It’s easy to get rid of outdated website content. You can either redirect it or delete.
But, if the outdated blog post still brings in website traffic – do you really want to get rid of it? The decision could be costly in terms of leads, sales, and the bottom line if you don’t check a few key metrics before you decide.
I don’t like deleting or redirecting from an SEO perspective. It might make business sense. If you believe an article or case study is a detriment because of outdated or inaccurate information, you might say: “It’s just not a good look to have facts and data that aren’t useful. If we don’t retire this, we might turn off a prospect who questions our value.”
CMI has many blog posts that I can help with SEO. Kim Moutsos, CMI’s vice president of editorial, offers some insights into CMI’s approach to updating old content in The Why, When, and How of Republishing Blog Posts.
The truth is that there are no hard-and-fast rules. Google will reward marketers who think that fresh content is more important than old content. They believe that Google prefers updated websites. And some marketers could easily question how old website pages meet Google’s constant call for quality, which is in contrast to inaccurate or merit-lacking content.
It’s all relative. Ideally, all of your content will be timely, insightful, and engaging enough to make a great first impression or even convert visitors – whether that’s a phone call, demo request, newsletter sign-up, or more.
Before you delete or redirect the content, assess your situation and think about what actions could be taken to protect your website traffic and the visitors who bring you business.
1. Test your assumptions
How can you tell if older content is no more useful? Monitor bounce rates and time spent on the site, as well as conversions.
Is the content on your older website still useful? Examine whether conversions via natural search are increasing/ decreasing. Sign-ups for newsletters may be strong, but the completion of forms that are tied to products or services has fallen. Is that acceptable based on what you’re trying to achieve?
To figure out a page’s performance, refer to the conversion goals for the pages that you set up earlier in Google Analytics. Here’s the initial path to follow to see which URLs are doing their job:
2. 2. Analyze your ranking
Does the content you’re considering deleting or redirecting rank well in search? Are there any highly competitive phrases it has locked down? What’s your comfort level with losing search engine visibility for those terms if you remove the old content or if the content you redirect to doesn’t rank as well?
SEO 101: The Content Marketer’s Guide to SEO — Access Now
You know that SEO is important — but you don’t know where to start. Get the need-to-know SEO basics — just for Content Marketers — with Conductor’s SEO 101 Ebook Guide. Get the Ebook Guide to Conductor’s SEO 101 now to learn how you can create optimized content that ranks higher in search engines and is found more quickly.
3. Check out the Google Search Console
You can find a lot of information on page URLs and search terms. Track the click data over time and find new trends for older content. Also, did clicks drop sharply at a particular point? Do they have risen over time? Spending time with URLs, clicks, and keywords within Google Search Console is a great way to check your website’s health from an SEO perspective.
4. Check the website traffic
Does the content still receive the same amount of visitors it did once? Have you adjusted for unusual factors that may have affected website traffic – like any traffic effects of the pandemic?
Are you still getting visitors from the geographic targets you have set? Are the most important locales declining in traffic? You can also track visitor behavior using natural search and other sources. If you have fewer visitors from a specific location, that’s worth exploring. Sometimes, it’s worth looking at deeper indicators than URLs.
A company I know recently redirected some blog articles to newer versions. The traffic to the newer blog articles isn’t as great as the originals, but it does get traffic.
Without context around what the natural search visitors did when they arrived on those pages, it’s difficult to assess whether a redirect will affect the results in the long-term.
In other words, traffic isn’t everything. Before you make moves that could impact visitor numbers, make sure to understand if the page’s previous visitors were a good match with your content and goals. If you’ve considered the contextual factors, you’ll have a much better basis for evaluating the hit to potential traffic.
How to deal with outdated content that you don’t want to lose
You can make your content fresher by redirecting or keeping it.
1. It can be used to point to new content
When your aging content outranks your newer content, add an editor’s note to the top and point visitors to your latest piece on the topic. You maintain the page rank and direct visitors to the new content.
2. 2. Request new backlinks
To evaluate the backlinks to your pages from websites, blogs, news media and more, you should analyze the referral traffic. An older page may perform better because it’s been around longer and has amassed a considerable number of backlinks.
Reach out to the websites that referred you to request backlinks to your new content. While a drop in backlinks could impact the old article’s rankings, the new content should gain a ranking advantage as well.
3. Refresh the content
Rewrite the intro, update any outdated references (i.e., cite an older study), embed a recent video, refer to a timely informationgraphic, mention a resource, etc. This step might be more effective than creating new content.
Content Marketing Institute follows the same practice, but uses a different URL because it uses the month and year in the URL structure. It includes an editor’s note in the original URL that points to the newer version. I do not recommend that sites be set up with a date URL structure. It’s tough to futureproof content. CMI is not the only site that does this. Search Engine Watch, TopRank Marketing, Fortune, and Fortune all use dated URLs.
If you have a date-structure and decide to drop it, expect major traffic shifts as Google deals with all the new redirects.
If you have a year and month in your URL structure and opt to drop it, expect major traffic shifts while @Google deals with all the new 301 redirects, says @MikeOnlineCoach via @CMIContent @Conductor. #SEO Click To Tweet
4. Don’t necessarily sweat duplicate content
You can keep the original page or blog article and give it a refresh without affecting search engine ranking. A few duplicate pages won’t hurt your rankings or cause Google to delist you website if you have many pages.
Old content will always be an issue
Old web pages and website posts can be a problem.
If they still rank well and deliver leads – and sales – think about keeping them around a little longer. You might not see the results you are looking for if you redirect the website content. How do you fill the measurable gaps in website traffic, revenue (immediate conversions, sales based upon lifetime customer formulas)?
At the end of the day, whether to keep old content or redirect it is a judgment call that involves your brand reputation and business practices – not just SEO.
Old content can make a big difference. Take stock of your data, and clean up pages and posts until you say good-bye.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute