12 steps for updating old blog posts

Did you know there are more than two million new blogs posts daily?  Blogging has become an integral part of a content marketing strategy to support business growth. Many organisations have been blogging for years now continuing to put out new posts regularly but what about all those old blog posts?

In a newsroom, as journalists and editors, we often give old stories a new “spin”. We know the stories which rank well with our target audience so periodically do similar ones or rework old stories with a new twist or information.

But in blogging, reworking an older post was not common practice. However, inbound marketing and sales platform Hubspot, has been raving about the success of updating old blog content in a project they call “Historical Optimisation”.

What is Historical Optimisation?

Hubspot started its journey into historical optimisation after its principal marketing manager Pamela Vaughan started using its new Attribution Reports tool to determine how many leads each of their blog posts generated.

Pamela found 76 per cent of their monthly blog posts views came from old posts (not published that month), while 92 per cent of monthly blog leads came from old posts. Pamela documents Hubspot’s Historical Optimisation journey, where she writes the whole blogging team could go on holiday for a month and it wouldn’t matter.

She also notes that 46 per cent of their blog leads came from just 30 individual posts. For a large organisation writing around 200 new posts a month, this is a startling result.

Pamela and her team went about re-optimising and figuring out how to get more leads to high-traffic but low converting blog posts and more traffic to high converting blog posts.

“In other words, we should stop focusing on only brand new content and try to get more traffic and leads out of content we already have – we should optimise the past,” she wrote.

Since Hubspot has been focusing on its Historical Optimisation project, organic traffic to its blog has risen by 200 per cent.

As we’ve discussed in other posts, Google rewards freshness in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). If you update an older blog post, Google will use the modified date and it will display higher in the SERPs.

Hubspot’s content and campaign manager Elissa Hudson says historical optimisation gives blogs a new relevance while it’s a relatively easy way to boost SEO.

“Google rewards freshness, so it makes sense to keep content up-to-date, especially when it’s performing well,” she says.

“This has had a massive impact on the Hubspot blog with posts which were ranking on page two of Google coming back up to a high spot on page after being updated and re-optimised.”

A lot of hard work goes into writing a blog from scratch so by the re-optimising content, you’re making that blog post work harder and deliver a greater ROI.

“Marketers and bloggers should be updating old content.”

Updating a blog is like a wardrobe overhaul. Keep the timeless classics and pieces which still get compliments but trash, recycle or rework blogs which aren’t performing. Here’s a breakdown of 12 steps to go about updating your posts.

1.Identify top-performing posts

When updating your blogs a good place to start is to identify your top-performing posts. Which posts have generated a good number of inbound links indicating search authority? Look at your blog analytics for the last month or so to determine which old posts are still generating traffic? Has the post generated a lot of social shares, which indicates popularity?

2. Get rid of or rewrite amateur blogs

As an amateur, I made plenty of mistakes. However, it was all part of the learning curve. Go through your blog posts as some may have the information you can use in other posts such as quotes from experts. I’ve even taken down posts and sent them to other marketing agencies for reworking because they’re more relevant to their audience. I’ve also been sent posts to rework on topics I want to cover or are more relevant to my audience. It’s a thrill to receive a post they’ve worked hard on but no longer want to re-work, like getting the stylish hand-me-down jacket you’ve been eyeing off from your sister.

3. Look at keywords in old blogs & your keyword plan

Do you have any posts ranking for target keywords which could improve with some optimisation or reworking? How does each post fit into the overall structure of your blog? If you have a vast, complex blog how does each post fit together or could they even be competing against each other.

Hubspot found before they re-organised their blog, some posts were competing because they were so similar with overlapping content, similar URL’s and keywords. Do some keyword research and think carefully about keywords to determine how to optimise your existing posts better rather than just writing new ones.

4. Determine if the blog could form part of a pillar page and topic cluster?

Latest best practice for blog writing focuses on covering specific areas related to an overall subject. Known as topic cluster posts, these are anchored together by a pillar page, which provides a broad overview of the main subject. The pillar page includes hyperlinks to these more specific posts and so they’re all joined together designed to monopolise a subject. (See our post on pillar pages and topic clusters.)

Ensure you evaluate old posts to see how to adapt them to this new model.  Can they form part of a new main pillar page? Can they be rewritten as topic cluster post? If so then follow the best practice for writing topic cluster and pillar pages, including appropriate links.

5. Ensure the accuracy and relevancy of your posts

Is there a statistic or research which you have quoted, which is now old or could be updated? Just like an old report, over time, content can become inaccurate. I, like most people, will only look at the latest statistics or research. By analysing and updating posts for accuracy and relevancy, you could bring back traffic and that freshness will also boost your SEO efforts.

6. Check links to your post

Check, replace or add internal links to your posts. Over time as your blog has grown, you will have built up more posts which are relevant to each other. As you work towards adopting a more effective content curation model like pillar pages and topic clusters, you will want to update your links accordingly. Check and replace internal links, especially if you now have better or more relevant ones to use.

Have you ever tried to visit a restaurant but found it was no longer there? Perhaps you even checked out their opening hours online and there was no indication of the restaurant’s closure. Clicking on a link to a website or blog post and finding it doesn’t work can also be just as annoying. Google knows broken links are annoying for users, it looks sloppy like you don’t do regular housekeeping and can affect your SEO. Check your links regularly with tools like:

7. Correct typos, grammar and improve readability

Even though you proofread your articles before publishing, I can guarantee as a journalist and writer you’ll always find mistakes or ways to improve. Check the obvious like spelling and grammar in a post but also look for ways you could improve the structure of sentences, paragraphs or the overall blog to improve readability.

8. Update opinions or views on a topic

While writing your older blog posts, you may have had a different opinion. But now you have changed your opinion on that topic according to latest research, information etc. Your advice in that old blog posts may not be valid or effective in the present scenario. It’s alright to change your view or opinion.

9. Update the posts call-to-action (CTA)

Is your Call to Action (CTA) offer still the best option for the post? Do you have a better offer or could you create one? Does your post even have a CTA? Are the graphics on your CTA out of date? Evaluate your CTA’s and update them accordingly.

10. Update images and photos

What are the images like on your old post? Are they outdated? Do you have or can you find images or photos that are better suited to the post? Perhaps you have more resources now to create better infographics. Keep the images and photos on your posts updated and fresh.

11. ‘Don’t change what ain’t broken’

You’re building off search authority of the old post so don’t go changing things like the post’s URL slug. It’s good practice to copy a live post over to a draft, make the changes then copy it back over to the original when ready. Don’t do anything to diminish the current authority the post has acquired. Include an editor’s note for transparency at the bottom of the post to let readers know it is an updated version. An editor’s note will avoid confusion for readers, especially if they see comments which don’t coincide with the updated blog publication date.

12. Promote your content and track results

Promote the updated content on social media or like you would a new post. Let subscribers know what is new in the post, such as statistics or findings from a report. Be sure to track the performance of the post after republishing. This will help you understand how your update affected its overall performance and also give you an idea about which posts are worth updating.

Conclusion:  Prioritise updating old posts

Now you know about the importance of historical optimisation or updating old blogs it’s important to make it a part of your ongoing content marketing strategy. Track the results, see what is working and not working on each blog to continually modify. A lot of time and expense goes into blogging so ensure you get maximum ROI on your investment by keeping posts updated and relevant. There will always be new trends, topics and developments in your industry to write about so of course don’t stop creating new content. However, periodically take time to delve into the past, revisit and update those old posts. If you’d like assistance reworking your old content then reach out.

Author: Nadine McGrath

Nadine McGrath is the founder of Creative Content Co. For almost 20 years Nadine has worked in journalism, public relations and content marketing. As a seasoned journalist, Nadine knows how to write for impact. Nadine has reported on natural disasters, crime, health, politics, sports, education, business and financial markets. She’s interviewed local farmers to business leaders, royalty and prime ministers. Along with her team, she works with organisations, authors and speakers to create mini-newsrooms, where they produce quality content resonating with their target audience. Passing on her skills by training leaders to tell and share their stories authentically in their own voice for greater influence sits front and centre of her mission.