Jan 19, 2023

How to Update Blog Posts to Recover Lost SEO Traffic

If you’ve noticed a decline in website traffic to once popular blog posts, you may be wondering if an SEO blog update is in order. But can republishing an old page really regain lost traffic? The answer is a clear – and resounding- YES. But reclaiming lost traffic with a blog content refresh involves so much more than a rewrite. Although it sounds simple, updating old blog posts to recover organic search traffic requires a working knowledge of various SEO tools and techniques. In this article, we explain how to update blog posts, so you can reclaim your web traffic.

Why Blog Traffic Declines and How to Recover It

Organic search traffic to old blog posts declines over time. This happens for many reasons such as: the information is no longer timely, internal links to the post have moved off the blog’s homepage or recently posted list or it’s not gaining new backlinks.

After a while, search engines may consider the content to be outdated or even of poor quality. Also, page content that may have been well-optimized when it was posted is no longer in sync with the latest search engine algorithms. All these factors are reasons why traffic dwindles for once popular content.

The graph below demonstrates how traffic begins to deteriorate as an article ages (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Organic traffic declines as a post ages and increases after a blog update.

Using best practices and leveraging years of SEO expertise, we performed an SEO content refresh and traffic rates begin to climb (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Traffic increases after an SEO refresh.

Here is a brief overview of the content refresh strategy we use to boost web traffic:

  1. Identify blog posts to update.
  2. Do fresh keyword research.
  3. Update and reoptimize the content.
  4. Deploy your updated posts.
  5. Get fresh backlinks.

Let’s jump in!

Step 1: Identify Blog Posts to Update.

Here’s how to identify old blog posts that once had good traffic rates that have since trailed off:

Use Google Analytics to identify the best pages for an SEO refresh.
Note: Google Search Console will be of limited usefulness in this phase since it only displays data for the last 16 months. Google Analytics will provide data for the entire life of the page.

A. In Google Analytics, filter articles to view past organic traffic rates.

  • Navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages (see Fig 3).

Google Analytics Navigation Landing Page Report
Figure 3: Navigate to landing pages report

  • Set the segment to ‘Organic Traffic.’
  • Set the starting date to a past date (five or more years ago) and your end date to today’s date (see Fig. 4).

Figure 4: filter view by organic traffic over the past 5+ years.

  • Filter your view to show blogs only.

In the search filter textbox, type text that is unique to your blog posts such as “/blog/” and click the magnifying glass to display the list of blog posts (see Fig. 5).

Figure 5: Use the search bar to filter your view.

B. Scroll down the list until you see blog posts with low numbers of visits (sessions). Then one by one for each post with low traffic, select each URL link (see Fig. 6) to view the traffic history graph of each post (see Fig. 7).

Google Analytics Top Landing Pages

Figure 6: Select each URL to view traffic history, one by one.

Identify old blog posts with strong traffic that has dwindled over time. Look for graphs like the one below (see Fig. 7).

Tip: Use a spreadsheet to make a list of potential blog updates.

Blog Refresh Figure 7

Figure 7: Look for graphs that show a strong traffic history that dwindles over time.

C. From your list of potential candidates, determine which old blog posts make sense to update:

  • Evergreen content that stays relevant year after year
  • Old content with outdated statistics, data or information
  • Content with dates, years or other indications that the content was originally relevant for a specific point in time (i.e., top techniques of 2015, prices have risen). Check in the body content, title and URL.
    Note, plan to remove any dates from the URLs and create 301 redirects.
  • Poorly written content

Tip: Also, look for posts with a lot of inbound links using the backlink history features available in SEO tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs or Moz. Less new backlinking will be needed to recover traffic.

Step 2: Do Fresh Keyword Research

We break this section down into three stages: gathering core keywords, identifying key phrases on competing pages, and identifying currently performing search terms on your old blog posts.

Gather Core Keywords

You’ll be using SEMRush and Google Search Console (GSC) for this stage.

A. Use SEMRush to identify the keywords or search queries each page used to rank for during its peak performance.

  • Use the date selector in SEMRush to select the month when traffic was the highest (see Fig. 8). Export that data as a spreadsheet.
    Note: You need the Pro subscription for this feature.

Figure 8: Export the keywords each old blog post ranked for when traffic was at its highest peak.

B. Use Google Search Console to identify terms the page has ranked for over the past 16 months. This will help ensure you don’t miss or remove keywords the page currently ranks for.

  • Log into Google Search Console and select ‘Search Results’ on the left.
  • Enter 16 months for the date range (see Fig. 9).

Figure 9: In GSC, select search results and filter by the past 16 months.

  • Select the ‘Pages’ tab. You’ll see a list of URLs.
  • Select the URL of the specific article you want to analyze.
  • Select the ‘Queries’ tab to view the keywords for the selected URL. Export these (see Fig. 10).

Figure 10: Use the GSC queries tab to view and export the list of search terms for each article.

C. If you have them, gather keywords from any rank check reports you generated in the past

D. Identify 2-3 core keywords that the page ranked strongly for and that are central to the topic – especially those that are closely related to the title of the article. Do this by analyzing the preliminary research you performed above. You’ll use these core terms to identify competitors in the next step.

Tip: For each article, list core keywords in the spreadsheet you created. You’ll update the spreadsheet in the next steps.

After you’ve cataloged your pages’ keywords, you’ll do the same for your competitors’ pages.

Identify Keywords on Competing Pages

Now it’s time to pinpoint search terms that you should rank for. You’ll do this in Google search.

A. Identify five competitors’ pages that rank for the core terms you identified in the previous step. You’ll mine the keywords your competitors’ posts rank for so you can optimize your posts for them.

    • In Google search, enter the core keywords (see Fig. 11).

Figure 11: Type the core keywords in Google search to see which competitors rank for them.

  • Select competitor pages that rank well for those search queries.
    Select pages published by your direct or close competitors. Skip pages from non-competitors or informational sites as they will rank for keywords your site may have difficulty ranking for. Especially look for pages with low Moz Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) scores, because it will be easy to win their traffic when you optimize for the terms that they rank for.

For example, if your site is DA 35 and one of the top competitors has a DA of 25 and another a DA of 65 then any search terms that the first competitor is ranking for will be easier to achieve than those of the second competitor.

Tip: for each core term you listed in your document or spreadsheet, copy/paste the URL of the top five competitor posts you’ve identified.

B. Identify the search terms each competitor’s page ranks for.

  • Put the URL for each competitor’s article into a keyword tool (e.g., SEMRush, AHRefs or Keyword Studio) that allows you to view keywords these pages currently rank for. For example, in SEMRush, enter the competitor’s URL, select ‘Exact URL’ and click the search button (see Fig. 12).

Tip: copy/paste the URL from the document/spreadsheet you created.

Blog Refresh Figure 12

Figure 12: To see keywords for competitor pages in SEMRush, enter the exact URL and click Search.

  • Under the top organic keywords section of the page, select the ‘View Details’ button to view the search terms that article ranks for. This will open the ‘Organic Search Positions’ window (see Fig. 13).

Blog Refresh Figure 13

Figure 13: View and export the top organic keywords for each competitor.

  • Export these.
  • Repeat for each competitor’s URL.

Identify Ranking Keywords and Generate New Keywords

At this stage, you’ll use GSC, historical ranking reports and Google Keyword Planner to identify the terms your site currently ranks for as well as those it ranked for in the past. You’ll generate new keywords from the existing ones.

A. Gather current and past search terms for your post.

You’ll use the keywords you gathered for each post in the previous steps and any historical ranking reports you have.

B. Generate fresh ideas from seed phrases
Your seed phrase will be the short- to medium-tail keywords (2–4-word phases) from your research. You can start with the core terms you identified at the beginning of the project. You will enter these seed phrases into the keyword generation tool.

  • Log into Google Keyword Planner.
  • Select ‘Discover New Keywords’ on the ‘Start with Keywords’ tab (see Fig. 14).

Blog Refresh Figure 14

Figure 14: Discover new keywords in Google Keyword Planner.

  • Type or paste the seed terms into the ‘Enter products or services closely related to your business’ field and select the ‘Get Results’ button (See Fig. 15).

Tip: Although you can enter multiple seed phrases, you may find it more useful to enter one at a time to better see how helpful the suggestions are for each seed phrase. If they are not helpful, then that seed is not useful.

Figure 15: Enter the seed phrases  and get new keywords for your updated content.

  • A list of relevant keywords will be generated. Export these (see Fig. 16).

Blog Refresh Figure 16

Figure 16: Export the list of relevant keywords.

Put all keywords and metrics in one place.

  • Use a spreadsheet to create a catalog of terms and remove duplicates.
  • Gather data for each search phrase (See Fig. 17). This data will help you identify your best keyword opportunities.

Blog Refresh Figure 17

Figure 17: Gather data for each keyword so you can analyze your metrics and prioritize your list.

For each term, include:

  • Google search volume per month
  • Average cost per click that advertisers pay in Google Ads
  • Google Ads competition score (CMP) – optional
  • Difficulty
  • The current ranking position of your site (target site rank)
  • The current ranking position of your highest-ranking competitor (best position of the top five competitors)

D. Narrow and prioritize your list.

Narrow your list by analyzing the metrics you’ve compiled and by using your best judgement to determine the relevance of each phrase to the topic. This will help you determine which will be the most useful when updating content.

  • How to analyze the metrics:
    • Search Volume (number of searches per month in Google): High search volume may be better in general, but factors below can often be more important.
    • Cost per click (CPC): prioritize key phrases with high CPC, which shows commercial intent. The greater the commercial intent, the more likely those visitors will convert in terms of lead generation or purchases.
    • Keyword Difficulty (KD): Prioritize phrases with low difficulty scores.
      You can find the difficulty score in SEMRush, AHRefs or Keyword Studio. Each tool has its own way of calculating difficulty, but the scores are generally 0-100 with higher numbers representing higher difficultly.
      Note: A score might not be available for all your phrases, but that doesn’t mean there is no difficulty.
    • Competition (CMP): Prioritize terms with low competitive score in Google Ads. In Google Ads, this score ranges from 0-1 with 1 being high competition. This is a useful measurement of competitiveness, especially if you don’t have an SEO specific KD score available. However, do not rely heavily on the CMP score since it measures the level of PPC advertising competition, which isn’t necessarily indicative of the level of SEO competition. But if it is all you have, it is better than nothing.
    • Current ranking position of your site: Prioritize terms where your site ranks in the top 20 (page 1 or 2 of Google search results).
    • Current ranking positions of your top five competitors: Prioritize any key phrases for which your competitors rank in the top 10 of Google search results.
  • The most important prioritization factors are:
    • Key phrases that are central to the topic
    • Terms that both you and your competitor rank for, but your competitor ranks higher
      For example: keywords where your site is in the top 20, but your competitor’s site is in top 10
    • Key terms where competitors rank very high (positions 1-5)
    • Phrases with high CPC and high Search Volume
    • Terms you are ranking in positions 11-15 (low-hanging fruit)
    • Search queries that have driven significant traffic to your posts in the past

Step 3: Create an Optimization Plan for Each Post

Before you update or repost SEO content, it’s best to create an optimization plan to help you manage the updates and optimizations for each post. This will help you stay on track. Additionally, if you’re passing the SEO refresh on to a writer, you will be able to provide clear instructions how to complete each blog update.

Create a List of Words to Be Optimized

  • Include exact phrases that must be incorporated. This ensures your post is optimized for the most important phrases.
  • Include individual words that should be included. Your research will uncover many phrases that include individual words that may not be central to the article or may be important synonyms (such as firm, organization or agency). These words can be used to create longtail keywords without risk of over-optimizing. If you have many of these, identify the least important as ‘optional.’
  • Identify important word pairs that appear in multiple phrases. When updating content, this helps avoid overoptimizing since you will not be able to include all long-tail keywords (3+ word phrases). When you include these shorter phrases, in aggregate, search engines will infer the longer phrases.
    For example:
    b2b sales funnel
    b2b purchasing funnel
    b2b conversion funnel
    b2b lead funnel
    b2b customer funnel
    b2b SaaS funnel

It might be overkill to use each of the above phrases explicitly. Instead, use the full phrases for only the most important ones.

For example, use ‘b2b sales funnel’ and ‘b2b purchasing funnel,’ then just use the two-word phrase portion ‘conversion funnel,’ ‘lead funnel,’ ‘customer funnel’ and ‘SaaS funnel’ for the others.

Search engines will understand that these later ones are also b2b. This technique should only be used on the less valuable keywords. The most important phrases should be explicitly included.

Set the Level of Content Rewrite

Be sure your optimization plan includes the level of rewrite you’ll be preforming. Because you’re republishing an existing page, base the extent of the revisions on how much traffic your current page receives.

Reposting highly visited content with a different hierarchy (order, headers, bullets) may impact traffic in a negative way. Instead, let current traffic, keyword opportunities and the future potential of your content be your guide when setting the level of revision.

Here’s how to update old blog posts:

  • Light touch: Update outdated information only and add a few new sentences periodically in the content – refresh blog posts with good traffic but that have dated information or outdated statistics/data.
  • Medium touch: Edit existing content lightly and add most new content at the end of the page so as not to disturb earlier content that is likely the reason for current traffic – lightly refresh evergreen posts that get decent traffic for existing keywords, but that require new content blocks to leverage new key phrase opportunities.
  • High touch: Keep what you can but add/edit anywhere – Edit content severely with only minimal regard to existing optimization.
  • Complete rewrite: If you’re reposting pages no or little traffic, consider a complete refresh to leverage keyword opportunities.

In addition, when you update old blog posts, decide whether to perform any of these SEO-related changes, which can positively or negatively impact traffic:

  • Post title: Revamp to optimize for search terms, to renew a date or to align the title to the SEO refresh. Be mindful of title updates, considering whether the new title will render the URL completely inapplicable to the article. A year in your title is fine, especially if it’s highly pertinent, as you can renew the title every year. However, when keeping your blog updated, be sure to also revamp relevant content.
  • Title tag change: Consider whether to change the title tag, based on the edits to the title, content and key phrases.
    URL: Changing the URL of an existing page will lose any page authority it’s gained, and a 301 redirect will not fully preserve the page authority it has acquired. For this reason, only change the address of your page if necessary. If, for example, you need to remove a date or a year, which limits the life of the article. Or if the old URL is so different from the new title and content that it no longer makes sense.
    For example:
    Beneficial change:
    Old URL: https://example.com/blog/top-marketing-techniques-2015
    New URL: https://example.com/blog/top-marketing-techniques
    Detrimental change:
    Old URL: https://example.com/b2b-brands-doing-social-media-right
    New URL: https://example.com/10-best-b2b-social-media-examples

Step 4: Update and Deploy the Content

Once you have your plans ironed out for each post, you’re ready to update old content and repost your newly SEO-optimized content.

When republishing content, remember to set the publication date to today’s date. Or, if you instead keep the original publication date, indicate that the post has been modified by adding text above the body of the article. For example: “Updated October 17, 2022.”

Tip: If you’ve changed the URL, don’t forget to do a 301 redirect when reposting blog content.

Step 5: Link building

Build fresh links to the optimized content and promote it on social media. We recommend at least three quality links to each post and more for important content or content that received many web visits in the past.

Watch Your Traffic Increase

Once you’ve performed an SEO blog refresh, it won’t take long to start to see traffic increase to your updated blog. By identifying the best candidates to recover lost traffic, performing thorough keyword research, updating and optimizing your posts, and building links, you will begin to see traffic restored within a few months. What is more, when you follow this strategy, your new traffic is likely to out-perform your previous traffic at its highest point in the past (see Fig. 18).

Blog Refresh Figure 18

Figure 18: When you follow these SEO tips to update your old blog posts, your restored traffic may out-perform your previous traffic.












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