Congratulations on working consistently on your blog — but are your posts getting you the most traction for all that hard work?
There are many benefits to having a library of posts on your blog, including greater trust with your audience and increased search engine rankings. But as content becomes old and outdated, you can lose traffic on many of your posts. After all, search engines want to rank updated and fresh content at the top of search results.
Why optimize old posts?
If you’re busy creating new content, it may not seem worth your time to go back and optimize old posts. But there are many reasons optimizing old posts is worth the effort. Your skills have likely improved as a writer and blogger. Refreshing old posts allows you to increase the quality to your current standards.
It also allows you to correct any information that is no longer true or update old statistics. It can increase your blog traffic, get eyes on lower-performing posts, and increase time on site. The search engines love this, which brings us to the biggest reason for updating old posts: search engine optimization.
What makes the best content for SEO?
Before you dive into updating older posts, you first have to understand what makes great SEO content. Great SEO content is content that is favored and promoted by search engines. It answers questions, contains quality keywords, and provides value to readers. It’s organized, engaging, and easy to read. It’s often long-form and cornerstone content relevant to your overall blog topic and strategy.
Think about the last “ultimate guide” you read online. You probably chose it out of a list of available posts because you wanted the best quality post on the topic you could find. That’s what readers love and thus what the search engines like to see too.Organized, engaging, and easy-to-read content creates a great user experience and boosts SEO. #blogging Click To Tweet
When looking for topics, explore popular videos, courses, articles, and even online bookstores for ideas. Look at the content people are willing to pay for. Knowing what great content is for the search engines will help you as you review your older posts.
How to refresh old blog posts for SEO in 7 steps
1. Start with your most popular posts.
Check your analytics to see what posts are popular but could use some updating. This is a great way to increase traction on posts already bringing in traffic. Often, these do not need as much work and can give you a quick win.
Update popular posts before going back to the ones that are falling flat. Have a post that is close to ranking? Maybe one that is showing up on the second page of Google? Research what you can do to bump it up to the first page by looking at competing posts that are ranking better.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Target for location-based searches if appropriate
- Improve readability by breaking up text and adding headers
- Make sure your post and website are mobile-friendly
- Increase the length of your post (but focus on quality)
- Use an SEO plugin to make sure your post is optimized
2. Review for any errors or outdated information and update.
Read the post and note any outdated information or statistics. Also, double-check that you used high-quality sources that inspire trust. Are there newer studies and statistics you can share? Have you discovered a fresh way of doing things that works better? Are there updated or trending apps and resources available? The online world changes fast, so you want to make sure your content is keeping pace.
3. Check for any broken links.
Click on all the links in your posts and make sure they work. Internal links can be broken and external links sometimes no longer exist. It looks bad to readers and search engines to have broken links in your post, so this is an important step. You can also see if there are better resources to link to now available. If you’re getting backlinks from other sites, check those too. Why did the other post link to you? Is your content relevant? Could it be improved?
4. Check what keywords the post is ranking for and pick a new keyword target.
If you really want to up your SEO juice, target a new keyword or two that suits your topic. You can use keyword research tools to find both new short- and long-tail keywords. You can then create a new section for the added keyword, making your post more valuable.
This is also a good time to review search intent. Search intent is the reason behind why a reader is searching for the content. Is your content relevant to what readers are looking for in search? You want value, not clickbait.
5. Check for other questions you could answer within the post.
Are there comments with questions? Add a section to answer the most popular questions you received after the post. This shows your audience you’re paying attention and care about what they care about. If a few people have the same question, it’s an opportunity to add more value to your content.
6. Look for opportunities to link newer blog posts.
Cross-linking your blog posts keeps readers on your site longer and builds loyalty. It also helps you get more of your content read and shared. Look for opportunities to link your newer content in older posts, especially your cornerstone or pillar content.
Pillar content is the most informative and relevant content you have on your blog. Think “ultimate guides.” This type of content is important for SEO because it lets search engines know what your blog is all about. It’s a good idea to have a pillar blog post or two for each of your blog’s main categories and link to them in as many posts as you can.
7. Use plugins to help you automatically and strategically reshare old posts.
Once you have your older posts refreshed, you can use WordPress plugins to keep sharing those posts so they don’t get lost. You can also use social media schedulers to help you schedule shares on your favorite networks.
Bonus: Run your blog post through a readability test like the Hemingway App or hire an editor to give the post a review. Sometimes a second pair of eyes can do wonders when you’re too close to the content. If you complete a lot of updates, consider having Google recrawl the page. This helps the search engines know you’re active and ready for new visitors.
How often should you refresh old posts?
There is no easy answer here, but it’s smart to check older posts once per quarter. However, you really just have to create a schedule that works for you. Keep in mind that it can take a while for a post to rank for your target keywords, so it’s best to work on posts that are a year old or more. You can always hire a freelancer to help if it’s too overwhelming.
Aim to perform a content audit every quarter to see how your posts are doing overall. Then, keep a running list of posts you want to update with some quick bullet points. Work on those posts as you have time available.
What should you not do when updating old posts?
When you refresh old posts, it’s possible you could hurt your search engine rankings if you do certain things. There’s debate over whether or not to change the publish date. It’s really up to you. Whether you change the publish date or not, it’s a good idea to add a note for readers that you’ve updated it. Then get Google to recrawl the page.
However, you do not want to change the link address for the blog post. This could result in readers clicking on an older link you shared only to find it’s broken or redirecting.
The URL holds the SEO value, so you don’t want to change it. If you did not use the title as your link, update it to something more SEO friendly if needed. If your post is already ranking very high, proceed with caution.
Avoid making large changes, but check that all information is still up to date, images are on-brand, and the post answers your audience’s questions, teaches, or addresses paint points so it continues to perform well. You don’t want to mess up a good thing.
Why is new content also important for SEO?
As you go about refreshing your old content, don’t forget about creating new content too. A combined strategy is important: refresh the old and keep up with the new. Create a schedule to make sure you’re doing both. Not every old post will be worth updating, and you only have so much time, so prioritize what posts you refresh and when you create new content.
New content helps you continue to offer value and grow your audience. New content also improves your SEO rankings, establishes your authority, and helps readers trust you.
As you update content and create new content, continue to track so you know what’s working and how your posts are landing with both search engines and readers. You can use your old posts as inspiration for new content. If you have a post that’s really popular, think about how you could turn it into a series.
Don’t forget your readers matter too
It’s easy to get so focused on SEO that you forget about your readers. Search engines love happy and engaged readers, so remember:
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Include calls to action
- Create a clear content structure
- Make your content easy to read
- Include visuals
- Focus on freshness and frequency
Creating engaging posts that meet the needs of both readers and search engines is no easy task, but it can be done. With just a little extra work, you can reap the many rewards of having your posts rank well and draw in new readers and fans over a long period of time. Put in the work upfront and then tweak as needed. Always keep an eye on the content of top competitors (not to copy, but to improve in any way you can).
Look at popular posts from other bloggers and see what’s missing. Work to make your posts on the same topic more valuable to readers. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, but the success of your content comes down to how valuable it is to searchers.
Remember that refreshing content does not always mean adding to the word count or a complete overhaul. Some posts may require that. But for others, it could simply be breaking up the text for a better reader experience and adding in more headers or images. Refresh your content with these tips, and the results of your efforts will multiply.