When to remove content

June 2, 2020

Sometimes, in reviewing your content, you’ll find articles or other assets that don’t get visitors or leads, that don’t align with your value proposition anymore, and that don’t serve another purpose for your organization.

In this article, we’ll cover best practices for dealing with content like this, and some alternatives to consider.

Should you remove non-performing content?

Deleting content should be avoided for a few reasons:

  • You lose any backlinks to that content, now or in the future
  • Anything that was valuable in that content is gone, unless you maintain a separate archive of your pages
  • The experience for anybody who lands on that page is not great – they get a 404 instead of information

With that said, it’s certainly allowed and in many cases may be important to remove content. Content that’s not working:

  • Is harder to maintain. Because nobody looks at it, it can easily become out of date, because nobody is looking at it.
  • Can distract users from better content you could be pointing them to (or that they could find elsewhere.)
  • Clutters your library, and potentially even your search results for certain keywords – you want your visitor to see the best stuff you have.
  • Diminishes your brand for visitors that do find it, especially in the case of content that’s left over from previous site iterations or product iterations, that’s never been brought up to date.

The best candidates for removal? Pages that get no visitors – and are also short (less than 300 words), and don’t serve another function on the site (e.g. recruiting or brand).

Before you remove content, though, there are some other things you can probably do to make it work for you.

What you can do to help your content perform better

There are specific things you can do to improve any given piece of content:

  • Is your content receiving any traffic, or is there any audience who find the content useful? If so, see if you can use that as a clue to add depth, or rewrite the content, so that it performs better. Also, be sure it’s up to date.
  • Did you promote your content? And in particular, is it integrated with the rest of your library – does it appear on any pages relevant to that topic, and do you link to it from your other posts?
  • Of course, make sure the page is well-written and organized. If the content is thin and irrelevant, this might not make a difference. But sometimes even minor updates here can matter.

If that doesn’t work, consider combining your non-performing content with something else.

For example, let’s say you have a 500-word article on how to play classic guitar solos on a saxophone, and nobody’s reading it.

See if this topic is an important part of another subject you talk about on your site – like a list of different uses for saxophones. Maybe you can cut down the size of this other article, and move it there instead. (Be sure to redirect the old article to the new article).

This has a bunch of advantages – it makes the “winning” article stronger in search, and it also makes the experience for the visitor better.

Mostly, it helps with discoverability. The people who wanted to just know about the more specific article immediately see the knowledge they want in context, and the people who wanted the more general information can dive in if they need to.

And if you do remove content, you should put in a redirect to the next most relevant article. Primarily, this is a better experience for any visitors you might get in the future.

Conclusion

Your content library needs to be maintained, and sometimes this means you should consider taking content down. There are many cases where this makes a lot of sense – but also consider alternatives, like consolidating your non-performing content with something else. Lastly, follow best practices, so you don’t lose any value that was there.