Sometimes, content on your website becomes irrelevant or out of date, and you need to decide whether to update it or delete it.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.
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:
- Update the old post or page and re-publish it.
- Redirect the old content to related content.
- 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 »