Remove web content

Once you’ve archived your content, follow these steps to take content off your website.

This step will vary depending on whether you’re decommissioning a whole website or a few pages.


Set up redirects

Redirects prevent users from finding pages that no longer exist. They direct users to a new and relevant page of content. As part of the removal process, make sure:

  • you give users options to continue their search for information
  • your website keeps its search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings
  • your website looks maintained

Talking to your Information and Communication Technology (ICT) department is the usual process. Provide them with the list of your deleted URLs and new URLs you’d like to redirect to. Add the date to go live, so the redirect process doesn’t happen before you remove content.

When redirecting, you should consider the user journey and SEO, pointing people to the information that’s the most relevant.

Even if pages receive no traffic, it’s still important to remove and redirect them to:

  • retain your SEO rankings
  • lower maintenance costs
  • reduce the amount of GOV.AU domains that currently exist

Using 404 and 301 pages

404 pages show an error message on the screen when a website address can’t be found. Use them only when necessary. It should be easy for the user to understand that the page no longer exists. Give them an obvious search option to find their content.

301 pages are a permanent redirect. In most cases, this is the best method for implementing redirects on a website.

If your deleted page is still showing in search

If you still see an out of date page showing in search results, try one of the following content removal tools:

Remove any internal and external links

You’ll need to know what other pages on your website are linking to your content before deleting. Use a link finder to make the job quicker.

You’ll also need to inform any other agencies and external websites who are linking to your content. These links may often be in print form, so it’s good to communicate your changes. You’ll need to remove or change all links across your website that point to your deleted content.

Don’t forget about links in your intranet as well.

Change your information architecture (IA)

If you want to remove content in bulk, there’s a good chance it will affect your information architecture (IA). Remember to redirect to the appropriate new area and update links on your drop down menus.

Agree on communication

You'll need to communicate in a clear way within your agency when you remove content. Your intranet can be a good tool for this.

This should be in your removal plan.

Create a deletion message

Sometimes you’ll need to create a deletion message. This explains the removal of web information and why it no longer exists. Keep the copy clear, simple and actionable.

Add this to your removal plan so that you remember to keep users informed.

Deleting a Domain Name System (DNS)

DNS provides a number to your computer for a human readable name you enter. When you remove a website you should consider whether it's appropriate to remove your domain name altogether. Your ICT department will need to handle this as part of your removal plan.