How to Spring Clean Outdated Content Without Affecting Rankings

So, you’ve reached the point where it’s time for a content spring clean.

You’ve got hundreds of content assets sitting and gathering dust (doing you more harm!), and it’s time to improve or unpublish these pages. However, this is not something you do on a whim.

This article discusses the analysis process and how to begin planning for a clean-up.

Most importantly, how to clean up outdated content without affecting your rankings.

Balancing Outdated and Old Content

Before we start, you need to know that not all old content is outdated content.

To put it simply: outdated content is no longer relevant or accurate due to changes in time, circumstances, or developments in your field or industry. This type of content doesn’t offer any value to your brand and negatively affects your users’ experience with your website.

John Mueller responded to a Google user question on what to do with old content on his site.

He said, “I think if that’s something that you think is good content that you want to publish with your website, with your name, then I would keep it. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

However, we suggest fixing outdated content before it affects your site’s ranking and reputation.

Before getting to the details, it would be best to examine the benefits of removing out-of-date content.

Importance of Cleaning Up Outdated Content

1. Reduces Bounce Rate

Imagine someone clicking on your page to solve a social media problem and discovering your content contains outdated techniques. We don’t need to mention the user’s following action.

Outdated content paints a picture that your site lacks the experience and expertise in that topic and automatically reduces your site’s trustworthiness. Removing this content will improve your users’ experience and reduce your site’s bounce rate.

2. Increases Organic Traffic

Search Engine Journal experienced over 60% increase in organic traffic and page views after updating and deleting old content. Also, Elite Strategies updated some of its old content, deleted some, and saw an increase in overall search impressions and more traffic to its pages.

Up-to-date content tends to rank high on search engines, and this automatically pulls in traffic.

3. Avoid Getting Penalized by Google

Someone asked a question: what’s Google’s primary goal?

To provide its users with the most relevant and reliable results based on their search queries.

That’s why Google ranks pages with the latest and high-quality information.

On the other hand, they penalize sites with outdated content.

According to Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google considers content with inaccurate information, i.e., outdated content, as low-quality content. “Main content is low quality if it is created without adequate effort, originality, talent, or skill to achieve the page’s purpose satisfyingly. Mild inaccuracies on informational pages are evidence of Low quality. However, if the page has harmful inaccuracies or so many inaccuracies that it feels untrustworthy, the lowest rating is justified.” Updating or removing outdated content increases your authority and ranking.

Now that you know the benefits of cleaning up outdated content, it would be best to understand how to identify this type of content.

Identifying Outdated Content

According to Devrix, here are the criteria for outdated content:

  • Provides inaccurate information
  • No longer drives in traffic
  • Has no backlinks
  • Has thin content
  • Shows old time-sensitive news
  • Is no longer relevant to your business
  • Features irrelevant announcements and more.

But how do you identify this type of content?

1. Perform a Full Content Audit

An SEO content audit is an actionable inventory of indexable content organized to determine better what to consolidate (or remove!), what to improve upon, and what to leave as-is.

We recommend that you use Screaming Frog for a complete technical SEO audit. This tool is a website crawler that audits common SEO issues and allows you to analyze the result in real time.

You can use this tool to discover pages getting zero visits. Besides, its ‘Publication’ date feature can help you find the oldest pages on your website that need to be updated.

Most importantly, this tool can be integrated with Google Analytics and Search Console for better-outdated content analysis.

2. Use Google Search Console

You can use Google Search Console to find pages that used to get a lot of traffic before but no longer do.

Also, you can find pages that rank well but have few clicks. (These pages might need to be updated or need some fixes.)

To perform this analysis:

  • Go to your Google Search Console account.
  • Click Performance in the left sidebar.
  • Click the date icon and click Compare.
    • (You can compare the last 28 days or three months to the previous period.)
    • Scroll down and click on pages to analyze the pages’ click and impression differences.

3. Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides an overview of every page on your website. This tool allows you to sort pages by bounce rate or page views to discover outdated content.

Learn how to use Google Analytics to find outdated pages.

4. SEO Tools Will Help You Out

Software like Animalz Revive, Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, SemRush, Moz, and much more can quickly help you find outdated content. It can also help you identify pages sucking your site’s authority.

Best Ways to Clean Up Outdated Content

At the 2021 Google Search Central SEO Office Hours Hangout, a man asked John Mueller a question. He asked, “Should I remove or keep outdated (low-quality) articles?”

Mueller answered, “If you look at it and say, oh, this is embarrassing for me now, I don’t want it to be online, it’s so bad. Then that’s something where I’d say either improve it or remove it.”

There are two primary ways to clean up outdated content on your site:

  • Improve it
  • Remove it

Other strategies include:

  • Redirect the page
  • Add a no-index tag

Let’s discuss these points in detail!

1. Improve and Update Content

There is some outdated content on your site that you won’t want to lose.

Why? They already have backlinks and are popular.

Updating content with relevant information, recent advice, and strategies will help you retain your site’s reputation, boost its rankings, and increase traffic. More so, Google likes evergreen content; you can improve your site’s SEO score and boost its ranking by updating your content with accurate and current information.

In addition, updating outdated content help you increase your site’s user experience. You know, everyone sticks around relevant and up-to-date content.

But what are the best ways to update outdated content?

Analyze Your Competitors

Your competitors are your information bank—analyze sites ranking on the first page for the outdated content target keyword. Check things in their posts that are not in yours and improve them.

Don’t ever copy, and don’t forget the goal is to make your content better than your competitors.

Improve the Title, Meta Description, H2, and H3 Headings

You should include your primary keyword in your title and meta description. If possible, you can add a number to the title and ensure your meta description isn’t above 160 characters.

In addition, optimize the H2 and H3 headings with new keywords. You can also go to Quora to find trending questions on that topic and use some of them as your H2 and H3 headings.

Refresh Post Dates

Check for outdated posts with dates in their title and change them to the current year. Adding dates to title tags can be a crucial strategy for increasing outdated pages’ click-through-rate.

Optimize for New Keywords

You need to optimize the body of the content for new keywords. Get more LSI keywords from Google’s related searches segment and SEO tools to improve the content.

Update Important Information

You need to update the content’s facts, statistics, or benchmarks. Also, check the body of the content to update outdated references.

Replace Outdated Images and Videos

Visuals are like triggers.

Add More Internal Links

Internal links are SEO superpowers. Add more internal links from new pages on the site to the one you want to update.

In one of her LinkedIn posts, Samantha North said, “High-performing posts will pass link juice along with their internal links.”

Double-Check the Search Intent and Answer it Early

Google desires that its users get answers to their queries early. Sites that focus on satisfying their users’ search intent and target it early have a higher chance of ranking high on SERPs.

Confirm if you are answering the primary search intent. If not, get back to your research board.

What’s next after updating outdated content?

Track the outdated content keyword rankings on SERPs.

This practice will help you vet the performance of the changes made to the content. For better results, you can use a search rank tracker that provides accurate data on your keyword rankings on search engine result pages.

That’s where comes in! features a rank tracker API best for tracking keyword positions. This tool accurately tracks your keywords rankings on SERPs to help you monitor the impact of your content update.

Try your 7-day free trial!

2. Remove the Content

Before deleting a page from your site, there are SEO factors to consider in order not to affect your ranking:

– Go to your Google Analytics and check the page’s performance. Is the page no longer contributing to your goals? Is the page decreasing in conversions from natural search?

– Will deleting the page not affect your site’s visibility? Has the page drastically dropped in its ranking?

– Analyze Google Search Console to track relevant data about the content.

– Check its traffic. Is the page no longer generating traffic to your site?

After considering these factors and discovering the page can’t add value to your site – take it off!

You can start by serving a 410 status code for effectiveness so Google understands and quickly removes the pages from the index.

Matt Cutts of Google said in one of his videos, “If the page is gone and you know no other page that should substitute for it, you don’t have anywhere else that you should point to, and you know that that page is going to be gone and never come back, then go ahead and serve a 410.”

You can also use the New Removal Tool in Google Search Console to quickly delete outdated pages from Google.

This tool helps you:

  • Temporarily remove content on Google Search
  • Identify pages that are flagged as outdated by Google users
  • Identify pages filtered by Google’s SafeSearch Filter

Our focus at the moment is to remove some content from Google Search.

  • Click Temporary Removal.
  • Click New Request at the right sidebar
  • A new page pops up. Enter the outdated page URL you want to remove from your site.


Note: This tool doesn’t remove outdated content permanently. You must create a custom 404 error page the site redirects to (learn this process in the next point) or use 410 deleted status to delete the page permanently from Google.

3. Redirect the Page

You can create a personalized 404 error page to which the old URL redirects. Users and bots will be able to see that the content is purposefully no longer available.

Google bots will make a few more attempts to crawl it before giving up and deleting it from their cache and index. However, this process can take days, weeks, or months.

4. Add a No-Index Tag

You can add a no-index tag to retain outdated content on your site but remove it from Google’s index. Read Google’s documentation on how to implement the no-index tag.

Alright, so now you know how to clean up outdated content. But what happens if you fall into the trap of affecting your site’s ranking after cleaning outdated content?

What to Do When Your Content Clean-Up Affects Your Ranking

Know that your website will take time to stabilize if the content clean-up affects its ranking. So you must monitor your website’s performance and track its ranking on SERPs over time.

You can use search ranking trackers like to monitor your site’s performance and response to SEO changes.

However, you must study your Google Analytics closely to know if the clean-up is responsible for your site’s performance changes.

You can use Google Search Console to discover and update potential pages on your site and update them. Potential pages are content with high search volume but low CTR. You can update these pages to improve their performance.

Also, you can use the main keyword of the deleted page to create fresh content. You may rank high for the search term and drive more traffic to your site. This will be a win-win for you.


Cleaning up outdated content is essential for retaining your site’s reputation. You don’t want people to click on your pages and bounce back because of obsolete information.

You will perfectly clean up your site by conducting a content audit and analyzing your Google Analytics and Search Console to know the pages to update, redirect, and delete without negatively affecting its ranking.

And, don’t forget to track your rankings to determine the changes’ effect.