Website Maintenance: clean up old posts & pages

website maintenance: clean up old postsWhen 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, re-do 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 posts’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 WordPress SEO Premium plugin will give you a notice to redirect the post to a new URL when you do. If you don’t use our WordPress SEO Premium plugin… Well, you should!

Merge old posts

I often find myself merging several old posts into one newer post. The reason is that posts we write here are longer now 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. When we delete old content, we redirect the URL to the most appropriate URL on the site. You could also just decide to let the old post 404. If people are linking to your old post and you delete it, you’re throwing away link value. At that point, it’s better to redirect the old URL, if only to your homepage.

Don’t throw away history though: historical posts are fun to link back to later on. For instance, in our infographic post earlier this week, I linked to my original gravatar post. This post belongs to the history of this site, deleting it would be a shame.

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 404’s!

This post first appeared as Website Maintenance: clean up old posts & pages on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!