Before you spend time writing new content for SEO, update your older content that is not performing as well and that has dropped off on Google organic rankings.
Writing new content is hard and time-consuming before it gets a foothold organically.
Updating old blog content that you already created and that is established takes far less time and resources than creating new content. The improvements in traffic and organic rankings are often better than a new piece of content.
How Does Updating Content Help With SEO?
Old content that has lost relevancy is like wood rot – you need to clean it up by updating it or you need to get rid of it, otherwise, it can drag your site down on quality.
The benefits of updating your content are many:
Here’s an example of two posts that were updated where the red arrow is – the clicks and impressions doubled or tripled soon after updating.
A page or blog post can live for years on Google’s first page if it stays relevant to the searcher and is updated.
I’ve had blog posts that have ranked well in Google organically for 10 years or more. As the
information changes with regards to the content of the page or post, I update it to increase its relevancy and continue to deliver value to the searcher.
Below is a process and a guide to follow that will have your traffic reverse its downward trajectory and take off again.
How To Update Your Content
For Better SEO
First Prioritize Which Content To Improve
Start With The Top Pages Receiving Google Organic Traffic
Here’s how to find your high-volume posts from within Google Search Console:
Content That Was Ranking And Dipped
If a page or post was ranking well and recently took a dip, you may not have to update much at all on the page.
Sometimes an update to a page needs a major overhaul. But sometimes, as in the below example, it's simple and as easy as adding a section or paragraph of a missing sub-topic.
The latter of those two scenarios - the easier case - is the situation in the below chart.
Fighting for position organically and competing in Google's Search Results Pages (SERPs) is relative to the competitive environment for that particular phrase (traditional SEO). The SEO goal is to be the least imperfect relative to your competitors.
The chart above shows a page ranking well for a particular phrase (it ranks for many others, but this phrase is the most economically valuable).
We caught a dip in its average position that went from 1.5 to 3.5+.
Nothing had changed on the site or the page itself, and there were no major/core Google algorithm updates from Google at that particular time.
Check Competitor Pages For Additional Content Ideas
We then added several new paragraphs and two infographs/images to this page based on what we saw with the higher-ranking competitor pages in this dip that would help this page more closely align to the searcher’s intent.
Next, we resubmitted the page to Google for re-indexing, and the page popped back up to an average position of 1.5.
The takeaway is this for SEO:
If you notice drops in average position with important pages, look at what has changed algorithmically or what has been announced with Google’s algorithm, if anything.
Look at your own site/page for any changes, if there were any.
And then, look at the content of your better-performing competitors to identify the gaps in your content that could align the page to searcher intent better.
In this case, there was no core algorithm update.
We believe Google’s algorithm likely learned that what people were searching for around this topic/keyword changed slightly, and this page was missing that content relative to its higher-ranking peers.
We added a missing sub-section of content that made the page more complete, and it was back on top.
When does a minor page update work?
Typically, when there hasn't been a major core algorithm update with significant shifts in rankings, and it has been a long time since you last wrote the article. Identifying what can improve the page experience and more thoroughly covering the topic based on searcher expectations can oftentimes be enough to propel the page back up.
However, if the dip happens at the same time a core algorithm update rolls out from Google, there's a higher chance that the page and/or site needs a deeper dive and analysis of its issues.
Maybe Nothing Is Wrong At All - A Dip Can Reflect Better Alignment With Search Keywords and Intent
It's entirely reasonable that a dip in ranking on a keyword doesn't mean anything is wrong at all with a page or post.
In some cases, Google just figured out a page is not aligned to the topic as well as others.
Here's an example.
We have a post on our site titled, Facebook Ads for Mortgage Brokers. Our ranking was strong for that search phrase but then it dipped and fluctuated off position one.
But the intent of that search phrase is broad - it could cover everything related to Facebook advertising. In comparison, our post is primarily focused on lead generation which is a subtopic within the broader subject of Facebook advertising.
So, in this case, a dip is fine - Google just recognized better alignment with another site's post that was more general in its coverage of that topic.
However, if you want to recover that drop in your position, then you need to consider how you can re-write that post to align more with the intent of the query as it compares with other posts.
Improve Your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) in Google Organic Search Results
Just updating the content can improve the click-through-rate (CTR) from the organic search results into your page.
If your post or page is set to show the date in the search results page as illustrated below in yellow, you can get a bump in CTR from people that want to click on the latest results (provided you updated the date of when the post was published) – improved CTR from the search results can help improve your rankings, too. In WordPress, it’s very easy to update the date of publication for any post.
Update Title Tags, Meta Descriptions
Improved CTR also occurs as a result of more relevant information displayed in the Title tag and Meta Description, which resonates with searchers.
Review your Title tag and Meta Descriptions for your pages or posts and update them with more compelling content. The title tag and meta description are what google shows in its search results page – this is free advertising space, so use it wisely.
Here’s how to improve your Title tag and Meta Description:
Here’s an example I snipped from Google where it has made the keywords bold in the search results:
(see my related post on improving Title tags, meta descriptions )
Fix Grammar and Spelling Throughout Your Content
Use a tool like Grammarly to help correct past mistakes and improve your writing.
With Grammarly, you can designate the type of content you’re working on so that it provides the appropriate recommendations.
For example, is the piece you have written an article or blog post, academic, medical, business, or casual? It will not only correct spelling errors but also grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, and make recommendations on vocabulary enhancements.
Improve Your On-Page SEO
Fix or Remove Broken Links
If your site is using WordPress, some plugins will automatically check for broken links on your site. One such plugin is Broken Link Checker.
You can also use tools such as SEM Rush or Ahrefs that will do a complete site audit and identify all the issues on your site…these tools are for more experienced users of SEO.
Link to relevant content externally
Are there any updated resources you could link to on the web that would be helpful for your readers? Linking to other sites can be a great way to get additional social exposure and backlinks as well.
This is how it works:
If you link to another website reach out to the site owner and let them know. Often when you reach out, the site owner will Tweet your post, or send it out via an email newsletter that gets you that much more exposure.
Update Internal Links
Internal linking from one related page to another is an effective SEO tactic that can boost rankings and, most importantly, be of value to your site visitor (a related post here on the value and importance of internal linking to growing rankings). Internal linking keeps people engaged and on your site for longer.
Anchor Text: Use Google Search Console to identify the most relevant anchor text for the page you're updating. Below is a screenshot of a page in Google Search Console and the corresponding text that drove the clicks and impressions for that page. Google is telling us the keywords that it sees as most relevant for that page. (a related post here about how to use Google Search Console for better SEO).
If you have a lot of content, there’s an easy way you can use Google to find existing and authoritative pages on your site about a particular keyword to link to.
Use Google advanced URL operators – sounds techy, and geeky, but it’s simple and not hard to do.
Open up Google in a new browser window (incognito so it serves you pages unbiased to your browser history) and type:
This will show you all the pages on your site that have that keyword and Google will sort the pages automatically by most relevant at the top.
For example, I did this advanced search operator using the word “restaurant” to find all the articles we’ve written about restaurant marketing.
Optimize Images and Videos
Make sure your images have alt tags that accurately reflect the image. Check the image size – make sure the image is the correct size for the spot on the page. Images that are too large in dimensions force the browser to re-size the image to fit the space before it loads in the browser, and it slows down page load times.
Also, check to see if you can reduce the overall image size by using a different image type – for example, converting it from jpg to png.
Add relevant captions for images that did not have captions (related post here on how to optimize images for SEO).
If you have videos embedded, check that they have titles and descriptions.
Consider adding additional videos throughout the content to improve engagement and time on site, which could indirectly help SEO (although John Mueller has said engagement is not a signal).
Related posts here:
- YouTube video embeds to skyrocket rankings on Google's first page)
- This article for a more in-depth look at how to rank your website on Google’s first page
- And another related SEO Case study here of an SEO case study of a cooking website that ranked 750 keywords on the first page of Google with only quality content and a good internal linking strategy.
Improve Keyword Selections
Keyword Research: Check For Additional Keywords/Phrases To Add
Using your favorite keyword tool along with a couple of other tricks, check for additional keywords, phrases, or concepts to possibly add to the content to make it current.
Here’s a process you can use:
Check Google Ads Keyword planner for additional keyword recommendations – here’s where to find that in Google Ads:
Check Google’s related searches at the bottom of a search results page – below are the results for, “hvac not cooling.” Google serves up quite a few other related searches for you to consider.
Check the competitors that are ranking above you for content and topics you missed that would add value – click through to each site and take notice. Do the other sites have more graphs, images, videos, longer content, or is it more thorough? (here's a related post about how to choose keywords for SEO.)
Go beyond just looking for new keywords to use for additional content. Think clearly about the intent of the keyword…what is this searcher looking for with each keyword?
What is the need?
Make sure you are addressing the needs of the searcher…one of the best ways to NOT rank is to write content that doesn’t help the searcher, or it is not what they are looking for and they pogo stick back to the search results to find a more relevant page - that's a bad ranking signal.
If you’re not sure what the intent is of the search is, then look at the results that Google serves up for the query and see what the focus is of the content on those pages. Use that qualitative competitive analysis also to help you build out your content with the areas that others are covering that you are not.(and a good read here on SEO funnels)
Where To Use Your Keyword
Make sure you’re using your keyword at a minimum in the following places:
Here's a related post on an effective blog post workflow to help with SEO. And if you're using WordPress, don't forget the power of using WordPress categories effectively to improve your silo and content hub strategy.
Update With New Types of Content and Length
Add new images, photos, and videos.
Are there any charts, infographs you could create to help display the text better?
What about short how-to, or explainer videos? Content with multimedia tends to attract more links and further improve your rankings. Plus, not everyone wants to read, some people prefer videos.
Create Long-Form Content
Generally speaking, longer content performs better than short content since it’s likely to cover the topic more thoroughly and address the needs of the searcher. You can always check the pages that are already ranking well to get a qualitative sense for the length but use that analysis lightly.
But in some cases, longer content is not better - here's a good post on how reducing the word count can significantly improve your SEO rankings in some instances.
How is the readability?
Is the content easy to read?
Nobody ever said, hey, that was too easy to read. Clean up your old content where it is hard to read, too technical, and boring.
Here are some ideas, but consider further developing your copywriting skills:
The goal: you want people to start reading your article and continue to the end without stopping – like a slippery slope…they get on at the top and continue to the bottom non-stop.
How do you do this?
Many copywriting formulas help keep people engaged from top to bottom. There are many, but one such formula is PAS – problem, agitate, solution.
For example, illustrate the problem to the reader. Demonstrate it with stats, graphs and charts, and an explanation of what the problem is. Make it clear and precise.
Then agitate the problem – let them know the consequence of waiting, or why this is important, or this is what will happen to you if you fail to act.
Then lead into your solution for them, and how they can avoid this disaster or the consequences that you laid out above.
Know Your Audience – Who Is Your Avatar?
Make certain while you’re writing your article, you know who the reader is, and you’re writing to that person. Often referred to as a persona or avatar.
Here’s a list of questions to help you more thoroughly understand who you are writing for:
And here's a related post on how to use categories in WordPress more effectively.
Add FAQ and Video Schema Markup
With FAQs, it gives you the opportunity to show in the zero position at the top of search results (read more about zero-click searches). With video schema, you can show in in the video tab, or on mobile devices, often your video will show as part of your organic listing.
FAQ Example Ranking:
Google often has a Featured Snippet at the top of its search results page, as in the below example.
How do you rank in a Featured Snippet?
One way is to look for questions associated with the primary keyword topic and use FAQ schema markup.
Often when you search a keyword phrase as the above snippet, Google provides a section on the page called, “People also ask” – these are excellent examples of what to markup with FAQ schema.
Also, check related searches that Google often provides at the bottom of a search result page which can also surface potential questions.
Implement FAQ Schema Markup
Below is an example of the schema markup for the above result on our site. This code is added to the <Head> section of your page. Make sure that the content you use in the FAQ schema is also content that is on your page.
If you’re using WordPress, adding this schema markup to the <head> section of a page or post is typically easy as there is a section dedicated to adding header and footer scripts.
Which in the above schema markup example led to our page showing in the zero position in Google for this related query too, "Cost to advertise on yelp."
Here's a page that was updated with FAQ schema - the blog post received a nice pop in additional impressions and traffic just from the additional exposure.
And this is after updating that same page with video schema markup of the embedded video that is on the page. Incrementally more clicks and impressions.
Promote Your Newly Updated Content For More Links, Social Exposure
One of the best ways to get links and social shares is by reaching out to sites or bloggers you mentioned in your posts.
For example, in a post I wrote about restoring a Google My Business listing that had been maliciously targeted by competitors falsely reporting it as spam, I linked out to two influential local SEOs from within the article.
Both people pushed the content out via their social channels and through an email newsletter. This resulted in thousands of additional impressions – not just from the exposure of the original tweets, but others that followed those influencers also retweeted it as well, further exposing the content to an even larger audience. Below is an example of someone that saw the original mention and tweeted it out to his thousands of followers.
Make Sure The Content Delivers Value And Covers The Topic
What do I mean by that?
Look at the competitors that are ranking posts about the same topic.
What To Do After You Have Updated Your Content?
Instead of waiting for Google to come back to your site and re-crawl the updated content (which who knows how long that will take), head over to Google Search Console, and
resubmit your content for crawling.
This process does not guarantee that Google bot will come any sooner, but it can help. On my site, when I resubmit new content, Google bot shows up right away and crawls the page and
indexes the new content.
Here’s how you can do that from within Google Search Console:
After you have submitted the page, you will see something like below. Click on “REQUEST INDEXING.”
Metrics To Keep An Eye On - Google Search Console
Moving forward, now that your content has been updated and given a shiny new paint job, watch how it trends organically in Google using Google Search Console.
Watch the following metrics:
Keep in mind, the average position for the page can be misleading since Google exposes your page to dozens or hundreds of searches you had no intention of specifically targeting and this brings down your average page position. Instead, keep watch on the average position of your targeted keywords for that page.
Here’s an example from within Google Search Console – you can toggle these metrics on or off by clicking on: “clicks,” or “impressions,” or “CTR,” or “Average Position”
What Not To Do When Updating Your Content
Most importantly, DO NOT EVER change the URL of a page or post when you update the content – changing the URL can have a significant negative impact on SEO. When you first create a new post, you need to think clearly about the URL. Don’t use anything in the URL that is not evergreen (e.g., the year, or 3 tips when later you updated it to include 10 tips).
If your article is ranking well already and has just slipped a bit, I would be careful about changing the majority of the content, but certainly, add some of the features to improve the readability and engagement.
Before writing new content, look to update existing older content first that has slipped in rankings. It’s faster, less time-consuming, and much quicker to realize gains in rankings and traffic with content updates versus writing new content.
With continuous ongoing updates to your content, it can stay evergreen for years and produce a continuous flow of Google organic traffic.
Please leave your comments and questions below as it helps the community.