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New Isn’t Always Better: The Magic of Refreshing Old Content

Published on

April 30, 2023

New Isn’t Always Better: The Magic of Refreshing Old Content

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Have you heard of the shiny object syndrome?

This is the definition according to Wikipedia: “This phenomenon refers to the tendency to constantly chase after new and exciting things, even if it means neglecting current responsibilities or goals. The allure of the shiny object can be irresistible - it promises something new and different, and often seems more exciting than the tasks at hand. But ultimately, succumbing to shiny object syndrome can lead to a lack of focus and direction, and can hinder progress towards long-term goals.” (source: Wikipedia)

What does it have to do with content refresh, you’ll ask? Well, when it comes to content, the go-to strategy is often to create more of it.

This is a mistake, for three reasons:

  1. It’s way harder to rank on a new piece of content versus an existing one
  2. Only creating new pieces can lead to content duplication, which hurts rankings
  3. New content doesn’t address content decay

Before even considering creating a new piece of content, you should wonder if you already covered that topic before. If you did, but that article is not performing well, it might be time for a content refresh.

💡 Refreshing older content is a necessary process that will make your website perform better as a whole.

Refreshing older content is a necessary process that will make your website perform better as a whole.

In this article, I’ll explain everything that you’re dying to know about the not-so-sexy content refresh.


Only creating new content is detrimental because content decay is not being addressed. Content decay is unavoidable, but you can increase traffic on older posts.

Old content is a gold mine, because it’s easier and more cost-effective to work on an existing piece of content versus starting from scratch.

Refreshing old content benefits your website as a whole and should be part of your strategy.

The Hidden Charm of the Content Refresh

Refreshing content maximizes your investment in content by extending the lifespan of your existing articles. Therefore, it should be an essential part of any content strategy. 

Content refreshes fight content decay

Any blog post that you publish will experience decay, meaning that it will lose traffic at some point. 

Posts lose traffic overtime, for several reasons:

  • Your competitors published better content
  • Content becomes obsolete (for example, “best productivity software in 2021”)
  • Things have changed in the industry or in the world (bye-bye Covid articles)
content decay
Content decay cannot be avoided.

Google is able to see these changes and might downgrade your pages if they are not updated accordingly.

After hitting a plateau, an article will max out on search volume and number of keywords it can rank for.

💡 As you keep publishing new content, it increases traffic and compensates for the loss of traffic on older articles. You win traffic on one side, lose traffic on the other: it’s a zero-sum game.

This strategy is not only very expensive, but also inefficient.

What if I told you that you can keep articles in the plateau phase much longer, which will make it way easier to keep global traffic up?


By refreshing your old content. 

refresh content
An example of a webpage's clicks before and after a refresh.

Content refreshes give you a traffic boost

As you are refreshing content on your website, you’ll notice keywords that you didn’t include in the articles, but that have been bringing traffic to the page anyway. Now you have the opportunity to double down on these keywords by including them in your copy.

You can see on the graph below that the number of keywords the page ranks for has increased after the content refresh was performed. That’s because we optimized the copy with the unplanned keywords that the page started ranking for.

content refresh
An example of a webpage's rankings before and after and refresh.
content refreshing
An example of a webpage's clicks before and after a refresh.

It’s easier and more cost-effective to work on an existing piece of content versus starting from scratch.


💡 Because it’s much easier to go from positions #5-10 to #1 than #15 to #1.

Refreshing content helps maximize your return on investment in the original piece. Instead of taking the risk of developing something new, you double down on something that’s already working. 

Content refreshes fight keyword cannibalization

For many, having several pages targeting the same exact keyword sound like a good thing to do. But this is counterproductive: if Google sees several pages of your website targeting the same keyword, he will pick none of them. That’s a red flag for the search engine that wants to push the best possible content for every search query.

It’s easy to fall in the trap of content cannibalization when all you do is to produce new content: you don’t consider what has been published before, and produce new content with the same search intent on top of it.

By having a process to refresh new content, you’re always up-to-date with your content inventory and can make no mistake. 

How to Decide Which Content to Refresh? (time for an audit)

In a perfect world, you would refresh every piece of content that’s more than 6 months old. 

But what if that means that you have to reoptimize hundreds of pages? 

You likely have limited resources and want to make changes where it has a big impact on traffic. 

⚠️ The last thing you want is to waste resources refreshing pages that are not and will never be important for your business.

Therefore, picking the right pages to refresh is crucial.

You can’t start refreshing pages randomly, for 3 reasons:

  • Some pages are too recent and simply need more time to rank
  • Some pages have already been refreshed or rewritten and you don’t want to work on the same page twice in a short period of time 
  • Some pages are already ranking #1 for their targeted keywords

Step 1 - Crawl your website

Your goal here is to compile a thorough inventory of all the URLs on your website.

In 2023, an update to Screaming Frog enables you to connect a crawl with Google Search Console. This integration provides valuable insights such as the number of impressions and clicks for each URL. This information will greatly aid in the next stages of the process.

Just go to Configuration --> API Access --> Google Search Console --> Sign in with Google and connect the chosen account

refreshing content
Step-by-step guide to crawling your website in Screaming Frog, which will help you find pages to refresh.

Step 2 - Export, tidy up, and organize your data

Export all the URLs into a spreadsheet and apply a filter based on the number of impressions. It is recommended to prioritize working on the pages with the highest number of impressions, as they are the easiest wins.

refreshing blog
Sort your URLs by number of impressions. You'll start working on the URLs with the most impressions first.

Now you'll need to remove from that list:

  • The pages that are less than 6 months old
  • The pages have already been refreshed or rewritten (because you did your homework and have kept track of this)
  • The pages are already ranking #1 for their targeted keywords (check on SemRush)

Having myself performed many content audits, there is no rule when it comes to picking which pages to refresh. It will vary wildly from one website to another. What I can tell you is that you want to look for all the pages for where relatively small changes will result in a big improvement in performance. 

In a nutshell, target the content that is almost performing well. That content is doing just OK and hasn’t hit its full potential.

Content you should not refresh:

Recent pages (<6 months)

Content that has been refreshed recently (<6 months)

Content that is already ranking #1 for their targeted keywords

✔️ Scenarios when you should definitely prioritize refreshing content over creating new content: 

You have a lot of blog posts published on your website (>50) and these have not been touched since publication

After performing a content audit, you noticed that traffic for your older content is steadily diminishing over time.

Now that you know which pages to refresh, you need to prioritize these actions based on the importance of the page. At equal search volumes, a page that targets BOFU content will be more important to you than a page targeting TOFU content.

Step 3: Make a content refresh schedule

After the last step, you'll end up with your final list of pages to refresh. Similar to using a calendar for scheduling new content releases, you can also utilize it to update and refresh existing content.

content refresh schedule
Example of a content refresh schedule on ClickUp.

How to Refresh Content?

Here is a 5-step process to refresh any piece of underperforming content on your site.

Match the search intent by asking yourself the right questions

That’s the most important question, mostly because it’s the reason behind the search: do the users find what they are looking for on the page?

  • Is the reader looking to find information about something or to buy something?
  • Do they want an in-depth guide on the topic or a comparison article?
  • Do they want quick answers or a lot of knowledge?

Your content needs to be 100% aligned with the search intent, otherwise it will be impossible for your articles to rank.

How do you make sure of that?

Have a look at your URL/blog page, and determine which keyword that page is targeting. If you’ve done your on-page optimization properly, the keyword should be in both the URL and the H1.

Then go to Google and search that query.

Here, I’ve done it for the keyword “idea management software” as an example:

refresh content
This specific search request shows comparison articles.

As you can see, all the articles on the first page are comparison articles, meaning articles that compare different tools. This is what users are looking for.

The problem is that my article is not a comparison one. It’s an in-depth guide, and that’s a good indication of why it may not rank.

Readers who type “idea management software” want a list of solutions, not a guide!

You’ll have to completely rewrite your original article.

Get rid of the fluff 

Another common mistake that prevents a page from ranking is unnecessary information. 

Sometimes I see articles where there are entire sections introducing a concept that’s useless to the reader.

For example, a post on “How to use XX tool to do XX task” shouldn’t have a header that says “What is XX tool”, because readers probably already have in depth knowledge of that tool. 

They are coming to learn how to perform a specific task and don’t care about the tool presentation.

Optimize for search engines

If your competitor’s articles are better optimized for search engines, they will perform better, regardless of content quality.

You should run a quick SEO checklist on every blog you refresh:

✅ The target keyword should be included in the H1, title tag, meta description, and URL.

✅ The meta-description should be under 155 characters, the title tag under 55 characters.

✅ The URL should be short and only contain the target keyword

✅ All images should have a keyword rich filename AND alt-text

Spot new keyword opportunities

The goal is to find opportunities to add more secondary keywords to the existing content.

For that step, you’ll have to go to the Google Search Console and look for the list of keywords the page is ranking for.

update content
On Google Search Console, you can find additional keywords for your content refresh.

Interesting additional keywords would be:

  • Keywords that are tied to the topic of the page but are not mentioned in the content even though Google trusts your piece of content (they generate impressions)
  • Keywords that generate a lot of impressions but few clicks, indicating that the page is ranking low and could be improved

Add these keywords to body text, H2s and H3s when relevant.

⚠️ Be careful to stay on topic. Don’t add new content to the page if the content is already present in another article. We want to avoid content duplication.

Add FAQs/Improve existing FAQs

If the page already has an FAQ section at the bottom, look for additional questions that would be relevant to the specific topic covered by the article.

If the page does not have an FAQ section at the bottom, create one and insert the most common questions asked about that specific topic.

To find these questions, you can use the “People Also Ask (PAA)” section of the SERP.

content updating
FAQs are a great way to add keywords to a piece of content.

Key Takeaway on Content Refresh

Content refreshes should be part of your content workflow, and therefore they should be both integrated to your content calendar and included in your monthly budget.

Refreshing content should be ongoing and building the habit of refreshing a bunch of articles every month is the lowest effort, highest reward content activity you can do.

Content Refresh FAQs

How old is old enough for a page to be refreshed?

There is no general rule, but at Scalecrush we don’t touch a page for 6 months before considering a refresh.

What is content decay?

Over time, even the most engaging content can begin to lose its relevance and appeal, and that's where content decay comes into play. Content decay occurs when a piece of content, whether it be a blog post, video, or social media post, begins to lose its effectiveness due to changes in search algorithms, shifts in consumer behavior, or changes in the industry.

How do I know which pages I should refresh on my website?

In a nutshell, refresh pages that are almost performing well. That content is doing just OK and hasn’t hit its full potential. Because it’s much easier to go from positions #5-10 to #1 than #15 to #1.

Laura Ballarin

I'm Account Manager at Scalecrush. You'll find me here talking about my no-nonsense approach to content marketing.

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