One of the most common editorial strategies used by enterprise publishers is updating old content. All of our Penske Media Properties, as well as many publishers in the SHE Media Collective, see incredible results from refreshing content periodically.
When we looked at top-performing evergreen content across the network, very little is outdated. Much of the content is kept updated from year to year and maintained information is displayed on the page. If you’re noticing a decrease in traffic to your evergreen articles, start by checking out the publish date. Decide if the post can be made better with higher quality images, fresh information, and helpful links for users.
If it can, follow these tips to get the most out of your content refresh.
When To Update Content
When we work with SHE Media Collective members, the general recommendation is to leave content that is ranking well on Google, alone. Don’t touch the top performers. A good strategy for determining what to update is by finding posts ranking towards the bottom of the first page or on the second page. The fact that they’re already ranking means Google is considering them authoritative and high-quality. Improving and building on that solid foundation can give them that piece of content the bump it needs to move closer to a number one ranking in search results.
1. Update when content is outdated.
The most practical time to update blog posts is when the content is outdated. Evergreen content, by definition, doesn’t grow outdated but certain content headlines fall in the middle of evergreen content and something more timely. A best-of list, for example. This piece, The Best Skincare Brands For Teens, published on SheKnows.com, will likely need to be looked at again ever so often to make sure that “the best” truly represent the best ones on the market at any given time.
It’s beneficial for all parties—the publisher, Google, and the user—when content is kept updated.
2. Update when a related trending moment occurs.
Trending topics can send people scrambling to Google for more information. Timed correctly, this method can provide some traction to a matching evergreen story. This strategy occurs when something that happens in current news gains traction on social media and inspires you to update an evergreen piece. Here are a few examples:
- The news of a celebrity breakup inspires you to update your evergreen piece on the most heartbreaking celeb breakups of all time.
- A dog food brand is recalled, which spurs you to update your post on the healthiest dog food brands for your puppy.
- A hurricane is about to hit so you dig up the old piece you have on ways to stay safe during a hurricane.
You would update the evergreen piece to include the new piece of trending news.
3. When you’ve already written on the topic before.
It is better for your SEO (search engine optimization) and budget, to update one piece of content, year by year, with new products, images, links, and information, instead of creating new content. Having multiple pieces with similar headlines can result in confusion for Google.
Keep an inventory of your content, or, if your site is rather large, you can find existing content using this browser search command: site:domain.com (space) topic.
This should return to you everything Google has indexed on your site, related to that topic. If there is a match, you can update that existing post instead of creating a new one.
4. Update seasonal content.
Now that you know the benefits of having just one post on each article topic, it makes sense to treat top-performing holiday content the same. Gift guides, for example, typically perform best during the holiday seasons. You’ll want to update them yearly with new products, ensure product links work, and confirm prices are correct.
But seasonal content goes beyond gift guides. It can also encompass crafts, DIY projects, recipes, and travel testimonials. Carving out the time to update these stories each year can help your rankings and keep your users happy. Here are two examples of seasonal content that aren’t tied to the more traditional holidays:
Eco-conscious Influencers Inspiring Us to Live Greener Lives (published on Earth Day)
5. Update when traffic is dropping.
If you’ve noticed that traffic performance is declining, it may be a sign that the information or quality is lacking to some of your competitors.
One of my favorite things to tell our partners is to go back to Google, search for the topic and see what information the top rankings provide users. Also, look at the most common questions area to see the related questions people are typing into Google and then, if applicable and relevant, update your piece to include. Make sure the content you add is in your own words and voice.
Finally, don’t forget to update the date.
From my experience, the traffic bumps received from updating content have 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.
What to Update
As with most things Google, there is no provided formula for what to update (or not update) when refreshing content. We like to approach refreshes conservatively around here, with more of an “add, don’t subtract” method. I wouldn’t recommend gutting a perfectly fine intro graph just because. But look at it more from the perspective of, how can this post be more helpful to a user? Here are some things to look at.
- Images – are they clear? responsive? relevant to the text?
- Content – up to date? internal links?
- Can you enhance the page with more images or a video?
Keeping content fresh and up to date should be a part of every publisher’s editorial strategy!
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