Blogging Q&A: Should I delete those old posts?

Will deleting old posts help or hurt my blog?We're here with another question from our Blogging Q&A series. If you want to see past articles from this series, just check here. Today's question comes from a Blog Life student. She asks:

"I've been blogging for just over a year and getting in to it more all the time, though I want to start giving it more direction because I feel I have been in the experimental phase… So this is a logistical question. Do you delete content from the early days, or as you go along, if you find that with hindsight you're not happy with it? I tried one feature in particular that I don't like now and also my early posts suck! Should I quietly delete them or let them sit there as part of the journey?"

This is an awesome question because truly there is a LOT to consider when it comes to deleting old content from your site. The answer to this will also vary a great deal depending on what kind of site you write and what your big picture goals are. So keep in mind that we are coming at this question from our site's perspective and our own goals for it. Also I'm just going to focus on three big considerations you should take into account when thinking about deleting old content.

1. Usefulness

For us, A Beautiful Mess is a blog that is mostly focused on education. Yes, we will share lifestyle posts, behind the scenes, or what we are wearing in large part because we know our readers enjoy this content, and it helps them connect to us (we're REAL people with faces and lives, I swear!). Ha! But the main goal of ABM is to share tutorials or other information to help fellow makers do just that – make. We love the homemade lifestyle and believe that making things is one way to enjoy the experience of life. I could go on, but that's a different subject for another post. 

My main point is the majority of our posts aim to be useful. They should help you learn to build a piece of DIY furniture, cook a recipe, make a craft project, find the perfect lip color, etc. If your site is similar in that you teach about a certain subject (food, fashion, DIY, home decor, photography, small business, etc.), then your site too is aimed at being useful. SO, when you are evaluating wether you should delete old posts, first ask yourself, "Is this still useful?" That's the first test I would put any post through. If the answer is no, then it may end up on the chopping block (but I've got a couple more things for you to consider first). If the answer is yes, then I would really consider keeping it.

But also, if the answer is yes but you feel you could do a better job writing that post now, then why not go ahead and update the post with new info, photos or whatever will make it more useful, and then re-promote the content on your social channels or put a link to it in your sidebar for a while to let your readers know you've updated the article. You'll want to either keep the original url or if you want to rewrite the post completely (giving it a new url), then redirect the old one to point to the new one. The reason is if you have links out in the Internet universe from other sites or people have pinned that post, etc., then if they show up and the content isn't there anymore, they will immediately bounce away from your site. But if you redirect them to the new content, or if you've kept it in the same place (same url they already had saved or linked), then they will land on your new, updated useful content and hopefully enjoy reading it. 

2. Traffic

Before you go deleting those old posts, you might check in and make sure you understand where your website traffic is coming from. A good place to start (if you haven't installed this already) is Google Analytics. Understanding where your traffic is coming from, where they land on your site, and if they stick around or leave quickly is all very useful to bloggers in LOTS of different ways. But when considering deleting past content, you want to check in on your traffic to make sure you aren't deleting something that a large or significant amount of your traffic is landing on. 

It might help if I illustrate this a little. Let's say that for the past year you've been blogging about fashion. But within the past few months, you just bought your first home and now the only thing you want to blog about is home decor and renovations. You think the old fashion posts on your site really distract from your new mission. So you decide you're going to go through and delete many of them, especially the early ones as you feel your photography wasn't as good as it is now anyway. If you really go through with this plan, it could be that you will see a very large drop in your overall site traffic. Ultimately if this fits your goals and what you truly want to do with your site, then, of course, it is your site so you can do as you like. But I would advise you to keep your old posts that might still be getting traffic and add something to the end of them (go into the old post and update it, keeping the same url) about your new content. For example, in an old post where you talked about color blocking and how it worked in your outfit, you could add some text and maybe one image to the bottom of that post that says something like, "If you love color mixing, be sure to check out what colors I choose to decorate our house in" with a link to your newest blog post about what colors you choose for your home. This is just an example, but the point is you don't want to brick over a door that people are still using – let them come in, but try to direct them to new, more relevant content if needed. 

3. Nostalgia

Yes, you read that correctly, the third thing I am suggesting you consider before deleting old posts is nostalgia. First, if you have old posts that are meaningful to you, but they aren't useful, don't get much traffic, and don't support your blog's overall goals, then you certainly can delete it if you want (it's possible this may also help your site be more searchable, but it also may not make a huge difference as there are lots of factors). But, if you do, be sure to save the content somewhere – like a hard drive or something because it's memorable for YOU and that's still valuable. 

If you have old posts of a personal nature that you just don't want out there online anymore, then, of course, feel free to remove those – just save the content if it's valuable to you in any way so you don't lose photos you might not have saved anywhere else. 

The other thing to consider is if leaving old posts might be somewhat encouraging or instructive to future readers. I actually really like it when bloggers I admire have left their old content up and sometimes even point back to it as a way to say, "We all start somewhere." Because truly we do! Starting is more important than being perfect. You will be a better blogger during year three than you were during year one if you stuck with it because that's what happens – we get better at things. I think sometimes we can really shy away from showing past inexperience because we are afraid people won't think of us well if we don't act like we have everything together and ALWAYS have. But I like seeing fellow bloggers' past content that they maybe aren't as proud of now – I don't think less of them. In fact, I sometimes think even more highly of them because I can see how far they have come and how hard they have worked to get there. So, just something to consider. 

What do you guys think? Does deleting old posts get a thumbs up or a thumbs down from you? Or does it just depend on the type of post? -Emma

P.S. If you're looking to learn more and grow your blog, you might check out our best selling Blog Life eCourse.

Credits // Author : Emma Chapman. Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Design: Mara Dockery

  • I love this! I was just thinking the other day about how ABM has changed so much from when I first started reading it in 2011ish. I love going back to look at your older posts of vintage decor, fashion, and dress making. That was my first attraction and miss that feel (I love the new feel too!) so the old posts are still great. 🙂
    -Chelsea
    http://www.gogivercollective.com

  • Personally, I love to see the journey. I’ve followed loads of blogs and I actually enjoy reading their earliest posts, most of which no longer fits their current niche and have those low quality photos. I like to see their story and how they began. 🙂

    Great answers ABM team. I love how insightful this is.

    http://annescribblesanddoodles.blogspot.com

  • ooo very interesting. I don’t have a blog (right now! maybe someday? I have things to share!) but as a blog reader I like being able to see the beginning stages of a blog I love. And if it’s a new blog, there is nothing that turns me off of it faster than broken links and vanished content. Great post 🙂

  • Oh, this is something I often consider! I’m a food blogger and my very first post was shot on an old broken canon point and shoot at about 9pm at night in the winter. It was in my student kitchen and I used a horrible old plastic chopping board to display the scones I had made on them and remember thinking it was dead arty! haha! So on the hand I want to delete it and the other, it reminds me of where I started and how far I’ve come (I’ve taught myself video editing now!). That’s a great tip though about updating content, one post I did years ago is still my biggest hit and I think a reshoot could make it even better! Thanks ladies, I love this series!

    http://victoriaspongepeasepudding.com/

  • I don’t blog, but I LOVE to read blogs and have about 10 I follow. When I find a blog that I really click with, I love to go back to the beginning and feel like I’m “getting to know” the person. I’ve found a lot of good information, projects and recipes from past posts.

  • I was thinking about deleting the first three years of my blog, but then decided it really is where I started and I felt nostalgic. Honestly, my first blog posts are neither beautiful, not that informative anymore, but still… 🙂

  • I’m not a blogger but I do have an Etsy shop and it’s taken me a while to figure out what I really like making. It would always make me cringe a little when I would check my stats and see that people have stumbled on items that I made from when I was first starting out. Since then I have kind of started to embrace it because exactly we all need to start somewhere, and if I hadn’t sold that first random item that I made then well I wouldn’t be making what I make today…its all part of the journey. And, I agree, I love looking back at all the old ABM posts as well 🙂

  • I’ve deleted a couple of old post from my blog. I wasn’t happy with them and they weren’t bringing any traffic anyway so I figured why not. I’d rather only have post that I’m truly happy with 🙂

  • Agree. We’re working on a website makeover/update right now and I keep thinking it’s the perfect time to make a big list of old posts I want to go back to and update a bit to make them even better (without losing anything old and fun for readers… hopefully). No shame in the update game I say. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I could not agree more—it’s about the journey. No ones starts out picture perfect, so why pretend. There’s nothing wrong with resisting things and updating to correct old info, or just make them better for readers. But we all started somewhere and I think it’s sort of fun to keep part of that. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I’ve been blogging since 2009 and started all over again a couple of times and at the moment I’m finally very happy with my current style of art and photography (my “category”) and the look & feel of my blog.
    Although sometimes I wish I still had all my posts in one blog, on my opinion without starting from zero like phoenix from the ashes from time to time there would be no real development, only going further and further into the same direction.
    On my opinion I wouldn’t be where I am now without that way (personally, mentally and in art & blogging)

    I Conclusion: Finding my way through trial and error and leaving the past behind is a long way but in the end a way to find the right way (for me personally)

  • Thanks for answering this question so well! I was wondering this a little while back, even though my blog is new I was curious of what the take was on old posts as a blog gets more mature with more direction. Very interesting! Thanks! 😄

  • This has arrived just at the right time, I was wondering how I should deal with my old posts when I was (still am) floundering, I will go back and rewrite as I will be having links in future posts back to them.So much so I am embarrassed for (the floundering) leaving my email
    Thanks!

  • I’ve deleted some blogposts because my blog changed. But I stopped, even thought it’s only because I don’t want to delete the first two years on my domain…

  • I haven´t been too much time in the blog world (just 6-7 months), but if I look back to my very first post, I feel what you describe on point 3: Nostalgia. That was the beginning of my blogger’s life, and nothing to be ashamed of, despite I took the pictures at night, in a dark kitchen that wasn’t even mine. That post helped me to keep going and think: ‘I can do it much better!’

    Thanks for your post! Was very interesting, as always.

  • This is good! I’ve been considering getting rid of some older posts – my blog is a little over a year old. I also have older posts that are still relative to my blog MO but could use some better images. I guess I have some work to do – haha. Thanks for sharing!

    http://thequirklife.com/

  • Old posts really could be useful to someone even if they aren’t useful to you. There have been times when I go back to make a craft I pinned on Pinterest, only to discover the blogger took down the tutorial for reasons I cannot fathom. But also, I had fallen in love with Red Velvet in 2010 and I still love that old look and feel. ABM has gone in a different direction, which is awesome, but I feel like there’s still a place in my life for vintage typewriters, cute sketch drawings, treasure maps with dotted lines and X marks the spot, and scalloped edges on everything. So my point is, there may be readers who feel a sense of nostalgia for old posts even if you have evolved since then. Deleting those posts may get rid of something that made early readers fall in love with your blog in the first place.

  • I agree with everyone that said they enjoy going WAY BACK to the older posts on favorite blogs and seeing where it all began. It’s amazing how you can see talent get better and better with practice!

  • I would have love to have my old blogposts around! I could have even found a way of reusing them, and it would help me have more content. Sadly, I lost them in a careless accident with my wordpress folder.. And that’s when I decided paying for back ups was worth it after all 🙁 I had some of the text saved, but not the images. #learnedTheHardWay

  • Thank you for sharing for many useful tips! Just dropping by and thought I’ll say hi! 🙂

    Ju Ann
    ngjuann.com 🙂

  • I have wondered this and decided to get rid of the space fillers and keep the good stuff (well what I consider good stuff). Have read your blog for awhile rarely comment though, it’s been nice to see your eveloution.

  • The only posts I have ever deleted in the past have been ones that don’t convey the attitude that I adopt nowadays. My blog aims to be a positive, encouraging experience, but a decade ago when I started blogging I wrote a few negative posts about people in the public eye. That’s not who I am or what I’m about at all any more and although that content isn’t even on my current blog, it’s on a previous one, I don’t want people to google me and find that kind of rubbish with my name attached to it.

  • As a reader I agree with being careful about deleting older posts. When I like a blog I tend to start reading back. I like getting to know the bloggers better this way, and to see where they are coming from. I love reading their history and seeing improvement. Also, the less polished pictures and posts makes them feel closer, more like the girl next-door, less like a blog-celebrity, which I like.
    Great post!

  • I absolutely hate when people delete old posts! It’s like deleting old photos on instagram just because you have a new aesthetic you want to try out. Sometimes I’ve pinned posts from years ago or I have certain favourties I really love and then when I go to read them they are gone and it’s so disappointing!

  • Thanks for such a useful post. I cringe when I look back at my earlier posts each time but like you said, it’s a journey and it is quite nice to be able to see where we all came from x