Now, always, and forever. That’s not just a wedding vow. Updating content is as important as creating a new piece, and you should always be looking at ways to refresh and improve your blog posts, evergreen content, and visual media. As you’ll see, there are nearly endless reasons to update your content, and likely, many or most of them apply to your current pages.
Common Reasons to Update Content:
- The page is performing well
- The page is performing poorly
- The information is outdated
- News or trends affect the specific topic
- It could be better optimized for search keywords
- Cross-linking can be improved
- A piece of content received new inbound links, or a big-time, important link
- Facts need more/better citations
- Graphics can be improved
- Reader comments provide new, improved information
- The content is stale
- A page has lost rankings to competitors
- There’s been a major SEO algorithm update
So the question isn’t solely, “when should I update content,” but also, “how should I prioritize which content to update first?” And with so many reasons to update, identifying which pages to prioritize can be difficult. Your first step should be creating a solid foundation from which to start: a content audit.
Creating a content audit is fairly simple. Using your preferred analytics, group your content pages to follow performance. Not only will you see which pages are performing better or worse than expected, but you can also identify seasonality (if a post is trending during a certain part of the year), linkbuilding results, and trends that may result from competitors outranking your content which once performed well—and you can observe the effects of algorithm updates (i.e., “why is my content suddenly tanking?”). You can also take a deeper dive into ecommerce pages you linked to from your content to identify how your content has helped boost revenue. Finally, you can identify and label top-funnel and bottom-funnel content and make sure it’s targeting the goals you intended for each piece.
Start by exporting a spreadsheet with, at the very least, your content page sessions or pageviews for the past year. Sort accordingly, and identify the top 20% most-visited content pages, and the bottom 20% least-visited content pages. You can further prioritize those two groups by date published, and tackle updates of the oldest best performing and worst performing content first.
After reviewing your content audit, you may decide to remove some pages altogether, but that’s a topic for another day.
Create a Strategy for Updating Your Content
Once you’ve prioritized content for updating, you’ll need to look at each piece individually through a critical lens. Paragraph by paragraph, table by table, graphic by graphic, identify:
- The information or details that could make the content better for the reader
- More graphic elements like charts, photographs, or even pull-quotes
- More data and citations
- Additional information, a broadening of the topic, or maybe splitting the topic into two pages, if you’re ranking for only one specific concept
- Search for new sources or updates to sources, like new studies, journal articles, or newsworthy stories, and include the information and citations
- Formatting to improve
- Do you make good use of H1, H2, and H3 headers?
- Are different sections clearly defined?
- Are you longtail keyword stuffing your headers, i.e., your article looks like a FAQ?
- Do you make use of image captions?
- Could information be better presented in bullets than in a long paragraph?
- Identify which keywords the page is ranking for and keep, lightly touch, or build upon those keywords
- Identify which keywords are included and are ranking poorly and overhaul those sections
- Identify which additional keywords could be added and introduce new sections to cover those topics, while fluidly blending it with the existing page information voice and style
- Identify cross-linking opportunities
- Are your page title and friendly URL effective?
Create a list of updates that applies to your specific page, and follow it as your content update strategy for that page. Maybe your page is performing well, so you may look to update only sources and a few section headers. Maybe it’s performing well, but you’ve found that two new sections and 800 words could make it an even better read. Or, perhaps you or the writer missed the mark and you need to strip it down to essentially an outline and rebuild the page. Each page will require its own updating strategy, but that’s the great thing about content—it has personality and it’s alive!
While content will continuously work for you in more ways than simply its SEO benefits, it’s not necessarily a “set it and forget it” tool. Content requires recurring care, maintenance, and feeding to keep it working at its best for your site. While each page has its own personality, and it’s difficult to say how often your pages should be updated, you should review your content audit at least annually. Also keep on your radar the content you know will require regular updates, like “best of the year” lists, gift guides, or anything with seasonality. Similarly, any page that refers to laws, regulations, or important data that changes routinely should be reviewed annually or even more frequently, depending on the landscape of the topic.
With a content audit, a solid strategy for each page, and an understanding of the maintenance required, your content can continue to grow and perform as you originally intended. No content is perfect, but when it’s near perfect, and performing well, remember to let it do its job with only some minor adjustments. When it’s performing poorly, take the opportunity to address all aspects, from the reader and SEO perspectives. And when it falls in between, don’t let it fall off your radar. Revisit it annually to see how it’s doing and how you can improve it.