Website maintenance How to clean up old posts & pages

When you maintain a blog, you write different types of posts. Of course, you try to write evergreen cornerstone content posts all the time. The reality is different. Some posts have historical value, others only have momentary value. You should go through your archive every once in a while, and clean it up. This should be a part of your regular website maintenance routines.

One way I like to go through our old posts is by checking our XML sitemap. You open the post or page sitemap and go through the posts from old to new. There are three possible decisions for each post: keep, update and delete. Let’s go into what they mean you should do.

Keep your old post

You should keep a post if all the below are true:

  1. The post’s content is still valid and true.
  2. The post is well-optimized for its focus keyword.
  3. The post is receiving decent traffic. Decent being relative to how big your site is and how such a post could do if it was well optimized and posted now.

If you’re going to keep the post, check if it has all the appropriate tags and categories. Maybe it should link to posts you’ve written later on to tie them together.

Then, update the post to make it look more timely. Even a short update will do wonders for how people perceive the value of the post. You could for instance add something like:

“2015-05-13: this post is still as valid as it was when I wrote it. Here are some more posts about this topic: ”

This shouldn’t be more than a few minutes work for each post.

Re-do your old post

You should re-do a post if any of the following are true:

  1. The posts’s content is no longer completely true.
  2. The post is poorly optimized for its focus keyword.
  3. The post is doing far worse than what it would do if you wrote a new one. This is often tied to point 2 being true.

At this point it’s usually best to start fresh. Read your old post, copy some of the good bits into a new post and start writing. Optimize the content for the focus keyword. Check your tags and categories. Do everything we tell you to do in our Content SEO book and in Marieke’s posts.

Now, change the URL of your old post (adding for instance -old to it) and hit update. Publish your new post under the URL of your old post. Link to your new post from other posts more recent than your old post. Then delete the old post and redirect it to the new one.

You delete a post by clicking “Move to Trash” in WordPress. Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin will give you a notice to redirect the post to a new URL (or serve a 410 header) when you do this. Redirecting has never been easier!

Merge old posts

I often find myself merging several old posts into one newer post. The reason is that posts we write now are longer than they were in the past. Also, sometimes something has become easier to explain. You can still do all of the above and just redirect all your old posts into your single new post.

Delete the old post

If the value of the post was truly only temporary, don’t be afraid to delete it. However, if people are linking to your old post and you delete it, you’re throwing away link value. That’s why, when we delete old content, we redirect the URL to the most appropriate URL on the site. If there’s no such URL, you can decide to redirect to redirect to your homepage. Don’t throw away history though: historical posts are fun to link back to later on, deleting them would be a shame.

Read more: How to properly delete a page from your site »

Ready? There’s more website maintenance to do!

Once you’re done with this (or have had enough for a while), make sure to do the other website maintenance tasks too. For starters, clean up your 404s!

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34 Responses to Website maintenance: How to clean up old posts & pages

  1. Mike DeVincentis
    Mike DeVincentis  • 4 years ago

    Great article. I recently rebuilt my site from the ground up using WordPress at the beginning of this year. I’ve been making about 2 -3 posts a month so I don’t have that many articles yet. In regards to clean up, is there a minimum number of posts I should keep? I’m wondering if my site is just so new that clean up doesn’t really apply to me yet.

  2. Makary
    Makary  • 4 years ago

    You made me more job to do with my shop
    But I believe it is worth
    Thanks for this post

  3. Jenn
    Jenn  • 4 years ago

    Hello guys. Excuse my question out of context.
    I use Yoast plugin on my Wp.

    I would to understand how can i delete Website title from Title of my blog post.

    I see my post on Google like this:

    Someone can help me?

    • Jenn
      Jenn  • 4 years ago

      Hi guys. Anyone can help me?

  4. R.Rogerson
    R.Rogerson  • 4 years ago

    You missed out a few alternatives?

    Rather than ditching old content, you can keep the value, but make it less prominent.
    Instead of links to the piece appearing in main navigation, alter the system so that it’s not available in the main nav, but placed inside a sub-nav called “archive”.
    The URL and Content remain the same, just the route to it changes.

    Sometimes the audience has shifted focus – the keyword has changed from X1 to X2. You can simply update the content to utilise the newer word/phrase.
    Alternatively, the keyword/phrase may be the same, but the intention has changed. This may require altering any Calls to Action, features/benefits etc.

    New data/information may now be available. Things may have been confirmed/denied, or simply changed.
    don’t leave that old, incorrect/inaccurate content just sitting there. Rewrite it.
    Add, expand, update, clarify – whatever it takes.
    Don’t forget to add a note at the top stating it’s been updated, and when, and why/how (or put the details at the bottom, and a note at the top).

    Sometimes, rewriting old material is a chore. It is often easier to simply replace the old with something newer.
    When this happens, you have two choices;
    1) Move the old content to a new URL, and put the new content on the old URL
    2) put new content on a new URL and point the old content on the old URL to the new one.

  5. Fernando
    Fernando  • 4 years ago

    Humm… I like this idea (maybe rewrite some old content ?). BTW Google should keep away those damn animals from us :P

    Thanks for the content

  6. Sophy
    Sophy  • 4 years ago

    Thank you Joost, that provide a awesome, I always use technique rename old post url and use current post url for update new content and never delete old post.

    More tip I learn from your great article is merge post that I never know before.

  7. Veronica
    Veronica  • 4 years ago

    Thank you for your great post, I’m am going to clean my old post ASAP!!

  8. Ali Sajjad
    Ali Sajjad  • 4 years ago

    Well..Well..Well… if i merge some old posts to new, then may it cause duplicate content issue?

    • R.Rogerson
      R.Rogerson  • 4 years ago

      It depends on the quantity of content, and the type of merging you do.
      In general, so long as there is a fair % of difference between what is generated compared to the source items, you should be fine.
      The % is unknown, but look for 40% difference and you should be fine.

      You could update the old pages and link directly to the new page. This helps pass traffic and value from teh old to the new.

      If you are very paranoid – look to canonicalise.
      You can either Redirect the old URLs to the newly merged contents URL,
      you can deploy the Canonical Link Element on the old pages, pointing to the new page.

  9. Erika Wellens
    Erika Wellens  • 4 years ago

    Interesting, i never thought to clean up the sites old content. I am now almost certain not doing this will damper your rank. Do you think it’s a good idea to rewrite old post but with better content or to merge (like you mentioned) a number of post to create a high quality post. It seems if i merged them i might have a conflict of focusing the keywords. So I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for me to do that on the site.

    Let me know! Thank you.

  10. John
    John  • 4 years ago

    While I agree with “RE-DO” to remove the staleness of old posts as needed wouldn’t it be better to add a noindex tag instead of deleting posts that were once relevant?

    – No redirects or broken links
    – No loss of any pagerank to connected pages
    – Preserve the option of, one day, RE-DOing it too


    • Joost de Valk

      PageRank to connected pages makes me think that the content is not exactly worthless. If you might want to re-do it later, why not now?

  11. Troy S.
    Troy S.  • 4 years ago

    And then after all of that should the pages be resubmitted to Google and Bing?

    • Joost de Valk

      Normally the “updated” timestamp in the XML sitemap should be enough.

  12. Tony
    Tony  • 4 years ago

    I like the ideas here about cleaning out old posts that aren’t relevant. Information does get old if new things are invented. The content should either be updated or tossed. Good call.

    Some websites get so large that this is difficult to do but the payoff can be huge because the website’s authority comes back because it’s more relevant.

    Dwell time is an SEO factor, so adding more content to pages is smart. The longer you can get someone to stay on a page, the higher it’ll rank. This can be with text, images and video.

  13. Sean Smith
    Sean Smith  • 4 years ago

    Great post Joost. My manager sent this to me and I love the approach. I’m actually in the process of updating one of our old posts so this came at the right time. How often do you think websites should audit their posts for this process?

  14. Oliver
    Oliver  • 4 years ago

    Thanks, great info since i got hit from panda several times. I had lots of old “thin content” and i’m now on the way to clean things up.

  15. Vladislav Vagner
    Vladislav Vagner  • 4 years ago

    So I have a post that I have deleted however it is still being indexed in Google. I merged some of the old content into a new post, however I am worried Google will see duplicate content since the old page is still indexed.

    Any suggestions on what I can do?

    • Joost de Valk

      Redirect the old URL to the article you merged the content into. Done.

  16. Lenny
    Lenny  • 4 years ago

    I’m sure my reaction will be “duh”, but I have to ask: What’s the point in redirecting /sample-post-old/ when it’s been 1, put in the trash and 2, presumably never been linked to since you just added “-old” to it? Thanks.

    • Jose Vega
      Jose Vega  • 4 years ago

      I guess the redirection is needed because wordpress pings external services everytime something is published or updated, or in some cases plugins might promote those posts.

      So even if you just changed the url, the new url might already have been shared on social media.

      • Joost de Valk

        It’s just to make 100% sure the URL isn’t public anywhere indeed.

  17. Ngan
    Ngan  • 4 years ago

    This is so true, maybe all bloggers should follow the 20-80 parento principles. I believe for those that never maintain their old articles ever. Delete and noindex 80% of your articles and update the remaining 20%.

    Go to Google Webmaster and under the index status look for those that have low impression or position, noindex them. There is a reason why the position is so low based on Google’s own algro. Those without traffic from both Google or Bing should be removed.

  18. Jannes`
    Jannes`  • 4 years ago

    What if the posts are news posts. Isn’t a news archive relevant enough to maintain?

    • Joost de Valk

      Of course, if there is historical value, preserve it. But not all blogs and not all posts truly have historical value :)

  19. john
    john  • 4 years ago

    What about products in woo commerce that are no longer available? Thanks ????

    • R.Rogerson
      R.Rogerson  • 4 years ago

      This is a common commerce question, with a not so simple answer.

      a) Is the item likely to return to stock?
      b) Is the item being replaced with a similar/alternative product?
      c) Is there already a product that is similar/alternative?
      d) Will your users be happy landing on a substitute page?
      e) Is there a single category the product belonged to?

      Depending on those answers to what route you take.

      + If it will return to stock,
      = simply mark it as out of stock. Clearly label it as such, (in product and category views!), apologise and if at all possible, provide an estimate of BISD (Back In Stock Date). If your system permits it, and you know it will be back in stock, and you can face the consequences if it doesn’t – you could look at taking pre-orders/out of stock purchases.

      + If you are not getting it in stock again
      + and have no alternatives
      + no parent category
      + users don’t want substitutes or to land on a category page
      = delete (410/404), and make sure the product is not listed/linked to anywhere.

      +If you are not getting it in stock again
      + and have a strong alternative / solid substitute
      + users are happy with an alternative/substitute
      = (1) Flag as out of stock, put a link to the alternative and use a Canonical Link Element to that URL.
      After a time, mark the product as not being publicly available (The URL works, but no links in menus/categories etc.)
      = (2) Flag as out of stock in categories/links, requests to the product URL get redirected to the substitute.
      After a time, mark the product as not being publicly available (The URL works, but no links in menus/categories etc.)

      + If you are not getting it in stock again
      + and have multiple alternatives
      + you have a single parent category
      + users are happy with an alternative/substitute
      = (1) Flag as out of stock, put a link to the Category.
      After a time, mark the product as not being publicly available (The URL works, but no links in menus/categories etc.)

      IF you go the route of redirecting Users – it may be nice to code up a “you were redirected” message.
      It’s a little faffy – but it will remove confusion/frustration,
      (nothing is more annoying that clicking a link and ending up somewhere else … and repeating it several times, with no idea why you can’t get where you want to go!!!).

    • Sajid
      Sajid  • 4 years ago

      Yes i also need help…pls

    • Leon Ridge-Cooke
      Leon Ridge-Cooke  • 4 years ago

      I’d like to know the answer to this questions as well. Currently I set the items as out of stock but to still show on the website and to show related products on the page.

      • Joost de Valk

        That is not a bad solution at all Leon. If you don’t want to do that, I’d suggest deleting and then redirecting to their most important category.

        • Rekening Bersama
          Rekening Bersama  • 4 years ago

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      • Natalie
        Natalie  • 4 years ago

        I’d suggest that it depends on whether the item is ever going to come back into stock? Or perhaps how much traffic the particular item is getting, and whether the related products are getting a lot of sales as a result.

  20. erwin
    erwin  • 4 years ago

    Will I be beter Fins in Google if i use premium?