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If you have been running a blog for any period of time you will know that content tends to die off in terms of search engine referrals, there is usually the initial boost when you publish the content where it is fresh and gathers the most social media shares and if you are lucky it obtains a good ranking in Google. As time passes, usually over a year, that piece of content will start to move down the rankings as it becomes replaced with more recently published content. You could choose to publish a new piece of content on a similar subject, thinking that its better to have two ( or more ) pieces of content on your site which will increase your chances of being found for that subject.

Unfortunately that is not really how it works nowadays - Google would much prefer you to have one really good piece of content on the subject and direct traffic there, rather than having several which are lower quality or outdated, this is part of the Panda update which happened which punished sites with lots of "thin" content and rewarded sites with better stand-out pieces of content.

What you can do is update your old post on the subject, adding new relevant information, new images ( important if the old post contains outdated screenshots etc ) and the republish the content as if it was new, but you will still retain your original links, social media shares and so on and hopefully gain a boost and achieve more sustained rankings.

There was a hack that worked a while ago, where simply changing your published date, made Google think the content was new again and gave quite a large boost to rankings - this was outed on ViperChill, have a read there about it. That is not what Im suggesting you do, this post is about genuinely improving a post before republishing.

In this post I will show you a few examples of where I have done this on WPLift and provide some tips for doing this effectively so you can help your readers and please the search engines at the same time.

Some Examples

Before I talk about my process for doing this, lets take a look at a few examples so you can see how effective this can be for your site. As I mentioned this works well for sites with content that's generally older than 12 months, there is no point updating content that's a month or so old - you probably wont see any benefit and your readers won't enjoy seeing the same content posted again.

At this point I should also mention "ever-green" content, this is content on a subject that doesn't really change over time so should keep its rankings as it always stays relevant. Unfortunately with the sector I work in, content doesn't stay up to date for very long - anything tech related is likely to go out of date quite fast, WordPress is constantly changing, so to, are operating systems, browsers and best practices so that's why you need to stay on top of your content.

Last week, I updated and republished a piece of content here "Free WordPress Portfolio Themes for Photographers" which I initially published in 2011. Here are the stats for that post, from around 40 views per day to the spike where it was republished to now receiving around 150 visits per day.

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And here is another not quite as dramatic, "Blank WordPress Starter Themes and Frameworks" which went from under 100 visits a day to over 100 a day now.

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And one more, "WordPress Opt-In Plugins" which went from 3 or 4 visits a day to around 20 or so.

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How to Update The Post

To begin with you need to identify content that would benefit from being updated. To do this I look in Analytics under "Behavior" > "Site Content" > "All Pages" and look for content that is towards the top so it is receiving some traffic but hasn't been updated for a long time so could be outdated. In the first example above I chose Free WordPress Portfolio Themes for Photographers because it was receiving around 40 visits per day but was first published in 2011. Looking through the post I saw that it had a lot of themes listed which were of no good to visitors - a lot of the links were broken and generally a lot of the themes listed were outdated and didn't look good any more. I thought it was an ideal candidate for a refresh.

The first thing to note when updating a post is to not change the URL, the URL is important because you will have links pointing to it which will break when you update it. The URL is also how your social share counts are recorded so if you change it they will be lost, unfortunately there isn't a way to transfer them over to a new URL yet. This is a good reason to avoid using dates in your post slug, if you had say, xx-best-themes-2011 you would be stuck with ( its fine to have a date in the post title as this can be updated).

After deciding on a post to update, go through and identify any broken URLS and remove them or change them to point to a current link.

Any screenshots that are outdated should also be changed along with your featured image if needed.

Now decide how the content can be improved, if recent information has come to light you can add that. In the case of my theme roundup post, there have been many new better examples of free photography themes released so I spent an hour or so going through and updating the post - there were a few that were still good so I kept them and double-checked the links worked ok.

Check the title - can you make it better or more relevant to the post content now ? I updated the post title from "30 free themes" to "50 free themes" as I had added quite a few more.

When I first published this post I didn't use the Yoast SEO plugin, so I went ahead and filled in some details for that - crafting a better description to help it stand out more in the search results, adding an SEO title and some meta keywords.

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Google also takes into account correct grammar and spelling and will rank you higher if you take these into account, so check through your post for spelling mistakes and see if you can rephrase anything. The post should be written for humans and not search engines so don't stuff keywords or anything like that.

Check your comments on the post - sometimes spam slips through, sometimes a lot of it! Delete any dodgy or not relevant comments as if you have them closed after a certain period of time, they will be reopened when you republish it.

The final step is to republish the post, to do this you simply need to change the post date from the current one to a new date after your last post or in the future if you want to schedule the post. This is done in the "Publish" box on the right hand side.

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Once the post is published again you will receive an initial spike in traffic and then hopefully your updated post will stay at a higher traffic level than before. You will receive new social shares which, because you kept the page URL the same, will be added on to your totals for the content. How much the total social signals are used by Google is debatable but I'm sure, that more is better!

Conclusion

Updating old posts is a good way to improve the overall content of your site - since Panda it is essential that all your content is the best it can possibly be to provide most value for your readers.

In this post I showed you how to update a post that was doing quite well, in the next part I will show you how consolidate multiple pieces of older content which is performing poorly into one new piece of content that performs a lot better.

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Oliver Dale is the founder of Kooc Media, An Internet Company based in Manchester, UK. I founded WPLift and ThemeFurnace, find out more on my Personal Blog. Thanks!

11 thoughts on “How To: Update Old Posts Correctly to Help Your Visitors & Boost Your SEO

  1. Oli,

    Thanks for the detailed explanation. In the past I’ve tended to update a post, but never thought about changing the date of the post to make it a “new” post. I’ve got some pretty good posts that have been bringing in traffic for quite a while. And, many of them could do with a refresh.

    • Glad you found it useful, took a look at your tech blog and thats the exact type of blog that could do with updating older posts to be more relevant.
      Good luck with it – share how you do :)

  2. Great post, Oli, I’m sure I recently saw a similar post from Neil Patel – have you read his one? Have a read, it’s got some great golden nuggets like your own.

    Brilliantly effective tactic that many wouldn’t think of.

  3. Hi Olli,
    I’ve noticed big moves after I removed all dates from an old post that was published ~3 years ago. Just using a new publish date isn’t the right way in my opnion. It might work right now, but the all comments are still having an old date right? Google should check the post’s last update date instead of the publish date. If this happens, a site owner could do update an article the right way.

    • Hi,

      This post isnt really about tricking the search engine into thinking the post is new, that doesn’t work anymore – its just a guide to keep your best content up to date, republishing it helps it get more social shares / links etc which hopefully give it a boost in the SERPS.

      You can change the “published” date in your theme to “updated” date using this – http://codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/the_modified_date

      • Olli,
        how do you know that Google wouldn’t see this as tricking? You have a “newly” published article wit outdated comments. Sounds misleading to me. The fact that removing the publish date results into a better placement, says to me that Google isn’t doing right (my opinion).

        Thanks for the link, but my setup is much more advanced ;)

        • Google can see the content has changed, Im not saying to just republish old content as new unchanged – the post should be updated and improved upon as much as possible.

          It’s interesting that removing post dates completely improves your placement – what sort of content was this on ?

          • That was about several archived forum post and also some tutorials. I’ve also learned that the publish date inside your meta tags is used by Google to decide that an article is older or not.

  4. Thanks for the read, this must be something we all think about from time to time.

    If the title is changed isn’t it the same as a new url? How do I change the url, or avoid to change it?

    I’m a bit insecure in that question.

Comments are closed.

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