Sunk cost fallacy and content for SEO - when to give up on ranking pages?

This is meant to be a bit of a lesson on evaluating your current content strategy / SEO structure but I’m also doing it as a bit of an exercise for myself since I suffer from the very same affliction so many do when it comes to “giving up on” content.

So let’s talk about when to delete (or demote) content on our website.

We’re using for this example:

In the beginning! It was a brand new site, and we wanted Carly to show up for all the luxury waterfront areas on Vancouver Island - the idea was, if anyone is looking for a $2m+ waterfront property using “area waterfront for sale” etc we want to be there.

Hyper targetted luxury/waterfront niche.

So we created a list of all the areas that had these types of homes that Carly could reasonably service:

Youbou, Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith, and so on.

But what we also did was add the various islands as main navigation items:

The logic is, they are likely not that competitive, and although the keyword research doesn’t show a tonne of search volume, perhaps we can get some low-hanging fruit rankings and $2M+ leads out of them.

But… the islands are not our focus, so we only created main pages (no content pillars) and have done no link-building for them.

Where we have focused, we have crushed it! Top 3 for almost everything Vancouver Island Waterfront

And that’s expected - we put a tonne of work into it.

But back to the islands… as it turns out you can’t just toss up 1 page of content, do no supporting blogs, create no pillars, and build no links and rank (again no surprise there!)

So as I do a content/website review, I am looking at this top nav and gong - ok, so we’ve gotten virtual no leads the past few years, we now know (Carly is not new to real estate anymore) that those islands are likely far too much trouble to deal with listings on, etc) and we have insights into the traffic.

Can we really justify having them in the top navigation, which is prime real estate?

Let’s do some research - I’m going to use Denman Island as an example (It’s one of the better islands on the list that is “out of area” for Carly)

Let’s start with the obvious (this is real estate SEO conversation after all) what kind of traffic does it get?

The great thing about “testing” is that even if we haven’t committed to achieving top 3 rankings, if you’re top 100 you get traffic data from Google search console. So here is the last 3 months.

Clearly there is no traffic for us currently (you need to be at least top 5 to get clicks these days) so this page is doing exactly nothing for us “right now”

So do we put effort into ranking it top 5? Or do we bury it? (Or delete it?)

Well in the last 3 months, it’s gotten a “TOTAL of 111 searches” - if we were top 3 the best we could do click-through rate-wise would be 20%, so that represents 22 clicks in 3 months. (88 clicks per year)

So… that answers that!

Now don’t get me wrong, if we went all out on SEO, we would get far more keywords driving traffic, but at these volumes, we’d get to what? 200? 400 clicks per year?

But more importantly - it takes quite a lot of work to really dive deep into a community (main pages, sub-pages, blog posts, link building etc) call it at least 25 hours to TRULY go after it.

That is $5k worth of SEO.

At 88 clicks per year, I can literally buy the traffic via PPC and even if it was $2 a click it’s $180 bucks.

So no. We’ll not be doing a deep dive for SEO on Denman Island.

But now we have to ask ourselves - what do we do with it (and pages like it?)

Do we remove them from the top nav? Do we remove them from the site?

I’m definitely going to remove them from the top nav: The reason why is they are getting links from every page right now and taking Pagerank from pages we’d far prefer to rank.

But I’m not going to remove them from the site:

I honestly do feel that having complete content coverage (where possible) for us is important, and here’s the thing - on Vancouver Island, people are looking for “waterfront” so while their search might start there, they may also be willing to consider (and likely are considering) other areas, so the leads are still good to have in the database.

My ONLY concern (SEO-wise) is that the constant reference to the word “Island” in the top nav might be helping our Vancouver Island searches, but it’s a minor (and very easily tested) concern.

So there we have it - we’ve made a decision! Denman Island is going to go! (And likely that whole Islands top nav)

But I would be remiss if I didn’t do research on all the others to make sure this is not just a fluke and others are generating a lot more traffic/leads.

As expected - not a lot of risk of loss

BUT THOSE 178 Hornby Island Real Estate SEARCHES!!! (Did your brain go there?) Mine did!

That’s the trap I’m trying to avoid for myself - holding on to something I never was going to do anyways (I’m never going to prioritize Horby Island for SEO) - so I need to remember that by taking it out of the top nav, I’m making room for something far more valuable, and giving my already important pages a greater share of pagerank.

And as I said below - if I ever really want the traffic? I can just buy it! :slight_smile:

It’s cheaper, and way less effort.