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Google’s approach to content decay

Discover how Google tackles website content decay to improve the user experience and maintain accurate, updated information.

In a recent discussion on the “Search Off the Record” podcast, Google Search Relations team members John Mueller and Lizzi Sassman delved into strategies for managing “content decay” on websites. They explored several tactics that go beyond simply deleting outdated content, emphasising a more nuanced approach to ensure website quality and user satisfaction.

Sassman highlighted the importance of not hastily removing irrelevant content, such as references to discontinued products or services. She pointed out that premature removal could confuse visitors, creating a negative . Instead, Google suggests using transitional “explainer” pages that inform readers about the content's outdated nature while directing them to updated resources. This method serves as a bridge during the transition period, typically lasting about six months, after which the content can be updated or redirected more definitively.

Deciding when to update versus creating new content

For content that serves as reference material or provides comprehensive overviews, Google advises updating existing pages to preserve their accuracy and relevance. However, when significant changes are required, it might be better to create entirely new content rather than overhaul the old. Sassman expressed a preference for keeping the original content intact for archival purposes, suggesting that substantial updates could merit the publication of a new article.

Sassman also recommended removing content when it's outdated to the point of being potentially harmful. For example, outdated guides on structured data should be taken down to avoid confusion. Instead of leaving such pages accessible, redirecting to a changelog or update page helps provide clarity on what has changed and why the old information is no longer applicable.

Implementing internal auditing processes

To maintain the freshness and relevance of content, Google employs automated systems that alert their team to review pages that have not been updated within a specific timeframe. This proactive approach helps ensure that all information remains current and that links and references within the content are still valid.

The overarching theme of Google's strategy is to understand the context in which outdated content exists. By making it clear to visitors that they are viewing older pages through notices, original publish dates, and annotations, websites can prevent confusion. These measures are crucial for maintaining a site's credibility and user trust.

By adopting Google's recommended practices for addressing content decay, website owners can enhance the user experience, maintain credibility, and improve search engine optimisation (SEO). Additionally, these strategies facilitate better content and ensure that a website remains a valuable, organised, and up-to-date resource.

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Emma Job
Emma Job
Emma is a freelance news editor at Tech Edition. With a decade's experience in content writing, she revels in both crafting and immersing herself in narratives. From tracking down viral trends to delving into the most recent news stories, her goal is to deliver insightful and timely content to her readers.

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