An SEO’s Guide to Refreshing Old Content

Most SEO marketers know the importance of publishing and optimising new content frequently. 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.

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Examine Where Your Traffic is Coming From

Although there are reasons to update almost all of your content, you can often achieve a quick boost 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, you can discover which of your old posts are still driving traffic to your site. Since they 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. As always, stay aware of normal SEO best practices.

Refresh and Republish Old Material (with an eye toward consumer value)

refreshing old content

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. That makes it advisable to focus on tweaks that will make your content more evergreen and informative.

Some of these strategies can include:

  • Adding additional subheading sections with updated information or other relevant keyword topics
  • Reorganising 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
  • Fixing spelling and grammar errors

Once you’ve updated your content, make sure to save the update and create a new publication date. According to SEO expert Neil Patel, Google prefers sites that regularly update multiple pages, so refreshing some of your old content every few months is a good way to signal your site’s continued relevance.

Update Your Links

Links are one of the main criteria that search engines use to index your page. To start optimising your links, you can use two techniques: cleaning out defective links and updating old ones.

refreshing old content links

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.

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. Finally, make sure that you’re following general link building best practices.

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 penalising content it considers “duplicated”—and you may have content falling into that category without realising 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, fixing duplicate content is a fairly simple process that you can often do 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.

Use Skyscraper Technique to Build on Other Sites’ Resources

Finally, you don’t have to stop at leveraging your own content for SEO success. 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.

skyscraper technique

Here’s a brief summary of how it works:

  1. Set up alerts for topics relevant to your audience
  2. Analyze content about these topics when it pops up on other sites
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Results

Over time, the content on your site will inevitably decay as topic popularity changes, links expire, Google changes its algorithm, and as your business evolves. By keeping your old content current and fresh, you can avoid falling into a traffic plateau and continue an upward trend towards higher rankings.

Animalz conducted a study to prove this theory and found that just one refreshed post received an additional 30,000+ page views, where it had originally only received 59,927. This was a 55% increase, with an average of 1,733 pageviews per week. As a result, traffic grew a steady 12% each week.

refreshing old content results

If you need more convincing, take it from a former Google Fellow, Amit Singhal, who explained how “Different searches have different freshness needs.” He also explained that certain types of topic searches require more frequent refreshes, such as recent events and hot topics, regularly reoccurring events, and currently running topics that need frequent updates.

Overall, the content needs to be useful and current for the reader, making it more relevant in the eyes of Google.

Takeaway

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.

You have already invested time, money and resources into your content, so it is worth a few simple edits to keep it current. By following some fairly basic strategies, you can maintain fresh and relevant content that drives conversions and builds your brand.

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CMO And Cofounder of Visiture
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.

Share your thoughts!

One thought on “An SEO’s Guide to Refreshing Old Content

  1. Hey Ronald,
    How is it going? Good to see you here and thanks for the SEO piece.
    Recently, I have seen an impressive improvement in my SEO traffic. What I do is go to Search Console and get the keywords that drive impressions to some of my old posts. I’ll also get the posts that show up for those keywords then run them in a semantic seo tool. Using the suggested topically relevant keywords to improve the posts has been showing massive search results without any additional backlinks.

    What you teach here works man 😉

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