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Everything you need to know about updating and republishing old blog posts

Posted by Murray Sye

on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 @ 12:54 PM

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Would you like to give your existing blog content a fresh makeover and generate more traffic and leads from it?

Whether you wrote them last month or two years ago, optimizing your "old" blog content, so it's up-to-date, has the ability to generate more conversions than it already does.

Luckily, just like it's easy enough to update your wardrobe, there's also an easy formula to update and refresh your old content.

In today's post, we'll walk you through a four-step process that will help you extend the life of your previously popular, high-performing content. 

Step 1: Identify posts worth updating

The key is to identify posts that satisfy the following criteria:

  • The content is outdated, or not as comprehensive as it could be.
    Ultimately, you need to pick posts that could use some updating in one way or another. More on this in step 2, but this could mean the content is no longer accurate or up-to-date, or it could be improved in some way that makes it more valuable to readers -- by making it more comprehensive, including more examples, more data, etc.
  • It has "page one potential."
    In other words, this post has the potential to rank on page one for a relevant keyword. The idea is, if it currently ranks on page two or three for that keyword, the post update could push it to page one and capitalize on more of the monthly search traffic that keyword typically gets. Your page one potential will also depend on how easy it is for you to rank for competitive keywords, which is where your blog’s domain authority factors in. For example, a blog with high domain authority will have a much easier time ranking for more difficult keywords than a blog with less domain authority.
  • Its keyword opportunities have decent monthly search volume.
    Not all keywords are going to give you the same results, even if you rank at the top of page one. The reason is, different keywords get differing amounts of monthly search volume. With this in mind, aim to pick posts whose page one potential for certain keywords is worth a “decent” amount of monthly search traffic. You should also consider whether a post has the potential to rank for multiple keywords whose collective monthly search volume adds up to significant potential.
  • It has a good conversion rate (or the potential for one).
    If one of your goals is to generate more leads from your historical optimization, try to target posts that already have good conversion rates. If a post doesn’t have a good conversion rate, conversion optimize it first using the keyword-based conversion optimization method (outlined in step 3).
  • It's at least 6-12 months old.
    Most posts that rank on page one for a specific keyword will probably be around 6-12 months old. This is a good benchmark to use when deciding how long you should wait before updating old posts. It seems like once a blog post gets older than that, it’s less likely to rank on page one.

Okay, so where do you start?

First of all, you’re going to need some tools. You’ll need a combination of tools that enable you to conduct keyword research and track keyword rankings. If you’re a HubSpot customer, lucky you -- the Keywords App allows you to do both of those things. If you’re not a HubSpot customer, the Google AdWords Keyword Planner can help you with the keyword research component for free, but you’re going to need to invest in some kind of keyword tracking tool like HubSpot’s to track how your posts rank for certain keywords -- and how that rank changes over time.

Once you have the tools you need, you’ll need to start analyzing your old blog content to spot your post update opportunities. I’ll be frank: This is both tricky and requires some pretty manual work.

There isn’t a perfect science to this, but here’s how we do it: Export your blog analytics for the last 30 days, and delete any posts published in the last six months so you’re only working with older posts that are still generating traffic from organic search. Then sort by post views, from greatest to least. Now scroll down to what I call your “middle of the road” posts -- posts that don’t get a ton of monthly views but still get a decent amount of traffic. This is a good place to start, because these are likely posts that probably rank okay but could stand to rank even better.

Now the manual work starts.

Determine which keywords a post already ranks for. The idea is to do some keyword research to identify the keywords your posts may already be ranking for, so you can add them to your keyword tracking tool. This way you can see which ones you are in fact ranking for at what ranking position, and what the monthly search volume of those keywords is. If you find that a post is ranking low on page one, or on pages 2-3 for a keyword (or more than one keyword) that has decent monthly search volume, that post likely presents a good opportunity for updating and republishing.

If you’re lucky enough to be dealing with a blog that has high domain authority, you may even be able to target more difficult keywords that you’re ranking fairly low for -- or maybe not even ranking for at all yet. Whether or not your site has the domain authority to compete for high-difficulty keywords is something you can determine through some trial and error.

 

Step 2: Update the content of the post

When you’re making edits and updates to a post, I recommend either cloning the original post or copying/pasting the content into a new draft, just to be safe.

Keep in mind that every post you update will require a different amount of work. Depending on the content, some will be so outdated that they need to be completely rewritten, and some may need much less work.

You should have three goals for updating the content of a post:

  • Accuracy
  • Freshness
  • Comprehensiveness

If a post is really evergreen and you already have that first goal covered, then your focus should be on the second two: How can you make this post even fresher and more comprehensive than it already is? In other words, how can you make it just generally better and more valuable to your readers?

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you're updating the content of a post:

Is there content that's no longer accurate? For example, maybe the post is about a specific free tool, but a feature of that tool is no longer offered.

  • Can you add or swap in fresher examples and screenshots?
  • What about the supporting data and statistics – are they now outdated?
  • Can you add new data, quotes, examples, or entire sections that enhance the post and make it even more comprehensive and valuable to readers?
  • Can the quality of the writing be improved?

In general, you should aim to make enough noticeable improvements to a post that warrant republishing it as new. I’d never recommend just changing the publish date on old content so it looks fresher to Google and to searchers without making noticeable updates to the content first. Make sure you’re always adding value to the content you republish.

 

Step 3: Conversion optimize and search engine optimize the post

Your next step is to put all that keyword research you did to work. First, conversion optimize the post using the keyword-based method: > identify your high-traffic, "old" posts > identify which keywords each post is getting found for > conversion optimize your post using those targeted keywords.

Next, search engine optimize the post using the keywords you decided to target in step 1, following basic on-page SEO best practices.

  • Include your target keyword(s) in the page title/post title -- the closer to the front, the better. That said, don’t completely sacrifice the clickability of a title for the sake of keyword optimization alone. The clickthrough rates of search engine results factor into Google’s ranking algorithm, so it’s important to balance keyword inclusion with maintaining the title's clickability.

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  • Include keyword(s) in the headers (H2s, H3s, etc.). Formatting can be your best friend when it comes to keyword optimizing your blog content. For example, headers can be a great place to incorporate keyword variations that may be second to the keywords you chose to target in your title. Furthermore, if you have a post with a lot of keyword opportunities (for example, you’re writing a list post, and each item on your list has its own keyword opportunities), using headers can be a great way to call attention to those additional keywords.

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  • Include keywords in the body, especially near the top of the post. Without keyword stuffing, be sure to mention the keywords you’re targeting near the top of the post -- for example, within the introductory paragraph.
  • Write a clear, concise, and compelling meta description. While Google’s ranking algorithm no longer uses keywords from within your meta description as ranking factors, clickthough rate (CTR), as we mentioned earlier, is still a ranking factor. To improve your CTR from SERPs (search engine results pages) make sure you write clear, concise, and compelling meta descriptions that entice searchers to click on your results.

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  • Add internal links (with keyword-based anchor text) to improve keyword rankings of other posts you’re trying to boost. Any SEO professional will tell you that internal linking is another important on-page SEO practice. It can help you in one of two ways: 1) Linking from high-authority pages to lower authority pages will help those lower authority pages rank better, and 2) linking to your higher authority pages will help them maintain their high rank.

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Step 4: Publish your updated post as new, and promote it.

Once your updated content is edited and ready to publish as new, copy/paste the updated content into the original post. Consider adding an editor's note to the bottom of the post like the one below. This is sensible especially if there are old comments on the post that might cause confusion to new visitors who see a current publish date but old comments:

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in [Month, Year] and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

When you’re ready for your newly updated post to go live, change the publish date/time to be current, and update your post. Now it will appear as a brand new post at the top of your blog’s listing page.

Last but certainly not least, promote your content just like you would any brand new post. Email it to your blog subscribers, promote it in social media, and leverage any other promotional channels that work for promoting your content.


Conclusion

You can't completely give up on creating new blog posts in an attempt to optimize the past. Remember, the old content you're optimizing now was once brand new, and not every new post will turn into an SEO success story. So if you completely forgo new content creation, you could be shooting your future self in the foot by giving yourself fewer chances to rank for new keywords. You'd miss out on capitalizing on new topics/trends emerging in your industry, as well as opportunities for thought leadership, among other benefits of new content.

Why you need to hire an inbound marketing agency

Written by Murray Sye

Murray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
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