When I first started at SHE Media in 2013, our organic search traffic was on the decline. Perhaps penalized, perhaps not, our content was gradually slipping out of the search results and traffic was falling—fast.
When we looked at the top-performing content, one of the first things we noticed was that these articles had been published years prior. In my head, a light bulb went off. Google wants new, fresh content to populate the search results—not content that is outdated and no longer accurate or reflective of current day. As a user, that’s what you gravitate toward and expect from the behemoth search engine.
If you likewise notice that your once-top-performers are now outdated (depending on the search query), Google may take that as a signal that there are newer, better versions of that angle to showcase. So how do you keep your content fresh and maintained for your users? Here are four content refreshing strategies that will help you climb here in those SERPs (search engine results pages).
1. Update content as information becomes outdated
This is the most legitimate reason to refresh content. If your evergreen content references things like health studies or news stories, then the content on the evergreen pages need to be as up to date as possible. It’s worth it to take the time and update your news references, statistics, and relevant quotes. Google rewards content that is recent and up to date.
It’s also better for your site’s crawl bandwidth (and your editorial budget) to keep one piece of content for each angle and keep it updated each year with new products, images, links, information and generally fresh content than it is to create a new one each year, which can result in confusion for Google and 10 pieces of content competing for the same keywords. Following this practice will also help your SEO authority on those keywords.
2. Refresh evergreen content during trending moments
Trending topics can send people scrambling to Google for more information. Timed correctly, this method can provide some traction to a matching evergreen story.
Think about when big news about your favorite celebrity comes out. When you want to know what’s happening, you’ll type keywords like the celebrities name and some other details about the scandal or news story into the search tab in order to find the most relevant story. But chances are, you’ll also want to click on a few stories that are related to the same topic. This strategy has been beneficial both for search result position increases and also for Google News pickups. Check out these examples to get a better sense for how and when to employ it on your own site for better search traction.
For the health blogger: When a celeb is speaking out on her journey with endometriosis, take the opportunity refresh an old piece on endometriosis symptoms and treatments.
For the lifestyle blogger: During hurricane season a storm is making headlines as it prepares for landfall in your area. Dig up the old piece you have on ways to stay safe during a hurricane and update it with a new intro graph referencing this new hurricane.
3. Refresh seasonal content
From a content management perspective, it totally makes sense to keep certain top performing holiday pieces refreshed each year. Gift guides, for example, can perform really well during the holiday seasons. Digital shoppers dig them but each year you’ll want to update the product selection, pull in correct links and prices as well as images.
But seasonal content goes beyond gift guides. It encompasses things like crafts and DIY decor to recipes and travel stories. Carving out the time to update these stories each year—following some of the steps outlined above—can help your rankings.
4. Update content as performance decreases
If you’ve noticed that traffic performance is declining, try giving the piece a little extra love. Update images, intro copy, links and make it shine again. And then, don’t forget to update the date.
From my experience, the traffic bumps received from updating content has a lot to do with how much the topic actually needs refreshing, the quality and amount of adjusted copy and whether or not the date on the post is updated and re-fed to the XML sitemaps.
For us, this is a solid and proven strategy. Not every single refresh sees a giant traffic bump, but in total we’ve seen huge benefits from keeping our content updated and maintained. Plus, it’s just better for the user. As with anything, test first to see how the changes impact the traffic and rankings. Google is getting better and faster at determining the best result to the user’s search query so make sure your refreshing efforts actually improve the content.