The business and technology world moves fast. Technologies and tools get outdated quickly and are constantly being replaced by superior alternatives. Do you remember those video cassettes, or those 3 ½ floppy disks? As a 90’s kid, I remember them all.
Well, those video cassettes were soon replaced by DVD’s, which were replaced by streaming services and Netflix. Those 3 ½ disks were replaced by the USB, then things like Google Drive or Dropbox.
You don’t see the older versions of these anymore (at least, not unless it’s in a cute vintage store, or in your grandma’s basement) because they’re irrelevant and outdated. All businesses have done away with the old to ensure that they remain relevant, competitive, in-line with competitors and meet customer demands.
I mean, what business would keep anything around that was, in essence, useless? Well, probably one that’s going out of business—sorry Blockbuster.
Unfortunately, the same mentality doesn’t apply to content for some reason. Outdated or irrelevant content is actually quite common to find. In my opinion, since it’s easy for content to get lost amidst the hundreds of other web pages an organization is likely to have, it seems like many businesses are going with an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
But does having old and outdated content just sitting around hurt your business? Well, actually yes, it can. It’s not just your customers that’ll notice if you have outdated content....I mean, that’s bad in of itself, however there's an even bigger fish to fry here. Google.
Updating your irrelevant and outdated content is just as important as trading in your old tech for the new—you’ve got to stay with the times and keep up with the demand for relevant information. After all, the primary goal of Google is to deliver the best, insightful and relevant content to searchers, so if you aren’t relevant, you won’t be found.
Your outdated and old content might be “out of sight, out of mind,” to you, but Google knows it’s there, and Google doesn’t like it. When Google doesn’t like it, it means that your content won’t rank well and nobody will see it. Not only that, but it can affect your entire site as well.
To understand why this is the case, we need to take a closer look at SEO.
SEO (search engine optimization) refers to both on-page and off-page techniques that work to improve the organic rank of web pages on the SERP (search engine results page). The ultimate goal of applying SEO practices is to get a web page to appear organically on the first page of the SERP.
One of the key components of on-page SEO is the content of your webpages. Google aims to provide its users with quality content that provides the searcher with the type of information they’re looking for. If you don’t have relevant information anymore, you’re likely not going to get pulled by Google when users submit a search. Even if your web page is pulled, and users can find you, if you aren’t relevant, you’ll see a high bounce rate, and Google will take note of this.
Ultimately, having old, outdated and irrelevant content negatively impacts your SEO because:
Old content affects the fresh rank of your content
Old and irrelevant content affects the popularity of your content
Old content is likely to have broken links
All three of these factors hurt your SEO, and ultimately, your reputation. Let’s discuss.
Having fresh content is very important, which is why you need to regularly update your content to ensure that it remains relevant.
In case you don't know, fresh rank is a term that’s commonly referred to the “freshness” of a web page and is used to describe how up-to-date the information on the web page is and how often new content is added to a website. Ultimately, the more fresh and new your content is, the more likely that search engine bots are compelled to crawl your web pages.
Now, when we talk about bots, we’re talking about what’s known as “web spiders” or simply, “spiders” which are essentially the tools deployed by search engines to crawl and index websites and web pages. These spiders are less likely to want to crawl your web pages if your content is outdated because it’s likely that as a result of old and irrelevant content, your crawl budget will be low. The crawl budget refers to the allocated amount of time and frequency that a spider is permitted to crawl a specific website.
So ultimately, having a low crawl budget due to having old and irrelevant content will affect your website because when you do have new and fresh content, the spiders already have a lower crawl budget. This means that it may take longer for your pages to be indexed, especially if you don’t have a sitemap, which tells the spiders what content needs to be crawled.
Basically, if you waste the spiders’ time by getting them to crawl old and irrelevant pages, they’ll take note, and as a result, will allocate less time to crawl your site—let’s avoid that! Developing new content and updating the old content with fresh information gives the bots a reason to keep coming back.
Content Popularity and Relevance
This is a big one, and similar to having fresh content, as it impacts the crawl budget of your website. In essence, the more popular your web pages are, the more in demand they’ll be, meaning that bots will want to crawl them.
Popularity refers to the number of viewers a piece of content has—basically, how often the URL is used. When a URL is commonly visited, it indicates to bots that the information on that page is relevant, and there’s a high demand for it. The more searchers that demonstrate they’re looking for that information (the “demand”), the more relevant it’s seen to be by spiders and the more crawl budget they’ll allocate to your website. Therefore, if you don’t have popular content that’s in demand, it’ll make your website less relevant.
Further, when your content is popular, it affects the rank at which your appear on the SERP. You see, Google aims to put the most relevant web pages on the first page (this doesn’t include the paid ads that are always at the top). This means that the more relevant and popular your pages are, the better your rank will be. Having old and outdated web pages will not rank well and are therefore not fulfilling their full potential.
Regularly reviewing and updating older content is important so that you can continue to remain relevant and your content will rank high. This, in essence, increases your visibility, which is ultimately the end goal here.
One of the biggest issues with having old and outdated content on your website is that they have a higher risk of containing broken links.
A broken link, also called a “dead link,” is a link on a webpage that no longer works—it doesn’t lead anywhere. The most common reason for a broken link is due to a 404 Error, formally known as “HTTP Status Code 404: Page Not Found” or informally referred to as orphan links/ orphan pages.
This status code indicates that the page being requested cannot be found by the browser, but it doesn’t indicate whether this is permanent or temporary. In most cases, a 404 indicates that the content has been deleted.
Older content is more likely to encounter these errors with their links because as time goes by, information gets outdated, and links that were originally included your content may have been deleted. 404s should always be fixed as soon as you are aware of them—they’re bad for your website SEO because they eat up your crawl budget. When spiders find links, they always crawl them, and you don’t want to waste their time crawling links to verify they’re broken. This will decrease your crawl demand.
As such, you need to make an effort to update old content and ensure that all the links included in them can still be located. Better yet, remove old links and replace them with links to newer content; this will help make your older content more fresh!
Refreshing your old content should really be done regularly for the simple reason that you’re looking to deliver the best customer experience possible, and when content is old, well, people notice. And customers don’t appreciate it.
But if you need a better reason than that, now you know that having old content affects your crawl budget and ultimately hurts your SEO. If you want to aim to be among the first results on the SERP, you want to make sure that your content is the best quality possible. This means regular content maintenance—updating information and refreshing links.