Recently I finally finished a huge project I started a long time ago: recategorising my blog posts. My old categories and tagging system had turned messy during all these years, since it allowed creating new tags on the fly and applying multiple tags to each post.
I needed to create some new rules. Now I have 10 preset categories, including my the subjects I blog the most. And each post can have one category. I still use the old tagging system too, because it helps with this site's internal search and linking blog post series.
More categories can obviously be added, if needed. But I cannot do that directly through a blog post, which makes me less likely to create a huge mess of categories. Forcing myself to some much needed restraint.
During this recategorising project I went through most of my blog content, either judging them by their titles or revisiting them one by one to see which category would fit the best. I ended up visiting blog posts I had no recollection of creating. Some surprisingly okay stuff, some less than interesting, and some with broken links or broken images (I used to embed images from Flickr back in day).
But there were also some posts I wasn't so sure I wanted to keep. Nothing embarrassing, just really short posts or some content that didn't feel like... me. At least not anymore.
This blog has existed for almost 10 years. It has been through a lot. There's been subdomain and domain changes, countless redesigns, focus switches, blog series starting and ending, blog name changes, comments and spam and turning commenting off, and who knows what.
It started as a completely personal blog, moving towards more "professional" subjects in time. Somewhere in the middle of it there was a time I used to announce any changes I made to this blog or my site, including all the redesigns and name changes. I used to post all kinds of stuff, anything from really short blurbs to fiction and back. By the way, I might create a separate site for my poetry and short stories and art. Possibly maybe.
These days this blog is mostly a place for me to share my knowledge and ideas, promote my business, services and products, and show my expertise on selected subjects. You could say I've niched down, even though I still hate that word. Thus some of the older posts seem a bit out of place now.
Another issue is that search engine optimisation has changed a lot during these years. During the past couple of years I have been struggling with trying to please the search engines. Most recently I have found Google hitting me with the mysterious and annoying Soft 404.
In some cases I don't really see why Google is convinced a blog post is empty or accidental, but I admit that there are some very short posts included. It's mainly those very short ones I'm considering to give the boot.
I don't want to remove all the more personal stuff. Not even most of it. As a matter of fact, I feel this blog needs a more personal touch now and then. Too much business is just too much.
I have mixed feelings about deleting blog content. I'm even a bit weary about (heavily) updating old posts. Each post was written in a certain time and place of my life. The date is included in the post, so updating it afterwards could turn out to be confusing. I don't even really believe in evergreen content. You change, I change, the world changes.
Deleting content could have adverse effects. There's a possibility of broken internal and inbound links. There would definitely be a bunch of 404 errors, which the search engines would see as well. Stumbling upon deleted or moved (but not redirected) content is irritating. And who knows, maybe I would remove just that one post that meant something to someone out there.
I also like the fact that you can view the development of this blog and my language and writing skills by looking back through the old posts. You can look into my evolvement throughout these almost ten years.
I may have changed my mind about things. I have found new ways of doing stuff. I have faced loss, learned and unlearned, seen and experienced things. While you cannot read about all of it on this blog, it still has reflected to my writing and other expression. It's like a time machine of a sorts. It feels sad to let it go.
However, there are possible perks of deleting the content. Since Google and possibly other search engines are already confused about some of my shorter and older content, it might be good for my search ranking and page authority to delete them. Might work as an interesting SEO experiment too.
As mentioned before, my blogging focus has changed and the old content doesn't necessarily fit it anymore. While I see value in odd and irrelevant and beauty in imperfect, a little tidying up might be for the best. Especially with the least useful or interesting content.
I'm trying to build some authority on creative business and marketing, and many of the old posts don't directly help with it. They don't necessarily harm it either, though there are those that concentrate on subjects from which I'm trying to distance myself professionally. I want to choose what I'm known of.
Mostly though, I'm worried about my digital footprint. Especially digital waste. Every blog post takes more server space, bandwidth, CPU, and whatnot. Granted, my little site is lightweight compared to lots of the stuff out there. Nevertheless, in this violently warming Earth, it's very beneficial to consider all the waste you are pushing online to warm things up further. There's no need to fill the online void with just any shit you can.
The process of deleting content is not to be done hastily. I believe it requires a plan. It takes meticulously auditing the blog posts, and choosing the content to be deleted. It takes checking inbound and internal links, and fixing them when possible. Deciding what to do with files and images. Moving content around. Considering the possibility of orphaned tags. Handling errors and redirects. Possibly updating some of the content instead of deleting it.
Yes, it is a lot of work and would take a lot of time and effort. Seeing any potential improvements to SEO wouldn't happen immediately, if ever.
Would it be worth it, or would it be a huge amount of work without any real benefits?