For 2021, 90% of our content marketing strategy in my busiest and highest-production business (Express Writers) is updating old content. 10% is adding new content.
We can win a LOT more quickly by updating the 1,300+ blogs on our site than creating new ones from scratch.
We’re not the only ones with this strategy, either. Take Neil Patel: for every 1 blog he creates, his team updates 20+.
As he says, “What worked a year ago or two years ago … may not be relevant anymore.”
It’s true. As your content ages and loses relevancy, it will lose traffic, too. It will lose ROI.
That means, when you invest in updating, you keep the ROI intact. In fact, you may actually increase your ROI from these old pieces because you’ll be piggybacking on the rankings they were able to gain over time, and potentially boosting them further with relevant updates.
This is a HUGE strategy EVERY content marketer should be using — low-hanging fruit, HUGE ROI! 🍒
On the Write Blog, 90% of our content there is older posts we have updated.
(There’s no gimmick or trick to doing this, either. It’s a LOT of work, but absolutely worth the time.)
Ready to get into updating? Let’s go over what you need (tools, team, and a process) PLUS what your content updating should include.
Here’s how to update old content.
Pssst… You can also watch me explain all of this in my YouTube video. ⬇️
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, but I never recommend any product I don’t use or trust myself.
How to Update Old Content: What Do You Need to Start?
You need three different parts to start updating old content: Tools, team, and a process. (Funnily enough, these are the exact pieces you need for your business and content strategy, too.)
Here’s what I use and recommend:
- Team: You need pro writers helping you, because this is a task too big for one person alone, especially if you have lots of old content to sift through and update. I use my own team at Express Writers.
- Tools: Semrush and your site backend or content calendar. For me, the latter is a combination of WordPress and Airtable.
- Process: I share the full process for updating content in my YouTube video (below). To read the major points and takeaways, keep scrolling! 👇
How to Update Old Content: My 6-Step Process
1. Find Good Content to Update (Low-Hanging Fruit)
Before you can start updating content, you need to find the right pieces to focus on.
Some of your content won’t benefit from an update, and you shouldn’t touch it.
Some of your content WILL benefit. Here’s how to find those pieces with two methods:
If you use Semrush to track analytics, login and check what content is already ranking on your domain or blog. See how you can touch it up, optimize, and push it further so it can rank even higher.
The Position Tracking tool is your best friend, here. Specifically, check your Rankings Overview and Declining Keywords.
Find ranking pieces (or pieces that have declined in rankings), look them over, and determine whether any need updates, tweaking, or edits.
Using Your Site Backend (WordPress):
This next method to find old content to update is slightly more painful, but it may be the best route if you’re not familiar with Semrush or just want to evaluate your content without looking at metrics.
Go into the backend of your blog or website in your content management system. You need a list of all the posts you’ve ever published. (For me, I’m working in WordPress.)
Next, sort your posts manually by date in WordPress and start reading through them. I usually start with the oldest posts and work my way forward.
A human eye for content (a writer, content marketer) CANNOT be replaced here. It will be your most critical tool.
That’s because the person evaluating content for updating needs to be cognizant of what good online writing looks like (for users first, then SEO/Google). They need to understand good SEO practices, and have the ability to evaluate them in a piece of content.
2. Edit and Update Inaccuracies, Typos, & Wording
Once you find content pieces to update, it’s time to start editing.
Again, a pro content marketer/writer is essential for updating content in general. But, it’s perhaps MORE important when you get to the editing stages.
At this point, you’re looking at the piece as a whole, checking for errors, inaccuracies, and typos well as consistency in tone of voice for your brand. Check formatting, spacing, and organization, too.
I recommend quickly reading through the piece and tweaking it as you go. If you find a large section needs to be rewritten, make a note and come back to it once you’ve finished editing the entire piece.
In other words, if any part of the content can be rewritten better at this stage, do it. Consider:
- Does it still make sense?
- Could you make it clearer?
- Could you provide better examples?
- Could you expand on the topic?
3. Check for 404 Links, Outdated Research, & Cultural Changes
Next up, look at your old content piece in terms of relevancy for the here-and-now.
Check ALL your links and make sure they still point to the right working webpages. If not, replace them.
Look at the stats and research included in the piece. Are they still relevant? Or are you citing studies from 10 years ago on a topic that has tons of new research?
Go find newer, better studies. Newer, more up-to-date statistics. Replace the outdated information with fresh facts. (Using current research is key. DON’T give people a reason to question your research, and thus your authority.)
Finally, consider cultural changes at this editing stage. For example, we just went through (and are still experiencing) a pandemic. How has that changed the way you approach or talk about certain subjects? Is your content tone-deaf for the current situation?
Remember: Empathy sells. The better you relate to your target reader, the better the results.
4. Craft a New Headline
Next up: your headline.
This is a mega-important part of your content to update because:
- It’s the first thing people see in the SERPs! 👀
- It’s the first thing people read on the page.
- If it’s not engaging, if it doesn’t promise relevant content to the user’s search query AND deliver on that promise, they won’t stick around.
When you update your headline, ask yourself:
- Does it reflect the content?
- Is it relevant?
- Is it engaging, NOT clickbaity?
- Does it naturally include the focus keyword?
- Is it the right length?
If it looks good, leave it alone. If not, tweak and improve.
Need help writing great headlines and engaging online content? Start with my course, Unlearn Essay Writing.
5. Update the Images and Copy in Your Content
Another, often-overlooked area to update is your images/screenshots. Are they old – are you using screenshots from defunct or out-of-date websites?
What about your examples, charts, graphs, infographics? Nix anything that isn’t current or evergreen.
Finally, don’t leave old branding hanging around in your updated content. Make sure all branded images represent your current logo/colors/style.
6. Update the Meta Content & CTAs
Here’s the last piece of the puzzle for how to update old content. 🧩
Don’t neglect your meta content – the meta title and description – or your calls-to-action (CTAs).
Tweak both the meta title and description for better engagement, better use of your focus keyword, or to more accurately describe or sum up your post.
In WordPress, I use the Yoast SEO plugin to help me add metas to every piece of content. This also makes it easy to update them when the time comes.
Having good CTAs in your content is paramount, because these are what turn invested readers into subscribers and even customers.
When updating old blogs, check your CTAs for both accuracy (do the links point to the right places?) as well as engagement (are they compelling, do they make you want to click?).
Sometimes, your old blogs won’t have ANY CTAs. Add them, add them, add them! CTAs are key for moving readers to take profitable action.
Now That You Know How to Update Old Content – Go Forth and Win!
Tell me – will updating old content be part of your content marketing strategy this year?
It definitely takes some time and work, but it’s a surefire way to reach ROI efficiently and quickly.
If you need some quick wins with content, this is the way to go. ⤴
You know what to do. So, get out there and win.
Want the ultimate pathway to winning with content marketing? Check out my Ultimate Content Hacker Course Bundle.