To Delete or Not Delete

…That is the Question

So, I was going through archived emails last week searching for a misplaced document and noticed something while there. I found several email subject lines with titles like: Should I Delete? All were searching for an answer about what do with old, outdated, or no longer relevant blog posts.

I’ve always had trouble throwing things away. Magazines, newspapers, old clothes; you name it I kept it. I always thought to myself, “I may need this someday.” No, I am not a hoarder. I know what you’re thinking, because I just said that, and I would think the same if someone said that to me. However, I have no problem discarding items that possess no future value. I have three bins in my basement: repurpose, donate and trash.

Guess what? In the ever-evolving world of blogging, managing and maintaining your old blogs is equivalent to removing the clutter from your home. You know you need to do it, but something else is always more important. And just like at home, the longer you wait, the more junk you accumulate. And just like you do not want to appear on an episode of Hoarders, failure to maintain your blog can come back to haunt you.

Why Should You Care About Old Blog Posts?

Just like everything else in life, we tend to forget about things, especially those things that are great at first, and then the next day, something is even better. Why bother looking at it again? However, poorly maintained and managed content could be costing you. Why?

  • First impression: You got one shot to make it, don’t show potential clients you are outdated!
  • Tell the Truth: Your blog is a set of public statements representing your business. Outdated information could actually expose you to legal or financial liability somewhere down the road.
  • Bad for SEO: Old blog posts that are outdated and irrelevant are now useless and are simply poor-quality content. It’s taking up space and has no value. Search engines don’t like poor quality content and having it on your site may decrease your rankings.
  • Loss of revenue: Old blog posts may still be getting traffic and results in a loss of potential revenue. This is the time to recycle, reuse and repurpose to turn those blogs into revenue makers instead of revenue breakers. (I will go over this a little further down)

Stop! Don’t Delete Yet

I know, I just got you all revved up and now you are concerned about all those old posts lying around on your blog and anxious to start deleting them all. Keep in mind that old content can be an asset you are failing to exploit. Here are some of the ways your old content can an asset to your business:

  • Traffic: Some of your old content may have been widely shared, and may have a lot of incoming links from other websites. These oldies but goodies could be a ticket to new found traffic if refreshed/updated.
  • Renewed relevance: Some topics are cyclical (like boom/bust cycles in the economy). You may have a blog gathering dust that becomes highly relevant again and only requires a small amount of editing to become a compelling, new blog entry.
  • Cost Effective: Refreshing old content is typically easier and faster than creating new content.

What to Do?

So old blog posts are bad, yet they can also be beneficial? Confusing, right? Here’s what you can do. You want to maximize every blog post by either updating it or recycling it. Some of your old blog posts may simply be a little outdated and a quick refresh can bring it all up to date:

  • Refresh your good posts
  • Update content to make it relevant and timely:
  • Check and correct references to insure all information is current and correct.
  • Delete or edit references to defunct businesses, technologies, etc.
  • Update references to current trends, especially in-the-moment trends in fashion, seasons, humor, etc.
  • Clean up time-based references that are relative to the post date (“it’s been 2 years since…” etc.)
  • Change tense where applicable (e.g. change “is” to “was”).
  • Consider adding a blurb at the top of the blog to note the update.

Tune up the SEO:

  • Add in newly relevant keywords where possible. There may be new terms that are relevant to your content now that were not in use when you first posted.
  • Update on-page optimization where applicable (meta-description, image alt tags, etc.).
  • Consider adding new images to update the visual appeal, especially the thumbnail. This may draw in people who have read the old content but pass over the new version because they associate the image with the old content.
  • Consider publishing in a second format, e.g. a video version. Two versions are better than one.

Recycle the Bad Stuff

There may be some old blog posts that are just no longer relevant and beyond saving. If you have blog posts like these, then you may want to consider deleting them. However, you might still be able to benefit from them. Write a brand-new blog post that is somewhat related to your old, useless one. Then delete your old one, but 301 redirect the URL of your old post to the URL of your new one.

Promote the “New” Old Content

  • Repost updated blogs. Don’t be shy about treating the “old” content just like the new stuff. It will be new to much of your audience.
  • Promote the strong performers. Don’t assume it’s repetitive to your audience. Again, many people in your audience might not have seen the original version.

Long Term

  • Focus on core aspects of your subject matter. Almost every subject has “fundamentals” that either don’t change or change only marginally over time.
  • Avoid transient social trends (e.g. the latest fashion or music craze), if possible because they go from highly relevant to embarrassing with the snap of a finger.
  • Emphasize absolute references over relative ones.

Set an expiration date for your content:

  • Set a default expire date for all blog posts. Not to delete them, only to put them in review.
  • Set a local expire date for blogs with a shorter shelf life (e.g. highly topical posts).
  • Create a Content Review/Refresh Process
  • Do regular reviews: Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly—set a timetable for a review and evaluation of all expired content.
  • Check your Google Analytics: Check for high and low page view performers among your blogs. Flag old blogs that are being frequently viewed for possible refresh or repost. Flag low performers for deletion.
  • Check incoming links: Identify all links that point to your old posts and evaluate the links for quality and relevance.
  • Search-test your blog: Do searches on your blog with current, relevant keywords. Search trends change over time. Old blogs may show up in newly popular searches, and may be candidates for refresh/repost.
  • Delete sparingly: Only delete posts that are outdated and damaging to your brand.

Final Thoughts

Just like a plan to clean out and organize your personal stuff, don’t be afraid to dive into your website an and do the same. Proper blog maintenance is a valuable step in the ladder to success.

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