Should I delete old content from my website?

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The internet is constantly being updated, with new content being published every second, and existing content steadily ageing at the same time.

WordPress statistics show there are 70 million new posts published to that platform alone every month, and 71% of these are written in English. That’s a lot of content. So if you have old pages and archived blog posts that you feel are starting to look tired or obsolete, should you delete them?

In some cases the answer is yes, for example if the page gives advice about an issue that is out of date and cannot be made relevant to the present day.

But this is a very narrow slice of all old content on the internet – and for the rest of it, there are alternative ways to make something new from something old, without losing its marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) value.

What is the value of old website content?

Old blog posts and web pages cost little to continue hosting, especially if you are not near the limits of your hosting plan.

In return for this negligible outlay, you benefit from content that shows your website is well established and that you have been generating insightful, well written content for a long time – all of which helps both with a human audience and with organic SEO.

Other benefits of keeping old website content – and crucially, old URLs – include:    

●             Inbound links from third-party websites continue to work (if these links are from relevant, high authority websites, this can be really good for your site’s SEO)    

●             Bookmarks to that page continue to work

●             No 404 ‘Page Not Found’ errors in admin dashboards

Plus, each page and post is an opportunity to target a different terms and keywords that people are already searching the internet about. By updating rather than deleting, you can reflect changes in your SEO strategy, a technique known as historical optimisation.    

Alternatives to deleting old blog posts

Yoast, developers of the WordPress plugin Yoast SEO, suggest three main alternatives to deleting old blog posts that will help to preserve web traffic and SEO value:

1.            Update or republish the old post to make it relevant to present day

2.            Redirect the old URL to more relevant current content

3.            Delete it but provide a 410 ‘Deleted’ status instead of a 404 page

Methods 2 and 3 above are not about bringing the content itself up to date, but about how you handle removing it.

A 301 Redirect tells search engines that the content has moved, without deleting the old URL. This helps you to retain your search rankings while redirecting web traffic to a more recent and relevant page.

A 410 Deleted status, meanwhile, shows that the page has been intentionally deleted instead of just being ‘missing’ as with a 404 Page Not Found error.

In search engines like Google’s eyes, both options are fine to use and can be easily understood by its website crawlers.  However, it’s important not to 301 Redirect a page to another page that is not relevant and especially, not to redirect lots of pages to your Homepage (a technique that is on the rise but which is more irritating than helpful to your website’s users).     

How to make old content more relevant

You might find updating old website content is just a case of adding some new statistics or tweaking the advice given.

For example, Yoast say they regularly update their old article about ‘description’ meta tags and how long they should be, in response to changing evidence about what performs best in Google search results.

And there is undoubtedly much to be gained from doing this – for example, research shows that historical optimisation of old blog posts can boost leads by 240%.

Some posts are simply ‘evergreen’ content that will remain relevant for a long time to come.

If you can take an old time-sensitive post and generalise it to be more evergreen, you can bolster your archive with more of these relevant and engaging pages even if they initially applied to a specific window of time.

Need more advice about your website’s content?

If you want to sanity check which pages to keep or delete, or just aren’t sure which pages have external links to them, you’re very welcome to ask!

Just get in touch with The Content Marketing Team and together we’ll make sure that everything on your site is as updated and optimised as it can possibly be.

We are a small and friendly team with proven expertise all aspects of content marketing, including:

  • website copy
  • search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • blog posts
  • social media
  • explainer videos
  • case studies
  • white papers & reports
  • infographics
  • how-to guides
  • photos
  • website design and development

Whatever your requirements, we would be more than happy to talk you through any aspects of our services and products.   

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