Quick question, what do you do with outdated blog posts?
Usually, the answer is: Not much.
If that’s the case, you’re not alone. For some reason, the majority of us, content marketing folks, are obsessed with constantly creating new content instead of taking advantage of our old blog posts.
But here’s the thing—with Google officially getting smarter about content and its quality, so should we. And just like convincing the existing customers to buy from you again, updating the existing content for SEO is just much easier and more reasonable in the long term.
To update, or not to update, that is the question
I get it, having complete control over your content inventory and choosing which (if any) posts to update is not simple. Fortunately for all of us, though, there are tools, frameworks, and tips to guide us when republishing content
Stick around to learn:
- Why should you update old blog posts
- What to do with outdated blog content
- How to choose what posts to update
- How to improve old posts
Ready when you are.
Why should you update old articles?
Having outdated content on your blog might not seem like a big deal. Sure, Google is not going to punish you for it, but there are quite a few opportunities you’re missing out on.
1. Outdated content usually means low (or non-existent) organic traffic and conversions.
Both search engines and web visitors prefer fresh, up-to-date content, and anything else is not likely to stay high on the SERPs for very long. You (or someone from your team) have put a significant amount of time and effort into it, and it’s all gone to waste now. Don’t let that happen!
2. Content ideation can be tiring, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time.
Constantly coming up with new content ideas for your content marketing strategy can be fun, but if you’ve been doing that for a while, you’re bound to run out of them sooner or later. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop chasing new content for a change?
3. Outdated content can hurt your brand (and your ego).
I can’t tell you how many times I cringed after finding an old piece of content I once published. It probably seemed pretty great years ago, but things change.
As an industry, we’re so much better at creating quality blog posts than we were even months ago. Outdated articles (especially ones that are misleading, incorrect, or just bad) simply reflect poorly on your brand.
What to do with outdated posts, then?
I hope that, by now, you’re convinced that updating old posts is worth giving a try. There are at least a few things that you can do to address outdated content:
Optimize old content for SEO
Some of your old content might not be optimized for SEO very well, rank for irrelevant keywords, or drive no traffic at all. If the quality is still decent, however, you should be able to optimize it properly with little effort.
Refresh outdated content
Some blog posts (like this one!) might have a specific year in a title, or discuss current events that become outdated with time. The rest of the actual blog post might be “evergreen”—in such cases, the only thing you have to update is the date, for example.
Rewrite old blog posts
When the content quality is low (but the potential is still there), there’s not much you can do apart from rewriting an old blog post completely.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing—you’re still saving some time and effort on content ideation here. The groundwork is there already, now go take care of that poor content quality with an updated post.
Delete old articles
Should you delete your blog content? Definitely. If the content is completely out-of-date, the quality is low, and there are no relevant keywords that the piece could rank for— don’t hesitate. Set up a redirect (to a related blog post or blog homepage), and go ahead.
Promote old blog posts
In some cases, updating old content can be as simple as giving it a little boost. The easiest way to go about it is to build backlinks to an old piece of content manually and invest some time in repurposing and distribution to attract links organically.
Relevant backlinks are known for being an important ranking factor, and increasing their number is likely to affect the position of your content in search results.
Now that you know what to do with your old posts, the question remains…
How to choose what blog posts to update for SEO?
Before you start updating old blog posts for SEO, it’s important to figure out what content you actually have published. Seems reasonable, yet, we’re all guilty of not keeping proper track of all our articles.
And it only gets more and more difficult with time.
Take control of your blog
Brace yourself, this step might take a while to complete—especially if your blog post is a few years old.
If you’re taking over as a content manager, or haven’t really tracked your posts before, you can start by downloading the Screaming Frog SEO Spider and crawling your blog.
You can then export the results and have a solid list of all your articles—respective URLs, titles, word count, meta tags (yes, they should be updated every once in a while, too!), and more. A complete list of your posts should help you audit your content more effectively.
This brings us to the next point…
Audit your blog content
If you’ve just started a blog or haven’t been publishing much since the beginning, finding stuff to update is not that challenging. The more content you have, the harder it gets.
The good news is: with a full list of blog posts that you’ve just exported, you can easily run an audit. I, personally, favor Andreea Macoveiciuc’s approach to auditing content, which, at the time, gave me a full overview of over 200 articles published for Prowly Magazine, and how they were performing in SERPs.
There are lots of other useful templates and SEO tools to use at this stage, depending on what metrics you’re interested in.
To make the whole process a little easier and faster, you can always run your articles through Surfer’s SEO Audit Tool to get solid suggestions on how to improve them.
Sign up to Surfer for free to see it in action.
Maintain a content inventory
Once you have an understanding of what posts are out there and how they are performing, it’s time to keep things even more organized with an inventory. A content inventory will also help you identify duplicate content to get rid of.
Instead of using good old Excel or Google Sheets, I recommend having your inventory in a project management tool—or, specifically, Airtable.
Airtable makes it much easier to keep track of, categorize, and filter your blog content. You can easily check when it was published or updated, what was the main keyword you were targeting, and quickly find any other details that are relevant to you.
If it seems like a lot of work…It’s because it is. With time, however, having control over your blog and regularly searching for potential improvements gets easier, especially with a website content update process in place.
Prioritize what to update
Once you have a pretty good overview of what’s out there, it’s time to choose what to update first.
Technically, you could just go through your blog (starting from the oldest posts) and take note of all the articles that need some improvement.
To make this process slightly less manual and prioritize what to update first, you can also follow John Bonini’s framework.
John is a Director of Marketing at Databox, and one of my content marketing gurus. In his opinion, there are three types of posts that can (and should) be updated:
The Biggest Losers
In other words, content that lost organic search traffic at a high volume over the last 3, 6, or 12 months (depending on what “time frame” is most relevant to your blog).
Such articles are usually the best to update first—they were already ranking pretty well before, so they just need a refresh to return to their glory days.
How to find them? Go to Google Analytics:
- Choose Behavior → Site Content → Landing Pages
- Add secondary dimension: Default Channel Grouping
- Use to search function to show blog content only (e.g. by looking for any URLs with "blog” in them, depending on your website URL structure)
- Adjust the dates and use the comparison feature (e.g. compare the last quarter with the one before)
- Find Organic search in the Default Channel Grouping column
- Look for articles with the highest negative change. These are your Biggest Losers!
The Almost Famous
These are articles that are currently ranking on page 2, and are likely to jump to the 1st page with some additional content and optimization.
They can be easily found in Google Search Console:
- Head to the Performance report
- Make sure to toggle the Average position above the graph
- Filter the report for Top pages (Contains “blog”), and keywords with an average position of “Greater than 11”
The last type of content is the one that’s targeting high-intent, high-volume keywords (or no keywords at all), and thus, is not ranking for anything. “Fixing” The Nobodies is likely to come down to deleting or rewriting them completely.
You can find them in Google Search Console as well, simply by sorting the Performance report from the lowest to the highest position (or the number of impressions).
Depending on your needs and resources, you can target different those different types of articles in any order you like. If you’re after short-term wins, updating a blog post that falls under The Biggest Losers and The Almost Famous categories is likely to bring you some nice results quickly.
How to update a blog post for SEO?
Apart from relying on Surfer, there are a few best practices to follow when improving, adding content, or rewriting old blog posts.
Often, you’d just hear that you should “create better content”, but what does it mean, exactly?
Well, take into account the following:
- Search intent - satisfying search intent (the purpose of the online search) is a primary goal for Google, and should be a primary goal for you, too. If you want to rank for “a detailed guide to X”, for example, you should provide the user with a detailed guide—not a price list of your services.
To put it simply, make sure your readers can find what they are actually looking for.
- Page authority & accuracy - ideally, all your posts should be well-researched, informative, factually accurate, and relevant. You don’t necessarily have to chase metrics like keyword length. Instead, just make every piece of content as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible.
- Target keyword - when creating or updating your blog post for SEO, you should always strive to rank for a relevant target keyword and pick a few secondary keywords once you’re at it. Then, make sure to optimize the blog post! After all, you don’t want to keep adding “The Nobodies” to your inventory.
*If you’re struggling with content optimization, you can always enroll in Surfer’s SEO Writing Masterclass for free.
- Readability - keywords and SEO aside, your content should be readable. Think about the user experience—write shorter sentences, break up long paragraphs, check for typos and grammar mistakes, use descriptive headings and visuals to illustrate your point. Speaking of…
- Visuals - if possible, always try to break the walls of text with relevant visuals. Especially if your goal is to explain something and show examples in use, make sure your visuals can support it.
Don’t forget to optimize images for SEO as well—the least you can do is compress them and add alt texts.
- Competitiveness - look at the page-one results for your target keyword and check what you're competing against.
Can your content stand out? There’s no point in creating any blog post if you can’t actually pull it off and add value to what’s already out there.
- Backlinks - have a look at internal and external links. Are there any broken links in your content (you can use Chrome extensions like Check my Links to look them up), can you add internal links (search in your inventory to find relevant articles to link to and from!), are there any external links point to the piece (use software like Ahrefs to find out), and can you build any more?
For Google and web visitors, links pointing to your blog work like “votes of confidence” and are an important ranking factor.
Guess who’s back? Your old articles
Once your updated blog post ticks all the boxes mentioned above, it’s time to republish it. Keep in mind that it’s unlikely to be a one-time thing, though. Search results change dynamically, and so do your content rankings and traffic.
That’s precisely why using tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Surfer can help you keep tabs on how and when to update content for SEO to make sure you’re not wasting any opportunity and get the organic traffic you deserve.
Try Surfer for free to follow personalized tasks and SEO best practices when updating content, regularly.
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