Maintaining a solid online presence is crucial for businesses and individuals in digital marketing. Google rewards sites that are considered “fresh” — that is, they update their content regularly. With this in mind, some experts believe that deleting old content keeps a site fresh.
However, freshness only applies to news sites targeting time-sensitive and trending queries. So, should we delete old content?
Every day, millions of pieces of content are created by companies, with some small businesses having a few hundred pages while larger companies may have thousands.
While it may be tempting to delete pages that appear outdated, Google says it doesn’t matter.
These pages may still contain valuable information that could be helpful to users. As such, it is recommended to hold onto these pages to ensure users have access to all relevant content.
What Does Google Say About Deleting Old Content?
Google experts have a lot to say about deleting old content. They cleared the air through X conversations in response to CNET’s mass content deletion.
Google Search Liason, Danny Sullivan, posted in August 2023 saying,
Are you deleting content from your site because you somehow believe Google doesn't like "old" content? That's not a thing! Our guidance doesn't encourage this. Older content can still be helpful, too.
Delete what you don't want to keep - regular maintenance and cleaning up is always good. Just don't assume that deleting something only because it's old will improve your site's SEO magically.
Additionally, Mueller says,
Similarly, keep in mind that just because something doesn't get a lot of views (eg, old news, obscure information) doesn't mean it's not helpful for those who do view it. Focus on the unique value, not on the age, view-count, etc.
It’s a consensus that it’s perfectly fine to delete old content — just don’t expect it to boost your SEO suddenly.
Instead, Google recommends that SEOs update their content as they see fit to maintain relevance. Old content can offer long-term value, especially if the content satisfies the searcher's intent and the information is helpful and valuable.
John Mueller said in 2019 that good, old content can sometimes come back around, so it may be useful to keep it.
Google also recommends reading its Helpful Content Guidelines, which do not address content age but rather content quality. This shows that old content can still be considered high-quality if it was made (or updated) with these guidelines in mind.
Updating vs. Deleting Content
If you have a robust blog, you could have hundreds of pages of older content. How do you know when to update or delete a page?
You should update old content if:
- The information is still relevant today;
- The blog post is of high quality;
- The page satisfies the searcher's intent;
- The post is considered evergreen content.
You can consider deleting a page if:
- The page has thin content;
- The content is irrelevant to your SEO strategy;
- The content is unrelated to your industry’s current strategies;
- The page is taking away from the user experience.
Remember, if you delete pages from your site, you must 301 redirect any inbound links or risk losing link equity from those backlinks.
Evergreen Content vs. Fresh Content
Remember that evergreen content is content that is relevant for long periods of time. For example, evergreen topics can include “Methods to keep your glasses clean.” This type of information will not drastically change over time.
In contrast, fresh content is content that is timely and trending. For instance, “The Best Glasses of 2023” would be considered fresh content because it talks about trends happening right now. This piece of content wouldn’t be relevant in 2024 because new trends will arise.
Risks of Deleting Old Content
If you decide to delete old content, it’s essential to understand the risks involved to mitigate them.
Loss of Backlinks and Authority
It's essential to be cautious when deleting old content from your website because doing so may cause you to lose valuable backlinks. If external websites are linked to your deleted content, search engines may perceive your site as less authoritative, and your SEO may suffer.
Negative Impact on User Trust
When your website has broken links or missing content, it can lead to a frustrating experience for visitors. They may feel disheartened and skeptical of your site, which can impact your credibility. Moreover, removing valuable information can disturb the user experience, particularly for returning users who may have bookmarked or referred to specific pages.
To prevent such issues, it's essential to ensure the continuity of information and that all links and pages are up-to-date. You can use tools to scan your website regularly and identify any broken links or missing content. This will help you fix the issues quickly and ensure a seamless experience for your audience. Doing so can help you avoid disappointing visitors and maintain their trust in your website.
Loss of Historical Value
When it comes to managing your website's content, it's crucial to take into account the historical significance of old content. Often, this content serves as a reference point for your audience, and deleting it could erode a part of your website's history. By keeping old content, you preserve valuable information that may still be relevant to your audience, even if it is no longer the most up-to-date.
Moreover, it's important to consider evergreen content that continues to generate traffic and leads. This type of content is valuable and should be preserved as it can continue bringing in traffic and leads for years. Deleting it could result in a loss of potential revenue and leads.
Considering the above, when deciding whether or not to delete content, it's important to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks. While deleting content may seem like a quick and easy fix, it may have unintended consequences that could impact the long-term success of your website.
Deciding whether to delete old content from your website is a nuanced decision that requires a careful balance between maintaining relevance and preserving your content's historical and SEO value. Before taking any drastic measures, conduct a thorough content audit, consider potential consequences, and develop a strategic plan to ensure that your website remains a valuable resource for users and search engines.