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15. What to do with old blog content

One thing that I have learned this year that surprised me was that too much content is a really bad thing. It seems obvious now that I know about it but previously I had just sort of ignored all of the content I had written before. After all my personal blog is coming up to 12 years old, there is a lot of content on there and being honest with myself there is a lot of really bad content on there. So what can you do about the old content and why does it matter?

First I am going to explain why too much content is a bad thing. Google loves you to be knowledgeable in your field, it wants to link to you and say “hey this person knows what they are talking about” the problem is if you have 10 great posts about a subject now and 100 mediocre ones about it in the past then it will judge you as having poor quality content. Google also doesn’t like old, out of date content, I mean what is the point of a top gifts list from 2015? A site full of old, content will be judged as poor quality and it will have a negative effect on the new content you are creating.

So what can you do about it? Well, as much as you might not like the answer you should remove old content but don’t just judge it by date. Ask yourself the following questions about the content.

  • Is this content still useful or relevant?
  • Is this content evergreen content?
  • Does this content need updating?
  • Can this content be rewritten to become useful or relevant? Old URLs can be good for ranking but the content needs to be worth it!

When I did this recently I ran a WP-CLI command that changed the post status of all my posts older than a certain date to draft (on that link under advanced, ask for help from your host if you are not sure). After that, I looked through each post and republished those that matched one of the examples above. I still need to take the time and go through and update the posts that I have republished and I really need to cut back on even more old content but I found doing it in chunks helped to make it a bit easier. Before you remove old content make sure you have a redirection plugin set up, however, do not place an automatic redirect for all 404 posts to your homepage. If you have similar content on your site then set up individual redirects for those posts. For example, if you have 5 different fathers day posts and you are going to have one going forward you can redirect the 4 now removed URLs to the one you are keeping but you should not send those to your homepage as that is not relevant content to the reader. 404 errors are absolutely ok with Google, in fact, they are preferable to sending the reader to content that isn’t relevant. You may want to consider making your 404 error page more user friendly and adding a search bar and a link to your homepage and/or category pages though. You should also make sure you use a broken link checker after removing content to see if you linked to that content internally and have therefore accumulated some internal broken links which are definitely not something you would want.

Updating content is a really positive thing for Google to see. One way to make sure Google knows you have updated content is to use a plugin called ‘WP Last Modified Info’ this will place a piece of text at the top of your content showing the date you updated it. You will also want to reindex the post in the search console.

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