Everybody who works in content marketing talks about how to revitalize old blog posts. It makes a lot of sense: Creating quality content is expensive, but it’s also necessary for attracting new readers and letting Google know that you’re still around. But there’s more to it than repurposing an old blog post into a slideshow or video. It can also mean giving an old post new life by applying today’s best practices.
How to revitalize your old blog posts with an extreme makeover
Pick the right content
I don’t know anybody who has time to go through their content archives and update every single blog post without knowing if it’s going to be worth it. So start by picking one blog post — a single post that you think will help you decide whether a larger-scale effort is worthwhile.
The criteria, of course, are up to you, but could include things like
- Your most successful post in terms of likes, shares, comments, etc.
- Your most successful post in terms of lead generation
- A post that should be performing better than it is
- A post that is about a topic that is either always relevant or newly relevant
Those are just a few ideas, but there are dozens of things you could do. If a popular executive is retiring, for example, you could rerun a post that was written when he first joined the company: a retrospective with a few modern updates.
Identify areas that need work
SEO is constantly changing, so the size of the job will depend on how old the content is. If it was written back in the days of keyword stuffing, you’ve got some work to do. That was awful even when it was a best practice.
But you could also take an “evolution of SEO” approach with a process similar to this:
- What keywords, if any, were the original post built around? Are those keywords still relevant to your current business model and your current customers? If not, what changed, and what does that mean for your keyword strategy? Do the same keyword research you’d do for a new post, and identify more relevant keywords that you could substitute without having to rewrite the entire post.
- Does the original post contain any longtail keywords? It might, simply because longtail keywords make sense. They’re based on natural language that people use when they’re conducting a search, such as, “How to….”. If you find longtail keywords, try to make them more prominent. If not, add some (again, keyword research can help you choose the right ones).
- Make sure your most important keyword(s) are in the first paragraph of the post.
- Use your main keyword(s) in at least one of your subheads (preferably H1).
- Come up with a list of synonyms (or longtail keywords that are phrased slightly differently) and work them in throughout the post, so that the language sounds natural and Google doesn’t ding you for keyword stuffing.
There are two kinds of links: Internal and external links.
- External links: If your post has external links, check to make sure that they’re still working and that you’re still willing to give the linked content what amounts to an endorsement by linking to it. If the link either doesn’t work or leads to outdated or incorrect information, replace it with a better one.
- Internal links: Internal links serve a couple of purposes. First, they keep readers on your site by leading them to other relevant content. Second, they help Google index your site. Similar to external links, check your internal links to make sure they still work and lead to good content. But you’ll also want to add links both to and from newer content on your site. So, for the post you’re revamping, add links to some newer posts on your blog. In addition, take a look at newer posts and search for opportunities to link back to the older one.
When I first started freelance writing after 10 years of being a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t know the first thing about metadata. (Heck, I didn’t know the first thing about keywords, since all of my experience was in print media.) I bet if I went back to the beginning of this site and worked my way to the present, at least 50% of the posts wouldn’t be optimized for metadata.
If your older posts are the same, you’ve got a huge opportunity to fix that without investing months of effort. Modern blogging platforms and themes make it easy for non-techy content creators to take advantage of good metadata. If your theme doesn’t do it, there’s probably an SEO plugin that does.
The point is that, while customers might not notice your metadata, Google does, and it can give your SERPs a big boost. Going back to that trial post you picked, here are some quick fixes:
- Make sure your most important keyword ( or words) are in the title and the URL. (Protip: Remember that, if you change the URL, any existing links to the page will no longer work. If the page is still getting significant traffic, make sure you set up a redirect.)
- Check the alt-tags of all images used in the article. They should contain your keywords. However, to satisfy accessibility requirements, they also need to be descriptive, so you might need to get a little creative (such as “small brown dog reading a post about improving metadata”).
- Include your primary keywords in your meta description, which is a snippet, summary, excerpt, etc., of what your post is about. These are the descriptions that show up under your headline and (hopefully!) featured image in search results.The default is to use the first 55 words. But let’s say you’ve written an introduction that’s a great hook that makes people want to keep reading once they’re on the page. The problem is that it might not do a very good job of describing what the post is about, so some people may never click through.You can fix that by creating a great snippet that will show up in search results and tell people exactly what your post is about. And that snippet should contain your primary keyword.
- Topic tags can be confusing, even to me. They give potential readers extra insight into what the post is about, which is a good thing.What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that each tag creates a separate page just for that tag, which can lead to problems with duplicate content.I don’t want to dive too deeply into this topic, so let me just say that tags are good, but similar tags are bad. If a post has tags like blog, blogging, blog posts, etc., that’s too much. The same is true of tags like “writers” and “writing.” PIck one and get rid of the rest.
Metadata can definitely be confusing. It was never intended to be used by readers or non-techy writers. User-friendly blogging platforms, however, have made it easy for even beginners to use, and that can lead to mistakes. If your platform or theme guides you through metadata step by step, fine. But don’t wander too far on your own if you don’t know what you’re doing.
While SEO is always a primary focus, there are other things to look for, too. These include things like:
- Facts: Check to see if you need to update quotes or statistics.
- Branding: If your branding policies — color scheme, use of logos, use of official company name, etc. — have changed, apply those changes to the old post.
- Cultural references: Just a few years ago, nobody could get enough of 50 Shades of Grey. If it came out today, bloggers and talking heads everywhere would be vilifying the trilogy as glorifying rape culture. Remember that popular opinion on controversial topics can flip overnight — and previously ignored issues can become controversial overnight. Keep your eyes open for those issues.
- Laws and regulations: These, too, change quickly, especially as our economy becomes more globalized. If you operate multinationally, you’re not only bound by U.S. laws; you’re also bound by the laws and regulations of every country where you do business.And sometimes it doesn’t even require a physical presence, such as when the determining factor is a user’s citizenship or place of residence. If you have a customer from the EU, for instance, you’re bound by those regulations even if you don’t have a physical presence there.
What should you do with your updated blog post?
It depends on your reasons for doing an extreme makeover to start with. Here are a few options:
- If the post was already performing well, leave it alone except for adding a “last updated” date (well, reshare it, but you were doing that anyway, right?) and watch the metrics. You already know readers were finding value in the post, so if you did a good job with your SEO tweaks, you should see a spike in traffic.
- If you think the post should have been performing better than it was, repost it and see if the improved SEO makes a difference. Do, however, indicate that it’s a repost and include the date of the original post.
- If you really did an extreme makeover — reworking content as well as SEO — go ahead and post it as a new post, although you might want to link to the original as your source of inspiration.
A word about dates
Even some of the top experts in the industry disagree on whether or not you should date your posts. Some don’t in the interest of making it seem evergreen. Personally, I rarely link to a post without a date, because I don’t want to be offering my readers advice that’s 10 years old. Even if it seems like good information, I just don’t take the chance. I guess it depends on your industry and strategy, but I have a tough time finding a good reason to not include the publication date.
So should you update your old blog posts? I think that’s a very personal question with lots of different answers. Here’s mine: I know that when I first started, I didn’t know much about SEO. So I’m going to go back and update SEO (especially metadata) on my older posts that are evergreen or otherwise still relevant. I probably won’t do an extreme makeover unless a topic is currently trending or I think that it would be a valuable piece with a fresh face.
And, with the post-holiday slump looming, updating SEO is a good task for those dreary winter afternoon when starting a new piece of content from scratch feels overwhelming. You can just turn to your list of needed updates and make the rest of the day useful instead of spending it staring out the window!