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Content comes and content goes, but what should you do with your out of date content? After all, you spent time, energy and possibly money to generate that content which was published in order to earn traffic. Even after months or a year it can still be useful right?

In some cases a company has an open-access content management system of staff members are constantly uploaded new ideas, blogs and articles. While those items are usually initially reviewed for accuracy and legitimacy, over time that content can quickly add up.

Did you know that all that content comes with a cost?

Content: Behind the Scenes

So what happens to a piece of content after it is posted? In a perfect world it is read, shared, liked, linked and so on. Then over time the hits dwindle as interest drops and suddenly nobody is looking at it.

If you wanted a visual imagine a library clerk taking the content off the “New” shelf and moving back to the “Reference Section”; a particular dreary location in the library now that everyone has access to the internet via phone.

But just because it is out of sight that does not mean it has left the building. In fact, for many companies, the reference section now takes up the entire basement, the third floor, fourth floor and is starting to fill up the break room.

What does this cost a business?

  • Time – It takes time to ensure published items are still relevant and accurate. Many companies never worry about this which is why you can easily find outdated material on the web when it should have simply been removed.
  • Money – Sure a few pieces of content don’t take up that much space but what about 3 million pages worth? That is the estimated number of pages Microsoft had available on line that were never visited by a user.
  • Usability of site – More data on servers not only slows down a site but can easily affect the ability of customers to search and find what they actually want. The harder it is to find what is needed typically lowers the satisfaction level. On top of that, older content can be difficult to utilize when a site makes a change or overhaul to its system, which has been seen recently as news outlets update sites and then spend months trying to properly archive and access old stories for users.

So what do you do about it?

For many sites you end up with a few different types of excess content over the years. There is redundant content, like a comprehensive article on the Top 10 SEO methods would make a prior article that listed the Top 5 SEO methods rather useless. Then you have things that are out of date such as an article on Web Design Trends for 2013. Finally you have trivial content which might seem interesting at the time but has no true staying power.

Combined people in the business often call this excess content by the acronym ROT for redundant, out of date, and trivial.

Your goal should be to cut back on, or remove entirely, the ROT that has accumulated on your site. How much ROT do you have? It is hard to say as it will vary from site to site based on the amount of and type of content you produce. If you take a guy-centric site like BroBible that churns out 6 to 12 pieces of content per day, much of which would fall under common ROT categories over a year period, you could easily be talking about 50-80% of their content that is a year or more old.

Events come and go, popularity wanes, news is short-lived and trends fade making the ROT grow. The smart money is on creating a plan to deal with this dead content and immediately implement that plan, sticking to it like we do with the other important, yet somewhat boring tasks that all successful websites need to endure.

Methods to clean out the junk

Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling, although each situation will differ based on the type of content you produce, how much there is, and how much of it is ROT:

  • Wipe the slate clean – With this approach you pick a specific date and remove the old content from before that date. This can be useful for sites that utilizing ROT heavy topics. From there you can then add back in content that was popular, even taking the time to update those pieces to create new content.
  • Search for redundant – This is a fairly easy step as you can use navigation, analytics and search results to find redundant content and then remove it.
  • Use analytics – Analytics are great for finding trivial content. You can easily make a policy to remove or at least review content that has fallen below a certain traffic level over a period of time.
  • Consider an archive – For those who are concerned about losing out on old content switch to an archive method that is available on a separate search platform. This cuts down on usability issues with your primary content. This is a great method to deal with out of date content by simply picking a date at which content jumps to the archives.
  • Create a cleaning schedule – Each month set aside time to clean files from that same month one year or two years ago. This ensures a large backlog never builds up again. You can also take this time for a quick review of various pages that have contact names, numbers, emails and the like to ensure they are up to date. You can even make individual authors responsible for their own content requiring them to log in every few months and categorize content or archive it.

The bottom line is that learning what should you do with your out of date content is an important and often overlooked aspect of the content process that every business should be aware of and be prepared to deal with.

This article was originally published in 24 June 2017. It was most recently updated in November 28, 2022 by

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