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Zombie pages in SEO: how to find and deal with them?

Zombie pages in SEO

Zombie pages weigh down your natural referencing and do nothing good for your site. Well hidden in the shadows, they reduce the effectiveness of your site despite all your efforts to improve it.

You optimize your site and offer quality content, yet your SEO is stagnating or regressing? Maybe it’s because of the zombie pages! But how to identify and treat them?

What is a zombie page?

A zombie page is a poor-quality page which, in addition to having little interest, harms your SEO.

These pages usually accumulate SEO problems and generate very little or no traffic or conversions at all. They do nothing and continually reduce the performance of your site.

They’re not called zombie pages for nothing; they have:

  • poor technical optimization,
  • incorrect markup
  • zero UX (user experience),
  • and/or very little content, etc.

They unnecessarily consume available resources (server bandwidth and search engine crawl budget). However, they play no role in the path to purchase or conversion.

Naturally, your visitors don’t like them and neither does Google. If you have a lot of zombie pages, it means that your site has a lot of low-quality pages.

Google will notice this and consider your site to be low quality.

Why do you have to take care of it?

Even if each of the pages of your site has an individual SEO value, Google will judge that of your site as a whole.

If you have a lot of zombie pages, it will negatively impact the performance of all of your pages. The more you have, the more your site will be poorly referenced.

Conversely, the less you have, the better your SEO will be. Removing or fixing zombie pages has several benefits for your site:

  • A better user experience. Detecting and dealing with zombie pages will improve the user experience on your site. Hence, it will increase your traffic, reduce bounce rate and improve your site conversion.
  • A better quality scores. By removing or reducing zombie pages, your site will get a better-quality score. This will have the effect of improving its positioning in search engine results.
  • Crawl optimization. In the absence of zombie pages, Google will have fewer pages to index. It will optimize the crawl of the important pages of your site and will try to better understand your themes.

The different types of zombie pages

There are different types of zombie pages. The most common are:

Low quality content pages

Pages with poor quality content are generally penalized and gradually dropped from the SERPs. We distinguish:

  • Pages with outdated content. That is, pages whose content has not been updated for several years. These can be old press releases, or news articles, old landing pages, etc.
  • Pages with very little content (less than 300 words).
  • Pages whose content is of no real interest.

Unindexed pages

These are usually pages with technical issues.

They may include, for example:

  • scripts not running
  • or poor-quality code requiring a long loading time.

Google can choose not to index this type of page which slows down its crawl robots. They therefore do not appear in the search results and do not receive organic traffic.

Pages not optimized for SEO

These are pages that do not meet SEO criteria (lack of keywords, hen tags, alt, etc., title not optimized, etc.).

Although they may have interesting content, these pages do not rank well in search engine results.

The other pages

Apart from these pages, there are also other types of zombie pages; we can quote:

  • Drafts or test pages created and then published, but never deleted.
  • Orphan pages which are not linked to other pages by internal links and which are not accessible by the menu.

???? Note that the additional pages (legal notices, contact, CGV, etc.) are not zombie pages. Their absence harms referencing since they contain legal information.

How to spot these zombie pages?

The best way to find your site’s zombie pages is to use SEO tools.

The RM Tech tool offers features to easily identify pages that are hurting your SEO. However, the use of such a tool requires very good SEO knowledge and above all time.

If you do not have all this, it would be wiser to call on an SEO agency at the risk of being counterproductive.

Use Google Search Console

If you still want to do it yourself, we recommend using the Google Search Console.

The “Performance” tab provides you with reports on the performance of all the indexed pages of your site. All you have to do is compare the evolution of traffic on your different pages to detect those whose traffic is constantly falling.

For a better analysis, consider the traffic over a minimum period of one year. This will save you from deleting/modifying:

  • recent pages that have not yet had time to prove themselves,
  • or those whose performance depends on the time of year.

In the “Excluded” tab (coverage + excluded), you can analyse:

  • Pages that Google crawled but did not index due to weak, duplicate or non-value-added content.
  • Pages that Google has detected but has not yet indexed due to technical issues.

Once you have detected the zombie pages of your site, it is recommended to analyze them separately to adopt the right approach according to each case.

How to deal with zombie pages on your website?

Depending on the case, several options are available to you to overcome the zombie pages of your site. Some pages can simply be updated while others will need to be deleted.

Update these pages

Zombie pages are most of the time because they are too poor in content, absent from the internal mesh or poorly optimized. It is therefore enough to bring them up to date so that they are interesting for Google and your visitors. You can for example:

  • Add text, update and enrich the content of these pages
  • Add good keywords and improve the semantic richness of the text according to the subject treated
  • Optimize the tags and titles of these pages
  • Improve user experience (UX) and loading time
  • Improve internal linking by adding internal links from other pages on the site
  • Use outbound links to specify your sources
  • Use images (well optimized) or videos
  • Add structured data
  • Promote these pages by sharing them by email, on social networks, etc.

Unindexed these pages

Some pages should not be indexed, but they are because of a bad setting on CMS like WordPress.

Still others are useful for purposes other than SEO, but are considered zombies because they are indexed. This is often the case for author pages, tags, article categories, etc.

These pages must remain accessible to your visitors. It is therefore preferable to de-index them since they do not contribute anything to your SEO. This assumes that the internal mesh remains intact.

It is then up to you to see if it is necessary to block the deindexed page in the crawl (robot.txt file).

Just delete them

Deletion is the most effective method to get rid of a zombie page. But this is a delicate operation for which it is essential to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

If the zombie page in question has obsolete content, does not generate any conversions and does nothing for your WIX SEO services, do not hesitate to delete it.

On the other hand, the essential pages such as the RGPD, the General Conditions of Sale or the legal notices must be kept even if they generate only few visits.

???? Watch out! It is important to set up a 301 redirect or a 410 redirect when you delete a page on a website.

The 301 redirect is used to redirect the user to another page when the latter tries to access the deleted page. You thus avoid the generation of 404 errors on your website; these mistakes kill your SEO.

The 301 redirect also informs Google that the page is permanently replaced by another one. However, make sure that the new page addresses a theme similar to that of the deleted page.

If a 301 redirect is not possible, then set up a 410 redirect. By doing so, you inform Google that the URL has been permanently removed and will not be replaced.

???? If you opt for this method, you must also ensure that no more links point to this page.

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