Should I Delete Old Content from My Website?

Content | SEO | Strategy

If Top Floor had a frequently asked client questions list, this would be on it. Many of us content marketers find ourselves in the same situation. We have blogs and articles that date back years, maybe even more than a decade ago!

Because of this, many clients wonder if it’s a smart idea to get rid of old, outdated content on their website, and if deleting pages is bad for SEO. The short answer is that both options may be good for SEO, but it all depends on a few different factors. We’re here to help you determine what content has got to go and what should stick around!

Before you begin, perform a quick audit of the content you are looking at removing to help figure out whether you should delete old content from your website or not. Reviewing these key metrics will help you understand high quality vs. poor content:

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Does the content answer a question?
  • Is the content easy to read/understand?
  • Is it useful and informative?
  • Is the page mobile-friendly?


When You Should Keep Old Content

Have you ever looked into your Google Analytics landing page report and found a blog from three years ago that is suddenly driving a lot of traffic? We all know that generating SEO rankings can take time, and sometimes that means years. While you may look at that blog and think it’s no longer relevant, the searchers driving traffic to your blog would suggest otherwise. 

We call this type of content “evergreen” content – because it can withstand the test of time. It answers a question that users have, and will likely continue to have for the foreseeable future. However, you may find that the blog or article references outdated practices or techniques, or uses old sources. In this case, it’s worth giving the blog a bit of a refresh and updating it to reflect recent industry developments and practices. We also suggest updating the date it was posted, to improve relevance in the eyes of the user and Google.


The Middle Ground

If you’ve determined that your content is poor quality, irrelevant, and doesn’t receive much organic traffic, then you’re faced with the decision of whether or not you should delete old content from your website. Before you do, though, ask yourself if it’s salvageable. 

There are some benefits in keeping the old URL, since you’ve built “link juice” over time, and older URLs will have greater authority than a new URL. Link authority is built over time, and is improved upon by the number of backlinks that point to your blog/page. If you decide to keep the page, it might mean you are effectively scrapping and rewriting the entire thing. But, keeping the URL gives you that added link juice right away upon posting.


When You Should Delete Old Content

If you’ve considered all of the above and determined that your page or content simply isn’t salvageable – maybe the topic doesn’t apply to your business, or it’s just severely out of date – then it’s probably a good idea to delete the old page and content.

Is deleting pages bad for SEO? If all of these scenarios apply, it won’t harm your SEO to remove old pages: 

  • It doesn’t get much traffic
  • It doesn’t have link equity (backlinks)
  • It’s not ranking on the first page for any key terms
  • It’s irrelevant. Nobody will miss it when it’s gone.

In fact, it may even help Google to more efficiently crawl your site by removing poor-quality pages, thus positively affecting your SEO.

If the above scenarios don’t apply, then I suggest looking at either updating or completely rewriting the content.


How to Remove Old Content

There are a couple of important practices to use before you go and delete a page from your site. When you delete the page, the URL will then return a 404 (page not found) error. A 404 page alone isn’t necessarily bad and will indicate to Google it’s a URL they should no longer crawl. However, it can be a negative thing if you have other pages linking to the page you have removed, leading to broken links. So again, make sure that if you are choosing to delete a page, there are few, if any, backlinks pointing to the page.

Your other option is to 301 redirect the page to a new, more relevant page. But make sure that the page you are redirecting to is related to the old page, for example, a newer blog on the same topic. Google does not advise redirecting to your homepage or a category page.


Ready, set, go!

Whether that means you’ve got a lot of content to update (or totally rewrite!), or you’ve decided to remove old pages, you should have a solid understanding of how to make that decision and effectively delete pages. 

Have questions more questions about old content? Let us take a look