This is the prime question for the day, when I’m looking at my website that currently has 982 published blog posts. (983 after I publish this one.) Should you delete old ones? Keep them all forever? At what point do you clean house? As someone who keeps an active blog, I have created some guidelines for what to do with old or outdated posts.
Don’t delete them without replacing them
If you decide, for whatever reason, that you no longer want to keep your blog post, don’t delete it and not replace it with something new or redirect it somewhere else. If you do that, then anyone who tries to go to that old blog post will get a 404 error. The best practice when you delete an old post is to redirect that URL to somewhere relevant on your site.
When might you delete a post? Maybe it was a special that’s over, or a post about an event that has passed. Those are good reasons to delete your post. If you delete a post about a special that’s ended, redirect that post to a new special. Same for events, you can redirect to a new event. Just try to make it relevant to the person who would have landed on your old post.
How do you redirect?
There are many ways to do it. If you want to go the plugin route, you can use Simple 301 Redirects or Redirection, two plugins I use frequently. Some web hosts have a built in redirection tool, which is nice. (Kinsta has this.) Another option, if you’re comfortable editing your htaccess file, is to write the redirection yourself. Here’s a handy htaccess generator tool to help you.
If you can update an old post for current trends, do.
Sometimes you write a post that is great at the time, but as time passes, it’s no longer relevant. Trends change, plugins change, all kinds of things change. But you don’t have to just delete that old post. You can rewrite it. One of my favorite ways to get a new blog post is to find an old one and update it. This is a good way to keep your site up-to-date, provide quality content, and keep your old post URLs intact.
Tips for Updating Blog Posts
- When you update a blog post, be sure to change the date so that it reflects the date it was updated rather than the date it was originally rewritten.
- Don’t change your permalink, unless your permalink includes the date.
- If your permalinks use the date in them (which I don’t recommend), then be sure to redirect the old URL to the updated URL.
- It’s not a bad idea to put a note on the post, noting that the original published date was XX and it was updated on XX date. However, this is really optional depending on how much you’ve changed the post. As long as you keep the date current, you’re fine.
What about posts that are no longer relevant and there’s nothing to redirect them to?
Sometimes a post is so old and so out of sync with what you’re currently writing about, that there’s no choice but to just delete it. If you can’t find a relevant post to redirect site visitors to, then I would recommend you do one of two things. Either redirect that old post to the main blog post that shows your most recent posts (here’s ours) or, and this may be better, to the category archive for a related category. I write a lot about website security, and that is something that changes frequently. If I wanted to delete an old post about security, I could redirect the to the category archive about security here. This way, if they are looking for information on security, I’ve started them off in the right direction.
Can you keep an old post if it’s no longer relevant or useful?
Some people like to keep old posts as a journal to what was going on at the time, and that’s fine too. It’s a good idea to put a note on old posts so that folks who land there no it’s no longer a relevant post.
Pet Peeve: Also, please, please keep the dates on all your articles! It’s important for people to know how new or old what they’re reading is!
You don’t need to keep old blog posts just for sentimental reasons. If the post is no longer useful to yourself or your site visitors, then it’s fine to let it go. Just have a plan in place for anyone who comes looking for it.
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