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5 Reasons You Should Remove Outdated Content (And One Reason You Shouldn’t)

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5 Reasons You Should Remove Outdated Content (And One Reason You Shouldn’t)

Do you ever look at your site and think to yourself that the content might be getting a little, old? Once you ask yourself that question, it leads to other questions such as:

  • Is my product information up to date?
  • Have I updated my service offering information to reflect changes over time?
  • Am I providing information that is outdated and could pose a legal issue?
  • Are my addresses and phone numbers current?
  • Has this content been modified to reflect current SEO best practices?
  • Am I connecting to my customer today?

All of these are valid questions that site owners should be asking themselves on a regular basis, regardless of what industry or vertical they fall under.

Sometimes we have pages on our sites that do well, so we never think to look back and update them, even if the content on them is outdated and doesn’t speak to our offering that well anymore because we have achieved high rankings for them.

The problem here is that getting people to the pages through those rankings is great, but if the content on the page doesn’t connect with them or explain what your offering is well enough, then they aren’t going to buy.

Outdated and aging content is something that few folks think or worry about, and arguing that it’s a best practice to always keep your content fresh is fine, but in some verticals, it can mean some serious potential legal troubles, especially in medical, finance, and insurance.

So, All Old Content Is Bad & Should Be Removed/Updated over Time?

No, there is another side to this discussion, where old content may be delivering your message about your product or offering perfectly fine and doesn’t have to be changed. The trick is figuring out when this is the case.

To help you determine which is which, below are five reasons you should remove old content and a few reasons why you should just leave it alone.

5 Reasons You Should Remove or Update Old Content (And a Few Reasons You Shouldn’t)

Outdated and aging content has the potential to create a host of issues for site owners. Below are common reasons why outdated info can become a nuisance and/or liability.

Reason 1: Discontinued Products That Are Never, Ever Coming Back

I think it’s a good idea to leave discontinued product pages up and show similar products for a certain period of time. This is in order to gain the benefit of having both products on the site until the new product completely takes over.

Some may interpret this as keeping the product pages live forever, which is not the case. Every product should have a definitive expiration date, even if it’s a year after it goes discontinued to capture the traffic that may exist for both products.

Once that time period passes though, you should be 301 redirecting the old page to the new one so you aren’t carrying around thousands of outdated pages year after year.

I’m not knocking the power of nostalgia, but if you are still advertising a discontinued product from five years ago, that may be looked at a little sideways by your users.

If you know it’s never coming back in stock on your site, then put a message on the page and give similar products they can explore to entice them to stay on your site. Rule of thumb is to keep those pages live for a year and then sunset them by redirecting them to the newer product page.

Reason 2: Your Service Offering Has Changed, but Your Site Content Hasn’t

Service offerings change all of the time, but many folks forget to adapt the content on their site to align with those changes.

If a user comes to your site reads an outdated description of what your company or product does, one of two things are going to happen:

  • They are going to like the offering and give you a call, only to find out that the service has changed in a way that doesn’t suit them, and they will be left with a bad taste in their mouth.
  • The outdated information doesn’t describe the new iteration of your offering that suits their need perfectly, and they won’t call you because they didn’t know it existed.

Either way, you’re out a customer.

If your service offering changes you have to ensure that you remove the outdated content and replace it with all the new and updated features.

Reason 3: You Publish Medical Findings & Treatment Information

When you are publishing information on medical conditions and treatments, you have to stay on top of what is current and what isn’t.

Let’s say that someone visits your site to find out more about a certain disease they or a loved one has, and you still have a study from several years ago with claims it has an experimental treatment that is a potential cure. They get excited, tell their doctor about the study, only to have them cite a study from the current year debunking that treatment. Not only will that person curse your site to Hades, it leaves you open to potential litigation because you had incorrect medical information on your site.

That is just one example of how this leaves you open to people or government bodies coming after you, but if you run a site like this, you have to make sure sunset old studies and outdated medical information and replace it with updated information.

Reason 4: You Work at a Financial Institution That Gives People Advice

Much like the medical world, peoples finances are something you want to be crystal clear about, especially if you are giving advice or information on how they should handle it or invest with it.

If you have prospectuses from 2000 on your site with projections of returns and advice on how to reach them on your site, you probably want to get rid of all of that.

From a financial perspective, the general public really shouldn’t have access to anything 3 years or older on your site unless they have specifically signed up for something like that.

You run the risk of someone accessing outdated information, making decisions based on that information, and then blaming you for it.

While you have disclaimers in place, they can still go out and tarnish your reputation online because they believe you have wronged them even though they were using outdated information.

Reason 5: You’ve Moved, Physically or Digitally

Still have Google My Business (GMB) pages dedicated to those five locations in Kansas you sold four years ago? Still have location pages on your site dedicated to them too? Time to move on and get rid of them.

They are nothing but a liability for your business because they don’t exist anymore, and more than likely have the competitor logo you sold them to on them by now.

It also creates a bad experience for the user if they don’t know that you’ve sold them because they might show up at those locations only to find that you no longer occupy that space.

Time to close up shop on GMB and redirect those pages to another relevant page on your site.

Moving also doesn’t always mean physically either.

Have you rebranded and moved domains? Has a year passed and you are still mentioning your old brand name? Time to move on and put the old brand to rest.

Businesses rebrand all the time, but so many of them leave up pages and mentions of the old brand for much longer than they have to.

After a year has passed, there is no reason to have mentions of the old brand anywhere if you have done your job with the rebranding well. You should remove all mentions of it and delete any content or pages dedicated to the old brand and reserve it only for an “About Us” or “Company History” page.

What’s the Best Way to Handle Outdated Content?

There are several paths that you can take with content that has become outdated and obsolete, and an easy way to remember this is by following the three Rs:

Rewrite It

Rewriting and repurposing content that already exists is a sound strategy that many companies employ.

If content becomes outdated, you can easily update that content to make it current again.

While this works with most content types, it is understood that the ease of this may differ from industry to industry.

Repurpose It

When content becomes outdated or obsolete, but doesn’t pose a liability to the company, such as a discontinued product or list of best practices, the option to repurpose the page for a user comes into play.

The idea here is to not get rid of the page, but rather, add a link to let folks know that there is an updated version of it somewhere else on the site.

You would do this when the old page still gets traffic, the content isn’t a liability, and there is a relevant piece of content to 301 redirect it to.

Redirect It

When the option to rewrite or repurpose the content does not exists or the content is a liability, then the logical next step is to wholesale 301 redirect that content to something more current.

This is a simple process that requires the person to simply identify a new page for the outdated content to point to and implement the 301 redirect.

When Should You NOT Remove Content?

When Content Is Still Working for You & Still Makes Sense for Your Product or Offering

This may seem like common sense because that’s what it is. Some folks feel compelled to change things simply because they want to change it and think that they should change it because a certain amount of time has passed.

This is not a good idea. And it’s something that happens all too often.

If content on your site explains your product or offering well, delivers the right information to your customers so they can make an informed decision, and drives good search results, then leave it alone.

Even though you should be constantly looking and thinking of ways you can increase your search footprint, it doesn’t mean you have to revisit content on a page that is doing the right kind of work for you.

In SEO you can always live by the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

At the end of the day it’s all about connecting with your customers in the most honest way possible. Your site should only have content that has value to them, and doesn’t put you in a precarious situation at the same time.

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Patrick Reinhart

Patrick Reinhart

Patrick currently leads digital strategy for Conductor’s Professional Service team and brings over 10 years of organic search & digital ... [Read full bio]

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