5 Killer Ways to Refresh Old Content and Breathe a New Lease of SEO Life Into It
I bet you noticed:
The majority of your traffic comes from only a handful of pages:
- Home page drives the majority of visits,
- A couple of posts ranking for popular keywords attract good traffic and,
- Landing pages get visitors too.
So what about the rest?
What about all those blog posts, landing pages, informational pages and who knows what other content types you created?
They should, in theory, attract at least some traffic, right?
And yet no one sees them.
Perhaps they never stood a chance to rank in the first place, because of too competitive keywords or poor optimization.
But from experience I can tell you that most likely they simply became outdated. And a quick content refresh could breathe a new lease of SEO life into them.
In this post I’m going to show you few ways in which you could achieve it.
How to know what content needs refreshing?
The fact that a page is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.
Google admits that:
“Different searches have different freshness needs.”
It means that for some searches, older content might be more relevant than new.
Therefore, before you jump into refreshing every page on your site, check them against these 4 characteristics of an outdated content:
It’s older than other similar results
According to Google’s patent, a page is given a freshness score based on its inception date. This score decays over time as the content matures.
That inception date is often synonymous with the moment the search engine becomes aware of the content.
But whether the freshness score will have a negative effect on your rankings largely depends on its difference from the age of other results.
As Google patent called Document Scoring Based on Document Content Update states:
“For some queries, older documents may be more favorable than newer ones. As a result, it may be beneficial to adjust the score of a document based on the difference (in age) from the average age of the result set.”
Therefore, if the particular piece of content relates to a topic that has recently been updated, it might be considered outdated and need a refresh.
It’s no longer relevant
Similarly, if a piece of content offers irrelevant or outdated advice, it will naturally be considered dated and dropped from rankings.
It does not conform to the best practices of web copy today
Only a couple of years ago, 500 words long articles were considered a good enough content to rank.
Today however, the search engine expects quality and thus seeks out long, informative content that covers almost every aspect of a problem.
One of the key lessons webmasters learnt after the Google’s Panda update was that it pays off to create high-quality and useful content.
But what exactly is quality content?
Analyzing the information we know about the Google’s algorithm, Kathryn Aragon concluded that a quality content is one that:
- Provides real answers to real people’s problems.
- Helps or entertains readers,
- Tells them how to do something or where to find something,
- It’s full of references, quotes and backs up every claim,
- Provides information people talk about on their own sites and,
- It gets quoted, shared and linked to.
If your content falls to deliver on any of these characteristics, it might be a time to refresh it to post-Panda standards.
It brings no results
Lastly, if a piece of content brings no results – traffic, conversions etc., it might be a sign it needs a thorough update too.
Sometimes that may mean rewriting it from scratch. Other times, expanding with up-to-date information.
TIP: Map your content to these characteristics.
Create a simple spreadsheet to help prioritize which content you should work on first and what pages you could leave for later.
In the first column, list all pages on your site (or at least the most important of the underperforming ones). Devote subsequent 4 columns to the characteristics we identified.
Then, mark with Y or N whether a particular piece of content passes the criteria or not.
You should very quickly see which pages you should prioritize over the others.
So how to refresh old content?
Once your list of pages to update is ready, it’s time to start refreshing the content to breathe a new lease of SEO life into it.
Here are some ways to achieve it:
1. Include New Keywords
A lot of content underperforms in search primarily because it’s optimized for wrong keywords.
It focuses on phrases that:
- Have very little (if any) search volume or,
- They aren’t what the majority of customers would use to find information.
Your starting point in updating content therefore should be a thorough check if your content isn’t optimized for any of these keywords.
Check out our keyword research for SEO guide to learn how to find phrases your customers use when searching.
2. Optimize Your Content for Semantic Search
Google and other search engines are getting better at deciphering both the context and the intent for search to serve relevant results.
This pretty much means that they can analyze the search phrase to find out:
- What exactly the searcher is looking for and,
- The meaning of behind the phrase.
It also means that your content has a chance to rank for more keywords, including synonyms and other variations of the search phrase.
To update content for semantic search:
Create a context including companion words.
These are the terms helping to describe or contextualize a search phrase. Take “apple” for instance. It’s almost impossible to discover if a person searching for this term is looking for a computer manufacturer, fruit or the Beatles’ old record company.
But couple it with a word laptop and suddenly the search intent becomes clear.
Use synonyms and variations of the search phrase
This will help to expand the context of your copy and avoid keyword stuffing by reducing the number of times the original key phrase is included in the copy.
Conduct a Semantic Keyword Research
Finding semantic keywords is different from traditional keyword research.
Semantic keyword research involves coming up with variations of the search phrase, related search phrases and then using both to find thematically-related keywords.
Sujan Patel wrote a fantastic guide to semantic keyword research, you could read it here.
Write using your audience’s natural language.
Natural language, words and phrases your audience would use when searching for information lies at the core of semantic search.
One of the most effective ways to update your content for semantic search is to replace jargon with common terms your customers use.
3. Improve Your Internal Linking
Interlinking is a method of linking various pieces of content on your site to pass page rank between them.
The number and the quality of internal links pointing to a page might suggest the importance of the page within the site’s structure and thus, positively affect its rankings.
If your content is relatively new, relevant and already follows the post-Panda quality guidelines, then a way to refresh it might be by interlinking it with other authoritative pages.
4. Link to More Authority Sites
This is a very simple yet extremely powerful tactic. Include more links to high authority sites to show Google that your site is in some way related to those sites.
What are high authority sites?
These are information sites (i.e. CNN or Huffington Post), educational or government sites.
Why do these types of links work?
You probably know that a link FROM a high authority site boosts your SEO.
But the same happens if you link out to such a site too.
A search engine weights such links on your page as positives and automatically assigns a bit more trust to your content.
5. Incorporate user-generated content
One of the easiest ways to incorporate semantic keywords and expand your content is by letting users contribute their own copy?
A user-generated content – testimonials, reviews, opinions is one of the best ways to keep content fresh while expanding the number of keywords it could potentially rank for.
If possible, let your customers leave feedback or reviews. This will expand the content but also, introduce new, semantic keywords.
Naturally this strategy won’t work for blog posts. But if you’re looking at updating landing pages or informational pages, UGC might be a great way to do so.
It’s true – the majority of your traffic comes for a handful of pages. That however doesn’t mean that any other content you have is worthless. By refreshing those pages you can breathe a new lease of life into them and increase traffic to your site.
Creative commons image: Adam Mayer / Flickr