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Let’s Talk About Old Content And Redirect Chains

Here are some guidelines when deciding if you should redirect or delete content.

While looking through some questions submitted to SEJ after a recent webinar, two of them stuck out to me as related and similar.

That means you’re in for a treat, gentile reader, because today’s a special 2-for-1 version of Ask an SEO.

Here are the questions:

Ines asked: What do you do with old websites that have hundreds of URLs with very little traffic to most of them. Do you remove the bad content first? How much should I remove at a time? Is there a rule? Should I take internal links into account?

Christina asked: Is it better to redirect old content to new content if that leads to a redirect chain? Or should I just delete that content?

Let’s Talk About Old Content

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s dive into it.

I’ll get my pet peeve out of the way first: Hopefully, you have dates on this old content, so that the readers who do stumble upon it know that it’s old and outdated.

There are a couple of approaches you can take here, and a lot of it depends on your keyword research and data.

The first question I’d ask myself for any piece of content is: Is this useful? Or is it harmful (out of date, bad advice, no longer relevant, etc.)?

If it’s harmful or no longer relevant, like a blog post on how to grow your Google+ following, you can just go ahead and delete it. There’s nothing relevant to redirect it to.

If it’s useful, you’re left with a few options:

  • Re-write it or combine it with other content to see if you can get more traffic to it.
  • If you already have more updated or more relevant content, go ahead and 301 redirect it to that content.
  • If it no longer applies to your website or business, go ahead and delete it.

A lot of SEO pros will tell you that if it used to be a super popular piece with lots of external links you should 301 it to preserve those links.

I’ll tell you to either figure out why it’s no longer super popular and update it or keep it up for historical purposes. It’s amazing how much of the “old” internet no longer exists.

The key here is to figure out why the content isn’t popular.

Once you do that you can follow the below advice:

• Does it solve a user need but is just poor quality? Re-write it.
• Is it no longer relevant/useful? Delete it.
• Is there newer or better content elsewhere? Redirect it.
• Should I preserve it for historical reasons? Or is there just little volume for that now, but I’m still getting traffic? Leave it alone.

OK, Now Let’s Talk About Redirects

Redirect chains get a lot of bad press in SEO.

There used to be a ton of debate about whether or not they pass PageRank, how much PageRank they pass, how much decays, how many Google will follow, etc.

For 99.9999925% of people, none of that matters.

If these are things we need to worry about, they’re so minimal that they don’t have much of an effect. The truth is Google will follow redirects and will pass some “value” through them.

There’s no negative effect or penalty from having redirect chains but aim for not more than five hops as Google may drop from following the redirects.

Sure, they aren’t ideal. They will add a few milliseconds of load time for your page, and they might not send 100% of the PageRank value through to the destination, but all that is minimal and, honestly, over-thinking SEO.

When deciding if you should redirect or delete content, use the rubric above.

And as a best practice, if you have redirect chains, bring them to a minimal by updating redirects to point directly to the final destination.

For example, if you have A->B->C (one redirect chain), create A->C and B->C (two redirects) instead.

Hope this helps.

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Category Ask an SEO
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Ryan Jones VP, SEO at Razorfish

Ryan is the SEO lead at Razorfish where he works from early in the morning until late in the evening. ...

Let’s Talk About Old Content And Redirect Chains

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