How to Update Old Content for SEO in 6 Steps

Ryan Bednar • 01 / 05 / 2022
Ryan Bednar • 01 / 05 / 2022

If you’re in the business of SEO content writing, then you know that it’s not possible for every piece of content to be a home run. However, no effort should ever go to waste—just because an article isn’t ranking as expected, or your content has lost its luster over time doesn’t mean it’s not salvageable.

In fact, some of the biggest SEO wins can come from updating old content. In this blog, we’ll cover our top tips for refreshing your existing content rather than creating something new each time your content underperforms. Learn how to give your content a second, third, or fourth chance at ranking following the steps below. 

Why should you refresh content regularly? 

The short answer: it’s best practice. 

The long answer: you spend far too much time and energy on your content to let it decay with time. Not to mention that it’s far easier to retain existing visitors than it is to attract new ones, and a content refresh can easily be integrated into your normal content process. 

Benefits of a content refresh include: 

  • You can build upon existing content as opposed to starting from scratch 
  • Increase visibility by improving your rankings for an existing page
  • Increase engagement by optimizing the user experience 
  • Avoid misinformation stemming from outdated information

Step-by-step guide to updating old content

1. Identify under-performing content 

First, you need to identify content that requires your attention. One of the best places to start is by identifying a list of keywords that you already rank for. You can find this by using a tool like ContentEdge’s Domain Explorer, which shows you your current keyword positions. 

screenshot of contentedge's domain explorer report
Screenshot of ContentEdge’s Domain Explorer report for a pet supplies site.

Download the data into a spreadsheet and look out for terms that are still strategic to your brand but for which you aren’t ranking well. Likewise, you’ll want to keep an eye on lost (or declining) positions—this is a surefire sign that your content is starting to decay or is no longer relevant to the audience. 

As you scour the data, filter out words that you’ve only just started to target. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll only want to refresh content that’s been published for longer than a year. This will ensure that you don’t make major changes to your page as it’s still laying its roots, or as traffic is being swayed by seasonal fluctuations. 

You’ll also want to avoid posts that already rank within the top three positions because any major changes to the content could jeopardize those rankings. 

2. Analyze ROI

A key thing to remember: just because a post can be updated doesn’t mean that it should. For instance, if your post was written as a newsjacking piece with little relevance to your audience today, then it would not be a wise use of your time to update this content. 

Before you move forward with updating content, check that an updated piece will actually make a meaningful impact on your business (not just traffic). In other words, make sure that the primary keyword of your content is still…

  • Strategic to your business. Does the keyword relate to something that you sell or a service that you provide?
  • Realistically able to be won. Who are your organic competitors and how does your domain authority (DA) compare?
  • Relevant to your audience. Do your target consumers still care about the topic at hand, and does the term attract enough search volume to be worth your time?
  • Attracts the right search intent. Will visitors come with the right intent (i.e, to make a purchase, to research a relevant topic, etc.)? 

3. Analyze level of effort (LOE)

Apart from analyzing the organic benefits of refreshing your post, estimate how much effort it’ll take to get your content up to snuff. We recommend adding a few more columns to your spreadsheet and jotting down the following for each URL. 

  • Original publish date
  • Current length 
  • Any missing editorial elements, like author, subheaders, or media 
  • Formatting issues 
  • Any missing metadata, like title tags or meta descriptions

These details will help you to gauge whether a page requires light or heavy revision. As you go through this exercise, you should be able to spot any duplicate content (blogs that are targeting the same primary keyword) and mark them as needing consolidation or pruning. 

4. Prioritize your to-dos 

As you weigh LOE with ROI, you should be able to start envisioning the best path forward. You’ll generally want to tackle low-hanging fruit first, such as adding author bios or any missing header images to your pages for consistency. 

You’ll then want to evaluate whether a page requires light, medium, or heavy revisions based on the type of attention it requires. This could entail one or more of the following strategies: 

  • Updates: It goes without saying that you’ll have to refresh data on any post that is explicitly attached to an old date (“Best SEO Advice for 2021” or “Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Sizes”). You may also need to refresh a few screenshots, H1s, or other text to ensure that the page is up to date.

  • Expansion: This is when you elaborate on the content that’s already there. You may choose to dig deeper into your topic and/or add new sections that highlight other aspects of your topic. When doing so, make sure that any content you add is truly valuable rather than adding more text just to fill up word count.

  • Overhaul: Some pieces may require a much larger rewrite. This might be because the content no longer represents your brand accurately, is outdated, or requires a new angle in order to resonate with your audiences. Reserve overhauls for posts that are underperforming severely but are highly strategic and/or could be misleading to readers.

  • Consolidation: You may choose to combine two existing posts that speak on the same topic. This helps to prevent duplicate content issues or keyword cannibalization, whereby you have two pages ranking for the same keyword and the lower-quality page takes priority on SERPs. Merging your content together lets you build one master page, resulting in a better user experience and cleaner site architecture. 

5. Get to work 

When it comes to taking action on your content, start with the pages that require light or medium revisions, then bake your larger rewrites into your normal publishing schedule. This helps to streamline the process and ensures that you reserve enough time to thoroughly update your topic. 

We recommend using Content Insight’s rich editor as you write. With this tool, you can get a real-time pulse on how competitive your page is and make necessary edits to increase your competitiveness.

ContentEdge will automatically evaluate your content against the top-ranking pages of your target keyword, then grade your content for ideal readability, length, and related terms. If you’re in a creative rut, ContentEdge can automatically write copy for you, too, using its GPT-3 technology (aka, AI). 

screenshot of contentedge's content insights report

6. Publish and promote 

Follow your normal process for editing and publishing a new page. Check for things like proper grammar, formatting, angle, voice, and tone. Touch up alt tags, title tags, meta descriptions, and other important SEO checklist items.

If you’ve merged any blogs together, make sure you add a 301 redirect to the appropriate pages so that your new page receives all the SEO juice. 

Share and promote your blog to maximize its reach—like any other blog, your content isn’t going to sell itself. A strong distribution strategy can do wonders for content visibility and help you earn backlinks from relevant sites.  

The best content has multiple lives

Contrary to popular belief, your goal as a writer, marketer, or site owner isn’t to hit the nail on the  head with every article your post. That’s a lofty goal. Most pages and blogs will require revision at some point of their lifetimes as time progresses and as your business, readers, or even algorithms change. 

Integrate content refreshes into your publishing strategy. Make your content—new and old—work the best that it can for you. 

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