Should you keep old content?

Writing a blog post can be a challenge. It is hard work, but afterward, you’re probably proud of what you have created. No way you are ever going to throw those beautiful articles away, right? But what should you do with blog posts that are really, really old? Should you keep all of those?

In this blog post, I’ll explain why you cannot keep all of your old content. Also, I’ll explain what types of content you should keep on your site and which kinds of articles should be deleted.

Why you cannot keep all your content

Even if your content is really awesome, you need to do some cleaning. Otherwise, you’ll be hurting your own chances of ranking in Google. You see, there are only a limited number of places in Google’s search results pages. Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for any specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get away with three results.

If you have written 3 articles focussing on the same – or very similar – keywords, you are competing with yourself for those limited spaces in the search results. You’ll be confusing Google. That’s why you cannot blog endlessly about the same content and leave it be. You need to do some content management.

Read more: What is keyword cannibalization? »

Update, delete or merge?

There are three things you can do with old content. You can keep it, you can delete it or you can merge it. Not sure what to do? It all depends upon your content.

1. Update valuable content

Is an article still very valuable? Does it get a lot of traffic from Google? Is the post still in line with your site and your company? Old content that is still very valuable should, of course, be kept on your website. Do make sure that this content is updated on a regular basis. Your most important articles should never contain any outdated information. Setting reminders for yourself to update those evergreens every now and then is a great way to make sure your content is always up to date. 

Keep reading: Keep your content fresh and up to date »

Solve it with site structure

Keeping content on your website does come with a price, especially if you write a lot about similar topics. Make sure you add some structure and hierarchy to your website. If one of your pages or posts is much more important than the other one, you should treat it as such. Place that important page higher in your hierarchy. Link from less important pages to your most important page. that way you’ll be telling Google which article you want to rank highest with and you can keep both articles.

Read on: How to set up a cornerstone content strategy? »

2. Delete (and redirect) outdated content

Is an article outdated? Does it contain invalid information? Does it contain information that’s no longer helpful? Every now and then you write about an upcoming event or you announce something new. After some time, these articles are pretty much useless. These types of articles should be deleted. Do make sure to redirect the article to something similar (or to the homepage if you cannot find an alternative).

By the way, did you know redirecting is incredibly easy with Yoast SEO Premium?

3. Merge content

Have you written multiple articles about the same topic? Are they pretty much the same? Are they ranking for the same topics? These types of articles should be merged. Make one really awesome article out of the two (or three) you have written. Then delete (but do not forget to redirect) the old articles. I would write the new merged article on the URL that attracted the most traffic from Google.

Keep on reading: Content maintenance for SEO: Research, merge & redirect »

Repost your updated content

Updating and merging your old blog posts is never a waste of time. But if you really want to reap the benefit of your refurbished content you can republish it on your blog, repost it on your social channels and mention it in your newsletter. This way you’ll make sure your content won’t be forgotten and you probably even attract new visitors to your site.

If you make minor changes to a recent article you can choose to just hit the Update button. In WordPress, the Last-Modified date will then change, but the Publish date will stay the same. When you’ve completely merged or rewritten content you can choose to also change the Publish date. By doing so, your post will pop up on top of your blog again. Share it on your other marketing channels too and it’ll surely get the attention it deserves!

If you do the latter, don’t forget to delete the old comments on the article! It might come across odd to publish an article with 5-years-old comments further down the page.

Conclusion: continue to clean up

Checking, updating, structuring and deleting old content should be part of a process. Just like you need to clean up your kitchen closet every now and then, you also need to clean up your old content. As your site grows, you need to clean out the content and maintain the structure. This really needs to be a core element in every SEO strategy.

Read more: How to do content maintenance for SEO »


45 Responses to Should you keep old content?

  1. jacquesnadeau1
    jacquesnadeau1  • 5 months ago

    I knew that updating, cleaning and improving our old publications was important, but your explanation here is very clear. Congratulations for your great article, again.

  2. Nathan Smith
    Nathan Smith  • 5 months ago

    How do you delete then redirect? I tried doing that however after deleting the redirect changed to my home page.

  3. David Moore
    David Moore  • 5 months ago

    Wow great timing we are just beginning house cleaning on our largest client. They have 11 years of blog posts with over 999+ links within. Excellent article!

  4. Joachim
    Joachim  • 5 months ago

    Hi,

    thanks for your post, but I have two questions:

    Old & outdated content which I want to keep: Redirect 301 or canonical url to a category or post?

    How long should I keep the 301 redirects: for ever or only e.g. one year (because the htaccess is growing and growing …)?

    Cheers!

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      If you have a post that is a good fit, redirect to a post. If you don’t have that, then the category page is good to.

      You should keep your redirects forever. That is, if the article had a lot of backlinks. These backlinks will not have disappeared in a year.

  5. jyoti atoliya
    jyoti atoliya  • 5 months ago

    hello yoast team,
    thanks a lot for sharing these artricle it helps me a lot and i have learn how to manage my old blogs and stategy to keep updating it.

  6. Mike Simons
    Mike Simons  • 5 months ago

    Hi Yoast team,
    To what extent are Pages different than Posts in the context of old content? Do search engines know the difference? For example, I have a “Visit Us” page with a map and hours of operation….am I supposed to be updating that somehow periodically? Same question for my About page…we haven’t done much to change it. Or is it primarily the Blog posts that are the focus of this article/recommendation?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Pages and posts aren’t treated differently by Google. So, the techniques for updating old content are the same. You should make sure to keep your visit us and about pages up to date. I totally get that the information there stays pretty much the same. That’s just fine.

      If you really want to rank with these pages (about us/ visit us), you should consider a different strategy (internal linking, updating content). For most websites, these pages just need to be there, they are not necessarily de pages you want to rank with in Google.

  7. Zola Johnson
    Zola Johnson  • 5 months ago

    Thanks for these useful tips. I will be applying some of these strategies on my site as well.

  8. Toonogove
    Toonogove  • 5 months ago

    Hello, this might be random, but where did you get the Html template for the site? Thanks.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Hi! We’ve built this ourselves. It’s custom made for Yoast.

  9. Hansjörg Leichsenring
    Hansjörg Leichsenring  • 5 months ago

    ” Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for any specific query”

    Never heard that beforen and I have seen Google Queries with more than 2 results from the same domain

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Just Google the terms you want to be found for. You’ll never see more than 3 (organic) results from the same domain.

  10. hafnerdesigns
    hafnerdesigns  • 5 months ago

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m going through a client’s website and editing posts for wrong links. She started her website when she was 13 years old and now she’s 18. She’s trying to shake off the “Kid” mantle and move into adulthood. I sent her your post and asked her if she has any posts that she wanted to delete or reformulate. Many of her posts are recipes and don’t get a lot of traction. So, I’m helping her add content to each recipe.

    Now, with my site, I have really old stuff that gets no traction at all. I wondered about deleting it but was concerned that if I go too crazy, I might lose what traction I have.

    Thanks for your advice.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      you’re welcome! Good luck cleaning up. And don’t forget those redirects

  11. Leroy
    Leroy  • 5 months ago

    This article really solves a problem I was having with similar content. On my site, I have two similar posts. One was ranking number one on Google for a particular keyword. However, the other one was getting some of the traffic.
    I was confused. I didn’t how to resolve this but now I do.
    Thanks a bunch.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      You’re welcome. I am currently writing another article in which I’ll share a step-by-step plan on how to combine two articles into one.

  12. Will Sanio
    Will Sanio  • 5 months ago

    1) If we delete then redirect an old similar topic article to the one that drew the most traffic, don’t we lose the “juice” of the old article?

    I remember reading that by redirecting the old article we get most of that juice to the new article (assuming google showed and ranked both in the results verified via site:yoursite.com )

    BUT…..If you delete, don’t you lose that juice ? Isn’t it better to 301 redirect it and let Google remove it from the index when it decides to?

    2) Google likes it when we publish fresh new content. Now, if we delete old content, does that count against us in that our site is “shrinking” or getting smaller vs. bigger, regardless of whether big picture we are improving the overall site by consolidation and cleaning up?

    Thank you in advance for your consideration

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Always redirect! Don’t delete. You indeed lose the juice if you do not redirect.

      Make sure to update your content. Don’t let content get old ever. Google will not punish your site if it gets smaller. Make sure your site is easily crawlable and has a good structure.

  13. Elena
    Elena  • 5 months ago

    This is great! I’ve just started blogging with more intent and wasn’t sure if deleting old, useless articles would help or hurt my blog.

    Thank you for this!

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      you’re welcome

  14. Sarah Auerswald
    Sarah Auerswald  • 5 months ago

    I have a question about HOW to delete old content that is totally irrelevant and gets no traffic anymore. Is there a best way to do it? I have heard about using the Yoast plugin to do something called a “410” – can you explain more about how to do that? Thanks!

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      If you give a 410 you’ll be telling google that a page is deleted. That’s better than a 404, in which you tell Google nothing (just that a page does not exist). For more info: check this post: https://yoast.com/which-redirect/

      • Sarah Auerswald
        Sarah Auerswald  • 5 months ago

        Thank you!

  15. Chigozie
    Chigozie  • 5 months ago

    I deleted some bunches of old posts since then my site has not been doing pretty Well on Google…
    What Did I do wrong?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      That’s hard to say… could be so many things… did you properly redirect the pages?

  16. Nilesh Pandey
    Nilesh Pandey  • 5 months ago

    Your suggestion is very important to me and I believe it will be helpful for creating my blogs. Thanks.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      you’re very welcome

  17. jdavis4
    jdavis4  • 5 months ago

    I run a news site for a client who wants to maintain access to ALL his Posts, as a news archive.
    This is affecting the speed of the site because we are carrying a lot of old baggage. I would like to create an ‘official’ archive (a subdomain?, an entirely separate site?) but it needs to be transparent to the site users.
    The Post above is very useful from an SEO perspective but does not address the issue of retaining old Posts as a news archive.
    Ideas anybody?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      It’s so hard to answer this question. I think our team needs to do a bit of research and write a separate post about this!

    • Mª Verónica B.
      Mª Verónica B.  • 5 months ago

      Hi,
      Great question!
      We will start to see this issue more and more in times ahead.
      Like libraries, that usually send the old but not important books to warehouses, far from the library itself, I think your client might consider to build a new website/warehouse for the old data, not a subdomain.
      This way, client will have a lighter and fast website and keep his adored articles/books available too. ;)

    • Mike Bannan
      Mike Bannan  • 5 months ago

      It is my understanding that if Google has actually recognized the website as a news site Then Google will not penalize your data. We manage a news site recognized as such and they regularly serve up old content that it deems relevant.

  18. jay
    jay  • 5 months ago

    I also use yoast seo plugin in my site

  19. John
    John  • 5 months ago

    These are really great tips and well explained! I think you need to work out what the user is looking for and write 1 quality piece of content that just delivers value for the user.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 5 months ago

      That sounds like a good plan, John! We couldn’t agree more :)

  20. Srikant Kumar
    Srikant Kumar  • 5 months ago

    It is important in the eyes of search engines how a website is well maintained. Search engines must keep exploring new urls, update on existing urls. Thanks for this article. Very informative and very helpful. Thanks.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 5 months ago

      That’s right, Srikant! And, you’re very welcome!

  21. Raza Kazmi
    Raza Kazmi  • 5 months ago

    Cleaning content is surely is an important process for the good ranking of website on Google. However, the most crucial and critical thing is to keep the content that is user-friendly as well as relevant, because Google deem these factors as the most important in ranking websites. Your post about cleaning the useless content has given me another information of handling the content for ranking good on Google.

    • Sumon Khan
      Sumon Khan  • 5 months ago

      It is important in the eyes of search engines how a website is well maintained. Search engines must keep exploring new urls, update on existing urls. Thanks for this article. Very informative and very helpful. Thanks

  22. Obaid
    Obaid  • 5 months ago

    wow, I never thought of this issue from this POV, I’ve always thought that having lots of content will mean better chances showing in google search.

    but what to do with the content that doesn’t rank at all? especially with new websites?

    • Mª Verónica B.
      Mª Verónica B.  • 5 months ago

      Hi Obaid,
      Hard to say, but you might consider to rewrite those articles, maybe it is not in your set of skills. If so, you might consider to hire an SEO professional writer for the task.
      Good luck. :)

      • norbert soulie
        norbert soulie  • 5 months ago

        Hi everybody
        I have also seen the same issue. My personal process is:
        1) write and keep a clean copy of all articles and pages in a computer sub-directory. I find more efficient to write, edit, append, on Word MSOffice than on wordpress. then I copy and paste to WordPress. titles, bold… are kept, but nor other features.
        2) before deleting a page or article, I copy back to word or event txt.
        3) with Gutenberg blocks, seems difficult; I print a hard copy thanks to a printer icon I Installed close to social network icons.
        4) for past events (I use “events calendar” plugin) I suppress them automatically ;no need to keep yesterday’s concert !
        5) I accept that some pages rank number 1 or 2 even if they are not my favourites. eg in my case, “naturist beaches in biarritz” generally rank high , although I work hard on other topics with no success ….;)

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 5 months ago

      Hey Obaid!

      Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You just need to have a little patience. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually, good luck! :)

  23. Chhaom Huon
    Chhaom Huon  • 5 months ago

    Very nice reading. I can learn from it.