User experience and the more technical side of SEO are in a continuing struggle. And one of the best examples of this fight comes at the moment of deciding whether to update or remove outdated content for SEO. Will removing old pages affect your rankings? Is it better to update old content rather than remove it?
A simple, quick answer would be yes: you can remove outdated content such as blog posts and webpages. But you shouldn’t do it recklessly. You need to be very clear on why you would want to remove those old pages, do your homework on getting data about the content and evaluate alternatives before hitting ‘delete’.
What Do You Do With Old Blog Posts?
Just because a blog is old, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Keep in mind that longevity is a ranking factor. According to this article by Backlinko, “although Google prefers fresh content, an older page that’s regularly updated may outperform a newer page”.
With this in mind, keep these considerations before removing old or outdated content:
Ask Yourself: Why Do You Want to Delete it?
Is the topic or the information irrelevant? Is the content just so bad that it’s impossible to salvage? Does it not represent your brand’s image anymore? Is it bringing unqualified traffic? Does it still have visits even to date? Are third parties asking you to remove it, for some reason? Once you find the answers to these and similar questions, go to the next step.
Check Blog Posts Data
Even if you wrote them years ago, is that old content still generating visits to your website? Is it still having views? Does it still generate impressions and even clicks to your website? Are external sources using it to link back to your site? You can get the answers to those questions via Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Hubspot, and similar tools.
So if you notice that your old, sad, poorly written blog post from 2008 is still bringing people to your website in 2021, consider the next options.
Update Your Old Content
By this, we don’t mean just to update the written information or fix typos. You can enrich your old content for SEO with:
- New hyperlinks to more relevant/newer sources
- Fixing or updating broken images
- Making sure both internal and external links open in a new tab (so people don’t leave the article – bad for your bounce rate and your UX!)
- Refreshing the updated writing with new keywords you want to rank for
- Adding videos, infographics, CTAs, or other relevant graphics
- Reviewing images’ alt tags
- Using this old blog for the next tip:
You can always come up with an updated version of your old blog post and even use the new piece to link back to it. This practice is a part of what it’s called topic clusters, which means interlinking a group of articles and pages that are built around one pillar page that acts as the main hub of content.
Aside from the technical SEO side, linking your new blog to the old one can also be a good way to enhance the updated content you’re offering, while taking the old one as a reference and even highlighting that you’re offering refreshed information.
If none of this is an option, then proceed to…
Removing Outdated Content
Not all content can be salvaged and in that case, it is actually a good SEO practice to remove outdated content. Deleting blog posts with no good reason can be as harmful as not deleting content that is completely out of date or irrelevant. The same applies if that content is leading traffic that is not the one that suits your business best; meaning the wrong audience is reaching your website, meaning unqualified leads for you and bad user experience for visitors (this last, something Google will also notice).
Some people are also afraid that removing old content will result in broken links (which are bad for SEO). However, keep in mind that if another piece of content is linking to the one you’re deleting, THAT could generate a broken link. Run this free broken link checker to make sure this didn’t happen when you delete old content; but be peace-minded that the action of doing it per se doesn’t mean you’re generating a broken link.
So How Do You Delete an Old Blog?
Option A: 404 Not Found
Once you choose the articles that you want to remove, the simplest option is to delete them and have their URLs deliver a 404 HTTP response. 404s are not necessarily something bad; in fact, you can even use 404 error pages in your favor. So people reaching your old, deleted content’s URL can still find value by you leading them to newer, more relevant content (or even a funny meme).
Option C: 310 Redirect
A good alternative to use, for example, if the content is unsalvaged and you want to completely replace it with a newer, more relevant version. Google can pass most (although not all) of the SEO juice from the content you’re redirecting to the new one.
Option C: 410 Gone
This option is recommended if you want search engines to know that such content is gone and not moved or redirected. Typically, this happens in extreme cases like for example, if your site was hacked and had spammy pages added to it; and you don’t want to make sure Google knows you have nothing to do with it.
Still In Doubt? Contact WEBITMD
Deciding whether or not to remove outdated content is a common struggle that we’ve especially seen when businesses decide to update their websites or even come up with a new one from scratch. Many developers usually overlook SEO implications at the moment of doing changes and the results could be catastrophic.
The same struggle happens with the eternal push between user experience vs. good SEO practices. Do you do things for people or for Google? Is it possible to satisfy both of them?
At WEBITMD, all the parts of the overall digital marketing strategy collaborate closely to make sure you get the best of each world. That’s basically the backbone of our Growth Stack; our end-to-end marketing and sales solution to attract, nurture and sell. Download our full Growth Stack guide for free below.