Should you delete old YouTube videos? We get this question a lot from our clients. The answer depends on several factors related to the video's historical performance and its reflection on your brand.
In this guide we discuss the pros and cons of removing old YouTube videos and the steps you can take to review video performance prior to deleting.
What is the SEO Impact of Deleting YouTube Videos?
Deleting YouTube videos requires a different set of considerations than deleting a website page.
Removing videos not only completely removes any SEO-authority tied to the video but any existing traffic or views to that video will be lost and appear as ‘negative’ (or lost) metrics on your monthly analytic reports.
You cannot transfer the SEO authority of a YouTube video by redirecting the URL - as such functionality does not currently exist.
It’s important to review a video’s historical performance as well as its potential embed presence on external websites - prior to hitting the big-red delete button.
However, it's important to note that video removal can be valuable for the performance of your YouTube Channel and brand awareness campaigns overall. Removing videos that are off-brand or causing negative statistics (high bounce rate, for example) can help your channel perform better over time.
In some cases, removing videos even when they have some SEO traction is a better business decision.
Ask yourself: would we be proud to show this video to a current business prospect? Sometimes, the answer to that question is answer enough.
Use this guide to help determine what to do with older videos on your channel.
What are the Pros and Cons of Deleting Old YouTube Videos?
- You may gain long-term channel and brand performance: A lot of factors contribute to your YouTube channel's overall performance. Some videos detract from your performance with high bounce rates, etc. Removing them may streamline your video experience and give your channel more opportunity to rank for suggested videos in the future.
- You can make sure your channel and videos are completely on-brand: Having old product, service, overview, or just plain off-brand videos can hurt your business’s overall image. If people are using YouTube to research your product/service (they may certainly be doing that!) and see poorly-made or off-brand videos, it can be a confusing and frustrating experience. This is probably the biggest benefit to removing videos from your channel. Every social channel represents your brand.
- You can optimize as you go: Reviewing your video’s performance may showcase an opportunity to optimize the content instead of deleting it. Here’s a guide on how to optimize YouTube videos for search.
- You may lose analytic performance: including views and historical performance. For those who are using YouTube for revenue generation (based on 4,000+ monthly hourly views) deleting may not be recommended even if the video is out of date.
- You may lose SEO traction: YouTube is the second-largest search engine. Deleting videos completely removes any SEO authority tied to that individual video. There is no way to transfer this.
- You may have broken links: In places where your video is embedded or linked you will see an error message after deleting. You may want to review which sites have linked to your videos externally before removing.
- You lose the initial impact of your channel: First impressions matter, so if you remove an enormous chunk of your video history and data, new visitors will possibly see a less-impressive channel compared to competitors. Remember, this only reflects the amount of likes, views, and videos themselves. Always consider the brand impact of old videos.
- You may lose your original video files: Many businesses have used YouTube historically as storage for old video files. Deleting these videos may mean you never see that video again if it isn’t saved elsewhere. If the video is important to keep but you don’t want it live on your channel, consider downloading the original file and saving to Dropbox or Google
Key Questions to Answer Before Deleting Your Old YouTube Videos
1. What is the current performance of this video?
You will want to evaluate how the video is performing overall. Sometimes, our oldest videos are the most successful at driving new traffic to our YouTube channel and website. Use this guide to evaluate your video's performance over time.
How has your video performed:
- All time
- The past year
- The past 6 months
- The past 30 days
If your video performance has declined significantly over time, or hasn't performed at all, that could be an indicator that your video is no longer relevant or that there are other, better-performing videos published about your same topic. Make note of videos that could be re-filmed, refreshed, or republished to drive more views and engagement.
2. Where does the video appear? Does it appear on our own website? Is it being used in marketing materials? Does it appear on external sites?
Before deleting your video, you will want to evaluate where that video is currently embedded. Removing a video will also break the embed code. This is especially problematic if other sites are embedding your video on their site or blog as this can create a negative brand experience.
Use this guide to see where your video is embedded on other websites.
3. Is this video on brand or off brand?
If you've had a YouTube channel for a while, it's possible your business, products, services, or branding are completely different since those original videos were published. Sometimes, it makes sense to keep your historic video data, especially if your older-brand is well known or the videos are still driving relevant traffic.
- Is the content of this video still helpful and relevant?
- Would we be proud for this video to be shown to a current sales prospect?
- Could this video be recreated and republished to better promote our brand today?
It's a good idea to update the video's description to provide viewers with updated context for off-brand or out-dated videos you decide to keep.
4. Can this video be optimized better for search and engagement instead of deleting?
While completing your audit, it's a good chance to identify opportunities to improve your video's performance overall with strategic optimization.
- Does the video title compel people to click?
- Is the featured image branded and compelling?
- Does the description accurately provide someone with context while inviting them to learn more?
- Is it tagged correctly?
Here is a really wonderful guide by Backlinko on how to optimize your YouTube videos.
5. Have I saved this video file in a central location for reference or use later?
Oftentimes businesses use YouTube as a video repository to store video files. Before deleting, make sure you have a copy of the original file saved. If not, consider exporting the video file to save in Google Drive or Dropbox. Here's how to do that.
Should I Unlist My YouTube Video or Delete It?
We recommend unlisting a video if you use it for sales, marketing, or service reference. These are videos that your team uses actively but you don't want the general public to have access to. Examples: Brochure videos, product demos, pricing overviews, service process videos, etc.
However, unlisting videos that you don't plan to use will keep them in your portal. Keeping unnessary, duplicate, or unused videos as 'unlisted' or 'private' can be very messy - especially if you are planning to unlist more than 20+ videos. Using ‘unlist’ as an ‘archive’ functionality can cause you to complete this same cleanup work 6-12 months from today.
If the video won't be used or reference in the near future - deleting your video is usually the better option.
Just make sure you have a copy of your video file if you need to save the video for reference later.