Should I update or delete old content on my site?

Sometimes, content on your website becomes irrelevant or out of date, and you need to decide whether to update it or delete it. Think of it as spring cleaning. There are several ways to do this and this article helps you decide the best solution for your old content.

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Update old content that is still valid

On our blog, we have an article on meta descriptions that needs constant updating to keep it relevant. We just have to make sure it stays up to date with all the changes Google keeps making to the way it handles meta descriptions. Sometimes it seems they can be a bit longer – we researched this – and sometimes they seem to go back to the old length again. Our post helps webmasters to write meta descriptions, even though the advice changes over time. Although the article itself might be what we call evergreen content, its content must be updated to keep up with the latest standards – constantly.

You can easily create new, valuable content from your old posts if you can update it and make it current again: old wine in new bottles, as the saying goes. You could, for example, replace older parts of that content with updates, or you could merge three old blog posts about the same subject into one new post. If you do this, please remember to redirect the old post URLs to the new post, using a 301 Redirect. More on that later.

Delete irrelevant posts or pages

It’s likely that you have old posts or pages on your site that you really don’t need anymore. Think along the lines of a blog post about a product you stopped selling a while ago and have no intention of ever selling again, or a page about a supplier that you never want to work with again. Or old pages with little or no content – so-called thin content pages. These are just some examples, but I’m sure you know which posts and/or pages I’m talking about. This old content adds no value anymore, now or for the foreseeable future. In that case, you need to either tell Google to forget about these old posts or pages or give the URL another purpose.

When I talk about deleting old content, I don’t mean just pressing “delete” and then forgetting about it. If you do that, the content might show up in Google for weeks after deletion. The URL might actually have some link value as well, which would be a shame to waste.

“301 Redirect” the old post to a related one

When a URL still holds value because, say, you have a number of quality links pointing to that page, you want to leverage that value by redirecting the URL to a related one. Say you have an old post on a specific dog breed. You need to delete it, so the logical next step might be to redirect that post to a post about the closest breed possible. If that post isn’t available, you could redirect it to the category page for these posts (“dog breeds”?) and if that is also not an option, redirect to the homepage. That last one might be about “pets”, for example. It’s related, but there might be better options on your site.

Creating a 301 Redirect (for instance in WordPress) isn’t hard, but doing it with Yoast SEO Premium is easy as pie. If you don’t have it yet, find out about all the extras that are in Yoast SEO Premium here.

Tell search engines the content is intentionally gone

If there isn’t a relevant page on your site you can redirect to, it’s wise to tell Google to forget about your old post entirely by serving a “410 Deleted” status to Google. When Google can’t find a post, the server will usually return a “404 Not Found” status to the search engine’s bot and you will find a 404 crawl error in your Google Search Console for that page. That is unless you redirect the page as explained earlier. Google will find it, and the URL will gradually vanish from the search result pages. But this takes time. The 410 is more powerful in the sense that it tells Google that the page is gone forever, never to return. You deleted it on purpose, period. Google will act on that faster than with a 404. Read up about the server status codes if this is all gibberish to you.

Read more: 6 questions about redirects for SEO »

Do you have old content to deal with?

There you have it. Three ways to get rid of old content on your site:

  1. Update the old post or page and re-publish it.
  2. Redirect the old content to related content.
  3. Get rid of it entirely if there is no longer any value whatsoever to the content or URL.

Good luck cleaning up your site.

Keep reading: How to properly delete a page from your site »

49 Responses to Should I update or delete old content on my site?

  1. Anil Agarwal
    Anil Agarwal  • 3 months ago

    Here’s what we do on our blog while working on older blog posts.

    First, we make sure to use Google analytics to find if an old post is generating us any traffic from Google or not. If it’s not sending us even 10 visits in a month, we’ll either redirect it or update the post and make it more detailed (so we can publish and push it to the home page for more social shares, bookmarking and so on).

    If an old post is sending us some kind of traffic but it’s too old or doesn’t content any fresh information, we work on the post by adding some images, do some link building, change the title and so on to make it better both for search engines and people. Here’s where we also find LSI and relevant long tail keywords and insert them into the old posts which are already generating visitors.

    This tactic alone sends you more search engine because you’re not only updating your old content with latest information and visuals but you’re also doing some keyword research to insert highly relevant keywords. Yoast SEO plugin is a handy tool when it comes to optimization.

    410 status code is really something new that I just discovered on this page which sounds like a great deal when it comes to dealing with deleted pages. Will surely give it a try. I would love to read an in-depth article related to 401 status code so people like me who often deletes useless content find it informative.

    Great topic btw!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi Anil, thanks for sharing the way you deal with old content here. Sounds like a well though-out strategy! If you want to read up on the 410, you can best check this article, as it explains it a bit more in detail: https://yoast.com/deleting-pages-from-your-site/

  2. Sanjay vyas
    Sanjay vyas  • 3 months ago

    Very useful article and now I try it on my blog , thanks

  3. Manush
    Manush  • 3 months ago

    But what if some of the high CPC keywords are indexed in SERPs for that old content? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to leave the page as it is and maybe someday work on the website’s authority to rank it? How harmful could it be to leave old pages of the site intact with some really good keywords indexed?

  4. Williams Robert
    Williams Robert  • 3 months ago

    the best content information you gives us
    thanks a lot

  5. shubhangi
    shubhangi  • 3 months ago

    Yes … I want to delete some of old content from my site but but always worried about their links but your idea of using “301 Redirect” is brilliant . thanks for sharing

  6. Iaconoweb
    Iaconoweb  • 3 months ago

    Most of italian blogger update the date of the their articles sometimes, why? The contents are the same but they improve with this tricks SErp results?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi! “These are old tricks” is what John Mueller (from Google) said some time ago. So I wouldn’t spend time on this, you won’t trick the search engines. If you want to republish an article to draw some new attention to it from your readers, that’s something different.

      • torikatsu
        torikatsu  • 3 months ago

        So if you republish an article with updated content – is it valid to update the date as well?

  7. Mircea G.
    Mircea G.  • 3 months ago

    I think I found the solution for my old content. I started that blog in 2010 and some of the content is really outdated. Many thanks!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi Mircea, You’re welcome. Have fun cleaning up your old content!

  8. komodo owesome
    komodo owesome  • 3 months ago

    great explanation, it really help

  9. Jeff Smith
    Jeff Smith  • 3 months ago

    I have also been using this technique for a client site that I started working with in the middle of April. The site was created in 2011 and had almost 650 posts and a host of like orphan pages.

    I have been grouping like Pages/Posts and refreshing one of the core posts in the group. I have not done any 410’s though after reading this I might to keep the number of 301’s down and just 410 the totally worthless content.

    It has been interesting now that we have been through about about 20 or so. The results for each have been pretty consistent.

    My core SEO tool let’s me watch keywords and pages on a daily basis. And I do look at them every day. It is amazing how much keywords move on a daily basis – I mean really amazing.

    With each refresh the site has taken a drop in ranking. Pretty much within 24 hours. On a big refresh with several 301’s, then the ranking might drop for a couple days but then each time it bounces right back over 2 or 3 days and with some of the pieces it has surpassed it’s past highest ranking.

    I should point out that each of these “groups” of content had at least one piece or keyword ranking in the top 30. As we republished, almost each has dropped right away. Some out of the top 100 but every single piece at about 14 to 21 days has climbed up to the front page of Google and 80% hit number 1 and many of those also ended up in the Featured Snippets.

    Hope you find this little case study helpful. Jeff

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 months ago

      Hi Jeff, that’s a wonderful case study! Excellent that this has worked out so well on your client’s site. Good luck with the rest of the posts.

  10. Mellis Vilchez
    Mellis Vilchez  • 3 months ago

    Hola, muy bueno el artículo pero tengo una pregunta: podemos redirigir todas las respuestas desde nuestro archivo 404 mediante algún método hacia nuestra página de inicio, no se si me explico bien.
    Quiero decir que cuando el código de respuesta 404 aparezca, se redirija automáticamente al inicio de nuestro sitio, o a alguna página especifica?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      No, that would mean replacing the 404 with a 301. I wouldn’t recommend that, as you want to fix the 404 and redirect in the way described, not simply automate the process and forget about the 404s.

  11. Steve
    Steve  • 3 months ago

    Great article.
    I recently updated one of the old posts on my website that was published in 2016 and never ranked, boom, immediately i updated it and reindexed it on Google, it ranked on page one and started sending me search traffic after 4 days. there is real power is updating and keeping a blog fresh

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  12. Smartladders
    Smartladders  • 3 months ago

    Your tips are really useful to update our website with new trendy content. Thanks for sharing these awesome tips.

  13. Abeon
    Abeon  • 3 months ago

    I think the first paragraph says a lot: “content on your site that has become irrelevant over time”… Obviously deleting quality, relevant content isn’t going to gain any SERP traction. Conversely, removing redundant content can help to target towards higher performing pages, but improving thin content provides the quickest wins.

    • TimeStarvedBlogger
      TimeStarvedBlogger  • 3 months ago

      Very well put! I agree that enhancing and tweaking older content can often be low hanging fruit.

  14. sharingdiscount
    sharingdiscount  • 3 months ago

    Thank you very much for sharing this useful information. I think I found the solution for my website: it contains too much old content.

  15. LesMichels
    LesMichels  • 3 months ago

    Do you think these tips apply to news websites ? I’m taking care of a Poker website and at its beginning, the articles were not as good as they are today. Should I get rid of them ?

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 3 months ago

      If you can update the articles and make them relevant again, keep them. If you feel like you don’t really need them anymore and you’re not able to patch them up, you might want to redirect to another page. Good luck!

  16. Abdul M
    Abdul M  • 3 months ago

    Awesome article, but I have a situation. I personally have noticed that sometimes content gets out dated and irrelevant but still brings in traffic. Usually we update the content to align with the latest trends or resources, but at times the content is up to date but no longer related to the core business focus anymore. In this case is it best to keep the old links or remove them?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      The main question is if that traffic helps your users. They might be a bit disappointed that you do have the content, but are not able to help them out. Could a solution be to offer alternatives on your page or redirect to current content?

  17. Basit
    Basit  • 3 months ago

    Thank you so much for telling me solution of old content.

  18. Hi Tehran Hostel
    Hi Tehran Hostel  • 3 months ago

    We usually update old content because updating our content will make it more appealing, and that appeal will tell Google it’s a better resource that should rank higher.

  19. Akanksha Gautam
    Akanksha Gautam  • 3 months ago

    Hi! it is very nice article and it is helpful for me . Actually i am a digital marketing professional and it is very informative post for me. Thank you for sharing this information.

  20. Avinash singh
    Avinash singh  • 3 months ago

    he, Michiel I have news site where, we publish about 10-15 post per day. and I have many post that are of no use because they are very old and I am not getting any visitors on my site from them. Should deleting too many post worth it.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      If the posts are absolutely irrelevant, and your news sites contain a lot of articles, that bit of gained focus will help Google crawl and index the relevant stuff instead. As long as the articles are online, Google will visit them from time to time anyway.

  21. Shahriar Hossain
    Shahriar Hossain  • 3 months ago

    Very helpful post. I have to update some of my posts. If I updated my content, does it hamper my google ranking? Thanks in advance.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      If you use both our SEO & readability analysis when you update the content, the focus will remain on the chosen focus keyword(s) ;-) In that respect, nothing changes.

  22. Marquita Herald
    Marquita Herald  • 3 months ago

    I began a regular practice of updating old posts a little over 2 years now ago it’s worked out great. I update the image as well as the content and sometimes even change the title. Google seems to like the results because I often find the refurbished post back on the first page when I search for the keywords. And as an extra bonus, I get a whole new round of social media shares.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Thanks for your comment, Marquita!

  23. Sujeet Patel
    Sujeet Patel  • 3 months ago

    Boy, I’ve been doing this for a LONG time, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the “410 Gone”. Guess I’m going to have to look into this, thanks for the tip!

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 3 months ago

      Great Sujeet! Good luck with it! :)

  24. Kingsley Felix
    Kingsley Felix  • 3 months ago

    I just found myself in this situation and i have decided to forward all 8 post to the homepage. they are review article so no alternate post

  25. Marc
    Marc  • 3 months ago

    I am little confused. Where is the difference between redirecting to new but similar content and using a canonical URL that leads to similar content? Which way is better?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Canonical URL still means that both pages get crawled, but only one gets indexed. Redirect means you “tell” Google that that old page should be replaced in the search result pages by the new one. It’s not that black and white all the time, but this is probably the easiest way to describe it.

  26. Kimball
    Kimball  • 3 months ago

    “Old wine in new bottles”
    I really like that, but see it the other way around? The wine is my content. My page/post is the bottle, the container Google drinks from. Put new wine in your old bottle to make google, and your readers happier.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Hi Kimball, new wine in old bottles refers to wine vendors putting cheap wine in expensive old bottles. I’d not go there. Google it :)

  27. Stephanie Manley
    Stephanie Manley  • 3 months ago

    How much content can you delete with a 410 without penalty? I have heard that if you have too many 301 redirects it can be a penalty. Is this true?

    • Rahul Kuntala
      Rahul Kuntala  • 3 months ago

      Excellent post!

      Here’s what we do on our blog while working on older blog posts.

      First, we make sure to use Google analytics to find if an old post is generating us any traffic from Google or not. If it’s not sending us even 10 visits in a month, we’ll either redirect it or update the post and make it more detailed (so we can publish and push it to the home page for more social shares, bookmarking and so on).

      If an old post is sending us some kind of traffic but it’s too old or doesn’t content any fresh information, we work on the post by adding some images, do some link building, change the title and so on to make it better both for search engines and people. Here’s where we also find LSI and relevant long tail keywords and insert them into the old posts which are already generating visitors.

      This tactic alone sends you more search engine because you’re not only updating your old content with latest information and visuals but you’re also doing some keyword research to insert highly relevant keywords. Yoast SEO plugin is a handy tool when it comes to optimization (https://bloggerspassion.com/best-managed-wordpress-hosting/)

      I would love to read an in-depth article related to 401 status code so people like me who often deletes useless content find it informative.

      Great topic btw!

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Monitor the redirects. Too many 301s can happen, just make sure there are no redirects pointing to other redirects. And perhaps a Regex is easier than a ton of 301s?

      410: Most 410s will be gone from Google within a few months. If it’s gone, delete the page.

  28. Cheryl Ayres
    Cheryl Ayres  • 3 months ago

    Deleting old content – what about press releases that refer to services or programs that you no longer provide. What would you advise?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Same. Redirect to a similar page, or to your press release overview page.

  29. KARLLA PATRICIA
    KARLLA PATRICIA  • 3 months ago

    But if I change the date of a post that was recycled, do I lose status of this post on Google?

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Keep the URL the same and you’ll be fine.


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