Why It Is Sometimes Good to Remove Old Content

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By Boris Dzhingarov

When you’re running a blog alone or have a corporate-oriented site that includes a blog used for content marketing, too much content is not always a good thing. The older a blog becomes, the more cumbersome it feels for several reasons. At this point, it may make sense to remove older content from the site.

For site owners who have previously paid for said content, they may be aghast at the idea of deliberately removing it after they’ve paid good money for it. However, this article covers some of the reasons why this may be a good idea despite your initial objections.

Evergreen Content Isn’t as Popular Anymore

It used to be that long-form, evergreen content ranked for many years and remained popular traffic drivers. However, that’s been changing since Google began paying more attention to recency and newer publication dates.

Only in situations where the content is still relevant despite not being updated is it likely to continue to rank well. This applies even if it has many inbound backlinks pointing at the post too. Unfortunately, that’s the changed reality now.

Updating the Content Isn’t Worthwhile

When the original topic of the article isn’t relevant to today’s marketplace, then even when it’s sufficiently outdated, it’s not worth investing the time and money to have it updated. If it cannot be revised to provide new value to the audience in a meaningful manner, it’s better to get rid of it. Out with the old and in with the new! Refocus on providing refreshed or completely new content on topics that will gain greater traction and provide value in 2020.

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Stop Wasting the Google Crawl Budget

Depending on the level of popularity of a website, Google will only use its Googlebot to crawl so many pages. That’s even if a full XML sitemap is submitted via Google Console.

There isn’t the time nor the resources for Google to crawl every page on every site across the internet, especially with the rate the internet is expanding. Therefore, their spider must pick which pages to look at and those to ignore.

When leaving older content up that receives little traffic and/or provides no value to the reader due to its age, then it risks using up part of Google’s crawl budget on these pages. New content may not get seen until much later, it may be indexed, not rank well at all, or with a substantial delay. Cleaning out old content ensures this is far less likely to happen.

A Refocused Content Strategy

Some sites have blog or marketing content that reflects views at that time which differ from that of today. Ideas and concepts may have matured in such a way that the older content is embarrassing or doesn’t reflect current ideologies or practices within the business. Due to this, it can be preferable to remove those articles when there’s no way to reconcile this mismatch.

Lack of Expertise on the Topic

It happens that a topic falls outside of the direct knowledge or experience of the original author. Sometimes, they’re just hedging and weren’t an expert on the topic. While the piece could be rewritten by someone else, if the topic isn’t relevant to the market today, it’s not worth doing so.

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It’s far better to develop clusters of relevant content around topics that people on the site or at the company are experts in. It’s far easier to develop a strong reputation due to obvious expertise and authoritativeness instead of reaching outside of the circle of competence and straining too far off course.

Word Count is Too Low and Content Lacks Quality

Articles that were never intended to be a lengthy treatise on a topic might be problematic too. Low quality can hold back the site too.

Low Word Count

The majority of written content below 750 words has little place in content marketing with the modern internet. Most topics of any worth require a substantially longer word count to provide value. This allows the writer to break down the issues point by point and include sub-points and other useful nuggets of information along the way.

Low Quality

When an article was structured from the beginning to be quite short, it’s difficult to simply go in and add 4 extra paragraphs to “beef it up” later. The problem with doing so is that it won’t sit well with the earlier content that reads like it wasn’t going deep or wide on the subject matter. Trying to do so later in the article by tacking on extra sections will feel disjointed to the reader and loses the flow.

Fixing lower quality content often requires a completely new article to fully resolve the issue and reach an acceptable standard. It’s often better to choose a new topic that will have greater relevance today.

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Keeping low-quality content on a site also risks the search engines forming the view that it offers poor value. By removing low-quality articles or reviews, it provides the best representation of the value to the visitor. This can often be reflected in site rankings too.

No Social Shares or Inbound Links

Older articles should have some social shares from Facebook and elsewhere. When they don’t, they may even be so old that they were before social sharing was possible or popular. In which case, they should still have garnered some inbound backlinks to the page over the years.

In a situation where an article is unloved and unshared, there’s little to recommend it from an SEO perspective to keep it around. If it receives minimal traffic too, then it’s just taking up space in the database.

Small Database, Faster Queries

A database that’s packed to the brim with old articles is slower and harder to manage. The database size itself is substantially larger too. Being able to remove older content and compact the database down makes it quicker to run new search queries on – like when looking up stored articles to display them on a page.  

There are numerous reasons to cull older content that doesn’t reflect value, quality, or carry the right message. While updating older content is sometimes advisable to breathe new life into it, this isn’t always the right decision. During a content audit, it’s always necessary to ask: “Should it stay, be revised, or go?”