How a Content Refresh Can Help You Stay Relevant
By: Elaine Ip
If you’re a savvy digital marketer, you’ve probably been on the content marketing train for years. Bonus points for you, but is that pile of existing content starting to look a little stale?
For those in a fast-paced industry, some of your best content might start to look stale after only a year or two. How is a content marketer supposed to keep up with that kind of change?
The secret is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every couple of years. A lot of your existing content can still serve your brand very well with just a little refresh. In fact, we recently re-released our Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing—newly updated from the original guide we created a few years ago.
Redirecting some of your efforts to refreshing existing content might be just the break your team needs, and just the boon your content needs.
Why Should I Spend Time Refreshing Old Content?
No content marketer is looking for one more task to add to the list, but refreshing existing content can actually serve your brand and your content marketing strategy.
It keeps your brand relevant. Just because you haven’t featured content for a while doesn’t mean people aren’t finding those old blogs and ebooks through search engines and old links. Good content will keep getting attention, but is it making the right first impression for your brand?
Relevancy is also good for your SEO strategy. Google rewards fresh content, but keeping a content calendar full of great, relevant, well-executed ideas week after week can be exhausting. Refreshing old content allows you to keep “producing” content, without having to start at square one every time.
It keeps your content calendar full. Whether you’re running low on ideas, time, or resources, refreshing content can keep your publishing goals on time. Refreshing an old ebook, for example, not only improves that content, but it can also inspire a few blog posts, an updated slide deck, or a new infographic.
Which Content Deserves a Makeover?
The question then becomes, which pieces of content should you refresh? Sometimes, it can be tricky to know which pieces to tackle.
Fortunately, these indicators will help you determine which gems to polish:
It’s evergreen. A lot of your content is probably just as applicable today as it was when you wrote it. Nuances and best practices in some industries change, but a lot of big picture concepts and strategies remain true. If the core ideas in your content are still timely, a little refresh can make it feel new again.
The numbers back it up. Dig into your metrics to identify your content superstars. What had (or still has) the most traffic, was downloaded most frequently, was shared extensively on social, or contributed to the most sales? That content hit a nerve, so do it again!
Conduct some keyword research. Google some of your top keywords and make a note of pages or content that rank in the first two (maybe three) pages. That content is clearly already performing well, but a little refresh could put it over the top and really help it climb the rankings.
These markers are good places to start if you need help identifying content that could really benefit from a refresh, but one piece does not need all three of the characteristics above to qualify. For example, sometimes a great piece of content didn’t earn high numbers because it was released at the wrong time, or not publicized well initially—it might do much better the second time around after you apply your learnings.
How to Refresh Old Content
Once you’ve determined which pieces have the potential to drive more engagement, you need to have a system in place to make sure that you’re refreshing them strategically.
Here are seven steps to follow:
Add them to your editorial calendar. Don’t just start refreshing and reposting for the sake of it. Look at the assets you’re going to update and determine a schedule for how and when to roll them out. Consider elements as timing and relevancy, as well as new content that you plan to create concurrently.
Review your current top keywords and buyer personas. Update the content to reflect any changes you may have made in those areas. You might find that older content wasn’t optimized for the right keyword, or that modernized personas demand different language and/or considerations.
Update sections where recommendations are outdated or irrelevant. As you read through, make sure the piece reflects today’s best practices.
Update references. Nothing screams “old content” like outdated data or a hyperlink that takes you to content from 2010, or worse—a 404 page. Any time you’re citing stats, chances are good there are newer ones out there than the ones you used. Find them and use them. The same goes for links. You may have published better content recently, so link to it instead.
Update the aesthetic. Modern web design is often clean and simple. Content that looks outdated feels old and can turn your visitor away before they even read a word. Readers also expect a visual and engaging experience—include images or video, as well as interactive elements like social sharing buttons.
Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. It’s no secret that mobile internet usage has overtaken desktop. Even if your site has been upgraded to a mobile-responsive format, some content still doesn’t play well on smaller screens. Make sure your images are centered (not right or left-aligned), buttons are big enough for fat fingers to tap, content is in short paragraphs, etc.
Re-date it. If your content includes a date, such as a blog post, add an “editor’s note” saying that the post was updated from a previous entry to reassure the reader that the information is current. You may also want to consider removing the date altogether if your content has a long shelf life.
When you’re ready to relaunch your content, or when you get stuck, check in on your favorite brands or even your competition for inspiration. Does their content feature a key point you didn’t think of? Is it more engaging? How is it structured? Just make sure you don’t end up copying the competition. Anything they can do, you can do better—right?
On-Page SEO Considerations for a Content Refresh
If you’re freshening up a blog post or a landing page, you might as well take a few extra minutes to polish your on-page SEO while you’re there.
Here are a few simple adjustments that can give your content an SEO boost:
Update the keyword usage. If your content is several years old, it might have been developed when keyword stuffing (using the keyword as often as possible) was still an effective SEO trick. Today, Google retaliates against over-used keywords, so edit the content as necessary to use keywords and variants naturally.
Format headers. Search engines know that headers provide structure to content. Make sure they are formatted as “Header 2” and “Header 3” as appropriate, and that right keywords are used (again, naturally).
Image title and alt text. Review existing and new media files to make sure that their titles and alt text are specified and descriptive. Again, avoid stuffing them with unnecessary keywords, but take advantage of the opportunity to use keywords authentically.
Specify an SEO title and meta description. Google limits titles on search results pages to about 55 characters and meta descriptions to about 155. If you don’t specify these, the search engine will pull relevant text from the page, but it will be cut off and may not highlight your key points.
If you’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great tool that makes this very easy to do.
If you’re updating a blog post or landing page, the SEO consideration you don’t want to mess with is the URL of the page. As you create new content, you might consider eliminating “stop words” (short words like to, a, the, etc. that make a URL unnecessarily long) from the URL, but for a refresh, you just need to deal with what you have. Changing the URL will break any link already pointing to that page, resulting in 404 errors to the user, and too many redirects can make your site navigation messy.
Support Content Marketing with Refreshed Content
Refreshing existing content can be a great way to keep your content calendar full and get the most value out of good content that you’ve already created. It won’t turn bad content into good content, but it can certainly extend the life of some of your best work or produce a second wave of engagement.
If your content strategy has hit a wall or your team is wearing thin, review some of your classic hits and see what might benefit from a few updates and a fresh face. Have you been refreshing your existing content?