Here’s an interesting comparison for you: Outdated content is like a hit song that everybody forgot about three weeks after the label release.
Yes, even great content can lose visitors within months after publication if it becomes irrelevant, or if another, better piece pops up and gets Google’s attention.
Why does that happen? Simple: “Keeping it fresh” is the mantra of Google for ranking content. The search engine crawls and ranks millions of pages to find those providing the best answer to its users. That’s why outdated content pieces, no matter how good, are at risk of losing top search positions to newcomers.
In this guide, we’re going to help you understand the basics of a content refresh. Let’s start with four major reasons why this tactic relates to SEO, so you know how to keep your content fresh and relevant.
Why Does Content Become Outdated?
So, why does content fall out of favor with Google in the first place? Different reasons apply to different content topics. But here are the most common reasons:
- Tough content competition: Over 60 percent of marketers invest in content creation in 2021, meaning that more articles are created on similar or identical topics.
- Topic relevance: Some topics stay relevant for years and decades but some fall out of favor earlier, resulting in a lack of interest.
- Topic evolution: Many topics get updated with new knowledge, which requires remaking, rewriting, combining and otherwise reworking old content to keep it relevant.
- Google algorithms: Google tries to supply its users with the most quality, helpful and relevant information – which in many cases also means “fresh.”
Content refresh is an effective way to address all four reasons. Let’s now go over each reason in more detail.
Content Refresh for SEO: 4 Top Tips
No alarm goes off when content gets irrelevant and outcompeted by other content. Knowing these tactics will help to keep your content fresh and important in the eyes of Google.
1. Content Refresh To Beat Competitors
Companies are becoming smarter and more effective at producing content. They use keyword research apps and other SEO tools to optimize their articles, landing pages and other content to rank high on Google.
The competition often leads to freshly made content getting pushed down in Google results, let alone old content. That’s why making updates can make a difference for rankings.
To refresh your content and beat your competitors:
- Take a look at the top 10 Google results. Use a specific keyword to define the most popular content pieces that rank for it
- Define what makes them popular. Read the top results and try to find out what sets them apart from the rest. Better structure? Step-by-step instructions? Original research? Or maybe links to other authoritative resources?
- Refresh your content accordingly. Make updates to content based on your analysis of the top results.
Competitor analysis has many benefits for your business. Seeing how others approach content creation might help to discover different writing and formatting styles, places to add videos instead of text and more keywords.
Being in the top five means that Google thinks that the piece is the best. So, learn from the best and improve your content by following similar practices.
2. Content Refresh To Increase Relevance
Some topics might become less relevant or completely irrelevant with time. The reasons are numerous: changes in regulations, interests or effectiveness of something.
Here’s an example:
Many companies were investing in content about Google+ just to find out that the platform was going to shut down on April 2, 2019. After the disappearance, the interest in the platform surged, so creating new content was pointless.
The shutdown also meant that having content about Google+ wasn’t going to bring any benefits. Since Google prioritizes websites with relevant content, its crawlers might downgrade some websites with content on irrelevant topics like the failed platform.
Removing irrelevant and outdated content also has some disadvantages. For example, it might interfere with your interlinking strategy (linking between content pieces on one website), which might also result in 404s.
So, should you update and remove outdated content?
The answer depends on several factors. If your content…
- … is useful and still gets some traffic, definitely update it
- … needs rewriting to increase relevance, go for the update
- … is about an outdated topic like Google+, consider removing it (unless it gathered many backlinks from other websites – that’s a trust signal)
3. Content Refresh for Topic Updates
Some aspects of topics often change, which also calls for a content refresh. For example, content related to a popular media service Musical.ly had to be updated when the app got “upgraded” to the new design and name: “TikTok.”
Just like TokTok, other apps, techniques, strategies and topics evolve and change all the time. If you’re a business review platform and have been writing about the best online writing services, they also evolve constantly with changes in customers’ preferences, writing styles and more.
Consider these tips to refresh content:
- Review the top five Google results on the same topic/keyword. You might find ideas on what to add, remove, or improve based on how others approached the same topic later than your content.
- Find new ways to approach topics. You can do your original research or cite other studies (preferably newer and better).
- Add new keywords. Run keyword research once more to see if your content is missing some new, relevant keywords.
- Search for new information about the topic. Read news, articles and other content to see how the topic has evolved since the original publication. Consider also setting up a Google Alert to get notifications about the latest content on that topic.
Refreshing content to improve the relevance of topics involves some investigation and research skills. But it’s nothing you can’t do – everything you need is just a few clicks away, in Google results.
4. Content Refresh To Adjust to Google Algorithm Changes
Google makes insignificant changes to its algorithms countless times each year. Most of them relate rather to technical SEO than SEO copywriting, so it’s okay if content creators miss some once in a while.
But we get major core updates every few months, and they have equally major implications for content creation. One of the latest major updates, thee so-called “mobile-first indexing,” brought these changes:
- Text optimization for comfortable reading experience on small mobile screens (shorter, more digestible three-line paragraphs work best for that.)
- Textual takeaways that present readers with a quick summary of articles are a good idea because they don’t have to scroll around to find them.
- Video and image optimization for faster loading times.
Following Google’s technical SEO guidelines and the best content practices of the top results are effective strategies to adjust for algorithm changes. That’s why you should try to keep a close watch on how your content performs – a drop in rankings might suggest a lack of optimization.
More tips to update for the latest Google algorithm: How To Optimize for Google’s E-A-T Algorithm
How To Start Refreshing Content
Finding those outdated content pieces is simple with tools like Google Analytics (or any content analytics tool of your choice).
Here’s what this process looks like:
- Review website pages in Google Analytics. Go to Behavior > Site Content to see traffic numbers and sources for each page.
- Go to traffic stats and find the pages drawing the least amount of visits. A lack of interest might suggest any of the four reasons (competition, topic evolution, etc.), so visit those pages to find out how to update them.
- Prioritize content according to its importance. Some content pieces deserve updates because they might bring your traffic and conversions; others, not so much. Assign priority (low, medium, high) to each piece and decide if an update is really worth your time.
- Update and re-upload content. Make improvements to the prioritized content pieces and update them as soon as possible. This might involve anything from adding a small section to rewriting entire blog articles.
The actual process of content refresh might be a bit time-consuming if your blog has a lot of articles. So, try to update articles with the most potential to bring in traffic, leads and sales.
Content Refresh for SEO: Summary
Publishing content is just a part of the journey. There’s a bunch of factors affecting its performance, and updates are necessary. From topic evolution to Google algorithms, content makers have a lot to watch for.
If you focus your content refresh effort on mitigating the effects of the four reasons (competitors, topic relevance, topic evolution and Google updates), you’ll likely cover all bases. In any way, consider appointing an in-house person to watch content rankings (especially when you have freelance content writers).
The bottom line: Make content refresh a part of your content marketing strategy.