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PHOTO: Maria

Digital marketing strategies place a lot of weight on content creation and generation. And, of course, this is a significant aspect of any content strategy.

But what about your already-published content that’s months, maybe even years old? Have you ever thought about revamping your existing content? By refreshing your past content, you may trigger new performance results and drive traffic without having to write an entirely new article.

Before we get into how to refresh your content, let’s review the basics to give you a better understanding of this practice and its importance.

What Does 'Refreshing Content' Mean?

“Content refresh” refers to the action of updating, editing and optimizing your existing content to maintain or boost its performance. You can revamp anything from blogs, thought-leadership posts and landing pages to guidebooks, knowledge bases, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Even your “evergreen” content needs to be updated periodically to keep it relevant.

How you revamp your content varies from piece to piece. It may include simple fixes like inserting visual elements, examples, actionable steps, navigation elements, etc. Or, more complex updates, such as changing the angle of the post altogether. 

So, when should you conduct a refresh? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Traffic plateaus or decreases
  • Ranking post drops in SERP
  • Conversion rates and leads decline
  • Major shift occurs in your industry
  • Searcher intent changes

Related Article: 5 Ways to Repurpose Outdated Content to Your Advantage

Why Is a Content Refresh Important?

A refresh strategy effectively increases your content’s metrics and overall performance by using the posts you already have. For example, Ben Kazinik, director of content at Mayple, used keyword optimization to take a post from 2,000 monthly views to 10,000 with just one refresh. 

Here’s a snapshot of the metrics you can improve with a content revamp:

  • Organic traffic
  • Search engine ranking page (SERP) position
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Purchases or signups
  • Conversion rates
  • Lead generation and so on

Instead of letting all your old content decay over time, routine refreshes help your catalog stay up-to-date and valuable to readers. With this approach, you strengthen the platform’s authority, relevancy, and quality. 

What Content Should You Update?

The type of content you prioritize for a revamp depends on your company’s marketing goals. But, it’s important to note that not all your published content is worth updating. You have to let some posts go since they may not deliver as much value as they once did. 

For instance, your market research may indicate that a different buyer persona can bring more value to your business. You may then want to prioritize content to meet this persona’s needs instead of spending time updating content that targets low-end customers. In other words, you’d let your previous buyer persona’s content decay and put your effort into the content that will deliver higher value conversions. 

Another factor to consider when prioritizing content refreshes is the target page’s peak performance. Tijana Radivojevic, head of content marketing at DuoQ, recommended updating “posts that have performed well in the past, but are declining in traffic and rankings now.” Using this approach, Tijana’s team increased their client’s organic traffic by 80% over the course of a year (see below).

organic traffic

It’s tempting to target struggling posts to improve the dead weight on your website. But, targeting content that already has traction helps maintain the quality and position of your ranking posts. It might even be enough to push posts sitting at positions 5-10 to the top of SERP – increasing your organic traffic along the way. 

Related Article: Content Marketing: Develop Your Omnichannel Strategy in 9 Easy Steps

Does Updating Past Content Hurt Your Pages or Website?

It’s always possible that a post may not improve after a revamp. There are no definite rules when it comes to SEO and content refreshes. That’s why it’s essential to be intentional and thoughtful about your content revamp decisions. So, make sure you can afford the outcomes of any risks you’re considering. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when refreshing your content:

  1. Rewriting or changing a post too much can confuse Google on the intent of your article, dropping it in SERP. Consider leaving some original content intact if you plan on making significant changes — especially if the post is already performing well. 
  2. Ensure you’re giving your edits enough time to make an impact before introducing more changes. This way, you can easily track what’s working and what’s not.
  3. URL changes and redirects come with drawbacks, such as slow loading speeds, broken links, and more. So, evaluate if it’s worth changing your URL. Conduct an interlinking and backlinking analysis to see how many links would be affected by this change.
  4. Updating content that isn’t relevant to your business may end up hurting your website metrics. This is because readers are coming, reading and leaving your page instead of moving down the marketing funnel, gradually increasing your bounce rate. When ranking pages, Google takes into account that the article isn’t meeting the searcher’s intent and that your business isn’t an authority on the topic. 

How to Refresh Your Content

Now that we’ve covered all the necessary foundational knowledge of refreshing content, let’s get into how to perform a revamp.

1. Identify Target Posts

As stated earlier, targeting content with traffic and traction yields the best refresh results. But, you may be wondering how to narrow it down from there. There are two options for identifying target posts — a content audit or “spot treatment.” Let’s take a look at these two methods.

Content Audit

This option is time-consuming, requiring you to assess all the content on your website. The result is an in-depth overview of each piece in your catalog and how the content performed. So, you can see the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy and what posts might benefit from a refresh.

How you analyze and record your audit depends on the resources and tools accessible to you. My colleague, Meryl D’Sa-Wilson, content marketing manager at United World Telecom, offered her advice on how to approach a content audit. 

“It’s hard to keep track of what you’ve done without a comprehensive record," she said. "So, I recommend thoroughly documenting your updating process according to your team’s specified benchmarks. Include edits made, optimization suggestions, prioritization, next steps, and so on. And if you have multiple people working on a content audit, this will help your team stay on the same page.”

Here’s an example of Meryl’s content audit documentation:

Spot Treatment

spot treatment
This method is less intense than a full-on content audit, requiring less time and resources. However, you will need access to web analytics software and a keyword research tool (these may be one and the same). Some examples of this would be SemRush, Moz, Google Analytics or Ahrefs.

“Spot treatment” refers to the process of identifying individual pages to update using analytics research. Start by looking at the top pages of your domain and what position they are currently in on SERP. 

Then, look for posts stuck in positions 3-6 and clearly tie back to your business. These have the best chance of increasing conversions. It also helps to look for pages with a keyword that’s low in density and high in volume, since it’s easier to rank for this combo.

For example: Imagine you run a business that sells a video editing tool, and you see two potential top pages to revamp. The first is Top Father’s Day Quotes for Dad, and the other is 15 Creative Father’s Day Video Ideas. Both have a good amount of traffic and are in the 3rd position on SERP. Which one do you choose to refresh? 

You should choose 15 Creative Father’s Day Video Ideas as it is relevant to your business and directly ties back to your services. So, you’ll direct traffic to a post that will drive more conversions. 

Related Article: How to Repurpose Content for Social Media Strategies

2. Review the Content

Once you’ve identified a target post, review it. If you haven’t looked at it in a while, what’s your first impression of the page? Evaluate the piece according to your team’s current standards, style and benchmarks. And make a note of what’s working and what’s not. Here are some things to consider when reviewing:

  • Does the post contain blocks of text that can be broken up with an infographic or video? 
  • Is it easy to navigate? Does the content have a table of contents?
  • Does the article get to the point quickly, or does the reader have to scroll to get to the lead?
  • Is the post’s message aligned with your target audiences, and do you have a clear call to action?
  • Does it contain older statistics or research?
  • Are there enough visuals or examples included to support your topic?

3. Conducting SERP Analysis

After you get a good idea of where your page ranks according to your own criteria, it’s time to perform a SERP analysis. This process helps you determine why your content isn’t in the number 1 position on SERP. 

Essentially, all you have to do is search your target keyword and explore the pages currently ranking. Then, compare them to your target post. Observe what the ranking posts include that your article lacks. Look for:

  • Long-tail keywords
  • Research, statistics, or examples
  • H-tags
  • Visual elements like infographics and videos
  • Missing topics, related searches, or “people also ask” topics
  • Current industry information
  • Expert quotes
  • Actionable advice
  • Original content and so on

Using the these ranking posts as guides, fill in the gaps in your content. But, remember only to make changes that are relevant to your business, buyer personas and the searcher’s intent.

Related Article: How to Find Content Marketing Success Through Any Budget

4. Meet the Keyword Intent

It’s crucial to evaluate if your post aligns with the reader’s reason for the search — also known as keyword intent or search intent. Aligning your content with the keyword’s intent directly affects your content’s ranking and bounce rate. This is because if readers don’t find what they’re looking for on your page, they will bounce and leave it for another.

There are different types of search intents, including informational, navigational, transactional and commercial. Each of these categories represents a different stage in the customer journey. So once you’ve determined which category your keyword or post falls under, you can identify where the searcher is in their journey. With this information, you can create compelling content that targets prospects and drives conversions. 

You can determine your keyword’s intent when conducting your SERP analysis. Pay attention to the format, angle, targeted pain points, and knowledge levels in the current ranking posts you find. 

For example: If the results show you lists, the searcher is probably looking for skimmable content. On the other hand, if the ranking content shows you guides, the readers might be searching for in-depth answers.

Standard Content Updates to Consider 

When deciding how to refresh your content, it may feel like there are endless possibilities. And that’s because there are! The updates and fixes you apply to a post depend entirely on your business’ goals and your SERP analysis research. But, if you’re struggling to decide, consider one or more of the following tactics to help you get started:

  • Consolidate related content to help combat keyword cannibalization. This way, you eliminate repetitive content and your posts avoid competition with each other in SERP. The end result is increased traffic to your target page.
  • Repurpose your content when possible. If your refresh doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for, find a way to give the content a new life, like converting it into a script for video marketing.
  • Consider the word length of your post. Take a look at the top posts in SERP and determine the average word length. If you find the ranking posts average about 2000, you’ll want to be around there too. But, avoid expanding your article just for the sake of a word count. Add valuable content only.
  • Updating the publication date is a quick and easy fix to keep your content up to date. Gosia Hytry, head of content at Spacelift, explained, “if your article was published in 2020 with the title DevOps Best Practices 2020, two years later, it’s no longer relevant. Google pays attention to up-to-date content and ranks them higher as readers ask for the latest trends and not the ones popular two years ago.” 
  • Target new keywords. You may find in your content audit that certain posts do not contain crucial keywords or are not properly optimized for their target keywords. Don’t be afraid to target new keywords as well as secondary and tertiary keywords, if possible. This could mean adding sections, replacing old keywords or reworking the angle of your post.

Include Content Refreshes in Your Strategy

As you can see, refreshing your content is essential to any good content strategy. Updating existing content should be an ongoing and routine effort as it helps sustain your website’s performance. Once you make updating existing content a habit, it might even give you new insight into your content creation strategy as well.