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Should I zap out-of-date content on my site?

Old Typewriter

Should I zap out-of-date content on my site?

If you’ve been adding content to your website for many years, that’s commendable – it means you’ve consistently shown Google that your site is an evolving project rather than a stagnant page. Is it possible, though, that your many years of activity could actually be to the detriment of your site’s rankings?

After all, with the internet and search engine optimisation always changing, what if something you added in good faith many moons ago is now deemed to be ‘black hat’, or a little out of step with what Google is looking for in 2016?

Earlier this month, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller addressed this question in one of his video ‘hangouts’. You can hear his full response in the video below, starting at the 45:30 mark:

Mueller suggests that there’s little to no value in removing old content for the sake of it, especially if it’s good content. So if you’ve been adding news or features to your site for some time and you’re happy with it all, having kept quality in mind throughout the process, keep it there. It can only help your site to be found by Google, and for it to be seen as a voluminous, high-quality research by search engines.

Despite this, Mueller doesn’t rule out the idea of reviewing and possibly pruning your site’s older content to see if there are any ways it could be improved, or whether it could be holding your site back. He talks of the possibility of too much out-of-date, mediocre content making it harder for Google’s bots to crawl through a site and access the newer, higher-quality material, as well as being a potential drain on your server.

Mueller also points out that historic content could be a burden to your site if it’s “old and crufty” material put together with little regard to quality. In the early days of SEO, many website owners filled their sites with duplicated content or keyword-stuffed articles because back then, it worked. The introduction of Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates, however, have gradually penalised sites with too much forced, poor-quality content, meaning it’s worth having a refreshed look at some of the older additions to your site.

Still, maintaining an in-depth, content-rich site is something to be proud of, and the main message from Mueller and Google – one the search giant has emphasised many times – is that old doesn’t necessarily mean bad. If you have been following the golden rule of producing content that’s relevant, engaging and generally worth reading, there should be no need to wield the axe on anything just because it’s not a new kid on the block.

John Murray

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