Managing a WordPress site needs a lengthy workflow for creating, reviewing and publishing content. This is a relatively easy task when you manage everything as an individual person. However, things can be difficult when there are multiple people involved in content publishing process. This can lead to wrong content published without the administrator’s knowledge. It could be a single post or entire site wrongly published for public view that you want to hold back. In this article, we will explain how to unpublish WordPress posts and site to remove the published content.
It is possible to unpublish and remove the already published content from your WordPress site. You can do this for a single post or take down entire site depending upon the situation and need. However, the problem comes when you want to remove an old post that you realized was mistakenly published longtime back.
- Google is super-fast in crawling your XML Sitemap on daily basis and index new content.
- Similarly, you might have shared the post in social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
- There are bots crawl and index pages as snapshots in historical order. For example, archive.org has billions of pages that are currently not available live on the internet.
You have to manually file content removal request to Google, block bots access with robots.txt and remove social posts. In addition, you may need to follow legal route if necessary for super critical content mistakenly published and available online. We are not discussing all these stuffs in this article and cover the context of unpublishing post or site from direct access point of view.
Unpublishing Individual Posts and Pages in WordPress
If you find a post is wrongly published in your site, follow the below steps to unpublish it.
- Go to your WordPress admin dashboard and navigate to “Posts” or “Pages” section. For custom post type, you may need to navigate to the admin menu where you can view the list of all your post.
- Use the search box to find the relevant post and click on it to open it in the editor.
- When you are in the Gutenberg editor, click on “Switch to draft” link that is available on the top next to preview link and update button.
- Now that the post will be changed to draft status and you will see the “Publish” button appears instead of “Update” button.
Anyone trying to access the post’s URL will go to your 404 page showing page not found error like below.
Change Visibility and Published Date
Instead of changing the status to draft, you have few other options to handle the situation.
- Pending for Review – Choose “Pending Review” checkbox to change the status to “Pending”. You can easily filter pending posts from the post index admin page to review them later and republish again.
- Private – Under “Status & visibility” meta box, click on the “Public” link showing against “Visibility” option. You can change the visibility to “Private” so that no person can view the post’s content while you can view when logged in to admin panel.
- Password Protect – Alternatively, select “Password Protected” and set a password to protect the published page with a password. Someone viewing the page need to provide the correct password to view the content available.
- Schedule – Next option is to click on the date link showing against the “Publish” option. You can select any future date from the calendar to change the status of the post to “Scheduled”. You will see a “Schedule” button after selecting a future date and the post will be automatically published on the scheduled date.
- Trash – The last option is to delete the post by clicking on “Move to Trash” button. This will send the post to “Trash” section when viewing posts index page in the admin panel. You can anytime restore the deleted post from trash and republish again if needed.
Unpublish Post in Classic Editor
Similar to Gutenberg editor, you can change the status in Classic Editor interface to unpublish posts and pages. You can change the visibility or published date by clicking on the “Edit” links available against these options in the “Publish” meta box.
Bulk Unpublish Posts
Similar to individual posts, you can also unpublish multiple posts in bulk.
- Go to “Posts” (or “Pages” menu for multiple pages) and select the posts you want to unpublish.
- Click on “Bulk action” dropdown and select “Edit” option.
- Now, click “Apply” button to view list of available options for bulk editing.
- Click “Status” dropdown and select “Draft” or any other status as you prefer.
- Finally, click on “Update” button to apply your changes.
- You can follow similar instructions to reset the status back to “Published” for publishing posts online at a time.
As mentioned, changing the status to draft and other options will lead to page not found error when users or search engine bots visit the URL. If you do not want this, use plugins like Redirection or Rank Math to setup 301 redirect and send users to your home page or any other post. Later if you update the post and publish again with the same URL, make sure to remove the redirect and resubmit the URL to Google for indexing your modified content.
Though unpublished posts are removed from your XML Sitemap automatically, there could some links on the internet pointing to that unavailable post. If you do not want to republish the post again, then setup 410 redirect. This will inform search engine bots that the page is intentionally removed and will be no more available.
Google, Bing and other search engines will instantly remove the pages returning 410 status code. However, users will see an ugly 410 page that probably will show you a single line of error instead of beautiful 404 page template which is commonly available with WordPress themes.
Unpublish Entire WordPress Site
If you are using platforms like Weebly, there is an option to unpublish your entire site with single click. This will redirect all pages on the site to a 404 page and you can toggle this option whenever you need. Unfortunately, WordPress does not have any default setting to unpublish your entire site. The easy way is to install a maintenance mode or coming soon plugin and show a custom message to your users. The advantage with the plugin is that it will automatically redirect all the pages on your site to the maintenance or coming soon page.
You can also disable the search engine indexing by navigating to “Settings > Reading” section and enable the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” checkbox.
Remember, leaving maintenance mode probably will take down your entire site from Google and other search engines. It may take longer time for reindexing when you republish the site again. Therefore, use this option only if you understand what you are doing.
You can use any of the above mentioned methods to unpublish WordPress posts. However, these methods are for temporary take down of the post and you can update the content to republish again. If you want to permanently unpublish a post, trash the post and make sure to follow necessary steps to remove it from Google and other social platforms. Similarly, you can setup maintenance mode or coming soon page to take down the entire site temporarily for modifications.