To delete, or not to delete. That is the question… At least it should be if you’re looking to clean up your website and remove outdated content! Google cares just as much about the content you created years ago, as it does about that shiny new blog post you’re about to publish. That said, you should be thinking about whether to refresh or remove outdated content, as it can drastically boost your search ranking!
Website owner beware: don’t skim through this article and start trashing your URLs without a content optimization strategy and removal plan! Not all old content is bad! You must first know how to identify old content, and when to refresh or remove outdated content.
There is also a proper way to remove outdated content. If you don’t follow the right process, you could drastically decrease your search rank, or even create 404 errors and dead ends on your website!
What is Outdated Content?
Outdated content is any blog post or page on your website that no longer adds value to the user, or to the brand. This could be a discontinued product or service, old pages with little or no content – also known as thin content pages, a former employee profile, time-sensitive content like a job opening, or outdated advice.
Why You Should Remove Outdated Content
Over the last decade, nearly 87% of searches were on Google’s search engine. That said, if you’re trying to get found in searches, it’s a wise choice to pay attention to what rules and priorities are set by Google.
The first thing to note, is that Google’s entire mission is to organize the world’s information and present it in the most useful way. If your website has active links to products, posts, or pages that are no longer relevant, then Google will make note of your sketchy content, and prioritize with more accessible and user-friendly sites.
According to Google’s most recent release of their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, content that contains “inaccurate” or “meaningless information” is considered low quality. The lower your quality score with Google, the harder it will be to rank.
Pruning old content will help search engines discover your quality posts and pages faster.
How to Spot Outdated Content
Now that you understand why it’s a best practice to remove outdated content that is irrelevant, unusable, or inaccurate, let’s explore how to easily scrape your website and spot the weak links.
Certain digital platforms and SEO tools can also help you easily identify posts or pages to refresh or remove outdated content. Google offers two free and powerful tools that enable you to spot your traffic winners and your slow-movers.
Google Analytics is a digital tool that offers both a broad and granular overview of your website traffic. You can set up your website on the platform and use it to easily spot underperforming posts.
- Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to the left panel.
- In the Reports section, select Behavior, then Overview.
- Beneath the page list display, select the “view full report” link – make sure to select the “Show rows” dropdown and increase to 5,000.
- Change the date range to the previous 90 days.
- Evaluate content based on Pageviews and Bounce Rate.
When looking to remove outdated content rather than updating and republishing, look for the pages and posts with little or no traffic and a high Bounce Rate. Those are your top contenders.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console tracks and reports your site’s search traffic performance, spot usability errors, and feed refreshed sitemaps directly to the Google index. The Performance tab lets you view and compare a specific URL’s search performance.
- Log into your Google Search Console dashboard and navigate to the left panel.
- In the Performance dashboard, navigate to the “Pages” tab.
- Select a date range, we’ll choose “Compare last 3 months to previous period” to start.
- Evaluate content based on Clicks and Impressions.
The low-performing content is what you want to target. If you find that some of your previously powerful posts have dipped in traction, rather than remove old content, those should be considered for updating and republishing.
Trash or Treasure: How to Decide What to Do
Not every underperformer should be deleted. With a few tweaks, some of your old blog posts could be updated, republished – getting you more of that sweet, sweet traffic! So, how do you know when to remove outdated content or when to simply renew old posts?
Deleting content should be a last resort.
Use either Google Search Console or Google Analytics to sift through your website content. Create a list of underperforming posts and pages, then visit each URL to see whether or not the content is able to be brought to life.
As you read through the low-performing pages, consider whether or not the content is relevant or can add value to your service, product, and audience.
If you can dust off and polish up old content, then there’s your answer! Keep the post or page live, improve the content, and optimize for relevant keywords.
When it’s OK to remove outdated content:
- Content is low quality, and cannot be improved or made relevant.
- Has had few or no visits, clicks, nor impressions in 90 days.
- Has no important backlinks pointing to it.
How to Remove Outdated Content
So you’ve made it this far and spotted some blog posts or pages that need more than a little TLC. It may be tempting to just move the underperformers to the trash, but that will hurt more than help!
Deleting a page or post does not magically delete all instances of that preexisting URL. If someone includes a link to your website, shares that post, or revisits a product page that has been deleted, the user will still be directed to that page – but it will appear as a 404 error. You don’t want this!
There are ways to safely remove outdated content, so that search engines do not discover the previously live URL and flag it as a dead-end or 404 error!
If you must delete a page or post, you could set up a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect guides users to whatever page you select to be their new destination. The new page should display updated, relevant, quality content that’s similar to what the user was originally hunting for.
Be aware that adding too many redirects places extra load time on your server, which slows your website speed and hurts your ranking!
410 Deleted Status
If there is no relevant page to guide your user to, you can alert Google and other search engines by letting them know that you opted to remove outdated content with a “410 Deleted” status. This, however, is not ideal. Some search engines view 410 similarly to a 404 status.
Adding a “no-index” tag to a page lets you keep the content on your website without it being indexed or served up in search results. Search engine crawlers will still crawl the page, but it won’t display it for users to access.
Be sure to delete that page from your website’s sitemap, or any other internal links, then resubmit the sitemap to Google Search Console.
Remove Outdated Content with Google Search Removal Tool
Page crawls and indexing can take time. For a faster removal from the Google search engine, you can also upload the URL you wish to delete to the Google Removals Tool. This tool lets you temporarily block pages from Google search results on sites that you own.
This is not a one-and-done solution, but it does let Google know immediately that the page should not be accessed.
Conclusion: Refresh or Remove Outdated Content
When you properly remove outdated content, you can improve your site’s ranking, increase your site’s crawl capacity, and ensure your website visitors are always accessing high-quality and brand-enhancing content.
Knowing when to refresh or remove outdated content is key in optimizing your website’s performance. It just takes a bit of knowledge and legwork in sifting through the performance peaks and plateaus.
If you’re still unsure how to handle outdated content, or would rather a team of dedicated SEO agents handle your content optimization strategy, contact the Next Horizon digital marketing team.
Next Horizon provides holistic technology solutions for businesses looking to improve sales, increase agility and optimize productivity. From digital marketing to building bespoke business applications, Next Horizon uses its 40+ years of experience and award-winning talent to provide technical business solutions for its clients.
Categorised in: Digital Marketing