Do you remember that post you wrote back in 2010 proclaiming that the iPad was a joke and tablets would never catch on? This is a good example of what I would call obsolete content.
Generally, content marketers strive for content that’s “evergreen,” which could theoretically remain relevant forever. But because we often write about news and emerging technologies, this isn’t always possible. We’re often stuck with obsolete posts that can do no good for anybody, buried at the bottom of our content feeds, but still there for the world to see.
There are a number of kinds of “obsolete” content beyond just news-based posts, too. For example, old real estate listings and job ads become irrelevant quickly, and old products on e-commerce platforms can disappoint people more than anything else.
What can we do with these obsolete posts? I have seven suggestions:
Your first option is the easiest, but it’s not without its drawbacks. With this option, you’ll simply delete the content and pretend it never existed. You won’t acknowledge it publicly or draw any attention to it. Instead, you’ll remove it altogether and set up a 301 redirect page so that any external links pointing to the page aren’t completely discredited (and inbound users aren’t totally alienated).
This option is good for content you aren’t proud of. But remember: Deleting pages altogether takes away from the total amount of real estate you occupy on the web, and might negatively affect your domain authority.
If you need to delete something, but you want to let users know why you’re deleting it, this is the best option. For example, if you have a post or a dedicated page that details a popular item that you simply don’t sell anymore, you’ll want to acknowledge and inform your interested visitors without giving them direct access to that old content.
You can do this by either setting up a custom redirect message that lets users know what’s going on, or by leaving part of the page intact with a message that informs people that the item is no longer available.
This is one of the least disruptive options on this list because the original page won’t disappear for either search bots or human visitors, and you won’t be calling any extra attention to your changes in any other format.
Here, your job is to update the obsolete portions of your content to be relevant for the modern era. For example, if you have an infographic with population data that was relevant back in 2011, you could easily update it with statistics from 2015 to make it relevant today. You could even move it to the top of your rotation to get some new visibility.
If you made a bold prediction about the future back in 2011 and it didn’t exactly come true, you can write a follow-up piece explaining why it didn’t come true (or why your line of thinking was flawed). Doing so calls back to the original piece, allowing it to continue existing, while simultaneously giving your readers something new to consume. As an extra measure, update the original piece with a link pointing to the new follow-up.
If your original content is extremely old or if the information in it is laughable, you can easily make fun of yourself to your current readers and followers. Re-submit the piece with some commentary, pointing out the flaws in your thinking and the obsolescence of your information.
This is perfect for a podcast or a video where you take some of your old content and reexamine it. It shows that you’re willing (and human enough) to laugh at yourself and that you’re present enough to realize when your content hasn’t aged well.
Some brands have implemented an archive system, which allows them to keep some of their older, less relevant posts without making them easily accessible to new users. Doing so can keep fresh eyes away from your stale, old content, but still preserve the writing and structural presence of the original material.
For this purpose, it’s helpful to have a running banner on all your posts that informs readers that the post is a part of an archive—otherwise, rogue followers of old external links could mistakenly think it’s still relevant.
Of course, you could choose to leave your old content alone entirely. Chances are, not many people are finding it on their own (unless you’re actively syndicating it), and you’ll still get the authoritative credit for having it. As long as your content isn’t too destructive or misleading, you generally don’t have to panic about leaving it up.
No matter what you choose to do with your obsolete posts, you should choose to do something. This was once-valuable material that could theoretically be recycled (or at least peeled away like dead skin). There’s no way to prevent all your content from one day becoming obsolete, but you can mitigate these effects by striving to make your content as evergreen as possible.