Never underestimate how valuable your old articles and blog posts are in attracting new readers.
Every new article you publish has potential value, but it can take time for search engines to index it and attract backlinks to help it rank.
However, most of your traffic and readers come from the content you have already published.
That’s because many of your older posts are indexed by Google and Bing and perhaps have a good number of backlinks. But don’t count on that lasting forever.
Keep your old articles fresh and up to date
Writing new content takes a lot of time.
However, refreshing your existing content can be a quick win.
While researching this topic, I came across an article about this subject that was well-written and informative.
Except that it included a suggestion to use StumbleUpon to promote your existing articles. However, StumbleUpon closed down in 2018.
The rest of the article was excellent, but outdated information like this is a real turn-off for readers and search engines.
Refreshing an article like this would only take a few minutes by deleting the reference or rewriting the section with a new suggestion.
It’s a classic example of why keeping your content up to date is so important and how easy it is to do.
If you find one of your posts has dated information, you only need to do a quick edit.
Things change, especially if you reference online tools or social media.
If you offer advice or reviews, check your old posts occasionally to ensure they are up-to-date and relevant for your new readers.
Why your existing content is high-value
Whether you have your own site or publish on other platforms, you always have some articles that perform much better than others.
In fact, it’s probably a smaller percentage than you think.
The 80/20 Pareto rule often applies to websites to say that 80% of your traffic is generated by 20% of your content.
I know that, in my case, this is 100% true.
A report by Ahrefs notes that, on average, pages in the top 10 on Google Search are two or more years old.
It also adds that only 5.7% of pages will rank in the top 10 search results within a year of publication.
These quick stats show why your existing posts and articles are more likely to attract readers than your newer content.
It takes time for a post to gain search keywords and backlinks, and that’s why older content performs better.
When I checked my most popular pages with Google Search Console, almost all were published more than two, three, or four years ago.
Sure, a lot of my older posts don’t bring much traffic. But the percentage of them that do are highly valuable, and I make sure I keep them up to date.
Search engine bots and crawlers check the freshness of content. But don’t think that changing the published date will help very much.
It’s easy for them to compare versions of the data for a page. Changing the original published date without any changes to the content won’t help you a lot.
When you update and publish changes, most blogging platforms like WordPress change only the modified date. In my experience, Google and Bing react to the modified date and show it in search results.
Therefore, to keep your (old) high-value posts and articles working for you, only update when you improve your content.
How to improve your content
Making changes or editing the content is the most common way to improve an existing article.
I have one article with advice on how to solve the problem of images not appearing on Facebook and Twitter.
However, I noticed that Twitter (or X) had changed its checking process.
It only took me two minutes to update the information and republish it.
The article is specific to a problem and doesn’t get much day-to-day traffic. But occasionally, when this problem occurs on Facebook in particular (and it does), I get loads of traffic and new readers.
I write about Amazon KDP, but it’s often making changes.
One article I wrote became outdated due to a significant change Amazon made to KDP book categories.
But I didn’t delete the article because it still brings me a lot of traffic.
Instead, I updated the introduction of the old article to say the content was now out of date but included a link to a new article I published outlining the changes.
The result is that I get traffic from both the old and new articles.
Remember that your older articles rank better than your new ones, so don’t be tempted to delete them.
Anytime you think about deleting a post, update it instead, even if it means a total rewrite.
Other improvements you can make are to your title or meta description.
But be careful because changes to these elements can affect your ranking on search engines.
If a post is ranking well, perhaps leave it as it is. But if it’s not, consider trying a better title.
Is a longer word count better?
When you update a piece of content, you often increase the word count. But will it help to improve your chances of ranking higher?
According to one study, the average word count of the top search results is 1,447 words.
You can find many articles and studies on word count for articles and blog posts.
In general, most say that 1,000 words or a little more is an ideal average target.
If you have content that is lower than this, try adding more information by covering points you might have missed initially.
Take a look at some high-ranking articles on the topic to help you find new angles or statistics you can use to make your article more informative.
But be sure that the extra content you add is of value to readers.
Word count is not about a number but about covering a subject thoroughly.
What not to do
However, there is one element you should never change.
Don’t edit or change the URL.
Your existing URL might be mysite.com/7-ways-to-write-a-book.
If you update the article to 10 ways, don’t change the URL.
If you do, you will lose all your search queries, keywords, and backlinks for the page.
Yes, you could do a 301 redirect to a new URL. But you will still lose a lot of your links and queries.
If your URL is reasonably indicative of your article topic, always leave it as it is.
You can’t update or improve everything
If you have been publishing regularly, you probably have hundreds of articles and posts, if not more.
It’s impractical to think that you can monitor and spend time checking and updating hundreds of posts.
The most logical way is to concentrate on the 10-20% of posts that are bringing you the most traffic.
You could create a spreadsheet with your data from Google Analytics or Google Search Console to set up a schedule to check your top pages every three months or so.
Another way is to remember to do a quick check when you view a page on your site or an article you published on another site or platform.
Also, occasionally, I get a comment regarding an issue with an article.
It’s an excellent opportunity to fix it and also to thank the commenter and confirm that you reacted and updated the article.
But for the rest of your older content, it can still bring in some traffic, even if it is a little out of date.
That’s why you should never delete a post unless there is no other possible option.
A few years ago, I read a lot about content pruning and the SEO benefits of removing old or stale content.
In the end, I tried it and removed over 50 posts, but after three months, the result was far from convincing.
Did I get any more traffic? No, not at all. Did I lose traffic? Yes, but only a small fraction.
It proved to be a pointless exercise because what I lost were fifty or more small opportunities for internal linking and exact match searches.
Since then, I have given up on the idea and never delete any of my posts and articles. Updating or extending an article is a far better option.
Don’t forget to give it a new boost
Whenever you update an old article or blog post, share it again to help find new readers.
You always remember to promote a new article, but you should do the same for your updated content.
You can use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or any other social network you use.
Another way is to check Quora for questions on the subject.
If you have a mailing list, add your updated article to your regular mailing.
There are even apps and APIs you can use, if you have the technical skills, that can recycle and share all of your content at regular intervals.
The expression, everything old is new again, is apt for this topic.
When people search and find your content, it’s new for them, even if it’s one of your older posts.
But to make sure they read it, it has to be relevant and informative.
It doesn’t take much effort.
Writing a new article takes around four to five hours, but it only takes a few minutes to update one.
That’s a pretty good time investment.
Related Reading: 10 Free And Easy Ways To Promote Your Articles Online