Creating new content consistently can seem like a never-ending task. Even the best content creators can run out of ideas at some point.

Refreshing your old content is an excellent strategy for staying relevant and maintaining trust with your audience. 

You don’t have to create entirely new pieces of content to remain impressive and compelling to your followers.

Refreshing old posts helps you save time and energy while still keeping things fresh for new visitors who haven’t seen those articles before.

What’s more, search engines like Google also love when you update your content. They see it as a sign that you are maintaining your website and keeping your material relevant. This can help your website rank higher in search results.

So, how do you go about refreshing old content?

Today, we’re going to discuss what refreshing old content is, why it’s important, and some specific ideas to do it. 

By the end of this post, you should have a clear understanding of how to refresh your old content so that it’s new and improved.

What is Content Refreshing?

Content refreshing is the practice of taking an old piece of content and updating it with new information. This can involve editing and reorganizing the content, changing the focus of an article, rewriting sentences, or adding new examples.

Content refreshing can also involve taking a separate piece of content and combining it with another piece of content. For example, if you have a blog post and an associated podcast episode, you could edit the blog post to include a link to the podcast.

Or, if you have a series of blog posts on the same topic, you could combine them into a complete guide.

Ultimately, the goal of content refreshing is to make your old content more relevant and engaging for your audience.

Why Should You Refresh Your Old Content?

In short, it’s a mistake to let your content stagnate. By simply leaving your old articles untouched, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to re-engage with your audience and improve your website as a whole.

Let’s take a closer look at some specific benefits of content refreshing:

It helps you save time: Creating new content from scratch can be time-consuming. If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas or you don’t have the resources to produce brand new content on a regular basis, refreshing your old content is a great solution.

It keeps things fresh for new visitors: Even if you have old articles that perform well, it’s important to keep things fresh for new visitors. By refreshing your old content, you can ensure that everyone who comes to your website has a positive user experience – i.e. they’re getting the most up-to-date and accurate advice. Even something that is seemingly evergreen like “Link Building Strategies” will benefit from being injected with fresh info every now and again.

You also tend to find that certain types of keywords, especially commercial, product-focused terms –  “best [x] software”, for example – require you to update more frequently. You may want to prioritize those types of pages for refreshing, due to the revenue implications.

It helps you maintain trust with your audience: If you never update your content, people will start to wonder if you’re still active. This can damage your reputation and make it harder to build trust with new visitors.

It can improve your search engine rankings: As we mentioned earlier, search engines like Google tend to rank websites higher when they are updated regularly. This is because fresh content is a sign that a website is being maintained and that the information is still relevant. This is proven by Google’s Query Deserves Freshness update back in 2011, and freshness was reiterated in 2020 by the Search Quality Evaluator guidelines.

It can readjust content around changing search intent: Google is continually updating the SERPs, and deciding what types of results to reward for those keywords. By reviewing your content, and especially keeping on top of content which isn’t performing as well – you can stay ahead of the curve and adjust that content to align with the search intent – which ensures you can bring in the right traffic as well.

How frequently does search intent change? We don’t know. But, John Mueller and Bill Slawksi discussed this on Twitter. It’s not just what Google thinks the intent should be, but it must also be related to the way user behavior changes according to seasonality or cultural trends.

It improves click-through rates: Even a simple change in things like the meta title and meta description, can contribute to increased traffic. You’ll find that your CTR increases, and this helps propel your article further up the SERPs.

It helps create long form content with low effort: We have worked with clients who underwent a big content pruning exercise. This can happen over time, where you have a lot of smaller pieces which may have served their purpose a while back, but are starting to stagnate or experience a decline. The solution then, may be to combine those shorter pieces of content, into much more extensive and comprehensive guides. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean every piece you create has to be extremely long, and you should only write about relevant information, and you should prevent cannibalization via duplication of content  – but for some groups of search terms,a more complete, comprehensive content piece will be required.

It can increase website traffic: This ties in with the above points anyway – but by improving your ability to rank, you’ll then bring in more traffic, if you make content refreshing a regular practice. A study by Siege Media found that for popular keywords, the content that ranked on page 1, was being updated in the last 1.31 years, on average. 

The SEO implications of updating your content

Most articles have a short lifespan.

The moment they’re published, they enter a race against time.

Readers will consume the content, then the article will eventually fall out of the top search results. If it stays relevant and interesting though, you might get fresh visitors from social media, email marketing, and other channels. Plus, if you are able to earn, or acquire backlinks via outreach, that will also keep it up there. (Read more about the link velocity concept here.)

However, if you don’t do anything to that article, and it’s not proactively promoted –  it will simply sit there. It will collect dust, get very few views, and eventually be forgotten. It certainly won’t be helping you achieve your business goals.

By refreshing your old articles and bringing them up to date with the latest knowledge, statistics, and examples, you can keep them relevant and interesting. You can also stay in the top search results for longer.

Google’s Freshness algorithm: As we discussed before, Google is assessing the freshness of content, when determining rankings. The better your ability to update content, the better your freshness signals. 

Does that mean you should always update all content, and make it as frequent as possible? No. This video from Matt Cutts will help shed more light on this.

Opportunity to optimize for new keywords: As intent and trends change, the language that Google associates with those keywords will adapt as well. With that, new keywords will also appear over time, and it’s important that your content is refreshed to include these new terms. 

It’s not simply about stuffing the phrases in, but ensuring you can incorporate those facts, naturally into your content. Tools like Clearscope and SurferSEO can help if you’re trying to leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP), to decide which keywords you should be including in your content. 

Provides fresh opportunity for outreach and link building: This also has implications for your link building outreach. The more complete your content is, the more likely you have a higher amount of topical crossover, and the better it’ll be received when you do outreach. 

Go beyond updating the title and date: As we alluded to, sometimes a simple tweak to the title can enhance CTRs, but don’t leave it at only doing that, as often it won’t have a massive impact. Also, I have also heard of companies claiming that just changing the date and making it look like they’ve updated the article, is itself a ranking factor. That isn’t true and Google is smart enough to know when the content hasn’t actually been updated. 

John Mueller busted this myth in a Google Search Central SEO hangout in April 2021.

Which Pages Should I Update?

Not every page is going to be worth updating, and you may reach a point where some content has to be deleted, or redirected. 

So to figure out where your content refresh efforts have to be placed, here’s the steps to take. 

Step 1 – Extract your list of old pages

A good starting point is to extract a list of everything that’s over a year old. You can get the list out of Google Analytics, or you may have a feature built into your CMS, to extract the list. 

Get this list into a Google Sheet or Excel sheet, so you can analyze further. 

Step 2a – Analyze the data (look for poor performance)

There are different schools of thought, and different tools, when it comes to analyzing the data. The main thing you need to get out of this, is being a step closer to what content is declining, and is experiencing some sort of decay in results. 

Keep an open mind – as it could be for any number of reasons, but the analysis you do here can be valuable even for your technical SEO insights, or could even point to a link acquisition issue. 

For now, let’s just assume we have an issue with the content itself. 

So go into Google Search Console, and compare the last 6 months of data, versus the previous 6 months of data. You can even compare it further back than that, but keep in mind that GSC only keeps a history of data of 16 months.

After loading this data, scroll down and click on the Pages section.

The data we’re interested in here, is primarily the difference in clicks and impressions between the 2 time periods.

This helps us understand which content is declining in performance, and is likely to require refreshing. 

Export this data, and then look at this in Google Sheets/Excel, and match it to the pages you identified in Step 1.

Step 2b – Analyze the data (look for potential quick wins)

On the flipside, there may be content which is doing well, but it hasn’t quite reached the top, or perhaps it only slightly dipped. This low hanging fruit could be anywhere from positions 11 to 40.

We want to look at these, because small amounts of optimization and refreshing, could make the world of difference. 

So what you’d do is go back to GSC, and look at say the last 3 months of data only (no comparisons.

  • Put the data into Looker Studio and match up the Landing Pages with the associated Query and their corresponding data like Impressions, Clicks and Average Position.
  • Export the data from LookerStudio and place it into Google Sheets or Excel.
  • With this consolidated data it should look like the below. This means you are getting an amalgamated Average Position metric which gives you a holistic view of how each page is doing.
  • Then go through each of the URLs, match it to your list in Step 1, and pick out old pages that can be refreshed and given a boost.

Step 3 – Sort and organize your workflows

So according to the previous steps, you’ll now have a large list of URLs that need refreshing. You will want to prioritize it accordingly so it can be delegated, or passed onto relevant departments. 

  • Relevant content: This potentially is the content that is still performing fairly well or hasn’t taken a very large dip. You can get away with a basic level of refresh like the title, subheadings, inputting certain keywords, etc. 
  • Outdated content: This is content where the dip has likely been more drastic, or it has just completely stagnated and/or reached a “dead zone”. This will need more heavy editing.
  • Others?: We won’t cover this entirely here, but you should also look for content that is just completely misaligned with search intent, has nothing to do with your target audience, or where it is causing cannibalization of other pages. In such cases, the answer may be to simply do a round of content pruning (i.e. delete the content.)

Hubspot went through a content pruning exercise, and deleted 3,000 pieces of content, and actually saw an uptick in results while doing this.

This was probably also because of the crawl budget aspect, but it’s eye-opening lesson nevertheless.

12 Ways to Refresh Your Old Content

Now that we’ve looked at some of the reasons why you should refresh your old content, let’s take a look at some specific ways you can do it.

1. Update Your Content With the Latest Statistics

If you’re referencing any data or statistics in your article, it’s important to make sure that they’re up to date.

Old data can make your article seem outdated, which will damage your credibility.

If you can’t find any new data to replace the old data, you might want to remove it from your article or add a disclaimer that the data is no longer accurate.

You might also want to add a sentence or two explaining why the data is no longer accurate and what has changed since you published the article.

For example, let’s say you wrote an article about social media marketing a few years ago.

In that article, you included statistics about the number of active social media users.

However, those statistics are now outdated. You can either update them or add a disclaimer like this:

“Note: The number of active social media users has increased since this article was published. The new statistics can be found here.”

Or, you could simply remove the old statistics and replace them with new ones.

You can then use this to your advantage.

Since your content is now refreshed, you can reach out to the sites linking to outdated stats and let them know you have updated information.

Many people will be happy to update their links to your article, which will help you get more traffic.

2. Cut and Remove Irrelevant Content

It could even be about cutting out content that’s irrelevant. For the user, there’s nothing worse than landing on an article which has so much unnecessary information or fluff. 

So it’s beneficial to cut this out, not just for the user experience and user signals that come with it – but also so search engines can more easily determine what the page is actually about, and the actual actionable/necessary advice hasn’t been diluted out with the other content. 

This also can fix keyword cannibalization issues, especially if you have repetitive information across articles. 

For example, on SurferSEO, they cited a case where Matthew Woodward had an article which was ranking number seven on the first page of Google. Surfer’s audit recommended removing 20,000 words – which after doing so, bumped the post up to position 1.

3. Expand on Your Original Ideas

When you’re refreshing your old content, it’s a good opportunity to expand on your original ideas.

When you wrote the article, you might not have had enough time or space to fully explore all of your ideas.

By expanding on your ideas, you can make your articles more comprehensive and valuable.

For example, let’s say you published an article on how to be more persuasive.

In that article, you listed several methods for increasing persuasion.

When you refresh the article, you could expand on each of those methods, providing more detail and more examples. You could also add new methods that you didn’t have time to include in the original article.

Some other ideas for expanding on your original ideas include:

  • Adding new sections: If your article is fairly short, you might want to add new sections. For example, you could add a section on common mistakes people make when trying to be persuasive.
  • Adding new subsections: If your article is already fairly long, you might want to add new subsections. This would help you keep the article organized and easy to read.
  • Adding new examples: Examples are always helpful. If you can, try to find new examples that illustrate your points more clearly. Find new angles, new perspectives, and new stories.
  • Adding new content based on GSC (long tail keywords): Google Search console is great if you want to get insights on what your audience is searching for. To get the long tail keywords that they may be searching, use this custom regex:

([^” “]*\s){7,}?

This for example, would return queries with more than 7 words. By having this, you can then create content which answers these specific questions.

You may already have content which is picking up these keywords, but you may find that you’re not covering the topic in your piece (and therefore should add that information in, so the piece performs better for that keyword), or if its something that requires a longer explanation, you make a content piece specific to that question, or group of questions. 

  • Adding new content based on GSC (questions): Similarly, you can identify common question-type keywords that users are searching for. 

Use this custom regex:

^(who|what|where|when|why|how)[” “]

You can then use these in your H2 headings of your content, and start optimizing your content to pick up the featured snippets associated with some of these questions. Even if a keyword seemingly gets 0 searches a month according to SEO tools, your GSC data can show there is actually qualified traffic out there actively searching for this information.

4. Compare Your Content to Your Competitors’

When you’re refreshing your old content, it’s also a good idea to compare it to your competitors’.

By looking at what your competitors are doing, you can get some good ideas for improving your own content.

  • What topics are they covering that you’re not?
  • Do they have any sections or subsections that you could add to your article?
  • Do they have any examples that you could use?
  • Do they have any statistics or data that you could include?
  • Do they have any tips or techniques that you could use?

You don’t want to copy your competitors outright. That would be plagiarism and it would damage your credibility.

But, you can use their content as inspiration for improving your own. If you can find a way to make your content better than theirs, you’ll have a real advantage.

Many times, all it takes is a fresh perspective to come up with new ideas for improving your content.

You can take a controversial stance on a topic, or you can add your own unique spin to it.

The key is to make sure that your content is still high-quality and informative.

5. Satisfy Searcher’s Intent

Search intent as we discussed, can change with the times. Either user behavior changes due to trends, or Google just gets better at figuring out what the true intent is behind a keyword. 

Point number 2, discussed the impact of irrelevant content, and why you need to cut that. That’s one aspect of serving the intent. Another factor is the type of results that are being shown by Google for that keyword. 

For example, let’s say you were searching for “best CRM for startups”

We can see that most of the top results are a roundup post, where they’ve listed out the top solutions, and described each one. If you have a page which doesn’t match the intent of the vast majority of the first page – lets say its just a commercial page targeting that keyword, or a long form article describing everything that the “best CRM” should have – you haven’t served the intent. What Google has determined here, is that the searcher just wants to find some suggestions. 

Note: There is a Reddit result there as well, so you’ll know we’ve written this article in 2024!

Potentially, some SERPs just have a mixture of result types as well. But regardless, this is one of the factors you need to consider, when you refresh your content. 

Additionally, are you speaking to the right audience in your content? This has implications for both how users engage with your content, and also the language you’ve incorporated into your article. Let’s say I was writing a complex article which targets a keyword like “link building ROI”. Making it far too basic, and aiming it at a non-business audience (let’s imagine I aimed it at SEO beginners), then writing a basic introduction, or filling the content with vague language or information about very basic level link building items, will show through. 

But, if I start to talk about concepts like “link velocity”, “link gaps”, and other related language in the headings and content- then this will point Google in the right direction, and start to associate our content with that keyword.

You can use tools like SurferSEO to ensure you are steering things in the right direction.

6. Update Your Images and Videos

Images and videos are a great way to make your articles more engaging.

If you’re refreshing your old content, it’s a good idea to update your images and videos.

If you can’t find any new images or videos, you might want to consider creating some yourself.

There are a number of ways to do this, including:

  • Creating infographics: Infographics are a great way to make complex information more digestible. You can use Canva or Piktochart to create infographics.
  • Taking screenshots: If you’re writing a how-to article, screenshots can be very helpful. You can use the Snipping Tool on Windows or the built-in screenshot function on Mac. Greenshot is also a good one.
  • Recording videos: You can use your smartphone or a digital camera to record videos. You don’t need to be a professional videographer; just make sure the video is clear and well-lit. Alternatively, you can find Youtube videos that are relevant to your article and embed them.
  • Moving GIFs: GIFs are a great way to add some visual interest to your articles. GIFs are also lighter in size than images, so they load faster.

7. Add Semantic Keywords

When you’re refreshing your old content, it’s also a good idea to add new semantic keywords.

Semantic keywords are related keywords that help search engines understand the topic of your article.

For example, if you wrote an article about how to make a cake, some relevant semantic keywords might be:

  • Baking powder
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla extract

If you’re not sure what semantic keywords to use, you can try using a tool like Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.

Content intelligence platforms, like SurferSEO or Frase, also have great tools for helping you find the right semantic keywords. Simply enter a topic, and they’ll generate a list of relevant keywords for you.

All you need to do is sprinkle these keywords throughout your article, making sure to use them in a way that sounds natural. You can look at the score as well as a guide – but don’t obsess about trying to get a score of 100. Just ensure you’re in the right ballpark, you’ve served the intent, and have made it comprehensive enough.

8. Consolidate Multiple Articles Into One

If you have a series of articles on the same topic, it might make sense to consolidate them into one mega-article.

You can include jump links, navigation, and an index to help people find the information they’re looking for.

W3Schools is a great place to find ready-to-use code  snippets.

You don’t have to be an expert coder to use these snippets. All you need to do is copy and paste the code into your article.

Not only will this make your articles more user-friendly, but it will also give you a chance to add more content and improve your SEO.

This has a few benefits:

  • It will make your content more comprehensive: By consolidating multiple articles into one, you can make sure your article covers everything there is to know about the topic.
  • It will make your content more engaging: If people can find everything they need in one place, they’re more likely to read your article from start to finish.
  • It will make your content easier to update: Once you consolidate your articles, you’ll only need to update one piece of content instead of multiple.
  • Higher ranking potential: Longer articles tend to rank better than shorter articles. So, if you can turn three shorter articles into one longer article, you might see a bump in your search engine rankings.

You might also want to consider turning your article into an eBook or a PDF. This can be a great way to repurpose your content and make it more engaging.

9. Optimize Your Title and Meta Description

Your title and meta description are two of the most important elements of your article.

Your title should be attention-grabbing and accurately reflect the content of your article.

Your meta description should give readers a brief overview of your article and entice them to click through to read it.

If you’re refreshing your old content, it’s a good idea to take a look at your title and meta description to see if they could be improved.

A tool like Yoast SEO can be very helpful for optimizing your title and meta description. Simply install the plugin on WordPress, and it will give you suggestions for how to improve your title and meta description – although make sure to monitor over time as well to see how the changes perform.

10. Add Internal Links

Internal links are links that point to other pages on your website.

They’re important for a few reasons:

  • They help search engines crawl your website: When you add internal links, you’re essentially creating a map of your website for search engines to follow.
  • They help people navigate your website: Internal links can help guide people to other relevant articles on your website.
  • They improve the user experience: Internal links make it easy for people to find the information they’re looking for on your website.

From an SEO standpoint, internal links aren’t as good as external links. But they’re still worth including in your articles.

Internal links transfer “link equity” from one page to another.

The better your internal link structure, the better your backlinks will work as a whole. 

When you’re refreshing your old content, take a look at your articles to see if there are any places where you could add internal links.

The point is to add internal links whenever it makes sense to do so.

For example, if you have an article about cake decorating, you could link to an article about baking a cake. Or, if you have an article about the history of cake, you could link to an article about different types of cake.

11. Add External Links

Just as internal links are important, external links are important too.

By adding external links, you are essentially vouching for the credibility of the sources you are linking to. This tells Google that your content is well-researched and informative.

In addition, external links add value for your readers by providing them with more resources to learn about the topic.

When adding external links, be sure to link to high-quality websites that are relevant to your niche.

Avoid linking to low-quality websites, as this can hurt your SEO.

Many people are afraid to add external links for fear of giving away too much traffic or leaking a lot of link equity. But, if you are linking to high-quality websites, there is no need to worry. In fact, it can actually help your SEO if you start to be associated with a good “link neighborhood.”

12. Optimize Your Images for SEO

Images are an important part of any article. Not only do they make your articles more visually appealing, but they can also help improve your search engine rankings.

This is because search engines can’t “read” images the way they can read text (at least at this point in time). So, you need to help them out by optimizing your images.

There are a few things you can do to optimize your images for SEO:

  • Add descriptive file names: When you save your images, be sure to use descriptive file names. For example, instead of saving your image as “cake.jpg,” save it as “chocolate-cake.jpg.”
  • Add alt text: Alt text is a short description of your image. It’s important to add alt text because it helps search engines “read” your images. It also helps people with vision impairments, as they can use screen readers to read the alt text.
  • Add a caption: A caption is a short description that appears beneath your image. Captions are helpful because they give readers more information about your image.
  • Compress image file size: Use lossless image compression (either with a standalone tool or a Wordpress plugin) to reduce the size of the images, without losing quality. Won’t make much difference when it’s just a couple of images – but if you have hundreds or thousands of images across your site, this can give you a good speed boost.
  • Reduce image bloat: A lot of sites are doing this without realizing. You take a large image, upload it into the website and scale it down to 500 x 500. But the problem is, you’re loading an unnecessarily large image. So you need to replace these images with a version of the correct size. Again, once you repeat this 100x, 1000x, this will make a good overall impact on your site.

By optimizing your images, you can help improve your search engine rankings and make your articles more accessible to people with vision impairments.

Pro Tip: Content Refresh as a Link Building Tactic?

This is a cool little tip that we’ve done as part of some of our campaigns. It’s a great way to build great quality links, efficiently.

Aside from just doing refresh on your own content – you can also do content refresh for other sites, when you do outreach. 

There’s a few reasons to do this.

It’s an outreach value proposition: As we described above, refreshing of content to keep it fresh and valuable for users has a positive impact on a website. By reaching out to sites and offering to refresh it for them, to make the information more up-to-date or accurate – is a win-win. You’re able to refresh to give the target website some added boost to their SEO and content efforts – and of course, you get credit by being able to insert your backlink. 

(This example below got us a DR 52 link on a nonprofit healthcare organization.)

This is more effective if you have something you can leverage to justify them allowing you to edit the page. For instance, maybe you are a medical expert, your company has expertise in property law, or you have proprietary data that can enhance the page. Whatever that is, make sure to mention it in the email.

It improves the SEO value of that linking page: The better the quality of the page you place your link on (in terms of lack of broken links, being “helpful content”, and better rankings) – the more that impacts the value it passes to your site.

It looks natural: By refreshing the content (even if it’s simply just adding 1 section, or a paragraph of fresh information), it will allow you to add the right contextual relevance surrounding that link. Some editors may become a bit lazy and just hyperlink some text so the link is present – but it can run the risk of looking forced. With the way Google’s algorithm is, even a good quality link on a good site may run the risk of being slightly devalued with this type of practice. But, if you’re able to refresh/write the section containing the link – once Google recrawls that page, it really does look like a natural link. 

Final Words

Content refreshing isn’t a cure-all for creating new content. However, it’s a great strategy for staying relevant and maintaining trust with your audience. It can also help you build up your SEO rankings over time.

So, if you’re looking for a way to breathe new life into your old content, give content refreshing a try. Hopefully, these tips will help you get started.

Then once you’re ready to start building links to that content – contact The Links Guy, and we’ll be happy to help.