishing of Stories.