Michael Martinez offers an instructive personal case history on Xenite.org. This science fiction themed website shared a server with some of Martinez's other websites. When the server reached the end of its service life, Martinez faced the unenviable task of “digging into code and applications that were several years old” and basically obsolete, according to his case study. He would have to upgrade the operating system and the hardware as well.
So Martinez and his partner dived in to do the upgrade – and basically everything broke. Forum functionality, email, you name it; “In fact, the whole server went dark for up to a week,” he recalled. But the bigger problem was that he couldn't just move everything over easily. Xenite.org includes tens of thousands of HTML pages, all of them hand-coded. With that many pages, “the idea of importing them into a CMS with little to no opportunity to fix problems is not very enticing.”
Martinez started moving the site over in April. By the end of May, with thousands of broken pages and more Perl scripts to fix than he wanted to think about, he realized that he hadn't touched many of these pages in years...and wondered whether his traffic would even notice if they no longer existed. So he took a quick look at Google Analytics, and discovered “the unmistakable dip of a Panda update in our Google referral traffic beginning around May 9.”
It was then that Martinez decided that he needed to do more than just set the site back up more or less as it had been before. He'd written earlier about getting rid of content that is no longer serving visitors, and letting go of websites that no longer served their purpose. In this case, it meant deleting everything from www.xenite.org, except for a few sub-domains. “The old Xenite has been swept away and I have no intention of ever restoring it to the light of day again. This is precisely the kind of medicine I have been prescribing for people who are suffering from the Panda Syndrome,” Martinez explained.
If you own a problem website, or you're looking at upgrading or overhauling your site, it's worth your time to dig deeper to see what's really going on. How many visitors are you getting? What trends do you see over time? Are there lots of pages that no one has visited in years? Is your site a Panda victim? Then it may be time to wipe the slate clean and consider your options.