How updating your old articles can boost SEO rankings

December 30, 2019 | Content Marketing

As we all know, SEO is a process that needs to be done monthly. There is not a single solution which you implement once, and you’re settled. This is why I’m a little confused when encountering blog owners who do not update their old content. 

Updating old content is an amazing way of boosting your traffic and increasing your ranking. It’s much easier to improve the ranking of an old article than it is to rank a new one. 

This is why I’ve decided to walk you through the concept of Google Freshness and what updating your old content can do for you!

What is the lifecycle of an old article?

As with any other product, content also has a lifecycle. 

It starts growing in traffic after it has been launched the first time. Google crawls it and places it in the search results of relevant queries, increasing traffic exponentially with every new small increase in ranking. 

Eventually, after a period of 6 to 12 months, the article reaches its maturity period. In terms of traffic, this is the maximum capacity that can be provided by the current article.

Afterwards, the article begins its declining period. It loses traffic as new content gets ranked higher and more competitors enter the market. 

That’s the moment when you need to work on improving the article and make sure you restart the cycle.

When should you update your old content?

Updating an article just for the sake of freshness won’t help. Sam Oh mentioned that an article needs to be updated only after it passes the following criteria: 

  1. The page is at least 6 to 12 months old
  2. The page has enough backlinks to compete with other websites
  3. The article is matching search intent
  4. The page has a good amount of traffic and is now in decline
  5. The content is outdated 

While the situation can be different to each article, the rules are somewhat similar. An article can reach its decline phase in 6 to 18 months. If it’s still growing, there is no point in trying to change or update it. 

Also, if you’re stuck on the 4th page without any links, an update won’t solve your issue.

The same can be said for yearly information. If you are creating guides, how to’s or talking about events that take place every year, it’s best to update your information yearly in order for it to be relevant.  

How to properly update your content for SEO?

 

Research your ranking keywords

 

First things first, you need to decide which article you’re going to update. There’s no point in working on updating an article that is in the top 3 already. 

Your goal here is to boost articles that are either:

  • In the top 15 and can reach the first page with a single boost or articles that dropped from the top 3 and still exist on the first page. 

You can do this research by analyzing the main Keywords that you’re ranking for.

Either check your tracked keywords using Rank tracker or discover new keywords that you didn’t track using other SEO tools.

Analyzed data for RankWatch

In the example above, we can clearly see that RankWatch’s “backlinks” page is on the 12th position in the US SERP for the main keyword “backlink checker”. 

That page is a clear contender for our “Google freshness” campaign. By improving the content, updating its publishing date and working on some new backlinks, the article will easily improve and move on the first page. Don’t worry; I will take you through each stage mentioned here. 

After you’ve decided which article is going to get an update, it’s time to move the needle and improve it. 

Repair everything!

One big problem with old articles is that the internet is forever changing, while the article isn’t. Because of this, iframes will break, images pulled from other websites will vanish, and outbound links will no longer work. 

A broken article ruins the user’s experience. Google takes notice and pushes the article outside of the top brackets, looking for relevant and complete results instead.

Also, work on improving your media. Reduce the file sizes, add metadata and make sure that all the attached media is done through “https”. 

Quick tip! – You can automate your link repairs by implementing a search and replace process in your database. 

If your website was on the HTTP version in the past, most images are surely integrated with the old version. Execute a search and replace process from HTTP to HTTPS and you’re solving tons of mixed content errors. 

You can do this by using a Search and Replace WordPress plugin.

Add more words to your article

Content is still king, and RankWatch already proved how important article length is in one of their older articles. 

A big consensus right now is that long articles rank better. Yet, they don’t recommend stuffing words or writing extra paragraphs just for the sake of it. 

What they do recommend is looking into the SERP. How many words do the top 5 articles have? Are they longer? If so, how many more keywords? 

As a rule of thumb, they do an average of the word counts in the top 5 pages and increase their page by at least 15% more than the average. 

You can do the research manually or use SEO tools to do it. Analyze what the top 5 pages are doing and take note on the following: 

  • Semantically related keywords
  • Backlink sources
  • Relevant word counts
  • Average Flesch Readability score

I used an SEO tool to get some info about what competitors in the UX and UI Agency niches are doing, and this is what the tool delivered. 

Don’t forget about the standard rules for your content. Make sure that when you’re adding more content, you maintain the same keyword to text ratios, improve your header structures and add more bullet points or numbered lists.

Increasing an old article’s word count is a great opportunity to add a table of contents. By doing this, you increase your chances of getting link snippets attached to your search results, resulting in an increased conversion rate. 

You can add tables of content automatically to all of your articles by using either the integrated module in your theme ( The Enfold theme has a great feature built-in) or by using a table of a contents WordPress plugin. 

Improve your linking!

In SEO, there are three types of links that you can use: 

  • Internal links
  • Outbound links
  • Backlinks

The first is the easiest to control. If you’re working on updating your content, make sure you also improve your internal linking. 

Insert multiple links in your updated article to other blog posts you’ve added since the aforementioned article was launched.

This work should be done the other way around as well. Find pages where your main topic of the updated article was mentioned and make sure there is a link pointing to the new article. 

To find where your topic was mentioned, you can use your friend Google and a small and simple trick. 

Use the search: “site:www.yourdomain.com keyword”. If you do this, Google will show you all of the pages where you have that particular keyword or topic after you got the list, just press edit and start adding internal links. 

You can see an example below, the results for: “site:www.rankwatch.com backlinks”.

After you’ve finished your internal backlinks, work on outbound and inbound links as well. 

For outbound, make sure you add relevant sources for the information you’ve acquired in the updated content. Yoast strongly recommends adding outbound links in every article you write. 

This can be a strong indicator that you’ve done your research for the content, helping both the search engine and end-user. 

As for backlinks, you need to start doing some outreach. Getting new backlinks for your updated content will alert search engines of its freshness and relevancy. Combined with the added juice of those backlinks, it will surely boost your ranking. 

Modify the publishing date

Many times, the publishing date of an article shows in the SERP. This piece of information strongly affects the CTR of a page. 

If, for example, you’re a restaurant owner and you’re searching for “top food distributors” in your city, you’ll click on the page that has the latest date presented, either in the SERP as a snippet, or in the title. Chances are you will never bother to click on something from 2016. 

Search Engines also take into consideration your CTR when ranking your page in the SERP. And making sure you’ve updated your article can rank you for date-specific terms like “how to do outreach in 2019”.

You can change the publishing date easily on your WordPress page. In the right corner, you have the option to edit the publishing date, being able to backdate the article, schedule it or post it again “yesterday”.

Inspect and correct your grammar

 

Grammar is important, especially when people can see a mistake from miles away. We are all human, and we make mistakes. We either miss a letter or put an extra one. 

That’s why we need some help from something that is free of human error. 

There are tons of apps and plugins that will check your content and tell you if you’ve got errors in your text. Right now, I am using Grammarly. An awesome plugin that checks my content on both WordPress or Google Docs and corrects my errors at the click of a button. 

Quick tip, don’t forget about evergreen!

In terms of content freshness and updates, we can split the content into 2 types:

  • Content relevant today 
  • Evergreen content

The content that is relevant today is usually in the form of news or tech guides and how to’s. “What happened yesterday in San Francisco”, “How to optimize a website in 2019”, “Top mobile phones for vacation photos”. 

Regardless of what happens, these articles will be obsolete in a few years. New things will happen in SF, the algorithm will change, and new phones will enter the market. 

This is the exact motive for which updating the article is recommended. 

On the other side, there is the Evergreen content. Content that is relevant now and five years in the future.

Evergreen content can be: 

  • Book/Movie reviews
  • Social skills guides 
  • Medical articles and definitions
  • Workout guides
  • History lessons
  • Scientific articles 

Of course, there are situations where you also need to update a scientific article. Yet, those situations are so rare that you combine evergreen content with updated content for steady boosts of traffic! n consider this type of article to be eternal.

Conclusion

Google Takes into consideration how fresh or updated an article is. 

Updating and improving your article will:

  • Increase the ranking of the page
  • Boost traffic
  • Restart the life cycle of an article. 

Make sure that when you update your article, you make it relevant, interesting and complete. Repair broken images and links, add more information, improve your link structure and correct your grammar. Your business is growing, and with it, the quality of the content you’re serving should increase as well. 

Combine Evergreen content with updated content for steady boosts of traffic! 

By constantly updating your content on the website, Google will notice that you’re doing work on providing up-to-date information. This may result in an increased ranking on all pages, not only the updated ones. 

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Maria Cilea, Content Director at Moburst. As the Content Director at Moburst, Maria supervises the creation and updates of the educational articles on the Moburst Blog. This includes creating content and supervising all tasks related to SEO. Maria maintains the communication between their brand and content curators for guest posting, PR and paid media advertising.

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