How to Regain Your Keyword Rankings with a Content Refresh

How to Regain Your Keyword Rankings with a Content Refresh

By Joel Widmer | SEO

Oct 26
Content refresh

Did you know Google favors refreshed content nearly as much as new stuff? It's true. So if you allocate some time to Marie Kondo your content, you'll maximize its impact, longevity and reach.

But before you jump in and start updating, you need to be sure you’re updating the right content. Not everything needs to be updated. 

Take Inventory of Your Existing Blog Content

There are four categories for a comprehensive content asset inventory. The content will fall into one of the following categories: 

Keep - Keep any content that is less than six months old or that is evergreen, high quality and relevant to your brand. You don’t need to do anything with this content.

Improve - This is the type of content that is still good and on brand but needs some updating. It could be a good topic but bad quality or you just wrote it years ago, and it doesn’t get any organic traffic anymore. We cover lots of ways to improve this content below. 

Merge - Conversely, if you published several articles on a similar topic, you can blend them together to create a singular, comprehensive post.

Remove - William Faulkner said, 'In writing, you must kill all your darlings.' Maybe you have a piece of content that you are insanely proud of, but no one reads. Or you’ve gone a different way with your brand and now it’s off topic. Look for any posts that are out of date, have no traffic or backlinks and aren’t benefiting you in any way. These are the posts that are holding your site back.

Below I've listed 23 ways to find, improve, and fix posts in each of these four categories. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure how to categorize them yet, go through the guide below to find dozens of ways to refresh and prune your blog content. 

The best way to do this is list every post in a spreadsheet with the title, publish date, and a drop-down with the four actions to take. Then go through each post to determine what action you need to take based on the suggestions below. 

23 Tips for Refreshing and Updating Your Blog Content

Mark your 'Keep' posts. 

Not all your posts will need to be updated. When refreshing blog content, it's just as essential to go through all of your content and mark the posts that don't need any changes.

These posts are:

  • Evergreen
  • On-brand and relevant
  • High-quality content and formatting
  • Get decent traffic already
  • Newer than six months old, in which case you want to wait to see how it performs before making any changes.

Proofread your posts for errors. 

You can use Hemingway or ProWritingAid to check for reading level and grammar mistakes quickly.

Update your content sources. 

Update any content, stats, links, or best practices that you know are outdated from when you published. 

Expand on your post topic. 

If it's been a few years since you've written the post, chances are the competitive landscape has gotten a lot tougher, and your competitors have stepped up their content game. So should you. 

Your article is there to answer a specific question. Does it still answer that question thoroughly? Could you add a few other sections to improve and expand on your post? 

Look at your top competitors on the first page of Google for your primary keyword. 

What questions do you see them answering that you aren't, and how can you one-up them? 

Find & fix broken links.

Find and fix any broken links internal on your site or links to other sites. You can use a tool like SEO Minion to do this. Also, make sure all connections are set to open in a new tab and are marked appropriately as Dofollow or Nofollow. Check out our complete guide on Internal Linking here.

Add internal links .

Add internal links from related posts to the post you're refreshing. Click here to see our entire process for this.

Update the post's meta description. 

Google cares about the click-through rate (CTR), which means the meta description should be catchy and entice people to click. Does it need to be updated? Can it be made more accurate? Make sure it's 160 characters or less. 

Update and optimize your images.

Are the images on the page still relevant? Any broken image links? Do you have the correct alt text? If not, Rename the alt text to describe the image. 

Does the post target a specific keyword? 

If it's an SEO focused post, Optimize the post for the keyword and variations of that keyword by including it in your title, subheadings, image alt text, and meta description. 

Don't "keyword stuff" your post with irrelevant keywords that don't sound natural or fit your post's context—humans over robots. 

Update categories & tags.

If you use categories and tags for your content, double-check they're still relevant and correct. Many of our clients find they get category and tag bloat over time because they don't have well-defined guidelines, which brings me to my next point.

Create category & tag guidelines. 

Suppose your team struggles with using too many categories and tags. In that case, you'll first need to go through a painful purging process and then create an "if this, then that" set of guidelines that gets and keeps everyone on the same page. Use examples as much as possible to help clarify your points. 

Merge similar posts.

These are posts that are so similar they can be combined to make one bigger and better post. These are posts that are probably trying to rank for the same keywords and, as a result, cannibalizing each other in the SERP's.  

If this is the case, choose the post you want to keep and update it with relevant content from the other post. Once the new post is edited, 301 redirect the secondary into the new super post, so it benefits the lesser post's backlinks and rankings. 

You'll often find that posts that need to be merged are multiple shorter posts on the same topic with similar angles.

Redirect similar posts.

Redirecting is similar to merging, except you don't use any content from the post you're redirecting into the main point. You redirect it to the new post. 

It happens when you have two similar posts, and one is ranking for keywords and getting traffic, and the other is not, and there isn't anything you could take from the non-ranking post to merge into the winning post. So you would 301 redirect it into the main post you are keeping.

What determines if you redirect or delete it is that if that loser post has any backlinks, traffic could be useful to redirect. Otherwise, you would delete that post, as explained below.

Delete off-topic content.

Remove any older posts that are off-brand, off-topic, or just plain irrelevant. These are posts that are a year or older, aren't getting any traffic, and don't have any backlinks to them.

Examples include:

  • Non-evergreen posts like news posts, announcements, events, or anything that isn't relevant.
  • Old sponsored content
  • Low-quality posts that reflect poorly on your brand 

Optimize for featured snippets.

Look at the keywords your post currently ranks for and see if any featured Snippets are just out of reach. 

To do this: 

  • You'll need a tool like Ahrefs to find what keywords your post is ranking for and then look at your topic's SERP features. 
  • If a featured snippet pops up when you search the keyword, determine how you can answer it better.
  • You'll also want to code the snippet properly to give Google the right signals; check out this guide about ranking for featured snippets.

Break up long paragraphs. 

As a general rule of thumb, we aim for no more than 2-3 sentences per paragraph. Try to keep it to one idea per paragraph. 

Use subheadings to make your post scannable. 

Remember, the goal is to make your post scannable. The best ways to do this is by adding subheadings that announce the main topics in your article and guide your reader through the content, so they know what they've read and what's coming up. 

Using subheadings also improves SEO because it helps Google better understand your content.

Double-check all your subheadings are H2's, and all of their sub-headings are H3's, and they flow in a logical order. 

Double-check page speed.

Although page speed isn't a direct ranking factor, it is a critical indirect factor. Google looks at a page's speed. If you can't deliver your content above its speed thresholds, it can hurt your post's rankings. 

Use a tool like Google's PageSpeed Insights to see how your pages rank and get specific improvements to make them load faster. 

Add clarifying images, graphics, and visuals. 

Images break up the wall of text and can be extremely helpful in conveying complex points quickly. Remember, people don't read blog posts like they read books. They scan blog posts. 

Double-check text formatting.

When exactly should you use bold, underline, and italics? The simple answer is if it needs clarification, like bold phrases and main points you want to emphasize. Do this sparingly, as it can have the opposite effect when used too often.

I see underlining as more of a style preference vs. bolding, but they can achieve the same effect. Just be cautious because readers can easily mistake underlined text for links (when they're not). 

Use italics to highlight quotes, names of books, blogs, and movies.

Optimize for E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust). 

E-A-T is Google's big measurement, especially for health and money blogs. It judges the content's credibility. If you operate in a highly regulated industry such as medical or financial, ensure that your post has the appropriate disclaimers and links to all sources of information.

Eliminate authority killers.

I call Authority Killers all those tiny dumb mistakes you may have missed. These are all the little things that get on people's nerves, whether they realize it consciously or not. 

Think about a time when you were reading an article, but grammatical errors or misspellings got in the way. It can quickly ruin a great first impression. 

Here are a few authority killers to watch out for: 

  • Using a passive (instead of active) voice
  • Using filler words (e.g., Literally, basically, needless to say, etc.)
  • Poor grammar
  • Using any of these 7 words or phrases in your content

Ensure the blog topic still satisfies your target keyword’s search intent.

How many blog posts (vs. non-blog posts and product pages) are in the search results? The answer will tell you how Google defines the search intent for that keyword. We are looking for searches that yield blog posts as results.

Now For a Few Don'ts  

Don't change the URL of the content you're updating. 

Unless you have to, never change the actual URL when updating a piece of content. You can change the title, but if you change the URL, you'll risk breaking the backlinks from other sites to that page. 

Don't make massive changes to SEO focused posts. 

If you are updating a post to improve its keyword rankings, the goal is to make small improvements that help Google see that your content is better than your competitors. 

What you don’t want to do is rewrite the post or change the angle of the post (unless Google's interpretation of the topic you are writing about has evolved, which can happen in new markets.) 

Congrats! You just added some massive upgrades to your content. If you haven't shared the content in a while, now is a perfect time. 

Even if someone has read it before, they won't remember if it wasn't in the last few months. Plus, you may have a new audience who hasn't read it before. Treat it like fresh content and promote it to your email list and social channels. 

Feels good, right? I know. I think I may tackle my garage next. 


About the Author

Joel Widmer is the Founder & CEO of Fluxe Digital Marketing—a content marketing shop that helps smart businesses create, produce and promote their content through a unique one-on-one interview process. When he’s not working, Joel can be found trying new restaurants with his wife, son, and daughter.

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