Content Marketing

Published May 18th 2020

Updating Content: Here’s Why Your Old Content Needs a Refresh

Ideating and writing new blogs on a consistent basis is the foundation of an effective content marketing strategy. But what about all of the old and under-performing articles that just sit on your website? If you’ve never thought to go back and revisit old content, now is the time to start.

In a perfect world, every article you publish would dominate the search engine rankings overnight and get that coveted #1 spot. The reality is that not every piece you publish is going to be successful at generating organic traffic. For every high-performing article, there are probably dozens more that are collecting dust on page 89 of your website’s blog. Believe it or not, these articles need love too.

As marketers, we’re pretty much programmed to always be generating new content. But there’s actually an inherent benefit to pausing this mentality and revisiting some of the work you’ve already done (and likely forgotten about). You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel in order to push your content strategy forward. In this article, I’ll share how updating old content can actually boost traffic, improve your SEO, and help you achieve your marketing goals faster.

Why should you update content?

Dedicating time and resources to a content refresh initiative may not be top priority among all the other projects you have going on. However, there are a lot of benefits that come with updating old content:

Improved SEO

Content loses its value over time. Search engines are designed to find content that is the most accurate and helpful for users. Relevant, fresh content is prioritized while older pieces will slowly begin to drop in the rankings. Over time, this can have a massive negative impact on your SEO efforts. By going in and updating old pieces, you are showing search engines that your content is up-to-date, accurate, and still relevant. Additionally, most search engines change their algorithms frequently. Updating your content allows you to account for any on-page SEO changes that could otherwise negatively impact your work and help improve your SEO ROI.

Increase audience engagement

Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Do you like reading content that is outdated and stale? The obvious answer here is no. If a reader ends up on one of your old articles, you want them to stay there and actually read the piece. Content that is fresh and features the most updated information is more likely to keep a reader engaged and increase the amount of time they stay on your website.

Save time, get results

Put simply, it takes a lot less time to redo an old article than it does to write a new one. This doesn’t mean you should pause your content creation efforts altogether, but dedicating time to both practices has the potential to bring results with a lot less work.

Best practices for updating content

The process of updating old content can be time consuming, especially if your website has been around for a while. It’s best to plan to work on this project on an ongoing basis, instead of all at once.

Before you get started, here are some general best practices to follow:

Conduct a content audit

Realistically, you’re not going to have time to give enough attention to every single article that needs to be updated. To make the best use of your time, it’s important to determine which pieces of content are most likely to have the biggest impact. This is where a content audit comes in.

A content audit is designed to review all the existing content on your website and assess its performance. In this case, the objective is to identify older articles that have lost significant traffic since they were first published. This is how you narrow down exactly which articles are worth updating. Content that was once successful is a lot more likely to bounce back. Other key factors to consider are relevance and keywords. Aim to select content that was written to target high volume, evergreen keywords. For example, an article about social media video marketing is a better candidate for an update than an article written about the now-defunct Vine platform.

Create a checklist to follow

No two pieces of content are the same and some will need more work than others. By now, you’re probably wondering exactly what changes are necessary to make in order to see a significant improvement in content performance. Research shows that changes made to the body text of the article  are more important to search engines.

To keep your work organized and uniform, create a checklist to follow for each article that you update. Here are some changes to consider adding to your checklist:

  • Verify the reader intent of the keyword you’re targeting. Does the message of the article directly align with what readers are looking for when they search for this term?
  • Assess the catchiness of the headline compared to the competing articles. How can you improve your headline to stand out?
  • Update graphics and other visual elements that no longer fit your brand design guidelines.
  • Sift through all of the internal and external links to make sure the content that you’re linking to is updated and accurate. If there are broken links, fix them.
  • Identify opportunities to update on-page SEO elements such as the meta description and image alt-text.
  • Check for grammatical errors and writing style. When it comes to writing, there’s no right or wrong but you should aim to have a unified brand voice across all of your pieces.

Some changes are quick fixes, while others can take several hours if a full rewrite of the article is deemed necessary. Once you think the piece is in good shape, re-publish it and update the post date. This is done differently based on the web content management system you use, so be sure to check with your specific software provider on how to do this.

Promote updated pieces on social media

Once your article is republished, promote it across your social media accounts. This will help get new eyes on the piece and give it an extra boost. If you already use a social media suite tool, scheduling old content into rotation should be a fairly simple step.

Track progress and adjust accordingly

If you haven’t already invested in SEO software, now is the time to do it. This type of solution is essential to tracking the performance of the content you’re updating so you can understand if your efforts are making an impact. In addition to user traffic, most SEO tools allow you to measure the number of backlinks and keywords picked up by your articles. When you have the ability to track progress, you can replicate the process if it’s working or make adjustments to your strategy if you’re not getting the results you hoped for. Give your newly updated articles a month or so to see how they’re performing.

Bottom line

New is not always better. If your marketing strategy needs a much-needed boost, consider investing time in updating old content no matter if you’re targeting general SEO or local SEO. If executed correctly, a content refresh can help you generate noteworthy traffic results, keep your audience engaged, and show search engines that your blog post is worthy of the #1 spot on the SERPs.

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