How to update old blog posts for SEO?

When you leave your old blog posts to languish and decay, you are essentially wasting the time and money you have invested to publish them.

Here is the guide to update old blog posts in nine steps:

As a rule you should spend at least one day several times a month (sometimes it takes only half a day) to update all the old posts to ensure that the investments continue to bring money to your business.

Such as? Start searching for keywords that are classified on page one or two of the SERPs (generally the positions ranging from 1 to 20).

1. Find the keywords with which the post is already indexed

The first thing to do is to identify the keywords for which the post is already present in the search engine rankings.

There are a couple of ways to find the keywords for which the post is already in the charts.

Use the Google Search Console

If you have access to the Google Search Console, you can extract keywords, volume and location data from there. Open Google Search Console and go to the “Performance” tab. make sure the “Average position “is selected.

Scroll to the table and click on the “PAGES” tab and then scroll through the list to find the URL of the blog post you are about to update and click on the URL.

Or, if you have thousands of URLs, open the filter, select “Page”, type the part of the URL of the post you are updating and then click on the URL.

Finally, click on the “QUERIES” tab. This will show all the keywords for which the blog post you are updating is being classified.

Then, click on the arrow next to “Position” a couple of times to sort the data in that column in ascending order (from lowest to highest). Write the keywords, positions and volumes for each keyword that is in positions 1-20.

Use an SEO tool

Another option to find out which keywords a blog post is placed in search engines is to use a SEO tool that provides keywords and ranking information for the individual pages of the site. Ahrefs is one of the most used for this task, but any SEO tool with this feature will suffice.

Often the position data in the GSC are updated more slowly or have different parameters than the real ones. For example, if GSC says a keyword is placed at number one, when you search for that keyword in Google, you often can’t find that post in the top 100 results.

Another problem is that the GSC will often show you all kinds of strange, random and unrelated keywords that have very low search volumes. Since Ahrefs does not keep track of all the keywords that no one has ever typed in Google Search, it is better to show only keywords with reasonable search volumes, and that are more likely to be relevant to the content.

To find out which keywords a post is classified in Ahrefs, paste the URL of the blog post into Ahrefs, run the search, and click on “Organic Keywords” to get a list of keywords that publish the ranking of the moment, along with data on volume and location.

2. Choose a target keyword when updating your post

When updating and optimizing an old blog post, you need to select both a target (main) keyword and, potentially, one or more secondary keywords.

In this case there is no exact science or a better methodology than the others. There is only one thing that is 100% true: the selected target keyword must match the search intent for that keyword. When considering a target keyword, you need to search for that keyword in Google and make sure that the results of page one are similar to the content of your existing post or the content of the updates you intend to make.

After that, there are a variety of things to consider.

Is the post currently among the top five results by keywords? If so, do these keywords have adequate search volume? If you can find a keyword with a decent volume that is currently positioned in the top five positions it is highly likely that the update could earn us the top spot in the rankings or a featured snippet.

How likely is the post to be competitive for that keyword? In this case it is advisable to use MozBar or Ahrefs to see if the scores of the Domain Authority, Page Authority or Keyword Difficulty are comparable to those of the results that are currently exceeding the post in question.

Is there a lower level keyword that would be better to bet on? The post could be highly ranked for a keyword that has little or no search volume. It could be a ranking for something that does not really correspond to the information contained in the blog post. In these cases, it may be useful to choose a target keyword for which the post has not yet received ranking.

Care must be taken when doing this. If the post we are updating is already classified very well for specific keywords, and the post is rewritten and optimized for different keywords simply because those keywords have higher search volumes, you can actually lose traffic and ranking after the ‘update.

In truth, you should take advantage of the equity that has already been earned by search engines. So, if the post is ranked second for the keyword “digital marketing software”, don’t try to change things and get it classified by “digital marketing tools“, because that sentence has more search volume. Try to get to number 1 for “digital marketing software”.

3. See if there are secondary keywords that you want to “attack”

If we are writing a blog post from scratch or updating a post that someone else has already written, the goal is to make that post complete. Keyword research is an incredibly useful process to identify other topics to be covered in a blog post in order to broaden the topic.

After identifying the target keyword, it is a good idea to do a bit more research on the keywords to identify any other potential keyword / topics to be treated as content in the post to be updated.

Let’s start with searching for the destination keyword in Google. If you use Chrome we can open a guest window by clicking on your account icon or on the image in the top right corner of Chrome and selecting “Open guest window”.

In the guest window, look for the desired keyword. Then, look for the “People Also Ask” box. See if there are any questions listed that make sense to cover in the blog post. You can also expand one or more questions to get the most popular questions from Google.

You can also scroll to the bottom of the search results to find a “Related searches” box. See if there are any keywords or related questions that might be worth adding and write all the potential keywords / arguments along with the target keyword.

Finally, you can also use a keyword search tool to get more questions that I might want to answer that are related to the target keyword. This can be done both in Moz and in Ahrefs.

In Moz look for the keyword and then filter to show the results that “are questions”.

In Ahrefs look for the target keyword, then click on “Questions” to see a list of questions related to that keyword.

Add any question keywords to the keyword list so you have a long list of additional topics that you may want to cover (and secondary keywords to reach) in the post to be updated.

4. Look at the results of the first page for the target keyword

When someone types a query into a search engine, it has an intention. Google’s goal is to interpret this intent and bring out the content that best satisfies it.

To do this, Google uses a machine learning algorithm called RankBrain that monitors researchers’ behaviors to determine what people look for when they search for specific keywords.

For this reason, there is no better source for determining what a post should include than Google’s search results. In essence, Google’s search results tell us exactly what people are looking for when they type any question into their search engine.

Look at all the features of the results that appear on the first page of the search results. Are there carousels videos / news / Twitter? Are there image blocks? Are there shopping tips? Is there a package of local maps?

Each of these features provides some information about what people are looking for when they search for that keyword.

For example, if there is a video carousel, a video fragment, or organic results with rich snippet video, the present results suggest that people may prefer to watch videos to learn more about that topic and it is therefore essential to consider the idea of ​​creating a video and incorporating it into the post.

Look at the titles of the classified results in a single page. Are they all lists (for example, the 10 best [XY])? If so, people probably prefer to read list posts for that query.

Do you see a snippet for the target keyword? Are we the owner of the described snippet? Otherwise, note the type of snippet that is displayed (paragraph, list, table, table, video, etc.) and go to format the post updating it to try to capture the featured snippet.

Finally, open each result that appears on the first page and read the content. What topics could be worth discussing in the post? What do they not cover that they probably should cover (and that there should definitely be)? How long are the posts? Are they 500 words long or over 4,000?

Use all this information to create a plan of what the updated post should be, do and include.

5. Search for all secondary keywords to index

A single post can capture more than one snippet. For this reason it is advisable to search not only the main keyword but also the secondary keywords. If any of the secondary keywords has its own featured snippet you need to take note of the type of fragment and add that detail to the editorial content plan.

6. Update the blog post

Using all the information gathered in the previous steps, we have arrived at the most important point: updating the blog post.

The steps to follow are:

  • Be an editor and then have the credentials to update the post.
  • Update existing content.
  • Make sure all the links still work.
  • Make sure all content is still accurate and relevant.
  • Update obsolete screenshots.
  • Add new screenshots.
  • Correct any grammar, spelling and formatting errors.

Add additional content. Some of the additional content has been identified in the previous passages or we already know that it should be included. Some of them could fill gaps in existing content. Some of them could be examples / anecdotes from their own knowledge / research.

Optimize for the target keyword. If it is possible to do without looking like a robot, trying to include the main keyword in three different points:

  • in the main title of the blog post
  • once in the introduction
  • Once in a subtitle.

If it seems difficult to use the main keyword in only one of these places.

Format your content for featured snippets. If you are targeting a snippet from a list, include a list in the content. If you are targeting a snippet described in a paragraph, write a couple of succinct sentences describing the concept you are explaining. Make sure you use the headers correctly and consider adding an index with reference links.

Add internal links. How to say is almost a guarantee of the success that will be achieved. An excellent Marketing strategy is also to write alternative text for the included images, making sure that all the images you use in the old or new post have a pertinent and descriptive alt test.

Make sure the SEO title is not truncated in the search results. If you are using a plugin like Yoast SEO for Word Press, this often adds the website name and other details to the end of the title, which can lead to the truncation of the title.

If you do not change the title of the post you are updating, make sure it appears completely in the search results. If instead you have decided to change the title, count the characters that are displayed for existing results and try to stay within that number of characters.

Finally, don’t update the URL unless absolutely necessary. For best results, leave the URL as it is. If it is absolutely necessary to update the URL, make sure to redirect the old URL to the new one.

Side note: it is in your interest never to use dates in URLs. If the keyword is “best marketing tools 2019“, make the URL “best marketing tools” and leave the “2019” turned off.

7. Document the existing rankings before publishing the update

Most of the times you do these operations there are positive results, but from time to time, a post that is updated, especially if it’s really good for certain keywords never used before, will lose the ranking after an update.

When that happens, you can go back inside, make some changes and recover what was lost, but to do so, you need to have a way to see the impact the changes have had on the ranking.

And even if the changes are positive it is always good to have a way to see positive changes (and possibly show them to a client).

There are many ways to track pre- and post-update rankings. A low-tech option is to simply search for the target keyword and each secondary keyword and note their pre-upgrade positions in the project management tool.

Then, one or two weeks after posting the update, you can search for those keywords again to see if the rankings have improved or gone down.

Authority Lab can be useful to monitor ranking changes after updates.

This makes update performance monitoring much less time-consuming.

8. Publish the revised content

Once everything is updated, make changes in the content management system and republish the post. It would also be good to include a note at the end of the post indicating when the post was originally published and what changes were made.

It is certainly a best practice to provide more information to readers who may have read the post the first time and who wonder why it was updated.

9. Ask Google to re-index the updated post

At the end of the entire review process, Google will re-index the post and record all the updates done in total autonomy. However, it can always be useful to speed up the process by submitting an indexing request via the Google Search Console.

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