June 28, 2019

What Should Bloggers Do With Old Posts?

girl cleaning

In previous years where there were presidential primary debates, primary elections, presidential debates, and presidential elections, I have often written more than a few posts sharing my impressions. As I sat down today with the plan of writing a post about the first Democratic primary debate of 2018, something hit me. These posts never perform well with respect to traffic. While there is often some initial interest, it fades fast. This should not be surprising when one considers that such a post is already obsolete before it is published. People may be interested in it for 2-3 days at most. Whatever traffic it might bring will be incredibly short-lived, and it will remain on the blog as little more than a record of what I thought about an event few will recall in a couple months. Having recently deleted a bunch of old posts like that, I decided not to bother writing another one.

To be clear, I am not saying that I will refrain from writing any posts in the future that will be short-lived or generate little lasting interest. I am sure I will continue to do so. I might even change my mind and end up writing something about some of the 2019 Democratic debates. I just hope to limit myself to doing so in the rare instances where I know I am writing it just for me and because it is something that I care enough about that I'm not bothered by its lack of utility. In the case of the recent Democratic primary debates, I'm not sure I care that much.

Did I really say above that I have been deleting some old posts recently? Yep. Isn't that a big no-no? That's hard to say. I have read all sorts of opinions on the subject. Some bloggers claim that deleting old posts harmed their traffic; others claim that it increased their traffic. From what I can tell, there is no consensus. The only exception seems to be that most bloggers agree that one should spend more time writing new content than worrying about what to do with old content.

The way I see it, a blogger has four options when it comes to old posts:

  1. Leave them be.
  2. Revise/update/expand and republish them.
  3. Noindex them.
  4. Delete them.

For most old posts, options #1 and #2 make the most sense. #1 is my preferred choice because it is always easiest to do nothing. If the old post is not too embarrassing, inaccurate, or misleading, I'd prefer to leave it alone and spend my time writing new ones. Some of the old ones continue to generate traffic no matter how flawed they might be. #2 is a great option for old posts that are not performing well but salvageable. I have been revising/updating/expanding quite a few old posts lately. I often enjoy it, and I find that it helps me maintain a semi-regular posting schedule when I don't feel like writing new content. That has been an issue lately. And yes, it has also been good for traffic.

I started off being very cautious about the last two options. #3 refers to using a post-specific robots meta tag to tell Google not to index the post. It remains where it is so that any links to it continue to function, but it no longer shows up in search results. I was initially using this option far more than #4, but I have changed my mind. Now I'll noindex an old post if it is not performing well but I have a compelling reason to want to keep it around. Maybe I want a reminder of what I thought about something at a particular point in time, or maybe I think I may rewrite it eventually but don't want to do so now. As for the old posts that are just bad and not worth salvaging, I have been slowly getting more comfortable with just deleting them.

Given everything I said above, why am I bothering to write this post? Wouldn't some brief impressions of what I thought about the first Democratic primary debate have been at least somewhat more interesting? Probably, but this one falls into the "I'm writing it for me" category. My thoughts on the subject of how to handle old posts have been changing quite a bit, and I thought it might be helpful to have a record of where I was at this point in time. Thus, I expect this post to be one of those that I noindex rather than delete.