Why You Should Update More and Write Less
An up-to-date relevant older post will result in just as much attention in social media, bring in just as much traffic back to your blog, will be just as likely to be linked to and ranked in the search engines as a brand new post.
When people find their way to an outdated post on your blog (whether through search engines, mentions on other blogs, guest posts, etc.), they are very unlikely to be impressed – you’ll lose your credibility and potential readership.
And the difference between updating an older post vs writing a brand new one? Hours and hours of work.
Don’t get me wrong: writing new content should remain the cornerstone of your online marketing. BUT your brand new content should be just a tip of the iceberg leading your readers to the wealth of expertise in your industry – i.e. the rest of your blog.
In other words, it’s time to stop writing and start purging.
Plus, here’s what Google says about updating your site:
Let’s start with a handy checklist you can apply to any post you need to update.
Queue ’em Up
1. Find Posts that Bring In the Most Search Engine Traffic
2. Find Posts that Bring In the Most Referral Traffic
3. Find Posts that Bring In the Most Social Media Traffic
4. Include Posts from Your Sidebar
5. Include Posts You Most Often Internally Link To
10 Steps to Update Outdated Content
1. Update outdated copy
Replace outdated data/stats with current ones
Replace outdated examples with new, fresh ones
Add any new best practices
2. Update Images
Update screenshots if things have changed
Make sure you don’t use any copyrighted images
Create a powerful featured image to grab attention and drive traffic
3. Update call-to-action (CTA)
Make sure the post has a relevant CTA
Remove any conflicting CTAs
4. Update internal links
Include new relevant internal links
5. Clean up external links
Link out to fresh relevant sources
Clean up any 404 links, especially in your comment section
6. Update SEO
Optimize title tag
Optimize meta description
7. Optimize Social Media Markups
Add Open Graph markup
Add Twitter Cards markup
8. Update post title
Rules of Thumb When Updating Blog Posts
1. Change the post; don’t touch URL
2. Add a post footer to explain the updates
3. Post “Updated on” Date
4. Remove content that’s beyond help
Queue ’em Up
First, you need to determine which blog posts you need to update first – and it only makes sense to start with those that currently enjoy the most web traffic.
Here’s your plan of action step by step.
Step 1: Find Posts that Bring In the Most Search Engine Traffic
Chances are the majority of your posts that are currently bringing in search engine traffic were published a while ago, thus are most likely outdated.
Let’s start our content purge potentials by identifying our top search engine performers.
The best way to do it is to take a look at top Landing Pages in your Google Analytics (found under Acquisition=>Search Engine Optimization=>Landing Pages).
Alternatively, you can use a custom SEO dashboard data – you can quickly upload one into your own Google Analytics account absolutely free from this post:
If Google Analytics scares you more than it helps, check out Kristi Hines’ recent:
Step 2: Find Posts that Bring In the Most Referral Traffic
Referral traffic is traffic that comes to your website via a citation on another website, for example, a blog mention, social media share, YouTube video, etc.
To learn more about referral traffic and how to get more of it to your blog, be sure to read:
For this particular step of purging our outdated content, we’ll focus on referrals from other blogs.
Here’s what you do:
- Go to Acquisition=>Channels=>Referral.
- Click on Referral to get a list of referring sites.
- Click on a specific site name to find the post(s) that mention(s) your blog.
- Since Google Analytics doesn’t currently list the Landing Pages for these referrals (i.e. which of your posts/pages those referral blogs are linking out to), you’ll have to visit each of them manually to get that info.
Step 3: Find Posts that Bring In the Most Social Media Traffic
Most of social media traffic is very short-lived in nature: you share a post, it gets picked up by social media influencers (lucky you!), you enjoy a spike in traffic, which quickly dies down.
It wouldn’t be very productive for us to include those kinds of posts in our content purge list.
However, if you use social media sites like YouTube, Slideshare, and others of similar nature, you might find a few of your posts that are frequented by referrals from those sites.
These are the ones that are definitely worth keeping your attention.
Here’s what you do:
- Go to Acquisition=>Social=>Network Referrals.
- Click on any particular network that brings in a steady flow of traffic.
- Get a list of your blog posts that get the most traffic love.
By the way, to learn more about driving an insane amount of traffic from Slideshare, be sure to read the following:
Step 4: Include Posts from Your Sidebar
If you are running any sort of “Popular Posts” or “Recent Posts” widgets in your sidebar, you’d better make sure you direct your readers to quality posts – goes without saying.
Don’t need any tools to figure this one out; just add those posts to your content purge list.
SIDE NOTE: How I do my Web Traffic Hits popular posts in sidebar
The best way to take control over the quality of posts shown in your sidebar is to create a separate category (I called mine “Best of”) where you manually add posts that you know will add value to your readers’ experience.
Then use any Popular Post widget to display those posts in your sidebar limiting it to that specific category.
Step 5: Include Posts You Most Often Internally Link To
This is an easy one as well: I bet there’s a number of your blog posts you find yourself internally linking out to from many of your new posts.
That, most likely, is an indication that those are your pillar evergreen posts that deserve an occasional sprucing up.
You guessed it: they go on your content purge list as well.
SIDE NOTE: How to make your internal linking a piece of cake
Don’t scratch your head every time you need to find that special post to reference when writing a new blog post.
Create a simple spreadsheet of your best work and add to it whenever you publish a new link-worthy post.
Doesn’t have to be anything fancy: a simple Google Drive spreadsheet with post names and URLs broken down into categories will do just fine.
You can take a look at/copy mine here.
Now that you have your list of potential content purge candidates, it’s time to have fun with it.
10 Steps to Driving Traffic withYour Outdated Content
Here’s your checklist on what to do (in order of importance) when updating a post.
Step 1. Update Outdated Copy
This one is self explanatory.
A hands-on example of transforming a dull blah post into something evergreen and sharable:
One important thing to note when updating your post copy: make sure it’s written the way your reader prefers to read it.
And how does your reader want to read it? BARELY.
Skimming is the new reading.
With that in mind and to make the best of your readers’ attention deficit, structure your posts in the following way:
Put your best foot forward and don’t hold back – give your readers the skinny quickly and concisely. And don’t forget to add those sharing buttons at the top!
Speaking of which:
[share]Why not share this post right now – THANK YOU![/share]
Step 2. Update Images
This is something I am currently in the process of doing at Traffic Generation Café: scouring through all images in my Media Library, purging the ones that might be copyrighted, i.e. land me in a pool of legal trouble, and replacing them with images that fit my writing style a lot better.
To learn about driving more blog traffic through creating better images, read:
Free Blog Post Images: Where to Find Them, How to Use Them
How To Create a Blog Post Image That Gets Noticed And Drives Traffic
Step 3. Update Your Call-to-Action (CTA).
Say it with me: C-O-N-V-E-R-S-I-O-N-S – that’s our ultimate goal when publishing anything on our sites.
Is your post CTA a strong one? Do you even have one? Do you have one too many?
The best source to learn more about CTAs is this free PDF from Hubspot:
101 Examples of Effective Calls-to-Action – Hubspot.com
And if you prefer to watch, here’s an excellent Whiteboard Friday video from Rand Fishkin at Moz.com:
Step 4. Update Internal Links
Internal links (links in your blog posts pointing to other relevant pages/posts on your blog) are one of the most effective ways to promote your content. That’s how most of your readers discover various posts on your blog and that’s what encourages search engine spiders to crawl your site.
With that in mind, your internal linking needs to be smart, effective, relevant, and up to date.
And DON’T use any automatic plugins to do your internal linking for you – it’s bad for SEO and usually results in bad reader experience.
Step 5. Clean up External Links
As time goes by, your blog will inevitably end up with a bunch of 404 Not Found errors, links to spam websites (yes, websites change hands and go rogue all the time), and outdated mentions.
Needless to say, all of the above is bad for business.
- No one likes to click on a link just to end up on a 404 page.
- If your comment section is inundated with links to less-than-reputable sites, you’ll just end up attracting even more spam.
- Even though broken links might not have a direct effect on your rankings, it might still limit your crawl budget (how much time search engine spiders spend crawling your website).
To learn more about 404 Not Found Errors, how they affect your site, and how to deal with them (plus a funny video about 404 errors – who would’ve thought!), visit:
Here’s your plan of action to purge the links that threaten your blog’s well-being:
1. Scan your entire blog or a specific page for broken links.
If you are a tear-the-bandaid-off-in-one-quick-swoop kind of person, you might want to do a complete site scan and do one massive attack on all your broken links.
It takes time, but this kind of purge might be the best way to go.
To see what free tools I suggest to use for your broken links purge, read:
If you are not ready for a project and to stay focused on our task of purging specific outdated content, the easiest way to determine if you have any broken links on a specific page is to use a free broken link checker like DeadLinkChecker.com.
2. Update the page with relevant external resources.
Link out to fresh relevant sources outside your blog that is.
When you generously mention/link to other blogs in your blog posts, you end up promoting your own blog by promoting others.
See some great examples/guides to do just that:
Blogger Outreach: How to Get Influencers to Promote Your Content for Free – at BoostBlogTraffic.com
How I Got the Most Shared Post of the Week for Blog Promotion – at Moz.com
Influencer Marketing: How I Got 9000 New Blog Readers in Just 2 Weeks! – at Creative-Copywriter.net
By the way, the reason I knew about the last two posts I just mentioned was because the authors (+Brian Lang and +Konrad Sanders) mentioned me in their respective posts.
And now they are getting mentioned at Traffic Generation Café. Come to your own conclusions!
So go ahead and add those external links; it’s good for your reading community and good for you!
By the way, if you are afraid to loose your blog traffic to other sites, here are two tips to help:
- Make sure you add target=”_blank” to all your (external) links to ensure those links open in a new window/tab.
- Install Sharedby.co toolbar on your site. I’ve had it for a while at Traffic Generation Café and saw fantastic results with it.
To learn more about Sharedby.com toolbar, check out:
Step 6. Optimize SEO
SEO practices are ever-changing and we need to keep up if we have any hope to attract search engine visitors.
When updating an older blog post, pay attention to the post’s title tag, meta description, as well as topical keywords within the content body.
To make my life easier, I use Easy WP SEO plugin to keep track of my on-page optimization at Traffic Generation Café.
Also remember that due to the recent Google changes, you need to keep your title tag to under 55 characters.
If SEO is not your strong suit, make sure to take a look at:
SEO Traffic 2014: Your One-Stop Reference Guide for Non-SEOs
SEO Traffic 101: Simple Strategies to Getting More Search Engine Traffic
Step 7. Optimize Social Media Markups
Social media markup (or lack thereof) can make a huge difference in how your post looks when shared on social media and how much social media traffic it will actually drive.
It’s painfully useless to go through so much work of updating your outdated blog posts without reaping the ultimate reward of more website traffic, don’t you think?
Social media markup includes optimizing your post for Open Graph (Facebook markup, but also used by Google+ and Twitter) and Twitter Cards (used by Twitter).
To make including social markup a breeze, I once again suggest using Easy WP SEO plugin I mentioned above – just add blog post title, description, and featured image and your post will start standing out in social media. Fill out the rest and you’ll be way ahead of your competitors.
To learn more about social media markup, take a look at this handy Slideshare presentation by the Walt Disney Company at last SMX Advanced:
Also, learn everything you need to about Schema.org markup (used by Google, Yahoo, and Bing) in this post:
Step 8. Update post title
Last but not least, make sure your title lives up to the post’s greatness.
My personal suggestion is to drop fancy and go for benefits.
Love the following examples from Michael Gray’s Why You Should Blog Less and Update More, showing how you should/shouldn’t title your blog post.
Stay away from:
- How to Make Your Analytics Reports More Beautiful than a Double Rainbow … and Know What it Means!
- Why You Don’t Need to Be A Grumpy Cat When Working on Your Link Building
- How to Make Your Infographics Stand Out Like Honey-Boo-Boo in A Bikini
- What Dance Moms Can Teach You About Dealing with Crazy Clients
- Link Building Strategies That Won’t Make you Crazy
- How to Make Sure your Infographics Go Viral
- Strategies For Dealing with Difficult Clients
Couldn’t agree more.
Not sure what makes a great title great? Take a look at:
Unlock the Keys to Absolutely Irresistible Blog Titles – at RebekahRadice.com
Step 9. Reformat
I was once told that my blog posts are nothing but one-sentence paragraphs.
Guess what? It’s for a reason. It makes my content more scannable, skimmable, shareable, and traffic-driveable.
White space, bullet points, eye-catching images, and headers are your best friends when it comes down to reader retention.
Here are a couple of great reads on the subject of formatting:
A Comprehensive Guide to Formatting Your WordPress Posts – at Copyblogger.com
Trade secrets: How to craft bullet points like a superstar copywriter – at WebsiteCopywritingServices.com
Step 10 (optional). Repurpose
This is my most favorite way to maximize website traffic and conversions from each post I write: Content Leverage.
In short, you take your blog post and repurpose it in various media formats; for instance.
- PowerPoint Presentation: create an outline, turn it into a PowerPoint presentation, and submit it to Slideshare-type sites.
- Video: make an audio to go with the presentation and turn it into a video – syndicate to video sites.
- PDF: make a transcript of your video, turn it into a PDF – syndicate to PDF sites.
- Podcast: turn the audio file into a podcast.
- Images: turn key points of your post into images – submit them to sites like Pinterest and Instagram.
- Guest posts: use the main concepts of your original post and develop them into a guest post (not duplicating, but complimenting it); link the guest post to your original one.
- Free WSO: submit your PDF as a free WSO through WarriorForum.com.
- Webinars: if the topic has depth to it, you can expand your original PowerPoint presentation into a webinar (conduct it for your own readers or, better yet, team up with another blogger to present it to their readers).
The opportunity to drive web traffic utilizing the same original piece of content grows exponentially!
To learn more about milking your content for all traffic it’s worth, take a look at:
4 Rules of Thumb When Updating Blog Posts
Before we wrap up the post, here are a few useful pointers to remember when purging your outdated content.
1. Change the post; don’t touch URL.
It makes much more sense for SEO purposes to update the original post, rather than publish the updated version under a new URL.
Important to remember:
Since the post you are editing is live, it’s best to copy/paste the original version into a new post draft, make all the necessary changes there, then copy/paste everything to replace the original post.
2. Add a post footer to explain the updates.
It’s always a good idea to add a note at the bottom of your updated post to tell your readers that the post has been completely revamped.
This is particularly important if a post has quite a few comments accumulated since it was first published. Your readers might find it frustrating to see the new publish date, but comments from months and years ago.
3. Post Updated on Date.
You can also choose to display a “Last Updated On” date on your newly updated post just like I do at Traffic Generation Café at the top of each post.
This is a great way to let readers know they are reading something that’s current and relevant.
For a tutorial on how to add this function to your blog, take a look at:
3 Ways to Update Your Already Published Blog Post Date – at wpresstic.com
Word of caution: don’t mess with the code without backing up your blog first.
That’s not a problem when you are hosted on WP Engine because they give you a staging server where you can test everything you do without stress.
Also, if you are using Genesis Framework for your blog, like I do at Traffic Generation Café, here’s a simpler way (and you don’t have to mess with the code – bonus): the Simple Edits plugin for Genesis plus a short string of code to add – thanks to Chris Lema for this tip.
4. Remove content that’s beyond help.
Sometimes the best thing to do with outdated content is to get rid of it altogether.
Examples of such content at Traffic Generation Café would include posts like:
- old Weekly Marketing Skinnies (who wants to read old news!)
- my earlier posts which clearly indicate I didn’t know what I was doing
- seasonal sales on various internet marketing tools
Before trashing any old blog post, make sure to redirect its URL to the most relevant page – another post on a similar topic or its category page. I use Redirection plugin for that.
For a more in-depth study of the effects of deleting older posts, read:
Why We Deleted 900 Blog Posts And What Happened Next – Koozai.com
Updating Old Content Marketing Takeaway
You can’t count on continuously writing new posts to bring in traffic back to your site.
Take my word for it: updating your old content is not an option, it’s your best friend. Just do it.
I am off to update all the numerous posts I linked to in this one.
Updating never ends!
30 Intelligent comments · espresso yours below
Carl Heyns says
Hi Ana, thanks for all this info. I just recently started looking into the effects of social signals on my website’s ranking and am looking forward to implementing some of your suggestions. Thanks so much, great post !!
Ana Hoffman says
Just remember, Carl – social signals and rankings are correlation, not causation. 😉
Let me know if you discover anything interesting.
Another problem besides having ideas for new blog post is updating old content, broken links, etc. When I blog about the social media, it’s really fear me that they’re often updating their designs, new feature, etc. And at some point, readers will find the old post that is out-dated…
Ana Hoffman says
There are very few topics that are truly evergreen, Louis – maybe something like ‘how to boil an egg’… but then who wants to blog about that, right?
Content updates come with the territory.
Malcolm Galt says
I really enjoyed your article, I personally suffer from the mindset that I always need to keep pushing new articles out on my site, when in fact updating a couple of them would definitely not be a bad idea. Thanks for the pointers, will apply them from now on.
Ana Hoffman says
You are very welcome, Malcolm; thanks for coming by.
Farooq Marwat says
Really Nice article and a perfect checklist to update out dated content.
Ana Hoffman says
You are very welcome, Farooq.
Awesome Tips Ana.
Just No Words to Thank you.
As on the initial stage in Blogging as always deleted too older posts which didn’t drive traffic but with this Details Tips i am sure by implementing it, will get plenty of traffic on older posts and also the Blog SEO will be optimized.
Thanks a Lot Again 🙂
P:S waiting for your income report post of August 12,
I am addicted to read it
Ana Hoffman says
You are very welcome, Aliakbar.
I haven’t been publishing my income reports for a while now; not sure when I am planning on getting back to them.
Ana, it’s good to know. It’s kind of like the concept of leftovers, they’re often tastier when you reheat them the next day.
I’ll bookmark this checklist for future reference. Thanks a lot.
Ana Hoffman says
Love your analogy, Alastair!
Haha Anna, feel free to use it yourself in the future.
Osama Hussein says
Though I own and run a static website; not a blog, your post is very relevant. I have already updated some of my old pages. I still do. My updates can be easily managed in view of the small size of my site. Last update dates are introduced manually. As the site gets larger, this study should help organize and boost my work efforts. It’s good you hinted that social media traffic is spiky compared to SEO & referral traffic. This helps targeting and keeping priorities. I wonder if you approve mentioning this post on my site. Do you have reservations or limitations?
Ana Hoffman says
Can’t believe I missed your comment, Osama!
You are so right – a website is a website and needs updating from time to time. And of course, I don’t mind at all if you ever want to refer to this or any other post on your site.
Lennart Heleander says
Great Post, but i have a few concerns regarding updating content. Personally, i didn’t find much results in SEO point of view by updating old content with fresh tips. How does Google consider it?
Ana Hoffman says
The screenshot at the very beginning of the post is pretty clear on what Google thinks about updated content.
Will updated content rank better than it will if you leave it alone? I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to this question. It depends on so many variables.
Do I care? No, not really. I update content because it’s good for me readers and my reputation.
Kurt Frankenberg says
Mmm. Not your average “repurposing content” ideas here. It’s about giving your old content new LIFE. For fellas like me that have been out of the loop for a while, this page offers hope.
More than simply racking my brain to come up with something totally NEW to say… reviewing, rekindling, updating and adding new thought to what I really WANTED to say six months ago but didn’t have the words sounds a whole lot better.
PLUS all the cool tricks to add traffic juice to the mix. You’ve never yet steered me wrong when it comes to enhancing the readership and engagement on my blog.
Tell ya what Ana, I’ll give ‘er a try and see what comes of this newest batch of tips, tricks, and hacks. Usually I would pick out one to comment on but this time I’m trying them all and will tell you what worked best. The best ones we PROBABLY be the hacks for my own dang writer’s block 😉
Ana Hoffman says
It’s especially a great strategy for someone who’s been out of the loop for a while. lol
Great to have you back, Kurt!
It’s really a good to know that we can drive more traffic through using outdated content. Updating an older post with keeping it more valuable and relevant that will be really a good than writing a new one. I will definitely try it and hope i will get good result in traffic.
Andrew M. Warner says
What you said here made perfect sense, especially this:
“When people find their way to an outdated post on your blog (whether through search engines, mentions on other blogs, guest posts, etc.), they are very unlikely to be impressed – you’ll lose your credibility and potential readership.”
I’m in the process of repurposing the majority of my content to use as leverage to get traffic from other avenues, however, if my content is outdated, then it wouldn’t be as effective as I intended. You also mentioned to update your images if you’re updating content and I think that is 100% spot on.
I remember when I started off, I wasn’t really told that I couldn’t just take any image to use. But now I know that I could actually get into trouble for that so, like you, I’m going to go through my posts and update the images to suit my personality now … and is copyright free.
Really great post here and I’m glad to share it with others so they can improve their blogs as well.
Ana Hoffman says
Thanks so much, Andrew, and you are absolutely right – there are plenty of seemingly dark corners on every blog that could still get us into legal trouble for using copyrighted images; not worth taking that chance.
Ray John says
Wow! Thanks for the awesome tips Ana!
We will surely implement this on our blog 🙂
I have been a long time reader of your posts and every time that I come
back here, I always find new gems..
More Power to you!
Ana Hoffman says
Thanks so much, Ray; say Hi to Dainis for me. 😉
Ray John says
Dainis wants to send his regards too 😉
We started implementing the Slide Share strategy.
Will update you for sure on our progress!
And its so cool to connect with you! 🙂
Ana Hoffman says
Slideshare is my favorite – do let me know how it goes!
I’m always obsessed with creating new content, but it never occurred to me to update my old stuff. I’m literally going to follow your checklist step by step. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!
Ana Hoffman says
Thanks for coming by, Candice; have fun storming your old content!
A very practical post! One takeaway for me here is that when updating an old post, it is important to let readers know there is an update. The idea of adding post footer to explain updates is a step that should not be ignored.
However, I still prefer to repurpose an old post instead of to update. This is because repurpose can help reach new type of audience.
Ana Hoffman says
Ideally, you need to do both: update, then repurpose. Thanks for sharing, Sunday!