Most content marketers and SEOs know the importance of publishing and optimizing new content frequently.
As Michael Brenner put it in his interview on the Wordable blog, “Quantity has a direct mathematical impact on results. The more you write and publish, the better your ROI will be.”
But did you know that the content you already have can be just as much of an asset as the newer pages? There are relatively simple steps you can take to refresh your old content, boost its rankings and make it pop just as much as your new content does.
These steps are especially important if your old content doesn’t follow current SEO best practices.
Rather than letting it gather dust, you can often improve your rankings by cleaning it up and making sure that Google is indexing it correctly.
So, what are the secrets of reviving and reinvigorating stale content? We’ll look at five key techniques.
1. Examine where your traffic is coming from.
Although there are reasons to update almost all of your blog posts, you can often get an outsized boost for the effort just by updating some old pages that still rank well. If your site gets over 5,000 unique visitors per month and has at least some kind of content back catalog, it’s likely that some of your traffic comes from older posts that still rank for certain search terms.
As Search Engine Journal reports, cleaning and updating these posts can be a great way to get a quick rankings boost. Using a traffic analysis tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs, you can discover which of your old posts are still driving traffic to your site. In Ahrefs, you can find which keywords you are ranking for between position, say 6 and 25. If you update these, it’s easier to push them up a few places, which will have a direct impact on your traffic.
Just go to the Site Explorer report and click on the Organic Keywords section. Then you can filter by which positions you want to analyze and which minimum and maximum traffic values. Here we’re analyzing Wordable.io for keywords ranked between 6-25 with a minimum search volume of 500. Looks like this post on Google Docs strikethrough text should be updated:
You can also find posts in Google Analytics that have lost organic traffic over time. This will allow you to flag SEO issues early and fix them to retain the highest amount of traffic.
Just go to the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report, add a Secondary Dimension of “Default Channel Group,” and set up an advanced filter for “Organic Search.” Then compare two time periods (say this year and last year). When you get that report, sort by “absolute change” and that will give you the biggest changes in organic traffic from last year to this year:
In any case, there are several ways to find out which posts are underperforming or almost performing well. Since these posts already have at least some SEO traction, you can then use various techniques to boost them even further:
- Updating your links to external resources and studies
- Adding new subsections that create additional value for consumers
- Building backlinks from sites on your domain and other high-quality sites
- Changing your timestamp system to “Last Updated” rather than “Posted”
You’ll want to employ these techniques carefully, as some of them can upset the delicate balance that made your site rank in the first place, such as duplicate content or housing too many paid links. As always, stay aware of normal SEO best practices and stay away from potentially dangerous ones.
2. Refresh and republish old material, with an eye toward consumer value.
If reworking all of your old content seems like a daunting chore, remember that full rewrites are often not necessary. Google’s most recent updates to its Quality Rating Guidelines have sharpened its focus on pages that serve a “beneficial purpose” to consumers beyond just converting sales. So you can focus on small tweaks that help readers in terms of readability, user experience, site architecture, or informational value.
Some of these tactics can include:
- Adding additional subheading sections with updated information or other relevant keyword topics, specifically focusing on H2 and H3 tags
- Reorganizing the piece to make it easier to find information quickly
- Creating an “executive summary”-style section to give readers a quick idea of what the page has to offer
- Adding relevant multimedia content, such as images, videos, and gifs
- Fixing spelling and grammar errors (blog tools like Grammarly are very helpful)
Once you’ve updated your content, make sure to save the update and create a new publication date. It’s generally good advice to keep your site visibly updated and fresh, so refreshing some of your old content every few months is a good way to signal your site’s continued relevance.
3. Update your links
Links are one of the main criteria that search engines use to index your page. To start optimizing your links, you can use two techniques: cleaning out defective links and updating old ones.
First, you should scrub your content for broken links and replace or remove them. The Broken Link Checker add-on for Chrome is a great way to do this for free. When you find broken links on your pages, find a replacement for them or remove them altogether. You can also use a crawler like Screaming Frog.
Second, consider updating outdated links or adding new ones. This can be as simple as replacing an older news story with a more recent one about the same trend. You can also make your page more informative and useful by adding links to new and relevant sources.
This section refers fully to outbound links you place on your site. Of course, backlinks are also important, but that’s a whole separate topic (also worth reading up on. Here’s a great guide).
4. Find and deal with duplicate content.
As part of its effort to clean up its search results and make them more useful, Google has started penalizing content it considers “duplicated”—and you may have content falling into that category without realizing it. Several common causes of this include:
- Pages on your site with multiple URLs
- Pages that quote large amounts of text from other websites
- Pages that include a manufacturer’s product description that appears elsewhere
Fortunately, finding duplicate content can be a quick task if you have the right tools to help you do so.
A simple crawl of your site by one of these programs will help you find any repetitive content so you can then fix the duplicate content with a few quick HTML tweaks.
As a bonus, this research will allow you to find sites that may be appropriating your content for their own ends and potentially damaging your brand in the process.
5. Use skyscraper technique to build on other sites’ resources.
Using a method called “skyscraper technique,” you can take advantage of existing keyword buzz to produce content relevant to your audience and possibly outrank your competitors by improving on their content.
Here’s a brief summary of how it works:
- Set up alerts for topics relevant to your audience
- Analyze content about these topics when it pops up on other sites
- Create new content that improves on what other sites have produced
- Use a new format such as an infographic, video or slideshow
- Address an audience or a concern that the current content neglects
- Write a more detailed analysis or interview an expert
- Provide an alternative viewpoint
- Promote the content with your audience and reach out to partners to share it
Skyscraper technique takes some practice to deploy effectively, so make sure you’re doing thorough research and producing content that’s a genuine improvement over what already exists. However, it can be a tremendously effective technique when properly used. Also, don’t plagiarize other people’s content. That’s ethically wrong, and clearly so. Make sure your content is different and properly cites those you use as sources.
In any successful marketing strategy, it’s important to leverage all available assets. For SEOs, that includes not abandoning your old content to become stale and slide down the rankings. By following some fairly simple strategies, you can maintain fresh and relevant content that drives conversions and builds your brand.
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.