Have you ever been wrong? Surely not. But everyone has written blog posts that are now out of date. The same number used to justify your old position might have changed, or maybe last year’s best practices have lately been tossed out the window. Maybe you’re just itching to clean house.

What do you do? Can’t you just delete old blog posts? Sure, but a nagging fear prevents you from hitting “Move to Trash.” Listen to the fear. There’s a better way.

How you deal with old blog posts depends on the type of content you’ve written. Some blog posts are written for SEO. Others are newsier blurbs like financial data or sports scores. Some blogs are journals that document an experience or process.

When You Should NOT Delete Old Blog Posts

For most businesses, blogging is part of your overall marketing strategy, which includes SEO. In this case, the whole idea of your blog is to build a body of content that establishes your site as an authority on topics related to your industry. Your blog posts are also at the core of your social media activity and email newsletter.

As a result, your posts have a life of their own. They’ve been linked to by other sites across the world and shared by your loyal customers. You can’t just take them down. In fact, removing a post from your site can harm your SEO performance. Deep sixing a post breaks all those links and creates annoying “Page Not Found” errors that tell Google your site is broken. Ack!!

Even if your old posts are out of date, don’t delete them. Make use of all your content, even the old stuff.

A journal-like blog should also preserve its first posts. Even if your beginnings are humble, the early stuff is a valuable record of where you’ve come from. Like baby pictures, you’re going to want this stuff down the road. And just like editorial articles, there are clean ways to refresh and reuse your good stuff.

How to Recycle a Blog Post

If there are just a few things off with your post, make corrections, but don’t delete the old data. Use the strike through formatting tool to cross out one or two words and write the new stuff after the strike through. Put a note at the top or bottom of the updated post to indicate edits have been made. Use this helpful checklist for editing old blog posts.

Once you’ve made corrections, it’s time to recycle:

  • Write a brand new post on the same topic. It’s ok to talk about the same things. If something is important, it’s worth repeating. Find new angles to on old topics. Expand on material you glossed over the last time. Make the old post “Part One” of a series. Make it a trilogy (or even a quadrilogy). And don’t forget to link to your posts to help visitors rediscover the older content.
  • Link to the old post with a group of newer ones in a roundup post that collects your best writing around a topic.
  • Reformat your old writing. Make it an infographic, video, slideshow, podcast, or maybe the first chapter of an e-book.

When You SHOULD Remove an Old Post

A short list of reasons why your old post needs to disappear:

  • No thesis (or topic sentence), just ramblings.
  • Or, maybe you didn’t write enough. Less than 400 words is a shame.
  • Or, maybe you were wrong and the old post could be misleading now.
  • Worse yet, maybe you were boring.

None of those reasons mean you should kill a post. Most of them can be addressed with edits, updates and corrections. However, for those times when there’s no other way, you can nuke it- just nuke it carefully.

How to Safely Take Down a Blog Post

When you take down a post, you delete a tiny part of the Internet. And it hurts. First, visitors who click a link to the old post get 404 Page Not Found errors. They get frustrated and take their business somewhere else. Next, Google gets signals about these errors and tries to warn you about the terrible awful brokenness of your site. Google also gets signals about the frustrated visitors and accounts for that in your search engine ranking. This downard spiral will go on for as long as the Internet exists.

If you don’t want to break your site this way, use 301 redirects to automatically send users to another page on your site. Redirects are designed to inform the world and the search engines that content has moved to a new location.

In WordPress, the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin makes it easy to add redirects without even deleting the post. The redirect just shuttles visitors to the new stuff. However, you may still want to completely remove it. In which case, you need to trash the post and then access a special file in your hosting account to program a redirect by hand.

Blog posts and other content can live on in a thousand different ways. Update, refresh and make corrections to old posts to keep them useful. Even if you were wrong the first time, get creative with ways to reuse the words you spilled all that blood, sweat and coffee over.