Delete or Update Old Website Content

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July 10, 2018

Delete or Update Old Website Content

We present both sides of the argument so you can decide.

If your website is more than a few years old, the chances are very good that some content will be outdated. And if you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve got some old content in your blog. But why should you care? No one is going to see it anyway. Right? Wrong.

One of the main benefits of having a blog is the search engine optimization (SEO) value it provides. This means that at any time, someone could find a blog post you wrote months or years ago. Your blog provides content that continues to drive results in terms of traffic and leads over time. But if your readers don’t bother to check the date on the blog post, they might have no idea they’re reading outdated and possibly inaccurate information.

The question becomes: Is all of your web content up-to-date and useful?

If your content is outdated, filled with old news, riddled with broken links or missing images, how useful can it be?

What does that outdated content say about your business?

Click through to each page of your website and ask yourself:

  • Is this information still accurate?
  • Is this information still relevant?
  • Does it help my visitors find the information they are seeking?
  • Can my visitors find answers to their questions?
  • Does my content provide solutions to their problems?

If some of your older website content is not accurate, no longer necessary or outdated, your choices are:

  1. do nothing
  2. delete it
  3. update it

If You Decide To Do Nothing

No technical reasons exist for deleting old blog posts.

Old content can serve an archival purpose. It helps to show that your business has been around for a while, that you’re not a fly-by-night startup.

It provides a sense of how your business has developed over time, the kinds of projects you’ve undertaken, who has been involved and what has been done.

If You Decide To Delete Old Content

 If visitors can’t find what they’re looking for on your website — if they can’t find accurate, up-to-date information to help them take the next action — there’s no reason to hang onto outdated content.

 Some of your older content might be low quality and you can’t really improve it, simply because there’s too much of it, or it was auto-generated.

If there’s low quality content on your site that can be improved upon — do it. If you can’t, get rid of it.

Be aware, however, that every page you delete from your website means all backlinks to the deleted page will be broken, including all links to that page from other pages on your website, from any other sites that have linked to your deleted page, and from search engines that have indexed the page and show it in search results.

Visitors trying to click-through any of those links will meet a dead-end at the dreaded 404 “Page Not Found” error message, unless you redirect those links to a different page.

If You Decide To Update Old Content

 When you don’t want to remove old content, you can update any out-of-date information that may be misleading or confusing to your readers. Updating and refreshing old content increases the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and boosts your search engine traffic.

By re-purposing some of your older evergreen posts, you can extend the life of your blog content, as well as increase the results it continues to achieve over time.

Updating isn’t recommended for every post you published; you should still be publishing lots of new, original content. But it can serve as a good way to maintain your publishing frequency.

How To Choose Which Posts To Update?

Choose a blog post that is (or was) popular with your audience or search engines: one with backlinks, one that is still generating traffic, and/or one with a lot of social shares (Tweets, Facebook Likes, etc.). Social shares factor into search rankings.

Best Practices for Updating and Republishing Posts

  • Keep the URL the same.
  • If you change the title, keep keyword(s) in the title
  • Add an editor’s note. Here’s an example that should be included in republished posts.

 Editor’s note: This post was originally published in Month/Date/20XX and has been updated to reflect industry changes.

  •  If there are certain keywords you’re trying to rank better for in search, use them in your updated content.
  • Update content for “freshness”. Over time, content can get stale. This illustration from Moz shows how your original content gradually becomes less and less “fresh,” which is one of the factors Google uses to determine the quality of your site.
  • Replace outdated data and statistics with more recent ones.
  • Update screenshots.
  • Add any new best practices that have emerged and remove outdated “best practices”
  • Check and replace internal links, especially if there are now better resources for you to link to.
  • Update the Call-To-Action. Is the CTA offer still the best option for this post?

Why You Should Update Your Old Content

  1. To Improve your click-through rate.

When you do a Google search for just about any term, the top results are typically published in the past year.

Information that was accurate just a few months ago might be completely different now.

Imagine searching for “best refrigerators” or “vent hood reviews.”  Wouldn’t you rather read something published in the last year, rather than an article from 2010? Of course you would.

The click-through rate of a published article will increase when you update it. This is important because, to Google, you will rank higher if people click on your content from the SERP (search engine results page).

  1. To show Google your content is fresh

Google loves fresh content and shows that love by ranking higher any recently published content. Without refreshing old blog posts, they will eventually disappear from search engine rankings. But you can breathe new life into that content.

  1. To improve your content’s accuracy

You can make your content more usable and helpful for your visitors by updating it to provide new information or updated content. Mentioning that you’ve included new content in an update is a great way to indicate that you’ve improved it.

  1. To improve the freshness of your entire site

If Google recognizes that your site hasn’t been updated recently, it hurts the rankings of all the pages on your site. A few updates to blog posts can demonstrate to Google that your entire site is active and authentic.

  1. To remove broken links

The most common way links get broken is when the sites, blogs and articles you linked to in the original article aren’t available anymore. The website might have been shut down, or the URL has changed. It hurts your rankings on Google, and it pushes you further down the SERP.

Fixing broken links isn’t difficult if you use Broken Link Checker.

6. To link to newer sources

To update old content, you can add links to newer, improved articles and videos. By including up-to-date resources and more in-depth content, you can bring blog posts back to life. Since these resources weren’t available when you first wrote your blog, these updates create a fresh piece.

It also makes your content look more valuable to Google, since outbound links are an important ranking factor.

Don’t forget to link to your own articles. If you’ve published a recent article on a related topic, you should link to this.

What have we decided? Keep old content for its archival value? Delete old content to get rid of low quality, auto-generated copy that can’t be improved?  Or update old content and give it new life? The overwhelming evidence points to updating for the many benefits you’ll get with Google.


Resources for additional reading: