Four key reasons why you should update old content and a step-by-step guide on how to choose which content to update to get the biggest returns.
You invest a lot of time and resources into creating content so it’s only natural that you want to get the best performance out of it for as long as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t just hit the publish button and expect a piece of content to keep delivering over time. You need to keep it in top condition by optimising on an ongoing basis.
A key part of this is updating your content to keep
everything fresh, relevant and compelling. In this article, we’re going to
explain why this is so important and show you the most time-effective process
for keeping your content constantly up-to-date.
Before we get into how you can update old content, let’s
first look at the key SEO reasons why you want to do this on a regular basis.
As with most things in search engine optimisation, you have
to think about the impact on the end user as well as search engines. When
people turn to Google, they want to know they’re getting accurate information
and the “freshness” of content and the information it includes is crucial to
Let’s imagine your best-performing page is an in-depth blog
post filled with stats, data and useful info – great job. Now, let’s specify
that this blog post was first written in 2016 and the stats you’ve included
(and linked to) are all previous to the publishing date.
At best, these stats are probably using data from 2015 and
now those figures don’t sound so useful, insightful or reliable.
Understandably, users want the latest information and search engines want to
deliver it, which is why fresh content tends to rank higher (search engines)
and achieve better engagement (users).
We’ve already seen how quickly stats can become irrelevant
but this problem isn’t exclusive to data. Industry trends, user demands,
audience expectations, technology, competitor performance, regulations and a
seemingly endless list of factors evolve over time – things that need to be
reflected in your content.
For example, there’s not much point in one of our blog posts
talking about mobile optimisation like it’s a new requirement. Or, even worse,
suggesting a marketing tip or strategy that flouts GDPR regulations.
In the latter case, outdated content can be quite dangerous.
Relevance has always been important in SEO but Google has increased the role it plays in recent years. In July 2018, Google updated its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines which heavily featured the acronym E-A-T, standing for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Then, the following year, a series of core algorithm updates began to increase the weighting of these factors in the SERPs.
As content naturally becomes less relevant/accurate,
performance gradually declines over time. This results in fewer clicks, fewer
links, less time spent on pages, fewer return visits and just about every
performance metric that matters. Thankfully, this is relatively simple to
remedy if you spend the necessary time it takes to update your content, keep it
relevant and maintain performance.
Updating old content is important but you need a process
that’s both time and cost-effective. You’re not going to work through every
page, updating them one by one. You want to start with the pages that are going
to make the most positive impact by being updated and, in some cases, delete
content that isn’t worth updating or keeping.
The first thing you need to do is run a content audit to
evaluate the performance of each page and categorise your content into three
High-impact and negative impact pages are your priorities
when it comes to updating content. Start by updating or removing negative
impact content as soon as possible and devise a schedule for regularly updating
your high-impact content (every quarter or year, for example).
You can work on updating low-impact content into high-impact
Once you’ve identified your high-impact and negative impact
content, you need to assess the quality of each page. First, you’ll want to run
a basic technical audit to make sure the essentials are all in place:
Luckily, you can automate reports for all of the above so
you don’t need to manually evaluate the headings of each article. However,
assessing the more subjective aspects of content quality will take a little more
To assess the quality of quality on individual pages, it
helps to break the criteria into two sections. First, you have the basic
essentials that aren’t going to win you any content awards but can hurt your
performance if not done correctly. Then, you have the more advanced aspects
that really make the difference between good and great content.
For the basic essentials, you’re looking at:
With those basic essentials covered, it’s time to ask some
difficult questions about your content – especially for pages that are having a
low or negative impact.
Look at the content produced by your competitors and compare it to your own to get some perspective. You might find the majority of their content has nothing new to offer in terms of value or originality – nothing users can’t get from elsewhere. This is actually far more difficult to do on an ongoing basis than the technical aspects of creating “quality” content.
When we update our content here at Vertical Leap, we follow
a step-by-step process that ensures we cover all of the bases quickly:
Re point 9 above, when linking out to external content such as research, make sure you cite the original research and that all facts have a relevant outbound link for corroboration, especially if you are a medical or YMYL site.
Now, for certain pieces of content we might decide additional things are needed. For example, we might find an article that could better serve as an in-depth guide and extend it to 3,000+ words or repurpose another piece as an FAQ-style article but the process above covers the bulk of our content updates.
We mentioned E-A-T in an earlier section and this is the
perfect time to optimise for Google’s new take on expertise, authority and
trustworthiness. Make this a key aspect of your content updating strategy –
especially for pages that have a history of performing well and may have
struggled following recent updates.
E-A-T is not a single fix for SEO or content quality
(although it’s easy to get this impression from the way it’s written about).
However, it is an important factor in Google’s search algorithm and optimising
for this will improve the quality of your content – both for search engines and
The more often you update your content, the easier it is to
do. Instead of drastically rewriting pages of content, you just want to be
making minor tweaks that maintain performance and add anything that could give
it a healthy boost. For your most important pages, you want to be updating
content every 12 months, at least. In some cases, you’ll want to update on a
quarterly basis and it all comes down to how quickly the information you
provide needs refreshing.
Updating old content might not be the most exciting task for
SEOs and content marketers but it’s crucial for maximising the ROI from every
page on your website. Aside from keeping your content fresh, constant auditing
will help you weed out any technical issues and even remove problematic pages
altogether, if necessary.
You work hard to get your pages ranking well in search and a good system of updating content will help you stay there.
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