So many WordPress websites these days are a graveyard of old blog posts that provide no value of any sort to your website or website rankings. With content marketing making up such a large component of general digital strategies in 2021, marketing teams usually look to take a ‘full steam ahead’ approach, and aim to churn out new content regularly. Whilst creating new content is great, updating existing content is also an incredibly effective strategy to boost your website’s overall performance.
Why can updating your old content be a great strategy? Well, there are plenty of benefits of this practice that span from saving time to improving the freshness of your content. You may have written your blog 1, 5, or 10 years ago. If the content piece performed well back then, the chances are people will still like it, open it, and share it now if it was made relevant again for today’s audience. People move on, why shouldn’t content too?
This strategy is growing in popularity with marketers year on year. A study undertaken by Orbit Media shows a 17% rise in marketers who are actively updating old content since 2017. Those who re-examine old pieces sitting in the graveyard are 20% more likely to see ‘stronger’ results from their content strategies than those that don’t.
Here, we go through the benefits of updating old content and you can decide as to whether it’s going to be a strategy you choose to implement!
The benefits of refreshing and republishing old content as new
The time it takes to write
Whether you’re a one-man-band freelancer, the sole content writer for a small company, or part of a content department at a FTSE500 company – saving time is integral to everybody’s bottom line! We all know the old adage that time is money.
The topic of the blog post has already been vetted before and some of the research has already been done to post the original piece. Yes, more research is needed to bring the article up to date of course, but the broad topic and structure will not change.
This can be a great strategy if you are part of a small company that is usually strapped for time, as the results (as we’ll go into below) can be more effective than brand new pieces if optimised correctly.
Make your content fresh again
With every year that goes by Google are more focused on giving the best ranking positions to blogs with the most up-to-date, relevant, and rich content. There are millions of blog posts sitting in those digital graveyards. A vast majority of the articles on the internet will be outdated, thin in content, or written poorly. Google uses a freshness algorithm, as well as their newly published Google EAT guidelines (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) to deliberate which blogs provide the best answers for any given search term. When your content is made fresh with new statistics and recent information, Google recognises this and will be more inclined to present it to new searchers as it is now more relevant and accurate.
Also, because you are working off an old blog with X amount of words on a particular topic, you are more likely to add more content surrounding sub-topics, therefore providing more in-depth content and ticking off those ‘expertise’ and ‘authoritative’ boxes in Google’s checklist.
In addition, the URL of your blog post will likely already have backlinks and a degree of authority, which Google will recognise in its ranking process. In contrast to fresh URLs, old content pieces which have accrued some traffic in the past do not have to fight from the very start to find themselves at the top of the search engines. A cursory examination of your web analytics will show you that your old pages and posts will probably account for the majority of your traffic. So it makes sense to further invest in those pages!
Improve click-through rates
People are more likely to click on an article that has been written recently. People want to know the latest research, the most recent stats and don’t want to waste their time online with outdated information. Google knows this, and this is why you see the date of published blogs in Google’s SERP listings:
Regularly updating your content will help your articles re-appear in the search listings with a fresh timestamp.
Keeping on top of Google algorithms
We’ve already slightly touched upon how repurposing old articles can meet the requirements of Google’s freshness and E.A.T checklists. The internet giants are constantly changing and improving their technology and preferences when it comes to search.
In 2021 for example, Google are giving better ranking positions to long-form content. SemRush have recently examined 700,000 articles in a recent study and have concluded that articles over 3000 words get three times as much traffic, four times as many shares, and three and a half times more backlinks than the average article of 1000 words. This is where repurposing old content makes a significant difference.
Back in 2016, Google recommended article length was approximately 500 words. Now, pages with less than 300 words are at risk of being considered ‘thin content’ and lower rankings.
Keep up with Google’s latest advice when revising your old articles!
Tips and tricks to keep in mind when updating old content
Now that we’ve got the benefits locked down, here are a few tips to keep in mind when wading through your old blogs.
No marketer likes to make a grammatical error; certainly, no consumer wants to see a grammatical error, typo, or mistake in a blog. But unfortunately, it has happened to the best of us. Re-examining old pieces of content gives you the perfect opportunity to fix the tiny spelling mistakes that slipped through the Grammarly net the first time around.
Although spelling and grammar don’t directly come into Google’s ranking factors, they do harm the user experience.
Accuracy as well as relevancy
We cannot stress enough how much smarter Google’s algorithms are becoming when assessing posts and pages. Updating your content to include accurate information is now key. Whether that be statistics or a recent public statement, it provides the reader with context. The more context you include in your articles, the more of a valuable resource the piece becomes to your reader. Google then rewards this with great rankings!
Examine the search intent
Mapping your content to the intent of your searcher is integral to keeping in front of the right consumers. What is the reason behind the search query? Make no mistake peoples’ intentions will have changed over time. So when dragging that 2014 blog out of the graveyard, make sure it is appropriate for a modern reader and that reader’s search habits!
Examine your old headlines
Although updating old content has great SEO value, you must remember you are also aiming to re-engage REAL readers!
Copyblogger concludes that 80% of people will read the headline of an article when only 20% of people will take the time to read your content in full
When scanning the first page of Google, your headline is going to be one of the major factors that influence click-through. So ask yourself, is your headline poignant enough for the modern reader or does it too need updating?
Re-assess your linking strategy
When improving your old content, it pays to determine whether the internal linking strategy still fits with your overall website goals. Could these links now lead to better resources or newer pages of your website that you are looking to spotlight?
The same goes for outbound linking. It will negatively impact any customer journey if the user is clicking away and finding a 404. Whereas if your content piece is linking to great websites with the latest stats and figures, Google will take notice of this.
Promote your new (old) post!
Once you’ve finished updating your content then it’s best practice to follow the usual promotion checklist you would use when promoting an article from scratch.
Make sure that you re-submit your URL to the Google Search Console so Google knows to crawl the page again. Post about your new piece on social media. Include the blog in your latest newsletter roundup.
So there you have it, it seems you can teach an old blog new tricks.