“How can I increase blog traffic?”
If you run a business blog, chances are you ask this question a lot, and among them the above-mentioned is definitely a common one.
Now, when thinking of an answer, it’s tempting to focus on creating something brand new.
A new post, covering a new trend, describing a new innovation, explaining a new technique…
But there’s another — often underused — tactic that can help bring heaps of new visitors to your blog: updating your old posts.
In this guide, we’ll break down the benefits of blog post updates and teach you how to apply this method to your own blogging strategy.
The Blogger’s Blind-Spot
As content marketers and bloggers, we’re always on the lookout for new and exciting content ideas that we hope will thrill our readers and outshine our competition.
But too often we forget that we’re usually already sitting on a goldmine of old content that has the potential to shine again given just a little TLC.
In fact, older posts are often the main source of traffic for business blogs.
For example, HubSpot found that 76% of their blog views, and 92% of their blog leads, came from posts that were more than a month old.
Similarly, in a Databox study of marketing experts, almost half of those surveyed receive up to 80% of their blog traffic from older posts.
But the trouble with most business blogs is that old posts are just left to languish which is a wasted opportunity.
Why Is Updating Old Blog Posts a Good Idea?
Rejuvenating your old blog content can deliver an incredible ROI for your business.
Here are five ways post updates can benefit your inbound marketing efforts. Let’s take a look at each benefit in turn:
1. Boost Traffic and Rankings
Revamping an old blog post can deliver some remarkable SEO results.
When HubSpot first tried out the method of republishing updated blog posts, they were happy to see the how their traffic increased drastically.
Inspired by this initial success, HubSpot decided to make blog post updates a core part of its content strategy.
This led to an impressive 106% average increase in organic traffic to republished posts.
2. Save Time and Resources
Maintaining a constant flow of new, quality blog posts, takes non-stop effort.
You have to pick new ideas worth developing, do all the research, and then create the piece from scratch.
Meanwhile, it takes far less time and energy to refresh an old post AND it still delivers results!
So, you could free up time for your content team by adding post updates to your content calendar in place of some brand-new pieces.
It’s basically about working smarter, not harder.
3. Create a Better User Experience
We’ve all had the disappointing experience of clicking through to a stale, inaccurate, or outdated piece of content.
When this happens, we tend not to hang around too long.
Instead, we ‘pogo-stick’ — we click back to the search results page and select another option that we hope will meet our needs.
Updating your old posts can put a stop to this by making sure your readers are satisfied with what they find on your page.
4. Maintain Brand Consistency
As your business evolves, it’s natural for your brand identity and buyer personas to evolve too.
But this can mean that your older blog posts were created with a different target audience in mind, or with a different brand TOV (tone of voice), or using different formatting and design conventions.
Updating these posts lets you iron out any inconsistencies and keeps your entire online presence on-brand.
5. Improve Conversions
Not only is updating an old blog post a chance to increase traffic, but it also presents the opportunity to boost conversion rates.
Older posts will often promote outdated or off-topic sign-up incentives.
Refreshing your post is a great time to fix this. You can replace the existing sign-up incentive with something more relevant to the subject matter of the post, like a new content upgrade or a topically-related eBook.
Consider the search intent that underlies the keywords used to find the post in question and promote whichever sign-up incentive is best aligned with this intent. This way you have a better chance of capturing more leads.
HubSpot refreshed their posts with this conversion optimization in mind, leading to a 240% conversion rate increase for some posts.
How to Update Your Old Blog Post in 18 Steps
Now we come to the business end of the process which is the update.
Remember, the goal here is to level-up the overall quality of your content.
How much work this takes will depend on the post. One post might only need a few updates, another might need a complete rewrite to get it up to scratch.
Use the following checklist to guide you:
1. Gather Ample Data
As we mentioned, creating an inventory of your posts should be your first step to updating old content for SEO. Don’t just randomly pick out old content and update it without knowing the numbers. Refreshing every article that you have is unnecessary, time-consuming, and a waste of resources. Decide which blog posts to update by doing the following:
Gather all your posts and compile them in a sheet. Alternatively, you can also use Google Analytics to view the full report of how your posts are doing. Moz and Semrush can also give you a detailed content audit.
Check the metrics and see which content you should update. Focus on the goal conversion rate, bounce rate, time spent on the page, social shares, and backlinks per visitor.
Now that you have collected the data you need, it’s time to decide which posts to prioritize. It is ideal to focus on 30 posts at a time to avoid overwhelming your editorial team. Consider doing an update at least once a year to keep your content fresh and relevant.
2. Make It Easy to Digest
Making your post easy to read and navigate will drastically improve the user experience.
For better readability, make use of white space by keeping paragraphs fairly short.
Trim away any fluff and make sure every sentence has a purpose. You want the content to be actionable. Another thing to focus on is grammar and spelling mistakes. Go through the whole article and see if you’ve missed out on edits the first time around. You can use a grammar-checking tool such as Grammarly to eliminate any text errors.
You can make the post easier to navigate by adding in a table of contents that contains ‘jump links’ to different parts of the page.
A table of contents will also help readers get the gist of the post more quickly.
3. Refresh Outdated Examples
Check that all statistics and figures you cite in your original post are up-to-date and still relevant.
Some websites go out of business, and some simply disappear into thin air. Broken links can hurt your search engine rankings and destroy the user experience. You can use Ahrefs’ broken link checker to eliminate dead links on your site. Replace any broken link with a newer external link by searching for a similar source on the internet. If you can’t find a new one, then just delete and remove the link altogether.
Mentioning new data and trends will, of course, add to the freshness of the post.
4. Update Your Visuals
Your post’s visual assets play an important role in conveying your message and in keeping your users engaged.
If you have the resources, consider enhancing your post by including a supplementary video.
If not, consider bringing the content to life with an infographic, or a new graph or table — or perhaps aim to inject some extra personality into the post by replacing standard images with GIFs.
5. Review Your Headline
A great headline will make all the difference to your CTR.
When crafting a new headline, you need to strike a delicate balance between click-ability and making sure it contains your target keyword.
One way to entice more readers is to incorporate a stronger call-to-action in your headline.
If you need help, try using a free tool like CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to figure out the optimal headline copy.
6. Optimize for Your Keywords
Having worked your target keyword into your new click-worthy headline, you should also ensure that you include that keyword — and any others you may be targeting — within your headers and body text.
Don’t overdo it, of course — a light sprinkling will do.
Target relevant keywords with low search volumes for a better chance at ranking higher on search engines. Avoid editing the sentences and paragraphs way too much, as this can mess up the current keywords that the piece is ranking for. Instead, consider adding new information to the draft and naturally insert the new keywords.
You should also revisit your post’s meta-description. A compelling description coupled with an enticing headline will help drive those click-through-rates.
Finally, make sure all images in the post have descriptive alt text.
7. Optimize for Featured Snippets
If there’s a featured snippet for your target keyword, check the format and accordingly.
For example, if the featured snippet is a list, make sure your post contains a relevant list; if it’s a paragraph, make sure you include a few lines giving a concise summary of your subject matter.
8. Add an Author Byline
One way of measuring, Google uses to determine page quality is ‘E-A-T’ (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness).
Content that falls short of these standards may be deemed less reliable.
One of the simplest ways to signal to Google and users that your content comes from a transparent, reliable source is to add an author byline and to link to their bio.
9. Fix Broken Links
Broken links can damage the reader’s perception of your content as well as hampering your SEO efforts.
You should update any links that lead to a 404-error page or any links that point to an outdated piece of content.
There are plenty of free tools available that will scan your post for broken links, such as the Dead Link Checker website or the LinkMiner Chrome extension.
10. Shore up Your Internal Linking
Check to see whether you could link to any newer posts that you’ve published since the original post went live.
Also, look to see whether you can add links to your updated post from your highest-authority posts (or those with the most backlinks). This can help pass on link equity to your newly updated piece.
11. Link out to Useful Resources
You want to make your posts as valuable as possible for your reader and linking out to other helpful or interesting resources is an effective way to do this.
External links also give you a legitimate reason to reach out to the people you’ve linked-to in the post. By letting them know that their work has been mentioned, they might be tempted to share the post or link to it from their own website.
12. Delete Spammy Comment
If you have a comments section on your blog, you may find that it gets overloaded with irrelevant messages or promotions.
These are worth removing since they can tarnish the perceived quality of your post.
13. Change the Date
One way to signal the freshness of your content is to replace your “published on” date with a “last updated” date.
Alternatively, you could simply include a note at the end of your post explaining when it was originally published and what changes have been made since.
You may also want to consider including “updated” in your headline.
If your post is evergreen, you could even consider removing the date altogether.
14. Update the URL
In most cases, updating the post’s URL isn’t necessary.
That said, a clean, well-structured URL that includes your target keyword(s) does offer a slight SEO advantage and can help give your page a more polished feel.
Approach any URL changes with caution.
You will need to implement a permanent 301 redirect from your old post to the new post.
Doing so will mean that any social share counts on your old post will revert to zero on your new post. What’s more, your analytics set-up may end up tracking data on the new and old URLs separately, so make sure you’re clear on how redirects will influence your reporting before making changes.
15. Improve Page Speed
Page speed is a crucial aspect of your website’s user experience — people hate it when a page takes too long to load.
Furthermore, Google now uses page speed as a ranking factor on both desktop and mobile.
One of the easiest ways to shave off some load-time is to compress your images.
Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for a detailed breakdown of your page speed.
16. Make Sure Your Post Is Mobile-Friendly
Most searches are done on mobile, and mobile-friendliness is a confirmed ranking factor.
It goes without saying that your post must render well on mobile devices.
For an overview of how your post performs on mobile, check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
17. Work On Your On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your web pages to get higher rankings and drive relevant traffic to your site. Doing this to your old content is a great way to boost it back to the first pages of search engines and should consist of the following:
- Update your SEO metadata, headings, and URL.
- Include your main keyword in the title.
- Keep your secondary keywords visible in H2, H3, and so on.
- The internal and even external links should be fresh, relevant, and up to date.
- Optimize your images.
18. Work on Your CTA
Your products and services change and improve constantly, and so should your calls to action. Your CTAs should motivate your readers to click and follow the link, and outdated ones will not encourage them to take action. Make sure to include your key phrases on your CTA and place them correctly on each article. Ideally, calls to action should be located at the end of the draft, so your viewers already know what they are about to get when they click on the link.
After the Update
Now that you’ve updated your post, it’s time to publish and promote!
Google will eventually get round to indexing the new content automatically, but if you want to speed things up you can always make a new index request in Google Search Console.
Spread the word about your updated posts as you would with any new post: send it out to your newsletter subscribers, share it on your social accounts, reach out to any bloggers or influencers you’ve mentioned in the post, and — if you have the budget — consider investing in some paid promotion.
Finally, don’t forget to monitor the post’s performance closely for the first few weeks. This includes checking for constructive feedback in the comments section as well as tracking traditional performance metrics in your analytics. You can apply all this to the next post you update.