Should you delete your old blog posts? It’s a common question from both novice bloggers and long-time writers. An old blog post could be an item published years ago, or maybe your blog changed and now the previous posts seem irrelevant to the new site. Should you clean out these old blog posts or does deleting blog posts hurt SEO?
I wrote about deleting old blog posts in 2014 and the topic took off, generating new comments from readers for years. This post answers four common questions from those comments about deleting old blog posts and concludes with recommendations.
Four Common Questions about Deleting Old Blog Posts
- What if my old blog posts have broken videos, images, or links?
- What if my old blog posts have low word counts?
- What if I want to keep my domain but start a fresh blog?
- What if my old blog posts are job listings or other listings?
What if my old blog posts have broken videos, images, or links?
The internet is full of amazing resources to integrate and embed in your blog posts. Often, these resources are owned or hosted by someone else even when they appear on your blog posts. That means they can be taken down or changed without your knowledge. Even if you only embed your own videos, future-you may change or take down a video for some reason that breaks the posts that reference it.
This kind of rot is natural, but intensely annoying for readers visiting your blog. Do your best to keep the internet fresh with healthy links and a minimum of dead-ends. Periodically click through as many of your most popular posts as you can to see if they’re still looking good. If they’re not, then you’re going to ask whether or not to delete the whole thing. It’s tempting to clean house, especially if the post depended on the missing resource. Resist the temptation!
Instead, do your best to replace the resource with the next best thing. And if possible, edit the old blog post so that it no longer depends on that resource to make sense. Even if you replace the missing one with something new, the new thing is just as vulnerable to disappearing!
For example, if you have a graph image that conveys important data, write out the conclusion you’d like readers to take from the image so even if that graph goes missing, your message is still complete.
What about old blog posts with low word counts?
SEO is always changing. Google gives updated recommendations several times each year. And each year, the recommended word count for a helpful, valuable blog post goes up. In 2018, it may be 1,200 to 1,500 words but ten years ago that number was much lower. Some blogs attempting to drive high monetization didn’t bother with in-depth, researched writing. They churned out thousands of thin posts with click-bait titles instead. Other questionable SEO techniques on your old blog posts may also have increased the number of old posts with low word counts. Are these posts worth anything today? Or should you delete them?
Save these posts! Just add to them. Consider planning a major content project to improve underperforming posts. Often, writers make a claim about their post with a catchy title but fail to follow-through with content that actually helps. Finish your low word count posts by writing additional text and producing additional images that help it live up to its original title. Add a short statement at the beginning of the posts to note the updates.
Jay Douglas, writing on the DreamHost blog, has some great suggestions for keeping a fresh blog. Add newly relevant keywords when you can and revisit the on-page optimization (SEO title and meta description, image alt tags). Replace the old visuals with updated graphics. Or let these old posts inspire you to publish content on the same topic in a second format, like an infographic or video!
What if my old blog posts are job listings or other listings?
I’d like to share a quick note here about websites devoted to job listings, event listings, swap boards, or other temporary items. Don’t worry about removing these posts! If your blog posts are truly, irredeemably expired then let let them go. They’ve satisfied their utility for you and should have been expired before anyway. And I hope you weren’t depending on the old posts for SEO. With these types of sites, the value comes from the continuously refreshed mix of listings and the display ads that often appear beside them.
Do make sure that your website is equipped with a redirect mechanism to help your visitors that happen come looking for the expired posts. Show them an apologetic message that explains things and offers help finding similar or related items.
What if I want to keep my domain but start a fresh blog?
Remember when your blog was just a personal journal? But more and more people visited and your web traffic and public profile started to rise. Soon, your blog was a destination for a whole new community of readers and the first few months of blog posts felt like baggage weighing you down. You want a fresh start on the same domain name, but without the old blog posts.
So, you want to know if you should delete them. Pamela Vaughan, writing for HubSpot, recounts the story of a well-known blogger who nuked two blogs to start over on Tumblr. She says it’s stupid to delete your blog posts. I won’t go as dramatic as she. But like Pamela, I say keep them!
It’s a mark of where you’ve come from. How can you know your roots if you chop them up? Consider taking the steps above for posts with low word counts. Update those old posts with new material if possible.
But if they truly don’t fit, there’s nothing saying you can’t delete them. Just do it safely. Use URL redirects to match each old URL with a new destination. That’s perfect when you have a newer, better post on the same topic. There are a few types of redirects possible, in these cases you want to use 301 redirects not only to move visitors to your new content, but also to signal to Google that the original content has been moved to this new destination.
Are you considering a change to your blog? Wondering about the consequences of cleaning house? Find @pwolfgram on Twitter and ask me anything. Or leave us a message in the comments below and we’ll be sure to respond.