Everyone loves a good hack. Terms like “low-hanging fruit” and “quick wins” are common corporate turns of phrase because things that are lower input and higher output are obviously good.
This is why it’s curious to me that many SEO-focused and SEO-savvy folks don’t have a methodology for updating old blog posts.
Publishing company Vox.com wrote an interesting post about how they’ve made a regular practice of updating and re-sharing older content. Vox was starting with a lot of overall traffic and has a large library of older content that likely gets several thousand unique visitors per month, but even on sites with 5-15 thousand unique visitors a month from search, I’ve frequently seen a similar pattern:
- There is often a “power law” that applies to existing posts where a small number of older posts drive a significant percentage of traffic (maybe 10-20% from the top two posts and as much as 75-80% from the top 25-50 posts). This can happen even if their previous content creation efforts were uneven and not particularly focused on SEO.
- Those posts have not been updated in several months or even years.
- When updated, those posts can frequently see a 15-30% increase, which is significant since those posts already represent a significant portion of the site’s overall traffic.
There’s frequently a lot of opportunities to update existing content to help drive organic traffic growth, which we’ll walk through in this post.
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How Does Updating An Old Blog Post Help With SEO?
- Helps the page stay relevant as the information changes
- Improves exposure to targeted keywords
- Adjusts with Google’s changing algorithms
- Grows exposure with new keywords
- Helps identify new questions and answers searchers have
- Increases organic rankings for new and existing keywords
Old content that has lost relevancy is like wood rot – you need to clean it up by updating it or you need to get rid of it, otherwise, it can drag your site down on quality.
The benefits of updating your content are many:
- Increased organic traffic from Google (double or triple)
- Rank higher
- Growth in clicks, impressions, and click-through-rate from within Google
- Content you can now repurpose again via Email marketing or social posts
- Improved conversion rates
- Increased sales
When to Update Old Content?
When you log into your Google Search Console account, you will find that blog posts or other content pieces have a very similar lifecycle.
You will see your clicks and impressions slowly increase at first, followed by a period of rapid growth. Consequently, you will reach the maturity stage followed by the decline phase.
Tracking every page of your website will be very hard and time-consuming. However, you can create reports on Google Data Studio that allow you to track your top-performing pages. By implementing this, you will be able to refresh the content on the pages that generate the most value for your company. The more popular the page, the bigger the SEO benefits will be from updating old content.
Writing for SEO
Writing for SEO has changed tremendously since 2001 when keyword stuffing was common practice. These days, keyword stuffing is considered a “black hat” SEO tactic you’ll want to avoid if you want to get traffic from Google.
Today, there are 4 steps you can follow when writing for SEO that will set you up for search engine success:
- Put together a list of keywords that the page/post is targeting
- Create a list of the intents that drive the searches
- Write keyword-rich headlines and tags
- Draft content then go back and add keywords and related terms
10 Ways to Update Your Old Content
Here are 10 straightforward steps to follow when updating your old content so to drive better results:
1- Which Content to Update?
Start by first focusing on blog posts that get most impressions on SERP but fewer clicks.
Optimizing them for unique question-based queries can help them with improvement in ranking and rich snippets.
You can find these high-impression/low-CTR URLs through Google Search Console.
Next, you want to focus on articles that are getting good impressions by aren’t ranking on the first page of Google. Basically, these are pages that are ranking between the 2nd and 6th search result pages.
Improving such content can boost their ranking. Again, you can find them on GSC.
2- Eliminate the Common Errors
Your blog posts aren’t perfect. The one that you’re updating, the first thing to do is get rid of errors.
See if there’s any spelling, grammatical or punctuation mistake.
- Next, are there any factual errors?
- Are the figures up to date?
Is there any broken link in the content? (Use Free Broken Link Checker to find broken links)
3- Add more (or remove) information
If there’s a need to add more information to that blog post, add. If there’s anything that needs to be removed – maybe they now sound redundant – remove.
Consume the content as your target reader. Are you satisfied with it? Did you get the desired value?
4- Include more data
Opinions are cute. Lectures, okay. But the real game is in data that wins over the audience.
When you’re putting forth hard figures, you add more credibility to whatever you’re saying. People would trust you more. This would add to your brand value and retention.
So, include more data to forward your tips, advice, and opinions much more confidently.
5- Optimize it with the right keywords
These are old content. So, you already have the data about which keywords have brought them the most impressions and traffic. (You can find it on Analytics and GSC.)
You want to focus more on those keywords – and get away from those that haven’t added much value to the content in terms of organic traffic.
Plug these keywords in your headlines, Meta tags, sub-headings, and alt-texts.
6- Change your Meta tags
Include high-value keywords in your Meta title and Meta description. Shuffle them up a bit to make them more interesting and clickable.
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7- Improve your headline
Similar to the previous point, change the headline of your blog posts and make it more interesting.
- If it is a listicle, how about doing it a ‘how-to’ now?!
- If it doesn’t include a year, how about including the year?!
If it doesn’t have any emotional word, or doesn’t include “you” or “your”, how about including them? Try to trigger any of these emotions…
The high-value keywords you discovered in #5, Google it and see the result. See what kind of headlines your competitors have. Draw inspiration from them.
8- Install a new cover image
The main image of the post – change it and put up a newer one.
A new cover image includes the newer scope of your post in context to what additional information you have added now, what keywords you are now focusing on and how the headline has changed.
9- Upload more screenshots
Admittedly, this might not apply to everyone and every post. But if it does, do it!
There’s something about screenshots that add practicality and authenticity to whatever you’re saying. They add credibility to your content.
If you can upload animated screenshots – even better!
10- Embed a video or two
This doesn’t have to be your video.
You can find a relevant video on YouTube – that complements your content and not act as a competitor to you.
Embed it and give credit to that channel. Embedded Videos in the articles can boost your engagement and session duration, which then helps with your SEO and conversion.
By updating your content you’ll get a lot of SEO benefits. Your content has a typical life cycle of any other product. It has an introduction phase, a growth phase, a maturity phase, and the decline phase.
If you update your content in the maturity phase, you can basically start a new life cycle and that means that you will avoid the decline phase. Of course, this will generate more traffic to your website and a certain piece of content will generate more value for your company.
Updating existing content requires much less effort than creating something from scratch. As a growth marketer, you need to be on a constant pursuit to find quick wins that generate a lot of value.
You don’t have to update all the content on your website because you probably have loads of pages and that is not realistic.
However, you can analyze your top 50 pages on Google Search Console. By focusing on the top 50 pages, you will get the most value out of this exercise.