Do Draft WordPress Unpublished Posts Affect SEO? Beginners Guide

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WordPress is a powerful content management system optimized to help website search engine visibility. Straight out of installations, WordPress Core deploys essential SEO features that help on-page SEO.

But what happens when you start publishing content and have several dozen, hundreds, or even thousands of draft posts left unpublished? Then you wonder if draft WordPress unpublished posts affect SEO? 

Don’t worry; I will help you clear the unknown in today’s post and show you how to optimize WordPress content and your database for better SEO rankings and performance. 

I’ve been here for over a decade, so naturally, I have experience dealing with issues like whether WordPress draft posts affect search engine rankings. 

First, if we have beginners reading this post, let’s define what qualifies as unpublished or draft posts in WordPress. 

What are Draft Posts in WordPress? 

A WordPress draft post is an unpublished version of a blog post or page you create in the WordPress editor. It’s essentially a work-in-progress that isn’t yet ready to be published and seen by the public, and it is saved in the WordPress draft folder. 

WordPress has three essential folders for saving posts. These folders are Published, Draft, and Trash. 

The Published folder saves every published post that is seen by the public, the Draft folder holds every post that is not yet published for the public to see, and the Trash folder temporarily holds deleted posts. 

WordPress holds deleted posts in the trash folder for 30 days, permanently deleting them automatically. 

Only a WordPress blog admin, the author of a draft post, and those with editor access can see the list of draft posts. An admin can access the draft, published, and trash post, regardless of the WordPress user role that created it.

How WordPress Unpublished Posts Affect SEO

Unpublished WordPress posts do not directly affect SEO negatively. However, there are several instances where unpublished draft posts can indirectly lead to poor SEO ranking for your site. 

Here are three ways draft WordPress posts left unpublished can negatively affect SEO.

1. Bulky Database

WordPress uses a database to store website files and data, including draft posts, post revisions, transients, spam comments, trash posts, themes, etc. 

Over time, this data makes up a huge space and creates different kinds of tables in the database. 

Each time a request is made to your origin server, WordPress has to retrieve the information from the database following several steps and stops. The faster the process can be completed, the better the site’s performance and speed. 

Now, when you have lots of unpublished draft posts and other data in your database that are not regularly optimized, this can lead to slow database performance, which can negatively affect the performance and subsequently affect how search engines perceive your site.

Website speed and performance are part of the search engine ranking factors; this is where unpublished draft posts now become a problem for your site. 

2. Bad User Experience 

Let’s say you’ve previously published a post with internal links to other content on your site (and vice versa), and for whatever reason, you decided to unpublish it.

This post also has incoming links from other websites on the web. 

When you unpublish it, users coming from external websites already linking to the page and users finding the page from internal links will see a 404 not found page. 

Search engines, too, will waste crawl budgets on these URLs that no longer exist on your site. Thereby wasting search engine resources and giving users a bad website experience. 

3. Increasing Total Page Size

Imagine having thousands of draft posts containing videos, large-size graphics, and other media content formats. 

It will unnecessarily add to the overall website page size, which might also lead to slow loading time, poor CWV, and several technical SEO issues. 

This can become a serious problem if you don’t have a good caching and performance optimization mechanism working on your server. 

4. Indexing Issues and Loss of Traffic 

If you revert already indexed posts to draft (posts indexed by search engines and driving traffic), it may lead to indexing issues and loss of organic search engine traffic. 

Assuming this post or page ranks in SERP, you’ll lose traffic going to this post/page. 

Then, the URLs will be added to the page indexing error list in Google Search Consoles under the not found (404) error log. 

While this is not an SEO problem, the traffic loss is something to consider before reverting a published post to a draft. 

How to Ensure Unpublished Draft Posts Don’t Affect SEO 

Unpublished WordPress posts won’t negatively affect your website SEO if you keep a healthy database.

Here are some tips to ensure your WordPress site runs smoothly and optimizes for SEO without worrying about the negative impact of unpublished drafts. 

1. Optimize WordPress Database 

Regularly optimizing your WordPress database will improve SEO, site speed, performance, and user experience. 

WordPress has several plugins that let you automatically optimize databases in one click. The most popular and free option is the WP-Optimize database plugin. 

This plugin automatically optimizes the databases. It cleans up post revisions draft posts, optimizes tables, removes transients, deletes spam comments, trash posts and comments, etc. 

You can schedule a regular optimization task and forget about it. It will run on schedule and clean up any database data. 

2. Delete Draft Posts You Don’t Need

If you will no longer need to work on that draft post, and it does not have any purpose being there, delete it on time. 

There’s no point in keeping a post you will not publish on your blog unless there’s a valid reason for it. 

3. Delete WordPress post Revision 

WordPress auto-saves a version of your post when writing in the editor every 60 seconds. This means if you keep writing for hours, you might have several version histories stored in the database. 

You don’t need more than your post’s four or five recent version history.

If things go wrong, such as sudden loss of internet connections, browser shutting down, computer crashing, etc. You can easily go back in time, restore your post’s recent version, and continue your work from there. 

You can control the number of saved revisions or disable it completely using plugins such as Disable Post Revision. 

4. Keep Draft Post Externally.

I write and store draft posts in Google Docs. This has several advantages over writing in the WordPress editor and saving draft copies. 

First, the Google Docs editor is more distraction-free than the WordPress editor. Though you can switch WordPress editor to distraction-free mode, it doesn’t give a smoother writing experience compared to Google Docs.

Here is a WordPress distraction-free mode editor screen. As you can see in the image, there are no visible admin sidebar elements, panels or menus. It is a plain screen canvas editor.

WordPress distraction free editor

Another advantage of using Docs is that your draft content is stored on Google Cloud, which can be accessed anywhere on any device. So, even if you lose your blog or can’t access it, you can easily get your posts from your Google account and republish on a new blog or after fixing your old one. 

Thirdly, it’s easier to give edit access and work with freelancers in Google Docs without security concerns than with your WordPress blog. 

Giving freelancers access to your WordPress blog has several security concerns you might not be comfortable with. 

5. Use 301 Redirects 

If you unpublish a post with links pointing to it, you must 301 redirect those links to a relevant post on your blog to help users find similar content. 

This will help save the user experience instead of a 404 not found page. There are several SEO plugin that handles redirects efficiently. If you’re using RankMath, it has built-in redirect functionality. 


Unpublished WordPress draft posts shouldn’t affect your SEO if you focus on keeping a healthy, clean, lightweight website. 

Regularly optimizing the database, deleting unwanted draft posts, trashing comments, pages, and transients, minimizing post revisions, and optimizing tables will help keep your WordPress blog running smoothly and optimize performance. 

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