Content Governance Best Practices: Should You Remove Outdated Content?

Research suggests that posting 16 or more blog articles monthly can boost inbound traffic by 350%. If you maintain a publishing rate of four times weekly, plus posting across social media channels, you produce a decent amount of content each year.

Inevitably, much of that content will either lose its relevance over time or adhere to search engine optimization strategies that no longer work (remember when keyword stuffing was perfectly acceptable?). Should you remove outdated content, or are there better ways of managing it?

Getting rid of it is one option, but there are a couple of others. Let’s examine your choices for organizing and optimizing your content to maximize SEO, user experience, engagement, and conversion.

Why You Might Want To Remove Outdated Content

Your team works hard to push out helpful content. The idea of removing it might make you cringe. So, what’s wrong with leaving your old content as it is?

We’re not suggesting that all content has an expiration date and that you should remove everything published before that date. Some old content is worth holding onto.

Evergreen content is any asset containing information that is not time-bound. In other words, it’s just as relevant today as the day you published it. You won’t need to delete content that fits this description just because it has an older publication date.

remove outdate content - evergreen content

There is no benefit to removing relevant, valid, and useful content. In fact, doing so could hurt your SEO as much as having outdated content on your site. It could also lead to a negative experience for users when Google directs them to a particular article on your site that no longer exists.

However, there are some cases when you might want to update or remove outdated content, including:

  • Your content contains information about products that have been permanently discontinued.
  • The information is no longer accurate — for example, a guide for an old software version, or a list of Christmas markets from several years ago.
  • The content contains links to or citations of out-of-date information, such as government regulations that have now changed.
  • Your content includes outdated information about your business — for example, business details or branding messages that are no longer valid.
  • The information is time-limited, such as job or real estate listings.

Additionally, you should consider content quality and update or remove anything that is poorly written or does not adhere to branding standards.

How You Know What To Remove or Update

Before you can update or remove outdated content, you need a clear picture of which assets are still relevant and useful and which are no longer valid. You need a content audit.

Your audit should include all website content, including recently published items. You want to assess the content for value, relevance, quality, branding, and SEO strategies.

Even high-performing content provides insight that can help you determine what to do with old, underperforming content. Sometimes, you might discover recent items need a few tweaks to align with your brand voice, new industry practices, or ever-evolving SEO strategies.

Know your goals before you start your audit to maintain focus on indicators that you need to update or remove outdated content, which makes the process more efficient. If you’re short on resources or have an overwhelming amount of content to evaluate, you might want to devise a strategy for tackling the task, such as auditing your oldest or least-performing content first.

Our content audit template can also guide you through the process. As you perform your audit, separate assets into three categories:

  1. Content that is good as is
  2. Content that needs updating
  3. Content that needs to go

Addressing the content in the second two categories can boost SEO performance, improve user experience and engagement, and increase conversions.

What You Can Do With Outdated Content

Do you need to remove outdated content, or are there other options? Fortunately, a clean sweep isn’t always necessary.

There are a few different strategies to choose from. Go with the most suitable course of action for each piece of content.

1. Update the Content

In many cases, simply updating the content by adding new information or removing outdated links and references is enough to ensure it still has value for your audience. You may also want to improve the writing quality of the content or make your brand’s voice more visible.

However, sometimes you can update rather than remove outdated content to keep up with the latest SEO best practices. For example, you can restructure or add to your content to make it appear as a rich snippet in Google search results.

If you have content on your site that is several years old, it may follow outdated SEO advice, such as keyword stuffing. Rewriting the content will not only make it more readable but may also have a positive effect on your SEO.

When updating and republishing content, be sure to add a note with the date when you updated the content, letting Google and readers know you refreshed the page. There’s nothing more off-putting for a searcher looking for up-to-date information than seeing a post dated several years ago in the search engine results.

2. Remove Outdated Content and Redirect the Link

Sometimes, the best option for information you can’t update — such as expired product listings — is to redirect the expired content to another page on your site. Redirecting visitors guarantees you won’t lose any search traffic.

If you remove content without adding a redirect, search engines display a 404 error, telling users the content can’t be found. Search engines will eventually remove pages that throw a 404 error. However, until then, users won’t likely stick around to search for more information on your site when they receive an error message.

Internal linking and backlinks pose an additional issue if you simply remove outdated content without a redirect. If numerous links point to a page on your site, you might not want to delete it completely, even if the information is outdated. Removing the page means you’ll lose the power of these links, negatively impacting your search engine rankings.

However, if you use a 301 permanent redirect, you won’t lose any “link juice.” Additionally, you can keep search engine traffic on your site for longer by directing visitors to more up-to-date information, products, or other helpful content on your site.

If the content is too outdated for a quick update and requires a significant overhaul, your best bet might be to rewrite it completely and use a 301 redirect to send search traffic to the new post rather than remove the outdated content.

3. Repurpose the Content

removing outdated content - repurposing content assets in different formats/channels

Source: Hootsuite

In some cases, you might want to both update and repurpose the content. For example, you could update a blog post from several years ago to make sure the information is still relevant and turn it into a video or podcast.

Updating and repurposing gives you more bang for your buck. You breathe new life into the original content — boosting its value for your audience and SEO — and generate additional value by creating new content that reaches a broader audience.

How You Can Track When It’s Time To Remove Outdated Content

Before you can develop a strategy for dealing with old content, you need a system that can track all your content and let you know when it’s time to review, update, or remove it. A content operations platform such as DivvyHQ can make your life easier.

The more content you have, the trickier managing it becomes. DivvyHQ’s content management platform streamlines your content production and systematizes and automates content governance. Our system provides timely reminders to review your assets, ensuring you update or remove outdated content to keep it working for you now and into the future. Request a demo to see it in action!

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