Now you see it, now you don't. The blog post you read in your feed reader an hour ago was deleted by the blogger. But why? It always baffles me when I'm reading a blog and suddenly the content changes (as in it vanishes). There's rarely a good excuse for it, although I'm sure there are some. Before you think twice about a post and opt for that delete button, first consider these five reasons maybe you shouldn't go that route.

  1. People already know what you said. One of the worst reasons you could delete a blog post is regretting your words after you publish. First of all, if you're going to bother with regret, after publishing is too late. Think before you post. Once it's out there in feed readers, email inboxes, etc., there's no going back. People have seen what you've said anyway, and you do nothing but make yourself look like either a hypocrite or someone with something to hide. If you've changed your mind, edit the post and say so (strikethrough the previous information for example, but don't hide things). If you realize you screwed up, then edit the post and own up to it. Apologize if it's necessary, and just move on. It's far more respectable.
  2. Nothing on the Web is ever completely deleted. It doesn't matter that you deleted the post from your blog. It's still probably cached in search engines. It was probably in feed readers. It might be in the Internet Archive for all you know. It's very likely in the email box of some subscribers (anyone can subscribe to your feed via email and have a permanent record of your post, whether or not you personally enable email subscriptions). Again, you just look like you have something to hide, and you never know when it could come back and bite you on the ass (all it takes is for one reader to call you out on it for a simple deletion to turn into major drama for you -- not worth it).
  3. Your blog posts show your progression. It's okay to change your mind over time. We all learn new things and have new experiences that might influence our opinions on an issue. That doesn't mean you should go back and delete old posts sharing old opinions because you're afraid you look hypocritical. Instead take it as an opportunity to connect with your readers. Let them get to know you better by sharing your thought process. What made you change your mind? You'll have more positive influence by justifying what you're telling readers than by simply flip-flopping. Don't understimate people's memories. Just because you delete a post, it doesn't mean your readers don't remember the views you shared.

There are certainly exceptions to the rule. While I've very rarely deleted anything from my blogs, here are a few cases where I did, and why:

  1. When I merged two writing blogs, there were some overlapping posts. They were literally copy / paste -- things I'd cross-published (like a product launch announcement). So I would delete one while leaving the other. Basically I was just keeping one copy of a post rather than having two copies in the archives.
  2. When (a group blog) became (a solo blog at the time), I removed posts from the other writers if they wanted me to. I wasn't going to move on and profit from their posts, and some had their own writing blogs where they could put the content to use. Because it was a team effort for a jointly-run blog rather than my blog where I was hiring writers (like now), it came down to respecting author rights. That said, I don't expect that I'd be a part of that kind of model again (not that it wasn't a lot of fun at the time -- it was).
  3. There was one post on my PR blog that had to be removed because it attracted an insane amount of "undesirable" traffic. I don't mean attracting people who disagreed with me or anything -- I don't mind that in the slightest. I mean the porn variety. For some reason links to this particular article were all over adult sites, I was getting tons of inappropriate comments to moderate, and plenty of spam to boot. It was at the point where the administrative time needed to manage issues with that one post exceeded administrative time for the rest of the blog as a whole. The post wasn't important in any way -- pretty generic for that blog as it was -- so I opted to kill the piece rather than devote the time to something that was pretty much invisible to my actual readers anyway.

In most cases there are other ways to deal with things you wish you hadn't posted. For example, if you reviewed a product positively and it was updated (and you think it's awful), it's okay to go back and edit your original review with a new opening or an end note saying this is an archived review of an older version and your feelings have changed. If you don't want to do anything to promote a certain person anymore, go through your post and delete or nofollow their links instead of deleting the posts. If you simply have a "Whoops!" moment and you realize you were unintentionally offensive, just edit the post and add a quick apology and / or disclaimer to clarify what you meant.

What about you? Have you seen your favorite bloggers deleting posts? What crosses your mind when you see it happen? What would it take for you to be able to justify deleting your own posts from your blog? When does deleting blog posts cross a line?

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