conversion rate optimisation

Are you concerned that your website has a wealth of old blog posts and articles that are no longer current or relevant? Before you make a hasty decision to delete old content simply because of its age, it’s worth checking to see if there is a better option than deletion. Deleting web pages could very possibly be the wrong move –    some of your old content could be a valuable asset you would be wise to keep.

Deleting pages containing years-old content could negatively affect SEO (search engine optimisation) making the website less visible online because it will appear lower in the search listings. But, on the other hand, content that provides no useful information to a visitor – content that is short, lacking detailed information and provides nothing unique or interesting for viewers – can also negatively affect SEO and online visibility.

Deciding what to do with the old content depends largely on the type, volume and relevancy of content. Some pages may still be valuable because of backlinks or visitor numbers. Some may be inactive but could easily be revived and refreshed to work for your business again, because the URL itself could be a potentially valuable asset that it could pay to hang on to.

Start by reviewing content

Begin by reviewing any content that is outdated or irrelevant to your business and target market. Then update it to provide more value to your readers – remembering to write for human readers not search engines. Search engines like Google are much more sophisticated than they used to be so writing naturally will benefit your SEO. As part of the review process take a look at your competitors’ content. What do they do better than you? Try and at least emulate the best competitor content but ideally you want to create something with much more value to your readers.

Alternatively, for an expert review try our AI-Powered Content Audit which will automatically review your top-ranking competitors’ content then create a better version to outperform competitors with the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) analysis. NLP is used in Google’s search algorithm to assess the whole of a piece of content and include phrases not directly related to your keywords but, nevertheless, relevant to your business.

Whatever way you go about auditing, after the content audit, you’ll need to start looking at whether each blog or article has hidden value. Simply deleting content based on age is likely to be a mistake.

You will need to dig into your data to identify each piece’s value for activities such as user interaction, search ranking and backlinks. Knowing the value of each piece and whether you can salvage it with tweaks or a revamp will help you decide what to do with your old website content.

Visual analysis of old content

Start by reading through your old content and answering these simple questions.

Ask yourself if your old content:

  • Answers a question?
  • Is accurate?
  • Is informative and helpful?
  • Is presented well and easy to understand/read?
  • Is optimised for mobile devices?

Once you have considered the above, it should become a little clearer to understand which blogs and articles are not (or no longer) providing value to the reader. Once you have identified each piece’s status, you can then check how well its performance compares to your thoughts on its quality.

Data-driven analysis of old content

Start by checking your Google Analytics landing page results. Generating SEO rankings doesn’t happen overnight, so you don’t want to be in a hurry to lose that by deleting a valuable page. You may find an older post is more popular than you thought, ranks well for specific searches, and search engines are now driving traffic to it.

This type of content is usually ‘evergreen’ content, it stands the test of time, and there is no reason to believe that it will change in the future. Evergreen content is valuable to your rankings, so it’s worth giving it a quick check to update sources if any are old, check links are still valid, update for new practices and maybe refresh the look with new images or video content. It’s worth spending time to refresh this valuable content, and by updating the date, you will improve its relevance to Google and users.

Of course, if it appears beyond help or has no visitors, then it’s not going to be adding value in it’s current form but it might be possible to refresh it with new information. The page URL alone could be worth saving, as you will see below.

Determining the value of the URL

The content may not receive much organic traffic, it may be irrelevant or outdated and not fit your brand image or quality guidelines. Still, there could be value in the established URL. The URL could have valuable backlinks built up over time. Older URLs tend to have more link value than newly created pages, which could prove worth retaining. If your existing URL benefits from several backlinks, this could be another reason a revamp and repost is worth it to keep the current URL and the link value already acquired.

The best way to determine whether any given page has backlinks is to use an SEO tool for this specific purpose – many, like Ahrefs Webmaster Tools are free to use with limited functionality.

When to consider deleting the content

Considering all the above, if you conclude that the page, article or blog post is unsalvageable, it is probably time to remove it. Perhaps you have changed the focus of your business, or the topic is no longer relevant, then it may be best to delete it.

This brings us back around to whether deleting pages is bad for SEO. Before hitting the delete button, double-check that the following apply:

  1. The page contains little in the way of useful content
  2. The page isn’t getting any search traffic (check Landing Pages in Google Analytics)
  3. The content is not being looked at (check Pages in Google Analytics)
  4. There are no backlinks to the page

If you are not confident all of the above are true, go back to the middle ground of seeking to protect the value in the URL. Keep the URL but do a complete rewrite or refresh and update, whichever is needed to make it relevant and current.

When deletion is the answer

There is one essential task you should do before you go ahead with a page deletion. Simply deleting the page will result in a 404 page not found error, which indicates to Google that they no longer need to crawl this URL. However, if you have other pages on your website linking to the removed page, remember that they will suffer from broken links. So to avoid this, you can do a 301-page redirect, ensuring that the page you redirect to is relevant to the original. Google advises against redirecting to a category page or your homepage, so if you can’t salvage the old page, then redirect to a page relevant to the old page content. 

Final Thoughts

Getting the right content online is essential so that your website appears in search listings and is visible by your target audience. There is always value in completing a regular website content review. It will allow you to remove or refresh ageing content that is no longer fulfilling its purpose. Of course, this requires considerable effort but a content audit is just one of the ways that Ditto Digital can help improve your digital marketing. Whether it’s understanding new keywords and search terms to improve your rankings, creating valuable backlinks or having a professional content writer revamp your existing pages and blogs.

About Michelle Symonds

Established as an SEO specialist since 2009, following a career as a software engineer in the oil industry and investment banking. Michelle draws on her IT and web development experience to develop best-practice processes for implementing successful SEO strategies. Her pro-active approach to SEO enables organisations to raise their online profile and reach new audiences, both nationally and internationally. She has a wealth of cross-industry experience from startups to Fortune 500 companies .

4 thoughts on “Old Content on Your Website? You Need a Content Audit

  1. Hey, I have a question that I couldn’t find an answer to. How do I check what Google thinks of my new content in terms its Natural Language Processing part of the algorithm?

  2. I’ve always been reluctant to just delete old content, mainly because of the time and effort that went in to creating it in the first place. So it’s good to hear you say that deleting content simply based on age could be a mistake. And I appreciate the good advice about steps to do a visual analysis and data-driven analysis of my content.

    But something I’m still not sure about in my Google Analytics data is what I should specifically be checking to decide if content is popular or not? what typical values mean it’s popular. The reason I ask is some posts have more visits but how do I know if people like what they find on those posts?

    1. Hi Hayley, in Google Analytics 4 you can check the metrics “Views” and “Average Engagement Time Per Session” for a broad overview of content popularity. Go to the standard GA4 report “Pages and screens” under the Lifecycle >> Engagement section on the left-hand side of the GA4 screen.

      You are looking for pages with a high number of “Views” and a high “Average Engagement Time Per Session” relative to all pages on your site. A high number of views with a high engagement time (1 minute plus) is a rough indicator of popularity.

      To delve deeper into this data use something like Looker Studio to help analyse conversion events (goals) on the broadly popular pages.

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