Anyone interested in SEO knows that no one magic bullet will guarantee high-ranking content and increased traffic. The way users interact with content online and how it is presented to them by Google is always in flux, and it can feel impossible to get ahead of the curve.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with rank when content creation is at an all-time high. The amount of information produced has far surpassed the amount consumed, so it is imperative to stand out. One way to do that without continually creating new content is to reoptimize your existing content so that it attracts and holds new reader interest. Reoptimization takes a fraction of the amount of work it takes to create something new.

As the adage goes, you should work smarter, not harder. Refreshing stale content is one way to do just that.

Keeping things fresh

“Freshness” is one of the many factors that Google uses to determine the quality of content and how high in the search engine results pages (SERPs) a site should rank. What makes content fresh?

Fresh content is relevant and current. It is not just recently, or frequently published content as these are not mutually exclusive and easily confused.

For example, a personal injury law firm could publish a series of blog posts on bicycle safety with posts every day for a week. If all the laws and sources cited in those blog posts are from 1997 though, the content does not qualify as fresh, even if it was published yesterday.

Some topics, such as legal marketing, require less updating than others, like current events, because they are inherently less dynamic. However, it is always important to be mindful of freshness and keep content up to date to maintain topical authority and accuracy.

Do your research

The first step to optimizing old content is to determine what you have to work with and what is worth your attention.

Assess which pages perform well and which do not by taking a deep dive into the analytical data provided by Google and other services. Look at the number of clicks a page gets as well as the click-through rate. You want readers to find your content and read through it to see what it is about, so take note of what content does both.

You should also look at how your content, and your competitor’s content, is showing up in search engine results pages from the perspective of potential clients. If you are not in those coveted top spots in the results pages, then who is and why?

Once you see what users prefer, you can determine how to address what they no longer connect with. There are a few types of content on which to focus your optimization efforts, as it is more often successfully updated:

  • Content that has out-of-date information or looks old
  • Content with a lot of links and shares on social media when it was first published
  • Content on topics that people always care about
  • Content on page two of the search results

Making content current

Current content is the key to boosting freshness. Examine older content and be sure that it is current, correct and aesthetically pleasing. Update whatever statistics based on old studies or outdated references. If there is newer research or information available on the subject, use it and note the change. This shows both your readers and Google that you have taken the time to stay on top of things.

While you are working on the information itself, take care of the more technical updating too. Correct any wayward spelling and grammar mistakes. Remove broken links (use free tools like brokenlinkcheck.com to find them). Switch out old pictures for new ones that are also up to date. Diversify the media elements by including audio and video elements where appropriate. Rewrite the title to reflect your message better.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way around actually doing the work to freshen content. Google’s algorithms and your readers are too smart to be tricked by just changing the date on an old post and nothing else. Improve content noticeably and meaningfully. Then share it as if it were new.

Everything links back to backlinks

Backlinks heavily influence rank. The number of links a page has will stick with it even after it is refreshed, so working with something that had a lot of splash when it was initially posted gives it some SEO heft.

When you update your content to reflect the most current information available and put it out to subscribers, you are establishing yourself as an authority on the subject and generating new interest and shares. The more links you get, the higher the content ranks. Increased organic traffic to your content naturally follows.

Keywords are key

Another way to improve content based on research is to discover other frequently searched keywords related to your content and then use them to your advantage. A tool like TextOptimizer can help you find popular words and phrases that relate to your keyword while Serpstat shows which keywords your competitors use to rank well. You can then incorporate them into your existing content to capture new clicks.

Keywords can also help you decide what content to update. Using a tool like Google Trends, you can search for a keyword and see its search history over time. If it trends up, it would be a great topic to focus on refreshing and expanding.

Anything you have already published on that topic has the potential to become evergreen, or timeless and relevant. Keep it simple and useful, and it should perform sustainably well.

Long-form content is gaining steam with consumers, and quality content with higher word count (2,000 words plus) ranks well. Use the keywords you are missing to guide your expansion of old content into long-forms, and you will likely see more user engagement with your pages.

Moving up

Users very rarely venture off page one of their search results. In fact, they hardly go halfway down that first page. The first five results on Google get 68 percent of clicks. Results on pages two and three get a measly six percent.

While this may sound hopeless, there is good news. When content is on page two, it likely only needs to improve slightly to move up into page one real estate and gain a ton of organic traffic.

All the content optimization roads converge here. Refreshing older pages is the only chance they have to rank on page one.

Optimizing your content and time

Optimizing content is a daunting task. SEO has so many moving parts that it is almost impossible to know what will work best. Evaluating your existing content and improving it is a great place to start.

Figure out which type of content and topics do well for your practice and do more in those areas. Find what you are not doing yet and start. There is no need to reinvent the wheel by always creating new content. Optimize your old content, and in time, you will see results.

About Author

Mandy Wakely is a contributor for Bigger Law Firm.

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