Best practices for archiving and deleting content

A happy content life cycle includes an archiving and deleting strategy

When we talk about the digital content life cycle, we typically break it into five stages: strategize and ideate, plan, design and create, evaluate, and finally, maintain.

Content life cycle: Strategize, Plan, Design and Create, Evaluate, Maintain

To ensure content stays relevant and current, the maintain phase includes guidelines and processes for updating, deleting, and archiving content.

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While on the surface these tasks seem straightforward, the nuts and bolts can get tricky. Technology, skillsets, government regulations, and business requirements all affect how your content should be archived or deleted.

While the processes in every enterprise will be different, these best practices can help you develop an archiving and deleting strategy that prevents bloated websites and keeps your content clean and lean.


On the surface, the concept of archiving data is simple. In practice, it often proves to be quite challenging. ~Brien Posey
  • Make sure you assign responsibility for content maintenance to someone as a regular part of their job. They should have clear processes for dealing with out-of-date, irrelevant, and poorly performing content, and have the authority to get it done.
  • Get buy-in from senior stakeholders on the definitions of archiving and deleting content for your company. For example, the chief information office of the Canadian government distinguishes between three types of web content:
    • Current content: Information that is up-to-date, relevant, and required.
    • Archived content: Information that is no longer current but is retained online for reference or to provide a context to current content.
    • Legacy (or deleted) content: Information that has been revised or supplanted and that has been deleted from the site and moved into a “corporate repository”.
  • Be clear on your company’s legal and technology requirements around archiving and deleting website content.


  • Understand your organization’s technical capabilities and don’t implement a data archiving or deletion process that can’t be sustained or supported.
  • Create the appropriate technology workflows for archiving or deleting content. Is it a manual process, automated through the CMS, or a combination of both?
  • Work with IT or CMS teams to minimize the SEO implications of removing content.
  • Make sure there are guidelines and processes to address broken links that occur as a result of archived or deleted content.
  • If archived content is to be kept online, establish rules for how accessible it will be. For example site-search may not show archived content in the search results, but a Google search will show older pages.


Removing poor-quality content increases customer satisfaction. ~Gerry McGovern
  • Use web analytics and content auditing to identify pages for deletion. For example, remove pages with low traffic, duplicate content, or poor quality scores.
  • Establish notifications within your content processes that inform content owners when a piece of content is to be removed. Notifications can be automated in the CMS, or they can be manual, based on a content audit or review cycle.
  • Create guidelines for archiving different content types. For example, quarterly reports could be kept active and online for four years, while news articles are archived after one year. The time frames depend on your industry, regulatory requirements, and your organization.
  • Make sure content audits or inventories are planned at regular intervals to identify content that is out of date, or needs to be replaced.
  • Ensure that there is a content maintenance checklist that includes archiving and deleting rules for your organization.

Further reading

Glossary of content strategy terms

Weeding the worst content: Learning from librarians

Our content strategy services