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Case Study | Jul 8
Jessica Greene on April 17, 2019 (last modified on May 14, 2020) • 27 minute read
Updating old blog posts is great for SEO. Freshness is one of the factors Google’s algorithm considers when ranking results, so updating old blog posts and republishing them can boost your rankings, driving increased traffic to those old posts.
In fact, nearly half of the experts who responded to our latest survey say that 61-80% of their organic traffic comes from “old” blog posts:
But updating old blog posts is good for more than just SEO. It also creates a better user experience. “People would rather read a post from last month than one posted two years ago because the older post may contain outdated content,” says Maxburst’s Andrew Ruditser.
Of course, creating a better user experience is key when you’re using your content to generate leads. Some of our respondents reported that more than 90% of their leads come from “old” content:
Finally, updating old blog posts is also good for you as a content creator. As ExpertSure’s Ollie Smith explains: “By refreshing an old blog-post, you are effectively launching a new post without actually having to write a new one.”
So updating old blog posts drives three big benefits: higher rankings, a better user experience, and improved results with less effort.
But what exactly does updating old posts entail? Lots of people say to “make it more comprehensive” or “freshen it up,” but what do those things mean?
To help you streamline the process of updating your old content, we asked 72 experts for their tips. Then, we combined all of the best responses into this 17-point checklist you can reference every time you sit down to refresh an old blog post.
You could just update your content on a schedule, refreshing all of your posts a year or two after they were published.
“Using analytics, identify the blog posts that drive the most traffic,” says P5 Marketing’s Robert Donnell. “If they’re older, update them, and keep updating them on a schedule.”
But Orbit Media Studios’ Andy Crestodina says that’s not always the most efficient or impactful approach. “The trick is to know which content to update. Some content is much more likely to benefit from an update than others,” Crestodina says.
To determine which blog posts will benefit the most from an update—and will drive the best results—consider these approaches for finding posts that are in need of a refresh.
Crestodina recommends finding posts that other sites have linked to but that aren’t ranking well.
“Use a tool like Moz and check the Top Pages report, or you can see it for free using Google Search Console. Check the Links to Your Site report, and you’ll see which of your URLs have been linked to—and from how many other websites. Here’s what it looks like:”
“These are the pages with ranking potential. They have authority. If any of the URLs at the top of this list aren’t ranking well, you’ve found a race car sitting in the driveway. Get in, turn the keywords up, and see where it takes you.”
Editor’s note: Get a quick view of this data without having to switch between multiple tools. Databox lets you pull a list of your high-authority pages from Moz and view that alongside Search Console rankings on a single dashboard. This SEO Overview dashboard is a great example, pulling data from four popular SEO tools.
Automizy’s Mor Mester recommends focusing on posts that drive conversions. “You don’t need to update posts that get traffic that doesn’t lead to conversions or sales, he says”
“To find your posts that generate conversions, check in Google Analytics: Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages. Sort by ‘Goal Conversion,’ and you’ll get a list of blog posts that convert well.”
“The strategy that’s worked best for us is updating posts that are ranking for certain keywords but aren’t in the top 10 search results,” says Sean Si of SEO Hacker.
Weidert Group’s Stephen Fischer agrees: “The best place to start is by identifying your low-hanging fruit. Which posts are currently driving traffic from positions 5-25 on Google? Do they have the search volume and relevance to support it?”
“Using keyword research tools like SEMrush, you can quickly filter out this traffic and export a list of quick-win opportunities,” Fischer says.
And Philippe Martins of Presencity suggests that “after you update the content, ask Google to check that blog post again.”
You can do this by pasting the post’s URL into Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool, and then clicking the “Request Indexing” link to ask Google to recrawl the page.
“Make sure that you’re regularly reviewing this ranking activity to see if you start to drop positions. If you notice that changes are happening, it’s time to make updates to your content!”
“When you’re evaluating old blog posts, examine the quality of the content and identify if it can be improved,” says Niles Koenigsberg of FiG Advertising + Marketing. “If it’s a blog post on an advertisement from 2011, it probably isn’t worth your time to optimize it.”
Of course, you could always take advice from Bradley Thompson of DigiHype Media and “update all time-sensitive content to make it evergreen content.”
Once you’ve finished compiling a list of blog posts that need to be updated, you’re ready to start refreshing them. For ideas on what you should do to update each post, follow the tips below.
When we asked our respondents to weigh in on the most effective factor when updating a blog post to improve its search position, comprehensiveness received the most votes:
“A great way to update an old blog post is to add new, relevant content,” says Online Optimism’s Lauren Walter. “Not only will this help keep audiences engaged, but it will also add to your word count.”
“Ideally, if you can take a shorter post and develop it into a long-form content piece that is optimized for the keywords you want to improve your ranking for, you can create a better content piece that will rank better as well,” Walter says.
Survicate’s Anna Rubkiewicz agrees: “We’ve recently discovered that a lot of our top-performing blog posts have one thing in common: they’ve been significantly built upon after the original publication. They originally fell between 500-1,000 words and were updated at least by another 500.”
“There’s one condition to keep in mind, though: the content you add to your post has to be actionable. No bloviating will do the trick,” Rubkiewicz says.
But lengthening a blog post without adding in a bunch of fluff can be a very difficult thing to do, particularly if you already think you’ve covered everything.
To find ideas for how to make a post more comprehensive, our respondents offered these tips.
One way to make a blog post more comprehensive is to answer questions you hadn’t considered when you were writing the piece. There are a couple of ways to find questions you still need to answer.
“After a post has been up for a while, you’ve likely received some comments and questions on the post,” says Nick Leffler of Exprance. “If you can take some of those questions and add them into the post where relevant, it’s a great way to update the content for things you know readers are interested in.”
Bill Ferris of Decor Interiors recommends a second option: “Enter the main keywords from your blog post in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and then look at the questions people are asking about the topic. You can even see the number of times each question is asked monthly.”
“If you don’t have a subscription to Ahrefs, you can also use AnswerThePublic or Google Search—the ‘People also ask’ section is a dead giveaway for what is searched most,” Ferris says.
“The most popular blog post on one of my sites is one of the very first pieces of content I published,” says Josh Wardini of Serpwatch. “To make the most of its popularity, I updated the content and turned it into an ultimate guide, adding some ‘People also ask’ phrases as sub-headings.”
“This has greatly improved the ranking of the post and also brought in more conversions,” Wardini says.
“One of the most effective tactics for optimizing old blog posts is to review what higher-ranking competitor content is doing better than your existing blog content, and applying what makes sense,” says Fundera’s Nicolas Straut.
“For example, if a competitor’s blog post has 25 list items and your post only has nine, see what you can add to reach 30 list items. If competitor content is 2,000 words and yours is 900, consider making your content more thorough,” Straut says.
Digital House Creative’s Melissa DeMayo agrees: “Read the articles that are already appearing in the top results for your keywords, and make your post even more thorough and in-depth.”
“Identify the content gaps between existing top search results and your own content, and make sure to cover each and every key area in your post,” says Marko Saric of How To Make My Blog. “Your post should be more informative and easier to understand than all of the other top results.”
“If you have multiple posts on the same topic, merge those posts into one extensive post, and redirect the old posts to the new one,” says Chris Steele of Knowmad Digital Marketing.
Blair McKee of Constellix also recommends this approach: “Check if you have any related content that could augment your primary blog topic. Pull together as many resources as you can, freshen up your research, and combine everything to create a longer, more thorough piece of content.”
“If you want to preserve your existing link-building efforts, you can update the old blog, or you can write a new one and redirect the old URL to the new blog,” McKee says.
“One of the things we do on a regular basis is analyze the other query variants that people use to get to specific pages using data from Google Search Console,” says Jason Acidre of Grit PH.
“As soon as we’ve identified the keywords that could provide more value to the site’s business, we start evaluating if the page is actually matching the intent of these searchers, and we re-optimize the content to effectively solve or provide direct answers to these other queries,” Acidre says.
Brad Smith of Codeless agrees: “Rewrite content not just to update old data and examples, but also to bring it more in line with search intent and what people are looking for. That includes word count length—sometimes shorter is better.”
“It also helps to upgrade your existing visuals and create custom illustrations to help make the content stickier—and for use in re-promoting it so it looks and feels new.”
“We did this to one old blog post, and it decreased the content exit rate by 23%, increased average session duration of SERP visitors by 280%, and decreased Facebook ad CPC for that content by 70%,” Smith says.
Fisher Unitech’s Angelle Erickson recommends updating old blog posts by “adding in other engaging pieces of content such as videos, infographics, and polls.”
“If you add more visual interest, you can make the blog post more useful and increase the average time on the page, which can positively impact your search engine rankings,” says Vital Dollar’s Marc Andre.
“Simply adding quality images is one option, but depending on the content of the article, adding graphs or custom infographics can be even better. Even adding a table can add visual interest and make the post more helpful and useful,” Andre says.
And Raquel Addams of Zillion Designs recommends “changing hero images, creating quote images, or building mini infographics.”
“One of the best ways to boost an old blog post is to make a video on the same (or a closely aligned) topic, embed it in the post, and republish it as a new post with a current date stamp and slightly tweaked title,” says Stephan Roussan of ICVM Group.
HQdigital’s Meghan Hultquist agrees: “Engaging video content enhances a good blog post like nothing else. Make sure your video is relevant, clear, and helpful to your audience. And for maximum user engagement (and time-on-site), make sure your video is captioned.”
“This blog used to have still images for each example, but since scroll animation and video have become more prominent on websites, our images weren’t doing a great job of showcasing these interactive design trends. By using GIFs, we were able to give our users a clear idea of what the design trend looked like.”
“Immediately after its release in December, we noticed a substantial month-over-month increase in organic traffic to our website coming from this blog. We started ranking higher in search results and began ranking for more broad keywords involving 2019 web design trends.”
Behind comprehensiveness, our respondents reported that content freshness was the second most effective factor when updating content to improve its search position:
“When you wrote a blog post originally, you wrote it based on the best available data and trends in the market at that time,” says Nilesh Kadivar of Techuz InfoWeb. “Adding new data and trends is a great way to freshen up an old blog post.”
MarketingSyrup’s Kristina Azarenko agrees: “If you wrote about a gluten-free diet two years ago, it’s a good idea to update that old post with the new research and statistics that are available today. Updating a post with new data goes a long way.”
“In some industries, information can be updated very quickly,” says Kelly Gerrity of Fraudlogix. By having new, relevant, and correct information (by current standards), then you become authoritative on that information, building trust in your brand and boosting you up in the rankings.”
“One effective tactic I’ve found for improving old blog posts is adding new sections that are more relevant to the current time period,” says The Slumber Yard’s Matthew Ross.
“For example, if you have an old blog post that relates to sleep, do some keyword research to see what topics and questions are trending in that particular category. There’s a good chance you’ll find new talking points, a new study, or a new controversial supplement that people are using for sleep purposes.”
“You can then add new sections to your blog that address these topics. By doing so, you’re not only alerting Google that your post is once again relevant, but you’re also adding valuable keywords to the blog post,” Ross says.
“Understanding how Google Trends works is one of the keys to updating old blogs and articles since it shows interest over time. In turn, this helps content marketers create pieces which will stay relevant for the foreseeable future.”
“To keep your content up to date, follow the trends and news, and mention them in your content,” says Muhammad Roohan of Ideators.
Content4Demand’s Tonya Vinas agrees: “If you have an older post that’s related to a recent news event, update it with a fresh perspective based on words associated with the news event.”
“For example, if your products are related to data security, update the post with perspective on the latest breach at Company X that is making headlines,” Vinas says.
“Check your links,” says LyntonWeb’s Kelly Groover. “It’s easy to forget to refresh your links. If the blog that you’re re-optimizing is more than three years old, there’s a good chance your links are outdated and broken—which can harm both your SEO value and the perceived value of your content.”
“Revisiting old posts and updating links and statistics is one of the most effective ways to optimize and improve search rankings, says Accelity Marketing’s Cass Polzin. “It takes very little time and has shown us great results.”
So what links should you update? Anything that leads to a 404 error, obviously, but also anything that could be considered outdated. “We update all the data in the post so that the sources we link to do not go back more than one year,” TextMagic’s Anastasia Sviridenko says.
One of the advantages of updating old content is that you have a lot more information on how people are already finding that content. This gives you insight into new keyword opportunities.
“A really simple approach to updating content to earn higher rankings is figuring out how your posts are getting found by determining the exact keywords that they’re currently ranking for,” says LeaseFetcher’s Will Craig. “Then, optimize the post for those keywords so that it performs even better.”
“The goal is to find keywords that are ranking well but aren’t being targeted,” says Roger West’s Samantha Simon.
“Use Google Search Console’s performance report to see what keywords a blog post is ranking for,” says Casey Bryan of Grand Cru Digital. “Simply set a date range and use the filters to show data for a specific page on your website.”
Or do as True Recovery’s Milad Hassibi recommends and “look for keywords with high impressions but low clicks, adding the keywords with the highest impressions to your blog post.”
Finally, “update the title, description, and headers to include those keywords, and monitor what is working on a monthly basis,” says Natalia Makarenko of CIENCE. “This will enable each post to perform more effectively in each specific case.”
Editor’s note: Want a quick and easy way to see which pages of your site are most visible in search? Download this free Google Search Console Basics dashboard.
“One trick we’ve tested with success in the past is to re-optimize old posts for multiple semantic keyword variations,” says Tommy Landry of Return On Now.
“A lot of this can happen naturally, but that approach will not always hit on the right keyword variations to expand your semantic footprint.”
“You see, the typical phrases someone would use in a blog post might have no search volume—or they might have a huge amount of search volume—but you also have to consider the keyword difficulty/competition when selecting keywords you want to rank for.”
“So go back to old posts that had a single target keyword, and do some keyword research to identify opportunity clusters. Group those into semantic topics, and rework the post accordingly.”
“You may see no movement whatsoever for the original target keyword. That’s no issue—your goal is to start showing up on a bigger number of SERPs than you did beforehand.”
“Check Google Search Console to find relevant search terms that aren’t actually present in the existing blog post,” says Joe Goldstein of Contractor Calls. “Then, add new sections to your content to address the search intent behind those keywords.”
“You might even want to rewrite the whole article using these new keywords, properly structuring them into headings and subheadings,” says Abhijith VM of Geek’s Framework.
“We’ve seen good results from strategically adding new content to old posts to that adds value for readers but also brings in new long tail keywords,” says Seventh Sense’s Ivan LaBianca. “Oz Content has been an extremely helpful tool for identifying the best keyword opportunities.”
“Rewrite your titles, meta descriptions, and headers,” says Big Sea’s RJ Jacques. “Often times, we add them quickly and move on with the real meat of the body copy. But these sections convey important information to search engines and visitors.”
“Having problems with click-through rates from organic search? Rewrite your SEO title and meta description. Having issues with keyword visibility? Add synonyms into your H1s, H2s, and so on.”
“We’ve been able to revive old copy by adding to the body copy, but the biggest improvements we see in search come from making sure the keyword structure is baked into the entire post,” Jacques says.
“The one tactic we rely on to optimize an existing blog post is to update the title of the post (and the title tag) to include the current date,” says Sagefrog Marketing Group’s Matthew Engelson.
It’s a tactic that lots of marketers use:
But beyond just showing that your content has been updated recently, a great title can also improve click-through rates and rankings.
“We optimize our titles and meta descriptions to (hopefully) increase click-through rates,” says Brandon Andersen of Ceralytics. “As the click-thru rate increases, Google RankBrain will slowly move it up in search results. We’ve seen articles go from not ranking in the top 50 to moving into the top 20 with just this one tactic.”
To improve your click-through rates, Referral Rock’s Jay Kang recommends reviewing competitors’ titles: “New articles are always being written. You want to review what competitors are using so that you can stand out a bit more. Think about how you’ll stand out against the other 10+ titles in the results.”
And Best Company’s McCall Robison recommends “including a stronger call-to-action in your titles and content. For example, instead of having an article titled ‘How to Create a Content Strategy,’ title it ‘Content Strategy Template: Download a Step-by-Step Guide.’”
“Changing your title will amp up your content and will likely make for a better conversion rate and an improvement in search position based on your increased amount of clicks,” Robison says.
“Besides making sure that the topics covered in old blog posts are still relevant, I pay attention to the article’s structure,” says Digilari Media’s MinhTrang Nguyen. “Sometimes, the post’s UI looks neat and tidy, but it doesn’t have a structure that helps search engines understand it.”
“Therefore, I usually restructure old articles, building headlines and subheads, and using the right HTML headings for those headlines and subheads. I found this practice is very effective if you would like to earn featured snippets,” Nguyen says.
Mackenzie Thompson of Advanced Medical Certification agrees: “Make sure to wrap your titles in h1 tags and your subheadings in h2 tags.”
And Tabitha Young of 30 Degrees North recommends using ordered and unordered lists: “We’ve noticed a marked improvement in all of our older blogs that we optimized using numbered lists and/or bullet points.”
“When updating posts, it’s important to keep the same URL while only refreshing the published date,” says Jen Currier of The Spectrum Group Online. “This can be done by replacing ‘published on’ with ‘last updated.’ You can also list the updated date beneath the original publication date.”
“You can also include ‘updated’ in the title to let people know the post has been updated recently,” says DigiGriot’s Diana Contreras.
“You can edit the dates manually, but if you have many posts to deal with, this could take a lot of time,” says Ryan Underwood of YourParkingSpace. “If you use WordPress, there is a handy plugin called WP Last Modified Info that does all of this automatically.”
“My old URL structures included dates and didn’t highlight the keywords I was targeting in my blog posts,” says Riley Adams of Young and the Invested.
“Now when I refresh old posts, I change the URL to the best keyword match, set up a 301 redirect, and make sure that keyword appears in the title, meta description, and at least a couple headers and paragraphs. Doing this helps me rank for keywords better on older posts.”
“If your company has a blogging strategy in place, you’ll likely be adding many blogs throughout the year that cover similar topics,” says Alexa Rees of seoplus+. “When updating old blog posts, add links to posts that were written after that post was published.”
“By linking your old blog posts to new ones that cover a topic mentioned in your old post, you’ll encourage users to stay on your site longer and click through several pages of similar content,” Rees says.
Manchester Warehouse’s Jim Kostopoulos also recommends adding links from old blog posts to your product category pages and/or landing pages:
“Sometimes it’s more effective to have a product or category page rank for specific terms. Update your product/category page content first, then go back to your old blogs and insert links with keyword-friendly anchor text. But as always make sure your content is relevant to the search term!”
“I’ve found optimizing for page speed is one of the quickest ways to increase the search position of older content and blog posts,” says Jennifer Chen of Team Building NYC.
“A specific example is using free image compression tools to reduce the file sizes of images in your post. You could reduce the page size by 1 MB or more, which is both a better user experience and search engine friendly.”
“Recently, I updated our 10 highest-performing blog posts with compressed images. The result? Every post has increased in placement, with the largest gain being over 10 placement positions—a big win that I’m excited to replicate with our other posts!”
Like several other respondents, Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray recommends updating pages that are currently positioned on pages two or three of the search results. Find the keywords those posts are ranking for, and then “add those keywords to your post: in the H2, H3, and H4 tags and in the alt text on images.”
But in addition to refreshing your on-page SEO, Aufray also recommends “building a few new links to that blog post. Write a new blog and find another blog in your niche that’s willing to publish it (i.e. guest blogging). By doing so, your old blog post’s SEO ranking will increase and you’ll get more traffic to it.”
In mid-2018, Google released its Medic algorithm update, which many SEO professionals theorized put more focus on a website’s E-A-T: a term from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
To improve your E-A-T, Nextiva’s Yaniv Masjedi recommends adding author bylines and bios to all old posts that don’t include those details. “The ‘A’ in E-A-T stands for authority. Today, simply adding in staff members’ credentials will go a long way in bumping your content up higher in SERPs.”
“Our agency used to have a strategy of writing about services and best practices for online marketing—which is great—but we didn’t have a clearly defined audience,” says Advice Media’s Joe Sloan. “We’ve been able to update many blog posts to speak to a specific vertical.”
“For instance, we had a few blogs that discussed how to respond to reviews. By changing the title and repurposing the content to focus on how to respond to your dental practice’s reviews, we’ve increased search positions and traffic to those posts.”
“A lot of our evergreen blogs that get the best traction are posts that we re-share with updated content and keywords,” says demandDrive’s AJ Alonzo. “Our blog library spans a ton of different topics, and because of that, we’re able to re-purpose quite a bit of it for use in current campaigns.”
“For example, if we have a campaign that’s focused on metrics, we dig through our library and pull up older posts related to that topic. We’ll add and update keywords to keep up with our current SEO strategy, and then go about editing sections that we think could use a facelift.”
“This way we’re not changing the concept or message of the blog, but modernizing it to fit with our current campaign direction. Nobody wants to spend time re-inventing the wheel. It’s much easier to refine the wheel to fit your current needs.”
If you’re struggling to know when to update old content, PACIFIC Digital Group’s Carolyn Albee recommends creating seasonal content that’s designed to be updated once a year:
“Think school graduations, summer barbecues and drinks, back-to-school content, or winter travel destinations. PACIFIC’s clients have seen great success with timely posts like ‘The Ultimate Snowblower Storage Guide,’ as well as seasonal travel posts like ‘The Most Festive Holiday Towns.’”
“Then, update the post each year with new information. Keep the content on the same URL to build authority, and each year you refresh, you’ll see more and more engagement. PACIFIC refreshes blogs like ‘Best Places to Fish’ and ‘America’s Most Artistic Towns’ annually and sees skyrocketing performance each year.”
“Timeliness can relate to your business offerings, as well. Opening a new location, offering a new service, or running a sale on a certain item? Look through your old posts to find related content, and refresh it! You’ll drive people to your page just when you need it most.”
Once you’ve updated your old content, repromote it. “Many businesses feel that they have to have new content to share with their audience, but just because a piece is old doesn’t mean it isn’t quality or relevant,” says Catalyst Marketing Agency’s Ollie Roddy.
Jennifer Noto of Carolinas IT agrees: “We share older posts on social media periodically. For example, on World Password Day, we always share a post about ‘How to Create a Better Password’ as guidance for creating strong passwords.”
“One of the best tactics for optimizing old blog posts may be to get rid of them entirely,” says Ben Johnston of Sagefrog Marketing Group.
“Pruning your content can be an incredibly effective way to increase the efficacy of your pages. If the blog section of your site is bogged down with older blogs that aren’t ranking for anything, especially after repeated optimization attempts, the best option may be to give it the ax.”
“By eliminating old content that is no longer relevant or is having trouble generating traffic after you give it a few tries, you free up space for Google to value other content on your site and can prevent keyword cannibalization.”
“There’s no one specific tactic that’s most effective for improving old content,” says Lucy Jones of Strategic IC. “It’s important to update all areas that need it: review the copy, source new stats and imagery, and see if you can add more interest with your title.”
“Even with evergreen content, your brand style may have evolved: your formats may have changed and now need updating. Your target audience may even have changed slightly.”
“Just be careful not to change something that’s already doing well. If your keywords are still effective, don’t remove them from the title or change the URL! Be aware of what’s working and what’s not, consider what you adjust, and always re-promote when you’re done.”
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