New Isn’t Always Better: The Magic of Refreshing Old Content
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 new content.
That is a mistake, for three reasons:
- It’s way harder to rank on a new piece of content versus an existing one
- Only creating new pieces can lead to content duplication, which hurts rankings
- 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.
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
Content refresh maximizes your investment in content by extending the lifespan of your existing articles. Therefore, content refresh 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)
Google is able to see these changes, and might downgrade your pages if they are not updated accordingly.
After it hit a plateau, an article will max out on search volume and number of keywords it can rank for.
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.
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.
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 first than zero to first.
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 What Content to Refresh?
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.
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
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 which 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.
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.
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 that 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:
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 tagunder 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.
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.
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 a 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.
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
There is no general rule, but at Scalecrush we don’t touch a page for 6 months before considering a refresh.
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.
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