You should update or delete old content on your site that has become irrelevant over time. It really doesn’t matter if that is due to new insights or truths that align better with your current business, or because you, for instance, stopped selling that specific service. Consider it spring cleaning. Update or even just get rid of these old posts and pages. There are multiple ways to go about this. In this article, I’ll give you some pointers on how to decide what the best solution is for your old content.
Content still valid? Update your old content.
So we have this article on meta descriptions that needs updating all the time lately. We just have to make sure it keeps on track with all the things Google is doing with these meta descriptions. Sometimes it seems they can be a bit longer –we researched this– and sometimes they seem to be back to the old length again. We try to guide webmasters in writing the meta description that works best at that moment. Although the article itself might be what we call evergreen content, the content of it is adjusted to the most recent standards all the time.
You can easily create valuable, new content from your old posts if you can update it and make it current again: old wine in new bottles. 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 consider doing so, please keep in mind to redirect the posts that will be gone after this to the new post, using a 301 Redirect. More on that later.
No need for these old posts or pages anymore? Delete them.
It’s always possible that you encounter 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 years ago and have no intention of selling ever again or a page about a supplier that you never want to work with again. These are just examples, but I’m sure you know what posts and/or pages I mean. This old content adds no value as such anymore, now or in the foreseen future. In that case, you want to tell Google to forget about these old posts or pages or give the URL another purpose.
By deleting old content, I don’t mean just pressing “delete” and then forgetting about it. The content might surface in Google for weeks after deletion. The URL might actually have some link value as well, which is a shame to waste.
“301 Redirect” the old post to a related one
If the URL still holds value, for instance, because you have a number of quality links pointing to that page, you want to leverage that value by redirecting the page to a related one. Say you have an old post on a specific dog breed. You want to delete it, so the logical next step would be to redirect that post to a post about the closest breed possible. If that post isn’t available, 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 instance. It’s related, but there might be better options on your site.
Creating a 301 Redirect (f.i. in WordPress) isn’t hard, but doing this in Yoast SEO Premium is easy as pie. If you don’t have that plugin yet, find out about all the extras that are in Yoast SEO Premium here.
Tell search engines the content is gone deliberately
Another option is to make sure Google forgets about your old post entirely by serving a “410 Gone” status to Google. When Google can’t find your post, like after deletion, your server will usually return a “404 Not Found” status to the search engine’s bot. You will find a 404 crawl error in your Google Search Console for that page. That’s until you redirect the page like explained earlier. Google will find it, and the URL will gradually vanish from the search result pages. But this will take some time. The 410 is more powerful in the sense that it’ll tell Google it’s gone never to return. You deleted it on purpose, period. Google will act on that faster than on a 404. Read up about the server status codes if this is all gibberish to you.
Have any old content you want to delete?
There you have it. Three ways to get rid of old content on your site:
- Update the old post or page and publish it again.
- Redirect the old content to related content.
- Get rid of it entirely if there is no value to the content anymore whatsoever.
Good luck cleaning up your site.