- Content naturally decays over time, but redirecting your team’s efforts towards refreshing existing content can help get some of that lost traffic back.
- It takes a lot less time to redo an old article than to start from scratch, so dedicating time to content refreshes has the potential to bring results with much less work.
- By going in and updating old articles, you’re showing search engines that your content is up-to-date, accurate, and still relevant. (& search engines like fresh content!)
- Links, traffic, and keyword performance can help identify content that needs a refresh, just keep in mind that one piece does not need to meet all of the characteristics to qualify.
- Refreshing content remains the most cost-effective and efficient way to improve traffic, and it’s vital to maintaining good SEO health and capitalizing on content efforts you’ve already made.
Calling the content marketing space fast-paced is an understatement. There are around 500 million active blogs and over 7 million blog posts published daily. So even when you defy the odds and snag the coveted Featured Snippet, you probably didn’t think that your content now has a bulls-eye on it. At some point, at least 1 of those 7 million blogs is gunning to take your spot.
Competitors will study it, break it down, and figure out how to outrank it. Not only that, Google’s algorithm is going to favor newer, more relevant answers to search queries. Eventually, one of your competitor’s content will replace yours, and you’ll fall to #2, then to #3, and so on. Ultimately, your content may not get much, if any, traffic.
This decline in traffic over time is called content decay. Decay often occurs slow enough that your new content usually makes up for the traffic loss, making decay hard to detect without deeper investigation.
You may be wondering how to improve blog traffic and ways to escape from this two steps forward, one-step-back cycle. The secret is that a lot of your existing content can still serve your content goals and bring traffic with a minor refresh. Redirecting your team’s efforts towards refreshing existing content might be just what your content needs.
Why refresh old content?
Most content writers/marketers aren’t looking to add yet another task to their ever-growing to-do list, but refreshing existing content can serve your brand and content marketing strategy. Some benefits that come with updating old content include:
Quick wins that get results
If you’re thinking about how to improve blog traffic, it takes a lot less time to redo an old article than to start from scratch. So dedicating time to content refreshes has the potential to bring results with much less work. But, of course, this doesn’t mean you should pause your content creation efforts; refreshing an old blog not only improves that content but can also inspire a few blog posts or spark a new infographic for social media.
Search engines are designed to find and prioritize relevant, fresh content, meaning older pieces will slowly drop in the rankings and traffic. So by going in and updating old articles, you’re showing search engines that your content is up-to-date, accurate, and still relevant. Increased relevance and rankings are precisely how to improve blog traffic.
Increase audience engagement
No one likes reading content that is outdated and stale. If a reader finds one of your old articles, you want them to stay there and read the piece. Evergreen content should aim to be fresh and feature the most updated information to keep readers engaged and hopefully increase the time they stay on your website.
Which content deserves a refresh?
The question then becomes, what content should get refreshed? Here are some indicators to help determine which content gems need some polish:
- Inbound links. Search engines use inbound links as an indicator of authority and expertise. For this reason, you should add articles with inbound links to your list of refresh candidates.
- Traffic loss. Sometimes blogs receiving some traffic need a slight refresh to get them over the bump. An easy way to improve blog traffic is by improving content that is already popular or near the first page. This is where it helps to have expertise in SEO and search analytics. (Or you can always get in touch with someone who does!)
- Evergreen content. Hopefully, a lot of your content is just as useful today as it was when you first wrote it. Nuance, data, and best practices in some industries change, but many concepts and strategies remain feasible. If the core concepts in your content are relevant, a refresh can make the entire thing feel new.
- Keywords. Since you’re trying to rank in search engines for specific keywords, look for the content that already ranks for these keywords. And look for content that can be updated with these keywords (without keyword jamming, of course).
- The Striking Distance Method involves finding pages or content that rank in the first two (maybe three) pages. That content is already performing well, but small optimizations.
These metrics will help identify content that could benefit from a refresh; just keep in mind that one piece does not need to meet all of the characteristics to qualify for an update.
How to refresh old content
Once you’ve determined which pieces of content have the potential to drive more engagement, the below ways to refresh old content will ensure that you’re refreshing them in alignment with your SEO goals. While you’re at it, you may as well also optimize your blog for on-page SEO.
- Update your content roadmap
Your content plan should be flexible and ready to accommodate this new group of tasks. You need to handle this strategically and don’t want to refresh and repost for the sake of it. Schedule how and when to roll refreshed content out, and consider new content that you plan to create concurrently with the updates.
- Update the keyword usage
Revisit your keyword list, including long-tail keywords or striking distance keywords if applicable, or any new keyword strategies and update the content to reflect changes you may have made.
- If your content is several years old, you might find that older content wasn’t optimized for the right keyword, or it might have been written without a target keyword in mind. Edit the content as necessary to use new target keywords and secondary terms naturally.
- Update metadata
Update the page title and meta description in alignment with your keyword strategy. Google also limits titles on SERPs to approximately 56 characters and meta descriptions to 156 characters. If these metrics are not specified, Google will pull text from the page, and you miss out on highlighting what your page is about.
- Format header tags
Headers provide structure to content. Make sure they are formatted as “H2” and “H3” as appropriate, and if a keyword fits within a header, use it!
- Image titles and alt text
Review media files to ensure that their tags and alt text are descriptive and take opportunities to use keywords authentically. Not only is this is a best practice for SEO, but it makes your website more accessible to those with disabilities.
- Expand thin content
A Backlinko study, published in April 2020, found that the “average Google first page result contains 1,447 words.” Not all pages need to hit this word count but it’s worth seeing how top ranking blogs compare, especially if your content is very short and could be more comprehensive.
- Update information
Update sections where recommendations and information are outdated or do not reflect today’s best practices.
- Update outbound links. Nothing screams “old content,” like a hyperlink pointing to an article from 2011, or worse, a 404 page.
- When re-citing stats, chances are that updated data is available. Find current data and use it.
- Identify internal linking opportunities, especially if you have published better content recently.
- Update the aesthetics
Modern web content is well structured and engaging. Use bullets and headings, as readers expect visuals and an engaging experience. You should also include images or videos and social sharing buttons.
- Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
Google bases all web rankings according to mobile performance, regardless of how well your site runs on a desktop. Make sure images are correctly sized and placed, buttons are big enough for fingers to tap, and content is in short, digestible paragraphs.
- Re-date the content
If your old content includes a date, such as a blog post, write an “editor’s note” stating the post was updated from a previous entry to reassure readers the information is current.
Note: Never change your page’s URL. This will break any links pointing to that page and cause a mess with 404 errors.
What to do with poor performing content
- Consolidate content
There is no point in having two blogs published if they target the same keywords. Consolidating content is a great way to avoid keyword cannibalization. If one blog contains information not included in another better performing blog, add that info to the better piece and remove the weaker blog from the site.
- Repurpose content
Similarly, a piece of content might serve better as a different format altogether. For example, turning white papers into blog articles, or blog articles into infographics, and more.
- Eliminating thin content
SEO best practices advise getting rid of thin content or content that has little to no value. Thin content refers to:
- Duplicate content or content scraped from another site
- Auto-generated content
- Low-value affiliate pages
- News pages/Press releases
- Doorway pages
Thin content isn’t just low-performing – it’s purposeless and bad for your webpage’s SEO health. So if you find thin content in your content audit, scrap it.
If you want to know how to improve blog traffic, refreshing content remains the most cost-effective and efficient method. It is vital to maintaining good SEO health and capitalizing on content efforts you’ve already made.
The RMG content team employs several content initiatives like striking distance optimizations, keyword cannibalization, and content pruning to make sure our clients’ old content performs up to par with new blogs and pages. If you have any questions for us, just reach out!
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