For a company to be found by its audience online, it must be at (or near) the top of Google search engine results pages (known as SERPs). However, for a page to even reach the top of SERPs, it must offer relevant and valuable content to searchers, thanks to the search engine’s consistent algorithm updates. To stay at the top of SERPs, your business doesn’t need to constantly churn out brand-new content, though. All those older blog posts that are sitting around in your content library gathering dust are a great source of potential value.
Of course, you can’t just update a blog post by dropping in some modern language and hoping Google will take the bait. To show Google that your content delivers both searcher and SEO value, you have to go further and make sure it’s been strategically updated. Ideally, your historically optimized content should be an asset to both your company and Google: You get to the top of SERPs for specific keywords, and Google gets to stay ahead of its competitors by serving up high-quality content and a positive experience.
Make no mistake about that latter benefit to Google. It might not seem like it from the user’s perspective, but Google is a business. Google cares about its reputation as the largest and most broadly used search engine in the world — and for good reason. As a user, if you used Google every day for a week and it took multiple attempts to unearth the relevant content you were looking for, you might reevaluate your choice of search engine. On the other hand, if you feel like you can trust that you’ll always get a non-spammy, helpful, and relevant response from Google, you’ll likely stick with it as a trusted resource.
The bottom line here is that it’s to your benefit to make Google happy and figure out what to do with old blog posts that are past their prime.
Follow this step-by-step strategy to give tired content a second chance and improve your search rankings:
Data is always your friend when investigating which blog posts to target for updates. For all your content, do a deep dive using your analytics tool (e.g., Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, HubSpot, etc.) and a third-party SEO tool (e.g., Semrush or Moz). If you see any changes in keyword rankings, entrances, page views, time on page, or other metrics, note them. You want to understand the holistic performance of every page to determine which ones should be refreshed first.
At the same time, check your pages’ technical performance. You want to ensure blog posts are still being indexed, don’t include broken links, and don’t have any page load speed issues. Be sure to test all pages for mobile-friendliness, too. Sometimes older blog posts don’t perform as well on today’s mobile devices.
After figuring out which blog posts have stopped performing well — or at least slowed down — you can begin a logistical and contextual content audit. This requires you to audit the page title, meta description, header tags, and image alt text. These are important for SEO because they help Google understand your page’s content so it can be served up to searchers based on their queries. Be sure to insert target keywords naturally within all these page elements.
Then, review the content from an editorial perspective. Does the piece of content still satisfy its original intent? Are there new stats available? Has the language around your topic changed? Is it all still readable, or does it no longer fit modern syntax or layout norms? The way we communicate keeps evolving; you want your content to keep up.
Visually, your upgraded page needs to be clean and well-organized. If it looks more like a cluttered, jumbled Myspace page from the 2000s, you’ll never get people to read it. Even the simple act of switching the typography to a more legible typeface in an appropriate color can give content more power and ensure it’s accessible to those with visual impairments.
Your blog design facelift should also include high-quality images, videos, and/or graphics. You want people to land on your content and feel like it’s modern and riveting. Plus, it should contain a mixture of short-tail, long-tail, and intent-targeting keywords to make sure you’re reaching the correct audience in search results — and engaging them once they land on your content.
After putting in the work to update your blog posts, use your preferred analytics tool and SEO tool to see historical optimization data. Check in on performance three months, six months, and one year after updating. You should see an uptick in your key metrics. If you don’t, you might need to go back to the drawing board.
Oh, and don’t forget to request for Google to recrawl your pages. That’s an SEO best practice when updating URLs.
It can be tempting to say goodbye to a blog post that no longer seems to add value to your website. But before closing the door, give it another chance. With a bit of tinkering, your old posts might just offer your business new leads — and allow you to provide your audience with relevant, engaging content without having to create that content from scratch.
I’m a digital marketing strategist who firmly believes that every decision should be data-driven and that education should be lifelong. When I’m not optimizing content for search visibility or reporting on KPIs, you’ll likely find me at a local trivia night with an IPA in my hand.