How to Update Website Content for SEO: 9 Ways The Pros Do It

Updated on August 14, 2023


Your website’s rankings may have come to a halt. That’s sucks, right?

I know it all too well…

Most site owners would just:

  • Build more backlinks
  • Buy ads
  • Ignore it

But please don’t be like them…

There’s a simpler solution.

Updating website content to improve SEO is one of the best ways to break that plateau.

According to Hubspot, updating old posts increased organic traffic by 106%. 

They called this effort “historical optimization” and showed data that this spiked the number of organic views.

In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how it’s done.

What Is a Content Refresh? 

A content refresh, or “historical optimization” as some call it, is taking “old” content and making it worthy of ranking on Google’s results page again.

By re-optimizing content that has done well historically, you’ll be able to generate a fresh set of traffic and leads.  

This can give your pages a little SEO boost.

Let’s say you created a blog about dogs five years ago. It did pretty well and gained a lot of views and engagement. 

But traffic and rankings have taken a dip. The idea is to add more relevant and updated information to breathe life into it again.

Because why would Google feature an article that hasn’t been updated for five years…

You don’t want to be responsible for something happening to your readers’ dogs.

Why Is It Important to Update Content for SEO?

Updating content for SEO is important because it will boost your site’s performance. 

Yup, you’ve probably heard this claim a few times already, 

There are plenty of tips and tricks to do this and achieve results. 

Don’t second guess whether you should make an effort.

Here’s why you should:

It’s a Sustainable Content Marketing Strategy 

Producing brand-new content remains crucial. However, making that your primary strategy may eat up too much labor and time. 

Updating old content is quicker and more effective.

Neil Patel describes it as such:

“Yes, you could keep writing and producing more content. But this is complicated and it takes lots of time.

Instead, you can update old content. It takes less work and delivers faster results which can only be beneficial for your overall content marketing strategy.”

Neil Patel, Founder of NP Digital, and Ubersuggest

You could easily incorporate it into your overall strategy and achieve steady progress for your site.

More SEO content does not always equate to better results. Why would you do more work when there is a better option?

Including content refresh in your calendar is a smart step. It helps fill in the gaps for the times you can’t produce new content.

Content Freshness Is a Ranking Factor

Google already confirmed this years ago. 

Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) is an algorithm function that determines organic search results in terms of “freshness”. 

Google announced this update back in 2011 and it has impacted search engine results ever since. 

But what does “freshness” mean exactly? 

Simply put. Freshness refers to content that is “dynamic.”

It’s not when it was created or published. But the relevance and timeliness. 

Whether the content is getting new backlinks is also another factor.

Some queries require more “freshness” than others.

For example, a search on “NBA playoff results” obviously needs something current. 

Evergreen topics such as “Basics of Digital Marketing” or “Choosing the Best AI SEO Tool” won’t require as many updates.

Google loves giving searchers the most useful and relevant information possible. 

So, here’s one question to determine whether certain content is fresh: “Is this information useful right now?” 

People’s Search Behavior Changes

I often find myself glancing at a page’s publish date when searching for answers in Google.

I also actively check the last time the content was updated. 

Knowing that I’m reading recent content daily makes me feel safe. I know I’m getting decent information.

I’m leaving otherwise.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Many readers would choose recent information over old ones. 

However, even if a reader does not check dates consciously, query results are still affected by freshness.

Look at this example of Oberlo ranking higher than Hubspot.

Title Tag Updated Dates Rank BetterPin

Attitudes and interests are shaped by current events and external factors.

So, it’s no wonder that search intent and keywords will shift over time. 

If you fail to update old content, you’ll miss the chance to rank for more current queries. 

Which Pages Should You Update for SEO? 

Not all content is made equal. Some should be updated, while some should be left alone.

Here’s a quick guide on how to know whether a piece of content should be refreshed. 

Pages with a Good Track Record 

The best place to start is with pages that have performed well in the past. 

You’ll be leveraging on historical traffic that the page has already accumulated. Plus, it’s likely that page has already built up some decent page authority. 

This makes the chances of getting favorable results much higher. 

If these pages used to rank well but have fallen off, then that’s a strong clue that it’s time for an upgrade. 

Pages With Evergreen Content

These pages are also one of your best bets and should be included in your content refresh arsenal. 

If longevity is the name of the game, then evergreen content can win because of its ability to accumulate traffic over time. 

Still, some evergreen content is prone to decay. This is where you can fill the gap with smart revisions. 

You can add updated data, statistics, and other relevant info. 

Pages With a Solid Content Strategy but Need More Push

A page that is value-packed and written with proper SEO frameworks is a strong candidate for updating if it’s not ranking well.

You’ll have a chance to analyze what went wrong and reboot its strategy by finding fresher keywords or revising its meta title or title tags. 

How To Update Website Content for SEO?

This process is way easier if you already have an SEO Content brief.

But here are nine ways how to update website content for SEO.

Ways To Update Website Content For SEOPin
  1. Find Low Hanging Fruits By Looking at Data
  2. Chase New Keywords
  3. Update Facts and Figures
  4. Revamp the Writing (Especially the Intro)
  5. Beef Up Links and Anchor Texts
  6. Improve Title Tags and Meta Description
  7. Highlight Key Points to Increase Engagement
  8. Add an FAQ Section
  9. Revise Dates

1. Find Low Hanging Fruits By Looking at Data 

Use your favorite SEO audit tool (e.g. Ahref, SEMrush) or the ever-handy Google Analytics or Google Search Console to find opportunities.

I tend to look at key metrics like:

  • Ranking positions
  • Impressions
  • Sessions,
  • CTR 

in determining which pages have performed well in the past. 

I’ll also look at the trend. If there’s an upward trend, I assume that there still might be room for growth with this one. I’ll let nature take its course in the meantime.

Here’s one of my pages declining across all metrics for about two months.

Maybe I should practice what I just said…

Identifying Low Hanging Content Update Opportunities In Google SearchPin

If certain pages have shown promise in the past but have declined, then those are ripe for the picking. 

You could put these pages on the priority list of your content calendar and work on them first.

2. Chase New Keywords 

When you’re still ranking for certain keywords, but traffic has plateaued, then it’s time to expand your keywords list. 

Due to changing attitudes and search intent, there may be a lot of exciting new keywords right under your nose. It’s time to incorporate these into your pages. 

But don’t just include the first high-volume keywords you can find. Make sure that you’ll be targeting keywords that will actually add value. 

Here are some useful points for choosing highly targeted keywords: 

  • Understand your audience
  • Know your domain ranking authority
  • Target local keywords 

Traffic growth and increased rankings are important. But you want to rein in conversion and engagement too.

You need to choose the best keywords to fit your audience. Using local keywords to narrow down targeting.

If your domain authority is high (every tool gives an arbitrary score so I can’t give a number), you can target more competitive, and difficult keywords. 

Otherwise, prioritize keywords with low to medium difficulty. 

These will compound and strengthen your SEO game in the long run.

3. Update Facts and Figures 

We talked about how evergreen content can decay because of outdated information. You need to add up-to-date information if you want to keep them relevant. 

This is one of the easiest things to check. It won’t take too much of your time, and the ROI is worth it.

Conduct a quick search on the topic, and you’ll see if there’s anything new to include. 

Say it’s 2023, and you want to update a 2022 piece about the “Best Android Gaming Laptops.”

Aren’t you going to add this year’s model?

No shit.

Facts change. New events happen. So stay relevant. 

Leverage this to gain any opportunity to refresh and update your content. 

You can also check if your sources and citations are still active. 

Replace outdated ones with relevant and live links. And choose credible sources with good authority.

4. Revamp the Writing (Especially the Intro) 

If a piece of content satisfies search intent or has enough quality keywords, perhaps the answer is to polish the writing. 

Some posts might already be close to hitting the mark. They need some tweaking.

Oftentimes, there’s no need to do a complete rewrite. 

Scan the article to get a feel of it. How readable is it? Is it too wordy, or is each section too long?

Here’s when you can edit the structure to improve readability.

The aim is to make it easy for readers to immediately see the information they need.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Ensure headings are relevant
  • No huge walls of text. Break them into short paragraphs. one to two sentences max.
  • Write a catchy and compelling intro. 50-100 words max. Use a copywriting framework.

Your retention should go up.

Make sure the intro answers the search intent immediately. Funnel readers further if they want to know more.

Here’s an example.

Is Affiliate Marketing a Pyramid Scheme Intro ExamplePin

Readers should think: Yes, this is the article I should be reading!”

Eliminate useless fluff, such as things that users already probably know.

A compelling intro is straightforward and concise. 

Strengthening your backlink profile is one of the goals when updating content too.

And this doesn’t need to be from inbound backlinks…

When checking your content’s linking structure, here are two questions to ask yourself.

Anchor texts should provide enough clues on the page on the other side of the links. 

The choice of links should also be relevant to the whole context of the receiving and target pages. 

Also, don’t discount the importance of link juice.

Are the existing links doing enough to get valuable link juice flowing into the page? 

If you find another relevant link from a high-performing page, you could consider replacing it to get link value flowing. 

There might be newer, more relevant sources that you could link back to this time.

As mentioned, information is ever-changing. 

You could link to newer citations, experts, and other sources to amplify your content.

This falls in between the realm of Content SEO and Technical SEO.

6. Improve Title Tags and Meta Description 

If a page is lagging behind in CTR, then there’s probably room for improvement when it comes to the title tag and meta description. 

A good title tag is essential because it affects rankings in some way.

It lets search engine crawlers (and human readers) know what the page is about. 

Here’s where you could include some of your strongest keywords. Just make sure that it isn’t too long and does not exceed recommended character count. 

I believe a title tag with strategic keywords will perform better than one without.

Keep in mind that it should still reflect the main context of the page and would sound natural.

Meanwhile, think of meta description as a weapon you can use to gain clicks.

Its main objective is to trigger the searcher into action – that is, to click on your page. 

In a way, it’s like writing for PPC ads. It should be attention-grabbing enough and contain a CTA.

If you are having trouble coming up with something compelling, you can consider AI-written copy.

7. Highlight Key Points to Increase Engagement 

Engagement metrics will affect your search rankings.

Search algorithms will look at how people interact with your website. 

As much as you want to gain more traffic, it would be best to keep an eye on metrics like:

  • Bounce rate
  • Average session duration
  • Pages per session.

The aim is to keep users scrolling down the page. 

As a website user, I feel rewarded if my eyes can see key information right away. I appreciate highlights and useful infographics.

They break the monotony of the page and make for a better user experience. 

Thus, visual elements play a role in getting users to engage with your site. 

You could add call-out boxes that highlight crucial points to break paragraphs. They could contain important statistics and quotes, among other things. 

Adding data tables and infographics is also a good idea. 

8. Add an FAQ Section 

FAQ sections are a great way to include long-tail keywords in your posts. You get to address most search queries too. 

Use Google’s “People Also Asked” or the “Related Searches” section to collect popular questions to include. 

You can opt to include a FAQ schema markup to generate structured data in search results, making it more enticing for users to click. 

You could also use a generator or plugin to generate the schema. 

Now, you could start drafting your questions and answers. The best kind of format is to mirror the question, as that is what Google likes best. 

Take for example the question: “What’s the happiest country in the World.” You can start answering with “The happiest country in the world is…

Echo the question back.

9. Revise Dates

If you have posts like “Best Gadgets of 2023” or “Fashion Trends for Winter 2024”, you can update the post after every year. 

Remember, Google likes fresh content. Outdated posts will get pushed down the SERPs in place of current ones. 

People aren’t likely to search for “Best Gadgets of 2023” when it’s already 2024.

Why?

Because search behavior changes. 

This seems like a minor tweak but you’ll be surprised at how instant results can be.

One of my articles went from page 3 straight to page 1 with this change.

What Are the Benefits of Updating Old Content Versus Writing New Content?

The benefits are pretty obvious:

  • You get a boost in SEO with little effort
  • You don’t need to wait for the new page to get indexed
  • You don’t waste existing link juice
  • You don’t risk keyword cannibalization

How to Update Website Content for SEO (FAQs)

How Often Should You Old Update Content for SEO?

How often should you update content for SEO depends on plenty of factors. 

This includes the amount of content on your site, the current performance of the pages, and many other things.

There are no hard and fast rules. It depends on your goals as a marketer.

But generally, you should go over your content at least (at the very least) once a year. That’s to change dates in blog posts and update key information.

If you want optimal performance, don’t be afraid to go through them every quarter or every six months. 

When Should I Update My SEO Content?

You should update your SEO content anytime you become aware that new information is available.

If new events, studies, or data ever come up, then it wouldn’t hurt to include these in your content.

All topics evolve through time. Make sure to keep your content fresh and relevant as this will have a positive impact on your site’s performance as a whole.

As best practice, review your posts every six months or so to take note if any of them are outdated and needs new information.

Does Updating Old Content Affect SEO? 

Updating content affects SEO both directly and indirectly.

Google uses a ranking function called Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) as a way of ranking content according to its timeliness and relevancy.

Some queries deserve more up-to-date information while some queries are evergreen. But overall, “freshness” is still a ranking factor.

Aside from QDF, freshness is also affected by evolving search intent caused by external factors such as current events and new developments.

People’s searches will change throughout the years. It’s important to regularly update your content so you could serve relevant searches. 

Does Updating Content Too Frequently Hurt SEO? 

Updating content too frequently can hurt SEO if it isn’t implemented strategically.

This especially holds true when you want to replace keywords or change the titles and descriptions. I think you have to be more careful when it comes to those.

However, if you just want to add new data, such as a new study or a quote from an expert, I believe that should be fine.

The problem with updating too frequently is that you might hijack any upward trajectory a page’s performance is actually making.

Search engines need time to crawl new keywords and information. If you update a piece of content before search engines have time to crawl it, you might be disrupting the process.

However, this does not mean that you should be idle in checking whether your content needs updating.

A good gauge would be to look at the traffic. If you see that traffic is still in an upward trend, it’s best to leave it alone for now.

You must have a plan in place and make data-based decisions if you want to garner the best results.

What To Avoid When Updating Content for SEO?

When updating content for SEO, avoid changing the URL.

This will cause broken links and lead to lost traffic as the old URL might still appear in other links and search results.

In instances where you need to change the URL (such as when it is irrelevant or too long), then ensure that you’ll be redirecting the old URL to the new one.
A.K.A. use a 301 redirect.

Also, avoid changing the publishing date and not doing anything else. It does not work.

The time of creation is one of the determining factors that Google uses to determine freshness. So, changing the date does not automatically deem it “fresh”.

In fact, freshness is not just about the date. It’s the relevancy and quality of information found within the content.
 
Remember, Google just wants to serve the most relevant and timely search results possible.

Changing the publishing date is a futile effort and does nothing to improve a piece of content’s relevancy.

Remember to take a holistic approach each time you update content.

What matters is that your content will be able to satisfy possible queries at the current time. If Google is able to see that, then you’ll rank higher in search results.

What Is the Role of Internal and External Linking When Updating Old Content?

Internal and external linking is one of the best ways to update old because it immediately gives Google new context. Users also stand to get a better experience when more relevant links are within the body.

What Types of Content Updates Yield the Best Results in Terms of SEO?

Content updates that provide value to users and improve your site’s authority yield the best SEO results. This can involve fixing broken links, updating outdated information, addressing new developments, expanding and improving existing sections, or optimizing keywords and on-page SEO elements.

Are There Any Tools or Resources To Help Me Efficiently Update My Website’s Content?

Yes. You can use tools like Ahrefs of Semrush to do a website audit and optimization opportunities. These SEO tools don’t come cheap. You can use NeuronWriter to perform individual page audits by just importing the URL.

To Sum Up 

Even if you use a blog post checklist before publishing, you’ll still need updates.

Google cares about content freshness.

When I say “freshness,” that pertains not only to a page’s age but more to its quality and relevancy. 

Add new data and information whenever needed. Also, make sure you’re using effective keywords and proper structure.

Ensure that you are using quality and valid links throughout. 

But updating content requires a well thought strategy for best results. Always look at the data when making decisions on which content to update. 

Also, don’t resort to shortcuts like simply changing the date. A lot of bloggers change the year every year without actually updating the information.

That’s just…lol

Bottomline, Google just wants to generate useful results. So keep your content fresh by keeping it relevant.

That’s all I got!

brendan aw black pic

About Brendan Aw

I’m an ex-marketing executive for 6 & 7-figures high-growth startups turned writer, creator & entrepreneur. I share my learnings as a creator while helping run my family’s crystal chandelier business.

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