In an effort to optimize its performance in Google Search results, CNET, a leading technology news outlet, has taken the step of deleting thousands of its older articles. Gizmodo first reported on this development, which is part of CNET’s broader strategy that has recently come under scrutiny. This strategy involves not only large-scale deletions but also the use of artificial intelligence tools to produce content.
Content Pruning Explained
- CNET describes its technique of deleting articles as “content pruning”.
- The main goal is to signal to Google that CNET remains relevant, updated, and thus worthy of a higher search ranking compared to its competitors.
- CNET maintains an archive of removed stories, leveraging the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
- Authors are informed at least 10 days prior to the removal of their articles.
Factors Influencing Content Deletion
- SEO Considerations: CNET aims to improve its search engine performance not only on Google but also on other platforms like Microsoft Bing.
- Article Metrics: Various factors such as the article’s age, length, traffic, and the frequency of Google’s crawls influence the decision.
- Editorial Significance: The platform ensures that articles with historical importance are weighed carefully before removal.
Google’s Stance on Content Removal
Google’s Public Liaison for Google Search, Danny Sullivan, addressed the issue on Twitter, expressing that Google does not advocate for the deletion of articles merely because they’re old. He emphasized:
- Creating trustworthy, people-centric content is Google’s main recommendation.
- The mere act of deleting an old article does not automatically enhance a site’s overall performance.
- Google’s guidelines don’t support the idea of removing older content purely for SEO benefits.
Gizmodo highlighted concerns about whether such deletions might interfere with the training of large language models (LLMs) for AI, which often scrape the web for information. The implications of this, given that the articles can be seen as public records, remain uncertain.
Backdrop: Red Ventures and CNET’s Editorial Changes
- Red Ventures, a private equity-backed marketing firm that owns CNET, is known for its aggressive SEO strategies across its platforms, which also include The Points Guy, Healthline, and Bankrate.
- Earlier this year, reports emerged about CNET’s quiet utilization of AI tools for content creation, aimed at supporting affiliate ads. Following noticeable errors in AI-generated articles, Red Ventures put a temporary stop to the content and revised its AI policy.
- This use of AI, coupled with concerns about content monetization, prompted CNET’s staff to unionize in May.
- Despite the ongoing debate, Red Ventures remains committed to its strategy. Regular “content pruning” sessions are planned for CNET, with at least one major review annually.
SEO Expert Opinions
Though Google does not actively promote the deletion of older articles, some SEO experts have informed Gizmodo that if executed thoughtfully, the process can indeed be advantageous for websites. The key is striking a balance and ensuring that the core integrity and value of the website are not compromised in the pursuit of better search rankings.
The world of online content is evolving, with platforms like CNET taking measures they believe will give them an edge in a competitive digital landscape. Whether such strategies prove beneficial in the long run remains to be seen. What is clear is that the ongoing tug-of-war between SEO optimization and content value will continue to shape the future of digital content.