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How to Update Old Blog Posts and Get More Traffic (10 Step Process)

Traffic increase after updating old blog post

If your site is more than a year old, you probably have some older blog posts that need to be updated.

Updating old content is one of the easiest ways to boost your traffic without publishing anything new and waiting for it to get noticed.

Google wants bloggers to keep their content fresh. It’s good for readers and search engines, which means it’s good for your business too!

I’ve consistently seen sharp upticks in traffic after updating old blog posts.

But keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on what niche you’re in. Freshness matters more for certain types of content, even inside the same niche.

Let’s take fashion blogs, for example. If you have a blog post about seasonal trends, it needs to be updated regularly. Google will want to show people the latest and greatest content because they know that searches like “summer fashion trends” are time sensitive.

Summer fashion trends Google search
If Google thinks freshness matters for a search query, it will show you the most up-to-date results it can find.

On the other hand, if you have a blog post about which colors make you look tan, it might not need to be updated as often. This is “evergreen” content because it doesn’t become outdated over time.

Non fresh search results
If freshness isn’t important, you may see content that hasn’t been updated in years.

For my men’s fashion blog, I consider anything older than one year to be outdated.

People often use a “year modifier” when searching if they want a more recent result:

Year modifier
Google is basically telling us that freshness matters for this keyword/topic (i.e., people would prefer content that was published or updated recently).

So I want to make sure all of the content on my site, especially the buying guides, is updated for the current year.

The good news is, updating old content is pretty easy (compared to creating brand new content), and it almost always produces fast, tangible results.

I recently updated a buying guide about slim wallets that was originally published in 2015.

This post got about 3,400 views in March 2015 when it was first published, then it tapered off and got about 130 views per month for years…

After refreshing it in March 2020, it jumped up to 4,500 monthly views and is set to pass 10k monthly views soon.

This traffic spike is typical when updating old content, especially if you have an established blog with some domain authority.

I’ve produced these same results many times over the past few months. Here’s exactly how I do it…

10 Step Content Refresh Process

Here are the exact steps I take to refresh old, outdated content on my blog:

1. Do a Quick Edit

This is the first and hardest step. You actually have to read the whole article to make sure it’s relevant and complete.

If it’s a product review, for example, it may need an extra paragraph at the top to let readers know if your opinion of the product has changed since you first published the review.

If it’s a round up (e.g., Best White Sneakers), maybe certain brands need to be added or removed.

Maybe your writing style changed, and this older blog post feels too stiff and formal.

Maybe there are some time sensitive references that don’t make sense anymore.

Maybe it’s not in-depth enough or long enough for your current standards. Many of my older blog posts were 500 words or less, which is pretty content thin by today’s standards.

Just give the whole post a quick read through, and make any updates that make sense for your readers.

This is really important for SEO too. Since we’re going to be updating the publish date, we want to make sure there are significant changes to the article.

Google doesn’t want bloggers to simply change the publish date to make their content seem current if it really isn’t.

So increasing the word count by adding a few extra blurbs isn’t a bad idea. My minimum word count is 800 words, but there are no hard and fast rules for this.

2. Find and Fix Broken Links

Old blog posts usually have some broken links. I find that most of these are outbound links to out of stock products.

Broken links are bad for SEO, user experience and affiliate marketing (if you’re linking to a discontinued product, you won’t make any sales!).

To find broken links, you have a few options:

  1. HARD: Manually click on each link to see if it’s broken
  2. EASIER: Use this Google Chrome extension to highlight broken links
  3. PIECE OF CAKE: Use Ahrefs broken links report

I use method #3 (Ahrefs) because, well, I pay for Ahrefs each month, and it’s the most efficient method for finding broken links on a webpage.

Ahrefs broken links report

But method #2 also works just fine. Once you fink a broken link, you can either remove it or replace it with one that works.

3. Optimize Affiliate Links

With affiliate marketing, a lot can change in a year. Maybe you’ve found a better affiliate program or have a new way to create and track affiliate links.

Maybe you’re prioritizing Amazon vs. rewardStyle, or vice versa.

Since you’re checking all the outbound links anyway, why not make sure they’re all affiliate links while you’re at it?

4. Update the Formatting

As you become a more experienced blogger, you get better at formatting your articles.

Formatting example
Even just using section headers and lists will make your article look a lot better!

Your newer content probably looks better on the page than your older content.

You’re probably using things like headers and pull quotes to give your content an editorial look and feel.

This is great! But your older content may not be formatted according to your current standards.

During this refresh process, take a few minutes to add all of these on-page formatting elements to make sure your content is easy to scan and consume.

5. Upgrade the Media

Many bloggers are producing original media constantly. For example, fashion bloggers are always taking photos of their outfits, and food bloggers are constantly taking photos of, well, their food.

Your photography skills improve a ton over the course of a year, especially if you upgraded your camera, so chances are the images in your old posts look a bit outdated.

Be sure to delete any photos that are low resolution or too small. Replace them with better images or, if you don’t have relevant images, use Canva to make some cool graphics.

Blog post graphic made in Canva
Here’s an example of a blog post graphic I made in Canva (no original photography or graphic design skills required).

You can also embed a YouTube video. This increases time on page, which is great for SEO. It doesn’t even have to be your own video. Any relevant video will do.

6. Optimize the Title and Description

When it comes to on-page SEO for blogs, your title tag and description are two of the most important elements.

They’re also very easy to control and optimize.

When updating old content, I like to revisit the title and description to make sure they’re the right length, keyword rich and enticing.

For example, I changed the title/description of my slim wallets article from:

Why You Need a Slim Wallet, and Which One to Buy

Are you still carrying around a thick, bulky trifold or bifold? It’s time to trade in the George Costanza wallet for something slimmer.

to

Top 8 Best Slim Wallets for Men (2020 Review)

Are you still carrying around a thick, bulky bifold? Ditch the George Costanza wallet, and pick up one of the best slim wallets you can buy.

Notice that the new and improved title and description are optimized for this article’s primary keyword: best slim wallets.

At the time of writing, this article is ranking #1 on the first page of Google for “best slim wallets”.

7. Check Categories and Tags

Most content management systems (CMS), including WordPress, use two different taxonomies with which you can organize your blog posts: categories and tags.

Your old content may have too many tags, or it may not be in the right category.

I don’t know about you, but I revise, add and delete tags and categories every now and then, so I like to check these for accuracy during the refresh process.

8. Add Internal Links

Internal links are links from one page or post to another page or post on the same website.

These are very important for SEO because they help Google figure how different blog posts are related to each other, and how important each article is (more links = more important).

If you’re updating a post that’s over a year old, you’ve probably published a whole lot of new content that could be linked to.

You need to do two things:

  1. Make sure the old article has internal links to newer content (where it makes sense)
  2. Make sure the old article has internal links pointing to it

You don’t want any “orphan” blog posts on your site (i.e., posts that don’t have any internal links pointing to them).

Ahrefs internal backlinks report
Ahrefs internal backlinks report

So use the Ahrefs internal links report to make sure the post you’re working on has at least 3-4 internal links.

If it doesn’t, create a few new links from relevant articles (i.e., articles in the same category).

9. Add a Table of Contents

If your article has more than three sections, it might make sense to include a Table of Contents (ToC) at the top.

Table of Contents in WordPress
Table of Contents in a WordPress blog post

This is another easy-to-implement strategy that’s good for both readers and search engines.

It’s also very easy to do. I recommend downloading the Easy Table of Contents plugin (it’s free), which works seamlessly with any good WordPress theme.

10. Update the Publish Date

This is the last step, and it’s very important. Inside WordPress, you want to update the publish date before you click “update”.

Change publish date in WordPress
This is an important step! Let Google know your blog post is fresh by updating the publish date (i.e., republishing the article).

You’re essentially republishing the article, and you want search engines to know that this is a fresh, newly updated piece of content.

If you haven’t made significant changes to the article, don’t change the publish date. For example, if you just fixed a broken link or changed one image, that doesn’t justify republishing.

But if you’ve gone through the above checklist thoroughly, chances are you’ve made significant updates and should republish the post.

BONUS: Request Reindexing

The last step of this process is to use Google Search Console to request reindexing for your republished blog post.

This is basically just asking Google’s bots to re-crawl your site again ASAP. They will do this anyway, but you can speed up the process by manually requesting it in Search Console.

Search Console URL Inspection

I’ve seen newly updated posts start ranking again in 1-3 days after requesting reindexing, which is pretty incredible!

By the way, if you don’t use Search Console, go sign up for a free account using the same login info as Google Analytics.

There are many other ways to use Search Console for your blog, but that’s a topic for another article 😉

Updating Old Content vs. Creating New Content

Many successful bloggers argue that updating old content is just as important as, if not more important than creating and publishing new content.

After experimenting with this process on my site and getting consistently great results, I agree.

If you’re not convinced, just use the process outlined above to update 1-2 old blog posts. I think the results will speak for themselves.

I try to update one old post each week. Right now, this process is heavily dependent on me because it’s sort of subjective. I wrote most of the older content on my site, so it’s hard to ask someone else to refresh it.

That said, I’m trying to figure out a way to systematize this process and delegate it to my writers and assistants.

For now, I’m happy to do it myself, and seeing that (almost) instant boost of traffic is very rewarding!

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