If you’re a savvy technical SEO like most of my pals on Twitter, I probably don’t need to tell you this. In fact, for most folks in the SEO industry this is pretty obvious stuff.
But this is something I feel I need to say anyway. People: move / delete your old websites from your server(s)!
Over the last year or so I’ve found an alarming number of servers that contain multiple websites on the same domain.
Now, I’m a pretty lucky guy in the fact that I get to look at a lot of different sites throughout the day.
Since I have a Linux background one of the first things I like to do is FTP or SSH into their server to see what is going on.
Time after time, I am presented with websites on servers that are just a mess. But one of the most common fubars I run across are servers that have copies of old websites still on them.
This isn’t some personal preference or rant of mine, it is more of a cold hard fact. If Google doesn’t know any better, it is just going to crawl your entire site. If you have an old website sitting on your server Google is going to see:
The first problem that comes to mind right off the heezeey is duplicate content. You don’t want Mr. Panda to come sniffing by your site thinking you are trying to stuff extra pages onto your site.
The second problem is indexation. This could cause a ton of issues if your old site is still getting indexed in Google alongside the new one. Forget having your site links all messed up, this will provide a terrible user experience for your users.
Some webmasters will even put their website in an “oldsitev1” directory, or something similar. While they might have good intentions
What are your users going to say when they show up on your site and see one website, then the next day visit via the SERPs and see something totally different?
I’ll answer that: they are going to get a bad taste in their mouth, and will probably be confused.
Bad tastes in people’s mouths + confusion = horrible user experience.
Horrible user experience = high bounce rate + low time on site = bad SEO.
Bad SEO is …well just bad SEO.
To keep it real simple, delete old websites from your server (of course, always back everything up locally before deleting).
But most of the time, its just not that easy. Deleting files that represent Google indexed pages can lead to 404s, which are never good.
Start by making a list of the pages you are going to delete. Old sitemaps are a great help. Once you have the old pages / posts redirect them to the corresponding pages via .htaccess file.
Keep your eye on Google Webmaster Tools over the next few weeks to make sure you aren’t generating any new 404s.
You can zip or compress the files and leave it on the server, but that isn’t recommended for security reasons, unless you drop it into a directory that isn’t publicly viewable.
For any website that I really care about, I like to know the status of every single file on my server. If something new pops up I want to know about it. It is generally a good idea to do an audit of the files on your server every once in a while.
Running a CMS such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla is another solution in and of itself. These CMS’s remove the need to work with individual HTML files, and render website pages and posts via the CMS.
Whatever the case may be, don’t keep old copies of your website on any server, it is only asking for trouble.