Removing outdated content from the website... not only for SEO

I have been reading for some time that one of your solutions for better SEO will be removing pages that are not performing well and just wasting a crawl time.

Redirecting them to the most relevant part (using redirect 301) or where such doesn’t exist, pointing back to the homepage and advising search engines that it’s gone (using redirect 410).

There is one problem with removing something from a page that you spend a lot of time creating. There is a sort of sentiment in it.

Even when I migrated from WordPress to Hugo I moved all pages to a new website. I have done an initial review and did some corrections, but never looked at the test from a merit point of view.

Generally, I am against using the rule of removing content that performs poorly in search engines. Not always the case, that the content is not desired. Sometimes simply is unique and targeting the niche that shall be here for some who will need it.

With such an approach, I am creating some of my posts. To give users something that I struggle to find. You can call it niche but in reality, this is something that some people are searching for and cannot find easily. If I struggle to find a solution and I will come up with my own, I would like to share this with the world.

This was the case with minimal analytics for Google Analytics 4. I struggle to find a solution so I have been forced to build my own and it prospers. This later allows others to extend its functionality (the functionality that I am still working on when I have time) and that’s the idea.

This particular post prospers but others more specific – niche, not so well. That doesn’t mean that I shall remove it.

Following some SEO “professionals” persuading you to remove them is simply stupid. You shall not do that without reading it as an end-user.

I did this for my website.

I open posts from 2008 and start reading them as a normal user will do.

Based on a reading exercise I decided that a particular post is still relevant or not. Using that approach, I found that some content of the articles has been refreshed in new posts. By tracking analytics, I noticed however that old articles performing (gaining users) are much better than new ones.

On these old articles I always add a note and reference to the new, updated posts, to make sure that users will eventually go there. In reality, this was not always the case and users would rather drop the reading than follow further the link (which I will understand, as I am doing it exactly that same).

I decided to remove them and redirect (301) users from an old link to the new one.

Using the 301 approach search engines will know that they shall follow the new link and doing that passing the old link ranking power to the new one.

Thanks to that I removed a couple of the articles to direct users to the most relevant post.

By doing this exercise I may have fewer links crawled by search engines and see that fewer users will visit my website, but the engagement of the users with more relevant content will be greater and that is what I am looking for.

I am looking for users who visit my website and find what they have been looking for, not just for empty numbers in my analytics.

I have also noticed in the past when I created an updated article on some topic. When I added it to search engines, Google has been so stubborn that it crawl but refused to index it for a long period. Independently of what I have been doing, and how good and rich the content was, Google algorithms didn’t like it and refused to index it. In that matter, the exercise of removing old content and redirecting to new using 301 would probably help. Sometimes Google robots may see parts that are duplicated between contents (despite that I rarely just update content, more rather I am writing it from zero), and based on that refuse to index fresh posts, but still, there are some instances across various of my websites where I don’t understand why Google is refusing a good piece of text.

At the same time, I come across some of my rich articles that I would want to keep, as I spend a lot of time researching for information and writing them, including making useful screenshots and graphics.

These articles are referring to some old solutions, software or companies that are no longer in use or no longer on the market. Keeping it would be good for archives purposes, but overall is not good for users who don’t want to read about something that no longer exists or is valid.

I remove them (archiving locally) altogether and redirect their links to my homepage with redirect 410 giving clear instruction to search engines that content has been removed and the link to it shall be removed from indexes as soon as possible.

Never use 410 redirect if you are planning to redirect users from this link to the newest article in the future. Use redirect 302 instead (found, moved temporarily). Once you advise 410, all the ranking power of this link will slowly start degrading and regaining it will not be possible, unless there are a lot of active back-links linking to it over the internet.

In this first exercise, I removed just 16 pages from which 7 of them I redirect to the most relevant content and 9 were put with redirect 410.

Once generated my Hugo website before I got over 3200 pages in the Polish version of the website (over 500 from the English part). All of them need to be crawled and they included references to /tag/ or /category/ pages.

After that, I go down to just over 3000 pages with 86 paginator pages (down from 94).

After this exercise, I haven’t seen a big drop in the numbers of users (if you did this right with the right redirects you shall not experience that). My refresh posts start gaining more traffic from 301 redirects and old posts start disappearing slowly from the indexes of Google and Microsoft Bing.

Finally, my fresh posts that have been excluded from the index for some time finally have been indexed and started gaining traffic.

Google Search Console - Crawled - Currently not indexed

If you are a website owner or a blogger, it’s worth sitting in your visitor’s shoes and looking at your website from their eyes. It will be hard to remove your thoughts, as for you they are non-replaceable, even if no longer relevant. Remember that your website is positioned based on the accuracy of your content and how it is relevant (desired) to your users.

The times when quantity counted over quality slowly went into the past, hence worth to make sure that your website – blog – did its purpose for your users, and not only for yourself.

Recently removed some old news articles from years back (going back to 2007) and saw that these exercises, with right redirection to the most relevant content prosper and gain more users, more visitors and what’s more important, more customers to the business.