Have you ever had an older piece of content start performing well on the search engines and suddenly you felt like you just walked outside wearing flowery bell-bottoms and carrying a boom box? Although you’re glad to have the site visits, you realize that visitors to that content may leave your site with the wrong idea about your current solutions and product or service offerings.
You know you can’t just ignore the fact that outdated or incorrect information is being consumed and possibly shared with your audiences. So, now you’re faced with a decision; either create a new piece of content that addresses the same topic or go back and refurbish the existing content.
Instead of risking creating duplicate content, competing with yourself on the internet, and opening your site up to the wrath of Google and all its penalties; try renewing, repurposing, and re-promoting older content that still drives traffic to your site.
Don’t delete it, update and optimize it!
Chances are that if you have aging content, it was created back when search terms were different, your product and service offerings were different, and the supporting statistics you used to validate your conclusions were still accurate. Now, the content that used to be relevant has suffered the same fate as your acquaintances who haven’t changed their hair or clothes style for 10 years, it’s outdated.
Older content may have even been created before you built the well-developed audience personas that now guide your content creation. Updating aging content gives you the opportunity to focus on audience intent and re-message your content based on your current audience personas. Look to making improvements in readability by tightening up content and focusing your re-write on a single topic of interest to your target audiences. Improve your audience experiences and improve your SEO by satisfying current user intent and using long-tail keywords that match current search queries.
There are actually two main reasons to update older content. First, you may have noticed an uptick in the use of a search term or query or increased popularity for a topic that you already have already addressed in content that isn’t performing as well as you’d like. Second, you may have older content that is being found, but is no longer accurate or relevant. In both these cases, you’ll want to update the content to reflect current search trends and keywords as well as improve the user experience.
Update the content, not the URL
If you discover that you have older content that’s still getting found, make sure your updates benefit from the SEO value the content has already earned. Even if you decide to perform a complete rewrite of the content, keep the original URL and title. Depending on the piece of content, you’ll either want to go in a make a few tweaks, or you’ll need to give the piece a complete overhaul. Keep in mind that audiences are finding your content for a reason and don’t change the content so much that you lose the good SEO value it has earned over time.
If you’re performing a complete re-write, you’ll want to make sure that the keywords reflected in the title are also reflected in the body of the content. While the old piece was performing well on search, if you change the body copy so much that searchers are no longer getting content associated with the URL and the title, you’ve not only destroyed the good SEO you’ve already earned, you’ve also opened yourself up to Google penalties.
Keep the intent of the content and the general message the same while updating things like:
- Inbound links
- Product information
- Outdated statistics
- Meta descriptions
- Calls to action
- Images and screen shots
Use keyword research to update content
If you have website content or blog posts your audiences are still finding through organic search that ends in high bounce rates and low conversion metrics, you may have content that needs a refresh. Discover the most popular keyword or keyword strings people are using to find the content to determine their intent for clicking on that particular blog or landing page.
Once, you’ve identified your audience’s intent, re-read the content to see if it actually fulfills the needs expressed in the queries. Chances are that if the bounce rates are high, it’s not. With user intent in mind, and your audience personas clearly in focus, rewrite the content to give the people what they want. Be sure to incorporate the exact keywords and keyword strings into H2-H6 headers and into the language of the paragraphs.
Changing the title of your content is risky, unless you’re doing it to correct the use of the same title in other content and avoiding the use of duplicate content. If you must change the title, keep the keywords that have attracted your audiences to the content in the first place.
As with all “new” content, you’ll want to consider how this asset contributes to the overall flow of your website. Improve the user experience and assist with the customer journey by adding inbound links to other resources on the same topic and including a CTA that incorporates the top keywords associated with the search queries bringing traffic to the content in the first place. Although you’ll want to start tracking your “new” content immediately, give it 30 days to determine if your updates were successful.
Optimize older content for SEO
If your keyword discovery efforts have identified keywords that you’re not ranking for, but should, consider searching existing content before automatically creating something new. You may find that you’ve already published a blog post, slide deck, or eBook that addresses a popular topic that isn’t getting found by your audiences.
Now it’s time to discover why your content isn’t ranking. Start by looking at the date when the content was originally published. If the content is old enough, it may not be ranking well simply because it’s no longer considered relevant either by searchers or by search engines. Since audiences and Google reward freshness, you’ll need to update the publish date after you refresh the content. Be sure to update the content first. Neither Google nor your audiences will appreciate being served old, outdated content with a new publish date.
Again, user intent is paramount to making your decisions about what to change and what to keep in older content. While some information may still be relevant, the keywords used to discuss that information has probably changed, especially if the content is more than two years old. Start by updating the language you use to discuss the topic, using the new keywords trending around the topic and capitalizing on the long-tail keywords associated with audience intent.
To improve the SEO value of your content, follow these basic target keyword recommendations:
- Ensure that your keywords exist in H2, and H3 tags.
- Include your keywords in the body tag of your page.
- Ensure that the title tag includes only one instance of the keyword.
- Ensure that the keywords are within the first 100 characters of the body tag.
- Create a reader-friendly summary of your pages in the Meta description tag and include keywords.
Take your SEO improvements a step further by updating the inbound links in the content and check to make sure your content has passed the page structure tests for SEO. Some recommendations to consider are:
- Ensure the H1 tag includes only text.
- Ensure there is only one H1 tag.
- Ensure the title tag exists and is not empty.
- Ensure a Meta description tag is used.
- Ensure the title tag is longer than 5 characters.
- Ensure the title tag is shorter than 55 characters.
Republish and re-promote older content
Once you’ve updated content, it’s time to get it out in circulation again. Include it as part of your email campaigns, or notification to subscribers. Promote it on your social channels to encourage your audiences to share it. If it answers a question or solves a problem that people are currently searching for, which it should, give it to your sales team as part of the portfolio of content they can share with their prospects.
Where did this particular content asset live on your website up until now? Decide if making it available on one of your content hubs, or in a different place on the website will improve the overall user experience. If audiences are not finding your content, moving it around may enhance the overall customer experience, increase engagement, and improve your SEO value.
If you’ve refurbished a blog post that has lots of older comments, you’ll want to retain the comments but explain the difference between the older comments, the new publish date, and the changes in content. To avoid confusion, include an author’s note at the bottom of the post that includes the original publish date along with a short explanation stating the blog has been recently updated.
While most organizations have picked up the banner and the battle cry, “Create more content”, Content Marketing Institute has determined that at least 60% of new content goes unused. Considering all the wasted time and resources, it makes sense to re-direct some resources to improving what’s already created and performing or already created and not yet performing.
A reuse, recycle, and renew strategy doesn’t replace the need for the creation of new and relevant content assets but it should be part of every content strategy, especially for those brands whose sites have content that’s been in existence for more than two years.