“How can I increase blog traffic?”
If you run a business blog, chances are you ask this question a lot.
And when thinking of an answer, it’s tempting to focus on creating something brand new.
A new post, covering a new trend, describing a new innovation, explaining a new technique…
But there’s another — often underused — tactic that can help bring heaps of new visitors to your blog: updating your old posts.
In this guide, we’ll break down the benefits of blog post updates and teach you how to apply this method to your own blogging strategy.
The Blogger’s Blind-Spot
As content marketers and bloggers, we’re always on the lookout for new and exciting content ideas that we hope will thrill our readers and outshine our competition.
But too often we forget that we’re usually already sitting on a goldmine of old content that has the potential to shine again given just a little TLC.
In fact, older posts are often the main source of traffic for business blogs.
For example, HubSpot found that 76% of their blog views, and 92% of their blog leads, came from posts that were more than a month old.
Similarly, in a Databox study of marketing experts, almost half of those surveyed receive up to 80% of their blog traffic from older posts.
But the trouble with most business blogs is that old posts are just left to languish.
This is a wasted opportunity…
Why Is Updating Old Blog Posts a Good Idea?
Rejuvenating your old blog content can deliver an incredible ROI for your business.
Here are five ways post updates can benefit your inbound marketing efforts:
- Boost Traffic and Rankings
- Save Time and Resources
- Create a Better User Experience
- Maintain Brand Consistency
- Improve Conversion Rates
Let’s take a look at each benefit in turn:
1) Boost Traffic and Rankings
Revamping an old blog post can deliver some remarkable SEO results.
When HubSpot first trialled the method of republishing updated blog posts, they were happy to see the following traffic increases:
Inspired by this initial success, HubSpot decided to make blog post updates a core part of their content strategy.
This led to an impressive 106% average increase in organic traffic to republished posts.
2) Save Time and Resources
Maintaining a constant flow of new, quality blog posts takes non-stop effort.
You have to pick new ideas worth developing, do all the research and then create the piece from scratch.
Meanwhile, it takes far less time and energy to refresh an old post AND it still delivers results!
So you could free up time for your content team by adding post updates to your content calendar in place of some brand new pieces.
It’s basically about working smarter, not harder.
3) Create a Better User Experience
We’ve all had the disappointing experience of clicking through to a stale, inaccurate or outdated piece of content.
When this happens, we tend not to hang around too long.
Instead, we ‘pogo-stick‘ — we click back to the search results page and select another option that we hope will meet our needs.
Updating your old posts can put a stop to this by making sure your readers are satisfied with what they find on your page.
4) Maintain Brand Consistency
As your business evolves over time, it’s natural for your brand identity and buyer personas to evolve too.
But this can mean that your older blog posts were created with a different target audience in mind, or with a different brand TOV (tone of voice), or using different formatting and design conventions.
Updating these posts lets you iron out any inconsistencies and keeps your entire online presence on-brand.
5) Improve Conversions
Not only is updating an old blog post a chance to increase traffic, it also presents the opportunity to boost conversion rates.
Older posts will often promote outdated or off-topic sign-up incentives.
Refreshing your post is a great time to fix this. You can replace the existing sign-up incentive with something more relevant to the subject matter of the post, like a new content upgrade or a topically-related ebook.
Consider the search intent that underlies the keywords used to find the post in question and promote whichever sign-up incentive is best aligned with this intent. This way you have a better chance of capturing more leads.
HubSpot refreshed their posts with this conversion optimization in mind, leading to a 240% conversion rate increase for some posts.
How Should I Decide Which Blog Posts to Update?
Before you can decide which old posts to prioritize, you’ll need to get a lay of the land by diving into your analytics and doing a quick content audit.
Let the data guide you.
Jump Into Your Analytics
You first want to find out how much traffic your existing posts receive, what keywords they rank for and how well they rank.
Log in to your Google Analytics to find the traffic data for your posts. The main metrics you’ll want for each post are organic visits, bounce rate, exit rate, conversion rate and time on page.
Google Search Console can tell you what keywords each post ranks for as well as telling you their ranking position.
You may also have a subscription to a keyword-tracking tool like SEMrush which offers more comprehensive ranking data.
6 Signs That a Blog Post Is Worth Updating
Once you have an inventory of all your old posts, along with traffic, keyword and ranking data, the next step is selecting which posts to optimize.
Not all posts are created equal. Some will benefit from an update more than others.
To get the most bang for your buck, consider selecting posts that meet one or more of the following criteria:
#1 High Traffic Posts
One sign that a post could benefit from an update is that it receives decent levels of traffic but suffers from a high bounce rate and a low time on page.
This often means that although there’s plenty of interest in the topic, the post itself is disappointing — it fails to deliver on its promise to readers.
If a post like this isn’t improved, its poor engagement metrics will sooner or later lead to a drop in rankings and traffic.
#2 Posts That Are Losing Rankings
An obvious sign that a post needs to be improved is if it’s steadily descending in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
This could mean that other players in your industry have published better quality content on the same topic. If so, your task is to update your post so it’s better than theirs!
If you have a handful of posts losing rankings, and you’re not sure which one to prioritize, take a look at the page authority of each post. All else being equal, the page with higher authority will have a better chance of reclaiming lost rankings once you’ve improved the content.
#3 Posts With High Conversion Rates
Another way to select posts for improvement is to focus on those that currently drive the most conversions.
Nothing better than driving more traffic to a high-converting page!
#4 Page One Results
The higher you rank, the better.
This is true even if you already rank on page one.
Backlinko’s analysis of five million searches revealed that the number one ranking result receives 31.73% click-throughs on average.
In fact, moving up just a single position on page one will increase your chances of being clicked by 30.8%.
Since any gain on page one could drastically improve your CTR (click-through rate), it’s always worth looking to see what you can add to your content so that it outshines what your competitors offer.
And even if you already rank at the very top of page one, you should expect the competition to do whatever they can to nudge you out of the top spot.
So stay ahead of the game by making an already great post even greater!
#5 Page One Result, but No Featured Snippet
Featured snippets provide short and concise answers to the user’s query directly within the results page. These answers sit above all other results, in a place sometimes called ‘position zero’.
If your post is ranking on page one, and there’s a featured snippet on the results page, it’s totally worth optimizing your post for that featured snippet.
Doing so will maximize your chances of claiming that high-value real estate at the top of the page where most click-throughs occur.
This is especially useful if you can’t seem to nudge your competitors away from the top three positions.
#6 Posts Ranking on Page Two
Page two results receive a tiny proportion of clicks for any given search term.
According to Backlinko, only 0.78% of searchers click on a result from the second page.
Meanwhile, even the lowest page one result — sitting in position ten — receives an average click-through rate of 3.09%.
This makes page-two posts prime candidates for updating because any movement to page one brings a tremendous click-through boost.
Planning the Blog Post Update
Now that you’ve selected which post to optimize, it’s time to lay the groundwork for the update.
This stage is all about deciding what keywords you’ll be targeting and figuring out what additional content you’ll be adding to the post.
Deciding Which Keyword to Target
First, you’ll want to pick a primary keyword for your updated post to target.
Look again at Google Search Console — or whatever keyword tracking tool you prefer — to see what keyword(s) the post already ranks for.
If the post already ranks well for a relevant keyword with a decent amount of search volume, your best bet is to stick with that keyword as your primary target.
And if you find that the post ranks well for keywords that aren’t currently directly targeted in the content, consider using these as secondary keyword targets by incorporating them into subheadings and the body text.
But if your post doesn’t already rank well for any keyword with any significant search volume, or if it ranks for an irrelevant term, you may have to explore some new keyword opportunities.
A good way to find new keywords related to your topic is to look at Google’s related searches at the bottom of the SERPs.
You can also use Google autocomplete for keyword inspiration. This feature recommends different keywords as you begin typing into Google’s search bar.
Whichever keyword you end up choosing, make sure that the search intent behind it aligned with your post. The best way to check this is to simply look at the top results for that keyword and make sure that there isn’t a huge disparity between everyone else’s approach and your own.
Once you’ve settled on a primary keyword, make sure you begin tracking the performance of the post against that keyword. This way you’ll be able to measure the effectiveness of the update once it’s published.
Deciding What Content to Add
Now it’s time to work out what to add to the post to make it better.
The basic strategy here is straightforward: look at what distinguishes the existing high-ranking content for your keyword and then incorporate those elements into your own post.
That is, judging by what works for the competition, ask what your post could use more of.
This is a variant of Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique, where the aim is to create better content than the competition by making sure your post covers all that they cover and more.
Here are some pointers to guide your research:
#1 Check the SERPs
You should be able to get a sense of the type of headlines and content formats that work best for your target keyword just by checking out the Google results page for that term.
For example, the SERP for the keyword ‘how to get more traffic to your website‘ contains numerous listicle results. Clearly, people searching this keyword have a high demand for lists of actionable tips:
For many keywords, the SERPs will also feature a ‘People Also Ask’ box. These are questions commonly associated with your topic and so it makes good sense to cover them in your post and even using them as a basis for your subheadings.
#2 Seek out Topics and Sub-Topics You Haven’t yet Covered
You should read through each page-one result for your target keyword and make a note of any topics they cover that your post doesn’t.
The goal here is to find and fill any content gaps in your post.
Another way to find untapped content areas is by searching through the comments section on your post and your competition’s posts. Users will often ask questions or raise good points that can provide a nice new angle for your piece.
The same is true of message boards and forum discussions. Check Quora, Twitter and Facebook for any interesting titbits relating to your subject matter.
#3 Check for Style
If you encounter a competitor’s post that seems particularly engaging, ask yourself why it stands out.
Is it the writing style? The tone? The use of different media?
Whatever it is, make a note of it and think about how you might incorporate something similar in your own post.
How to Update Your Old Blog Post in 15 Steps
Now we come to the business end of the process…
Remember, the goal here is to level-up the overall quality of your content.
How much work this takes will depend on the post. One post might only need a few updates, another might need a complete rewrite to get it up to scratch.
Use the following checklist to guide you:
1) Make It Easy to Digest
Making your post easy to read and navigate will drastically improve the user experience.
For better readability, make use of white space by keeping paragraphs fairly short.
Trim away any fluff and make sure every sentence has a purpose. You want the content to be actionable.
You can make the post easier to navigate by adding in a table of contents that contains ‘jump links’ to different parts of the page.
A table of contents will also help readers get the gist of the post more quickly.
2) Refresh Outdated Examples
Check that all statistics and figures you cite in your original post are up-to-date and still relevant.
Mentioning new data and trends will, of course, add to the freshness of the post.
3) Update Your Visuals
Your post’s visual assets play an important role in conveying your message and in keeping your users engaged.
If you have the resources, consider enhancing your post by including a supplementary video.
If not, consider bringing the content to life with an infographic, or a new graph or table — or perhaps aim to inject some extra personality into the post by replacing standard images with GIFs.
4) Review Your Headline
A great headline will make all the difference to your CTR.
When crafting a new headline, you need to strike a delicate balance between clickability and making sure it contains your target keyword.
One way to entice more readers is to incorporate a stronger call-to-action in your headline.
If you need help, try using a free tool like CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to figure out the optimal headline copy.
5) Optimize for Your Keywords
Having worked your target keyword into your new click-worthy headline, you should also ensure that you include that keyword — and any others you may be targeting — within your headers and body text.
Don’t overdo it, of course — a light sprinkling will do.
You should also revisit your post’s meta-description. A compelling description coupled with an enticing headline will help drive those click-through-rates.
Finally, make sure all images in the post have descriptive alt text.
6) Optimize for Featured Snippets
If there’s a featured snippet for your target keyword, check the format and accordingly.
For example, if the featured snippet is a list, make sure your post contains a relevant list; if it’s a paragraph, make sure you include a few lines giving a concise summary of your subject matter.
7) Add an Author Byline
One way of measuring, Google uses to determine page quality is ‘E-A-T‘ (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness).
Content that falls short of these standards may be deemed less reliable.
One of the simplest ways to signal to Google and users that your content comes from a transparent, reliable source is to add an author byline and to link to their bio.
8) Fix Broken Links
Broken links can damage the reader’s perception of your content as well as hampering your SEO efforts.
You should update any links that lead to a 404-error page or any links that point to an outdated piece of content.
9) Shore up Your Internal Linking
Check to see whether you could link to any newer posts that you’ve published since the original post went live.
Also, look to see whether you can add links to your updated post from your highest-authority posts (or those with the most backlinks). This can help pass on link equity to your newly updated piece.
10) Link out to Useful Resources
You want to make your posts as valuable as possible for your reader and linking out to other helpful or interesting resources is an effective way to do this.
External links also give you a legitimate reason to reach out to the people you’ve linked-to in the post. By letting them know that their work has been mentioned, they might be tempted to share the post or link to it from their own website.
11) Delete Spammy Comment
If you have a comments section on your blog, you may find that it gets overloaded with irrelevant messages or promotions.
These are worth removing since they can tarnish the perceived quality of your post.
12) Change the Date
One way to signal the freshness of your content is to replace your “published on” date with a “last updated” date.
Alternatively, you could simply include a note at the end of your post explaining when it was originally published and what changes have been made since.
You may also want to consider including “updated” in your headline.
If your post is evergreen, you could even consider removing the date altogether.
13) Update the URL
In most cases, updating the post’s URL isn’t necessary.
That said, a clean, well-structured URL that includes your target keyword(s) does offer a slight SEO advantage and can help give your page a more polished feel.
Approach any URL changes with caution.
You will need to implement a permanent 301 redirect from your old post to the new post.
Doing so will mean that any social share counts on your old post will revert to zero on your new post. What’s more, your analytics set-up may end up tracking data on the new and old URLs separately, so make sure you’re clear on how redirects will influence your reporting before making changes.
14) Improve Page Speed
Page speed is a crucial aspect of your website’s user experience — people hate it when a page takes too long to load.
Furthermore, Google now uses page speed as a ranking factor on both desktop and mobile.
One of the easiest ways to shave off some load-time is to compress your images.
Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for a detailed breakdown of your page speed.
15) Make Sure Your Post Is Mobile-Friendly
Most searches are done on mobile, and mobile-friendliness is a confirmed ranking factor:
It goes without saying, therefore, that your post must render well on mobile devices.
For an overview of how your post performs on mobile, check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
After the Update
Now that you’ve updated your post, it’s time to publish and promote!
Google will eventually get round to indexing the new content automatically, but if you want to speed things up you can always make a new index request in Google Search Console.
Spread the word about your updated posts as you would with any new post: send it out to your newsletter subscribers, share it on your social accounts, reach out to any bloggers or influencers you’ve mentioned in the post, and — if you have the budget — consider investing in some paid promotion.
Finally, don’t forget to monitor the post’s performance closely for the first few weeks. This includes checking for constructive feedback in the comments section as well as tracking traditional performance metrics in your analytics. You can apply all this to the next post you update.