It’s often better to update old, existing content on your blog than it is to create new stuff. This is particularly beneficial if you don’t have a lot of time to create new articles.
Content becomes stale over time. So regularly updating older content is a good way to get the search engines to notice you. It can give you a ranking boost and subsequently an increase in traffic.
But it can also increase your content's stickiness.
If you have content already, start by doing some simple keyword research to see what topics your audience is interested in, what problems they want solved, and what questions they're asking. Then, look at and analyze older posts to know what needs refreshing.
Once you do that, you can give older content new life.
1. Add and update content
There are several ways to refresh your content.
Update the language, use more timely topics, remove anything outdated, add content that reflects current issues and trends (or insert ideas that are more evergreen), and expand on content that might seem incomplete.
You might want to review the competition and possibly one-up them — competitors from both a search engine standpoint and a business one.
One popular technique is called the Skyscraper Method. You simply find what ranks well with your competitors, and you build better, fresher, more relevant content than them. Older content can be perfect for this.
Perhaps the competition has changed. Perhaps new competitors have entered your space. Perhaps your audience’s search intent or information needs have changed. If so, your content might need to change, too.
Conducting a regular competitive analysis is a key component of a good SEO and marketing strategy, and I’ll save that for another article.
2. Update statistics and resources
Your content might have old stats, numbers, links (even broken ones), and resources that no longer apply or are superseded by fresher data. This is the perfect opportunity to both update them and insert new ones.
For example, I wrote an article in 2007 in which I mentioned that there were over 200,000 search results for a certain term. When I updated the article, that number has grown to over 1.9 million. So I changed it.
An alternative approach is to add content in a separate and distinct block — such as a dated addition, which makes the content appear dynamic and constantly updated. Think of breaking news articles with recent additions stacked at the top or bottom of the article.
3. Insert headers, cues, and markers
If your content’s retention rate, bounce rate, and engagement level are less than desirable, updating your content will certainly help. But you also have an opportunity to update the user experience, too.
Improving your site’s UX isn’t limited to website navigation and linking. Keep in mind that plain, long, densely packed paragraphs don’t perform well in a digital, mobile world. Even if the font is large enough to read.
Too much text is too much. People are easily distracted, have tinier screens (and attention spans), and are less inclined to read long, dense online content the same way they do books.
One way to improve the readability of your content is by breaking your paragraphs up into smaller ones. Usually 2-3 sentences or 4-5 lines deep.
Also, intersperse subheads throughout your content, as well as visual markers and cues — such as bulleted lists, boxed or framed pieces of content, sidebars, pullquotes, callouts, etc. They help make the content easier to read and drive the reader's eyes.
Your headers and subheads are also important SEO signals, as Google pays attention to the content inside header tags like H1, H2, H3, etc.
4. Incorporate images and visuals
Just as with the previous point, adding images and graphics, where it makes sense, upgrades your content. But more importantly, it helps to stop readers from scanning and pulls them into the article.
Called “eye gravity,” these markers, cues, and graphics break up the monotony of an otherwise long-scrolling, seemingly boring piece of content. They also provide anchors that can create stronger readership and retention rates.
Incorporate images that support your message. Use screenshots and explainer images to help illustrate a point you’re making. Plus, images can help improve your SEO by including keywords and topics related to your content.
In fact, keywords in the image's filename, title tag, and alt tag (i.e., the HTML descriptions of the image) provide context. It’s not that the keywords will help rank you higher, which they might. It’s that the image data helps Google understand your content around it. It gives it context.
The more Google understands what your content is about, the better the match with the user's search intent will be. And the better the match is, the higher the quality of your traffic will be.
It goes without saying that, if your visuals are outdated, you should refresh them, too. And make sure they’re optimized for mobile devices.
5. Change the publication date
Finally, before finalizing your updates, re-date your post to the current date. A more recent date helps to push your post back to the top of your blog.
More importantly, it increases clickthroughs.
The newer date won’t affect your SEO, whether positively or negatively. What matters is the quality of the additions you made. But by displaying a more recent date in search results, your content will attract more attention and clicks. After all, we naturally want to read the most current stuff.
Some people add indicators to their updated content, such as a last updated or modified date, a version number (such as “version 2.4”), or an edition date (such as “for 2020”).
You can even add them to your headlines and post descriptions. This might improve rankings and clickthroughs. But the goal is not to increase rankings but to provide your audience with the freshest, most up-to-date information.
Ultimately, updating your content applies to more than just the content itself.
Updating its readability and adaptability to current trends, issues, competitors, market changes, and audience behaviours will breathe new life into your content in more ways than one.