The Unfinished Manuscript
In an ideal world, all of the content on your website is going to be high quality, Pulitzer winning prose. However, in the real world, this might not be the case. You might have inherited a blog with poorly written content. Or a website with numerous pages that were written a long time ago, and as such, are not properly optimized for the search engines of today. So, what do you do with this low-quality content? Throw it in the trash? Or give it a polish, and put it back on display?
We’re writing this blog post now because it seems there is some uncertainty from Google on what you can and can’t do with old content. Until recently at Spectrum, we thought that updating old pages was fine, as long as you acknowledged that the content had been updated. So, if you wrote a blog post on fishing laws back in 2015 you can add an extra paragraph now about the changes over the last three years. But, you should add a small note saying that the original post was from 2015. Or you could change the page publication date itself.
However, this was wrong. Google has no problem with you updating the content, but they don’t think you should be changing the dates. As just updating a post or page isn’t worthy of changing the publication date, unless you’re making major updates to the content. But, what is a major update? At the date of publication, it seems unsure.
So, with all this uncertainty would it be easier to just delete the poor quality content? Well…. Apparently not. John Mueller said in this recent webmasters hangout that Google will always prefer you to update a page over deleting one.
Deleting content creates a number of other issues for you to consider. Redirecting the old URLs being one. Google will see the missing holes in your site and try to crawl them. So if you’re not setting up redirects you could create more problems than you solve by deleting poor quality content.
What to Do?
Going forward we have made some simple decisions.
- If we see an old page or post that needs to be updated we will update the content. We will not change the publication date, however.
- If there is a page beyond saving, or that no longer has any relevance (for example a login page for a defunct platform) we will remove it and create a redirect to the most appropriate page.
What do you do with your poor quality content, or out of date web pages? We’d love to hear how you keep your site clean.