This is how to update old content to improve your SEO in 2021

When you update old content frequently, it is a great strategy to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and the overall performance of your website. Refreshing your old content can increase your website leads, improve your conversions, and grow your organic search views.

HubSpot analyzed their content and found 76% of their monthly blog views, and 92% of their monthly blog leads came from old blog posts. In fact, 46% of their monthly blog leads came from just 30 blog posts. They publish 200 blog posts every month. They have nearly 6,000 total posts on their blog.

It was their ‘light bulb moment,’ and it should be yours too.

In this blog article, you’ll learn why you should update your old content. And you’ll get tips to help you do it.

Update your old content frequently to improve your SEO

I try to publish two articles a week – every Tuesday and Thursday. How often do I update my old content? Not enough. I don’t have a team like the New York Times Bestselling author Neil Patel does to update historical blog posts. His team updates 90 articles a month.

That’s ok. If you have a small team or you are doing it all by yourself like me, you can update old content in between creating new stuff.

There are different levels of updating content

You can adjust a couple of sentences and update old stats. Or to make your content even more compelling, you could rewrite a lot of articles, a handful of paragraphs, and add images and videos. You can improve internal linking and add a couple of valuable keywords.

There is no metric or magic bullet on how much content you should update. It is important to ensure updating historical content. It should become part of your daily, weekly, or monthly routine. As a content creator, ingrain it into your daily, weekly, and monthly habits.

Why update your old content?

Updating old blog posts with new content and images can increase organic traffic by as much as 106%. Additionally, 51% of companies say updating old content has proven the most efficient tactic implemented.

Freshness is one of the factors search engines use to judge the quality of content. Fresh content has been an important ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm since Google announced its freshness update in 2011. Making updates to your historical content changes the way your content shows up on the results page because Google displays the publish date. A more recent date makes a better impression. Searchers are more likely going to click on something that was published a couple of days or weeks ago compared to months or years.

Furthermore, more frequent updates of your content will encourage Googlebot to index your website more often. A Googlebot has a limit on the number of pages it’s able to crawl every day giving priority to newer content.

Finally, your updated content will provide you with an opportunity to re-promote it via social media. This could potentially lead to additional social media shares and inbound links.

Ready to give your older content a second life? Here are some things you should do.

10 tips for updating your old content

Let’s dive into how you can best update your historical content with some tips and tools.

1. Choose what content to update first

Not all of your content is successful. Content diminishes its value over time. One of the best approaches is to determine what content is getting the most traffic. Use your Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and marketing automation tools such as Netpeak Spider, HubSpot, Marketo, or Eloqua.

Look at your stats in your Google Analytics account and determine what content is performing and not performing. For starters, take a six-month date range. It is most likely, the content that is performing well is optimized for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords perform better with search engines because they are very specific and less competitive. It is easier to rank for them.

What content should you update first?

Here are several approaches that you can take when you’re in two minds about what content should be updated first:

Single out the posts that rank well for keywords that are being searched and with the right intent.

Go to your Google Search Console to check the average monthly searches and average search volume for your targeted keywords. When there is a decrease in these two metrics, you should review your keyword strategy.

Annually comb through the old posts to find content with outdated data. Find posts that can be optimized with high-frequent and missed keywords.

2. Update or delete your thin content

Thin content is content with little or no value. Write at least 300 word articles. Make sure your articles provide depth.

Here are some questions you should consider when fixing thin content:

Do you really need to add more words? If you can get the message across in a few hundred words or through images or videos, it may be enough. For example, one of my blog posts: the right way to Google yourself [infographic] is one of my shortest posts (only 500 words), but it is one of my most popular blog posts. It helps that I included an infographic. Don’t add words just to add words. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Think of the user experience instead. People would rather have the answer to their questions right away.

Does your article or page add value? Looking back at it now, the piece of content you created a while back provides little to no value now. If that is the case, you should delete it or set up a 301 redirect to the most relevant URL on your website.

Does the old article or page exist on your social media pages? If your outdated content exists on your social media profiles, you should delete the social media post that originally promoted it. For example, you don’t want people to review your social media feeds and see your old content.

3. Remove your duplicate content

Duplicate content creates problems for search engines and affects your SEO strategy badly. Since duplicate content is information within one or several domains which is entirely identical, it may pose the range of threats.

A broken link is a link that leads to the nonexistent web page, file, or image. In such cases, a server should be set up to return 404 or 410 response codes. Broken links create a poor user experience. Search engines don’t like giving users a bad experience.

5. Simplify your content

Remove fluff words and avoid using complex words that impair perception of information. If your sentence sounds awkward, you are probably using passive voice. A passive voice uses more words and can be vague. Using an active voice results in shorter, sharper, and easier to read sentences. Active voice helps your reader gain a stronger connection to your call to actions.

6. Make your content more actionable and helpful

Actionable content is content that can immediately be acted upon by readers. Actionable and helpful content shows readers how to complete a process with step-by-step instructions. It provides value by pointing to examples and tools, and it addresses the reader’s needs, problems, and questions they are asking.

To make your content more actionable, add interactive elements. These elements could be a survey or poll, a quiz or assessment, a calculator or tool, an infographic, a video, or slideshow. Add ‘proof’ points. This points could be facts, statistics, data, and expert quotes. Ensure your formatting lets the readers digest your content with more whitespace and visuals to break up the text.

7. Combine your content into pillar pages

The way people search has changed. This impacts how you organize your content. People are submitting longer and more conversational search queries. With Google’s introduction of Google’s knowledge panels, featured snippets, and local rankings are changing a searcher’s behavior.

As a result, these changes have given way to the rise of pinball searches. Since today’s search-results pages have many complex layouts, users don’t always process search results sequentially. They move their attention across the page more than they did in the past.

It means content creators and SEO professionals need to get better at addressing gaps. What could stop a searcher from getting the information they need from your website page? Your website should be organized to different main topics and address as many searches as possible about a certain issue. One of the ways you can do: create a pillar page.

The rise of pillar pages

A pillar page broadly covers a particular topic. For example, you may write a pillar page about video, and a piece of content on that pillar page is information about YouTube, a more specific keyword within a greater topic of the video.

To create a pillar page, you can bring together or cluster topic areas together into a pillar page. For example, if you have a lot of topics about SEO, you can bring together your articles about on-page SEO, technical SEO, and off-page SEO into one SEO pillar page. When you have a pillar page, you can connect other related blog posts to it via links.

Since Google is now better at understanding the intent of searchers and the true meaning of a phrase, it is important to think beyond the combination of letters and words. Google wants you to cover a topic more broadly.

Pillar pages will help you with semantic SEO. They will help you optimize for the general or cluster topic. Not just the specific phrase. Pick a primary keyword phrase. Find the related phrases connected to the primary one. Answer as many questions as possible throughout your content to that broader topic.

8. Improve your headlines

This study shows that people are not likely to read your content completely or linearly. This means that most people scan your blog articles. They look at the most prominent parts to find specific information they need at that moment or get a general idea of what the blog post is about. To account for this, use a clear content structure supported by headlines and targeted keywords.

The power of compelling headlines

Just because you have a great headline, it doesn’t mean your content will be popular. If you want your content to be found in search engines, use a solid keyword that your content covers. Using keywords throughout the content lets search engines know your headline covers the content in the article.

The headlines should be useful, provide a sense of urgency and something unique. Writing compelling headlines helps you grow your website traffic. Great writing makes your content more shareable. Excellent writing helps you get found on search engines.

To help you analyze how well you have written your headlines, I recommend using the Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer tool.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
Source: Co-Schedule

9. Make your content more evergreen

If you don’t have a lot of time to update your old content or keep your newer content fresh as the content ages, creating evergreen content is the right approach.

Evergreen content is one of the most valuable forms of content. Why? It never ‘gets old.’ Some examples of evergreen content include tutorials, how-to guides, lists, testimonials, and glossaries of terms or phrases. If you added a specific date or time frame, make sure you go back and update them when the date gets too old.

10. Update your call to actions (CTAs)

As your content gets older, the chances of the calls to action you included in the content are no longer up to date. When reviewing CTAs, you can:

  • Add more power words – emotionally tinged words that go along with persuasion – to both your CTAs and your content surrounding the CTAs
  • Include ‘my’ instead of ‘your’ and apply the ‘I want to’ principle
  • Add trust signals such as privacy assurances to give your readers a sense of security
  • Use the language that speaks directly to your audience
  • Talk about key benefits, not features

Bringing it all together

As you create more content, you should realize a lot of your content will fail. It is up to you to determine what you are going to improve that content and give it a second chance.

Moreover, all of your content eventually diminishes in value. It is critical to review it and identify issues. By updating old content, you’ll get search engines such as Google and Bing to crawl your website more frequently. This will help you show up higher in search results.

What tips would you add to this list? Are you updating your old content frequently? What has worked for you?

An earlier version of this blog article appeared on the Netpeak Software blog.