I’m just going to throw this out there: dealing with old content on your website has a lot more in common with cleaning out your sock drawer than you’d think.
Yes, socks. Hear me out.
No one ever wants to clean out the sock drawer, and while you’re procrastinating, those old, hole-ridden, stinky socks are piling up, taking up precious real estate. As the stinkers take up more space, it gets harder to find the fresh, new socks you actually want to wear.
When you have dated material clunking up your website, it’s not as easy for people to find the new posts you want to show off. Just like a little spring cleaning goes a long way, you’ll want to do the same for your website. It isn’t quite as bad a chore as you’d expect, and the benefits are tenfold.
Here’s why you should keep your blog fresh — and a guide on what to do with those old posts.
Do I Really Need to Go Through Old Content?
The answer is a big ‘yes.’
“Your blog is a reflection of your company,” says Kathryn Marr, cofounder of digital marketing and web development company, Blue Ivory Creative. “It shows that you’re knowledgeable in your industry, provides valuable information that keeps potential clients interested, and is one of the keys to a successful SEO strategy. So if you haven’t posted in a while and if your content is outdated or incorrect, then you’re not making the most of an extremely valuable tool. Plus, depending on your site, it can result in decreased search engine rankings and potential liabilities.”
Just imagine if someone finds your site and clicks on an old post that is riddled with outdated information. Do you think that visitor will take your site — and potentially your business — seriously after that?
If someone spots numbers or statistics that are no longer correct, he might assume you’re either not knowledgeable about your industry or you don’t care about the information you present to potential clients.
“Internet users move quickly,” says Phil Weaver, CMO of Learning Success. “Often they may land on a post from a search query and not realize that the post is very old. If the post is no longer accurate, this may reflect badly on the company. This problem can be magnified if the post gets a lot of search engine traffic, slowly eating away at the company’s reputation. Inaccurate posts that get traffic can taint the company image in the minds of visitors to that page. This could be a problem that adversely affects a company for a long period, damaging company image without the cause being discovered.”
Another reason to update your site regularly is old posts can be bad for SEO. “Google does like to see a history of great, consistent content so, in a lot of ways, old blog posts are beneficial to SEO, if they’re high-quality, relevant, and well-optimized,” Marr says. “But, there are three scenarios in which old posts can hurt you.”
- If your blog itself is old and hasn’t been updated in a long time, Google will see those way-back-there publishing dates and push you to the bottom of search results. That’s why updating those old posts and writing new ones consistently is key.
- Your old posts could have been optimized for outdated SEO standards that now have penalties associated with them. For example, before 2011, keyword stuffing — that’s adding as many keywords as possible into your content — was encouraged, but now it’s bad practice and can lead to Google penalties.
- With older posts, you may have been trying to rank for different keywords. However, Google can only display so many of your site pages and posts on the top few pages of their search engine, which can make it more difficult for your relevant, targeted posts to rank well.
Plus, updating content is a lot more cost-effective than to create new content constantly.
“Content creation is a very resource–intensive process,” Weaver says. “Each old post should be considered a business asset. Just like any business asset, old posts should be maintained to get the maximum benefit from that asset.”
A common mistake is people thinking the more content they have up on their site, the better, so that’s why they don’t pay attention to older posts. But the truth is, it should always be about quality over quantity.
“There’s this content marketing myth that goes something like this: Post as often as you can to get more traffic,” says Camilla Hallstrom, content marketing consultant at Influence With Content. “Sure, that might have worked five years ago, and yes, it might still work today, to some extent. But quality rules. People engage more with quality content, and it’s the best way to build a brand they love. After all, there’s a lot of noise online. The only way to stand out is to create something worth caring about. And that’s why updating content is so important. Quality takes time, and the only way to ensure all your content is top-notch is to focus on a smaller pool of content.”
How Often Do You Need to Update Your Content?
The answer can vary according to the type of work you do and the nature of your site, but a good rule of thumb is to do a thorough review annually.
“I recommend content managers try to complete a full content audit once a year, provided your catalog isn’t thousands of articles deep,” says Sam Warren, marketing director at RankPay. “The larger your catalog, the more likely it is that you’ll want to develop a process for rolling updates in lieu of taking a project-based approach.”
If your industry is competitive, fast-moving, or frequently has innovations, then you’ll probably need to update your content more often to give yourself an edge — particularly in industries such as law, finance, and marketing.
“Why? Think about how you use Google or any other search engine,” Hallstrom says. “When you search for something, you have lots of options, so you need to decide which headline to click on. It’s much likelier that you’ll click on something that was published or updated recently than something that was last updated four years ago. And if you have a headline like ‘The 7 Best Computers (2018 Edition),’ that’s a lot more compelling than a generic headline like ‘The 7 Best Computers’ because it’s so much more specific to you as the user.”
Also, if there’s a major breakthrough, an innovation or something similar, Hallstrom suggests updating your content within the next month or so.
How Do You Choose Which Posts to Update?
While updating a post might sound like a lot of work to you, think of the time and effort that you’ve already put into your content. Sometimes just a few text tweaks or new images is all you need to make old posts fresh and relevant again. Here’s how to decide which are worth revamping.
“You might have more than a few blog posts on your site, and in that case, it doesn’t make sense to update all your content on a regular basis,” Hallstrom says. “Instead, check your analytics once in a while (at least every 12 months) to identify your top content.” That means content that gets traffic, content that could get traffic in the future, and content that converts.
You can check this with tools like Google Analytics; be sure to add conversions to the analytics you’re tracking. You’ll want to update posts that are already ranking high on Google to ensure you maintain your spot, ones that are close to ranking high, since just a few updated tweaks can increase their standing, and posts that once got a lot of attention on social media — since they’re no longer fresh and relevant, they aren’t being shared anymore.
Research Your Industry
Take the time to see what’s new in your field. Any news might be worth updating your content to include. “Then, research your competition,” Hallstrom says. “Has new content been published that outranks you on Google?”
Check Your User Metrics
See how people interact with your content, including how much time is spent on pages and bounce rates. This can be found via Google Analytics. If that engagement is low, there are updates you can make to improve it. Also, check user comments to see if people have questions about your content — you’ll want to add answers to your refresh. “You can also use user metrics to improve your conversions,” Hallstrom says. “If your content isn’t converting as it should, these metrics will help you understand why and what you can do to improve it.”
Conduct an SEO Analysis
Make sure your SEO is up to date by checking keyword analytics to ensure you use the right keywords since search habits can change over time. “The insights you get from your user metrics will help you decide if your content needs to be optimized for engagement,” Hallstrom says. “Remember, this is an important metric for Google! Use Google Search Console to see what keywords people use to find your content and to check your click-through rates. These metrics can pinpoint if your SEO titles need updates.”
What’s the Best Way to Update Older Posts?
Not every refresh is equal. Some will require more heavy lifting than others, and use the information you found during your research to help you determine exactly what that makeover should look like.
“Use the insights you’ve gained to improve your titles, texts, and images,” Marr says. “For example, maybe there’s new data you can use to include in a graph? Update your SEO and improve the user experience, if possible. You want your posts to have accurate information, be optimized strategically for specific keywords, and contain relevant photos. Each post should play a role in your overall marketing strategy, and refreshing them to fit into your strategy can make them even more valuable.”
Keep these approaches to recycling old content in mind:
- Turn old posts into infographics. “Use the content and statistics from your blog post to create an easy-to-understand visual infographic,” Marr says. “These are great for generating social shares — especially on platforms like Pinterest — and for presenting your information quickly.”
- Get new facts. Update old posts with new information, such as fresh statistics and news. Add relevant details that might not have been around when the original post was created.
- Refresh for social. “If it did really well in social media then what we generally do is look over the post and see how we can improve it,” Weaver says. “Are the resources still fresh? Are there others we can add? Has more information come to light over this time frame? Are our call to actions good? Do we have a strong lead and kicker? We do everything we can to improve the article, and then we repost.” And don’t forget to promote it again.
- Create “best of” posts. Consider this your version of a greatest hits album. This is a way to categorize collections of old posts and make them feel fresh again, and could be anything from ‘Our Top 20 Marketing Tips’ or ‘Best How-To Arrange Flowers Posts of 2017.’
- Film a video for an old post. “This works really well for tutorials, recipes, and similar types of posts,” Marr says. “Film a video walking your readers through something you described in a blog post. Then, share it on your social media accounts and add it to the old post for more engagement.”
- Do a mini makeover. “If it is good information, but it did not do exceptionally well, then we closely look at the title and image,” Weaver says. “We will likely rewrite the title and replace the image.” You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make. Catchy, clickable images don’t just make a post more visual — it also makes it much more likely to be shared on social media.
- Enable rich snippets on your blog. “These provide additional information that will show up on search engines like reviews, author information, etc.,” Marr says.
How Can You Use Old Posts to Improve SEO?
A refreshed old post can be just as valuable as a brand new post. “Consistent, high-quality posts are critical for a good SEO strategy,” Marr says. “Optimizing them for specific, strategic keywords, adding alt tags to images, and increasing the length and quality of content can go a long way to making that content rank. You can also use old evergreen posts to drive traffic through social media and email marketing.”
“Maybe your original keyword has lost significant volume, or maybe a competitor came in and created something even better than your original piece,” he says. “Whatever the cause, it’s often going to be worth the effort to identify the most promising keywords that the old content can rank for and then go after them.”
Other ways to boost SEO is increasing the post length, adding optimized meta descriptions and titles, avoiding outdated SEO practices like keyword stuffing, linking to related posts that your audience might find interesting and useful, and adding effective images and set up alt tags both for search engines and accessibility.
Of course, while SEO is important for driving traffic, you also want to focus on engagement.
“To make sure your content is as engaging as it gets, it needs to be valuable, and most often, that means you need to write long-form content so that you have room to include everything you want to talk about,” Hallstrom says.
“Your content needs to be easy to read and skim through — simple words, short sentences, and short paragraphs,” she adds. “Make sure you offer an amazing user experience. That’s what makes Google happy no matter how many times it changes algorithms.”
Don’t Forget to Toot Your Own Horn (Again)
Once your old-is-new-again content is refreshed, it’s time to promote it. “Old posts can drive new traffic by putting them on a similar promotion schedule as new posts,” Weaver says. “Plus, the social sharing links already showing shares from the last go around looks good to new visitors and may incite more shares.
How you promote refreshed content is largely dependent on the channel you use. For social media, it is usually appropriate to promote it in the same way you promote new content. Since your social media audience is constantly changing, it’s likely that many of your followers did not see the post the first time around.
For others that did see it, it is very likely that they have forgotten or vaguely remember and are happy to engage with that content again.”
For email lists, it’s better to only send to subscribers who have not previously opened an email promoting that content. And depending on the design of your site, you can push the revamped content to the front page again.
Other ways to spread the word? Here are Marr’s suggestions:
- Link to your old blog posts in new blog posts.
- Reach out to bloggers and influencers who might be willing to share your posts with their audience.
- Link to the posts in guest posts that you write for other sites.
- Promote the stories as “with new content!” or “now updated!” on social.
- Create “best of” posts that highlight categorized old posts.
Whether new or old, you always want to attract the right traffic, so target your audience. “To ensure your content is attracting your target audience, you should check your analytics and ask yourself: ‘How do people find my content?’” says Hallstrom. “If you notice that a lot of site visitors find your content on Google, you’ll want to check what keywords they use. If those keywords are irrelevant to your products and services, you probably want to improve your SEO. Or, maybe you get traffic from a social media site like Twitter, but your audience hangs out on Pinterest. Then, you can update it to attract Pinterest users, so optimize your images and copy for Pinterest.”
How Can You Give Your Blog Posts a Longer Shelf Life?
There are a few tricks of the trade to avoid having to update your content as frequently. “If you create evergreen content from the get-go, you don’t have to worry as much about updating it,” Hallstrom says. “Make sure your content is the best content on your topic. Take a look at content that’s already out there. How can you make something that’s even better?”
To help content last longer, avoid seasonal posts or content with a short time-frame of relevance. “Think about what people will want to read in five years,” Marr says. “Put the time into creating high-quality content that you’re going to be proud of years from now.”
But ultimately, Warren advises against trying to make your posts last forever.
“Often, being timely and current with your content will help it take off. You could try to remove popular culture references, dates, and other things to prolong shelf-life. But don’t diminish the potential impact of your content today in the hopes of avoiding refreshing it later.”
Another way to consider it is approaching it from the vantage point of a visitor of your site. “Although many site owners feel that updating blog content is a nuisance, it can actually have a very high ROI,” Weaver says. “Site owners think content is old news, but for a site visitor, the content is new.”
And while it might seem like deleting an old post is a quick fix, think again. “It’s important that you’re very careful when deleting old blog posts as it can affect your search engine rankings,” cautions Marr.
“You should consider deleting an old blog post if it is no longer relevant nor can it be made relevant, the post is generating very low traffic or had negative responses, your services or products changed and the blog post is about old offerings,” she says. “Most of the time, though, it’s really best to repurpose and update the content. Don’t just delete blog posts to delete them. Have a good reason, backed by research, for removing that post.”
That philosophy should apply to how you approach all the content on your site.
“One of the biggest things that I can stress is to coordinate all of your blog post changes with an overarching website strategy,” Marr says. “And when you repurpose a post, do it in a way that really fits your business plan. For example, a video might not appeal to your audience, but an infographic might resonate really well!”
Hopefully, the many perks of refreshing old posts will convince you that cleaning out your sock drawer isn’t so bad after all.
Just like you won’t have to buy as many new socks, you don’t have to produce new content all the time either. “Instead, you ensure your existing content is the best of the best,” Hallstrom. “It takes some work upfront, but you’ll be reaping the rewards for years to come.”