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SEO Blog Optimization Tips: Should You Reoptimize Old Posts?

May 5, '18 / by Christina Bockisch

SEO Blog Optimization Tips: Should You Reoptimize Old Posts?

Even the pros occasionally hit a few foul balls.

A few months ago ­– although we’re an inbound marketing agency that specializes in creating outstanding, search-engine-friendly content – we noticed several of our older blog posts were underperforming against our expectations.

This concerned our team, and so I dug into our data to see what was going on. Would it be worth our time to fix up these old posts? Or should we just call it a loss and move on? To find the answer, I spent the last few months running some tests by making tweaks to a select number of old posts.

Here are the results we saw.

Blog optimization – also called historical optimization – involves reworking old content so it’s fresh, up-to-date and able to drive more traffic to your website.

Now, it’s important to note that blog optimization is not a substitute for continuing to write amazing new content. You’ll still want to publish new posts that target your buyer personas, answer their questions and move them through the buyer’s journey.

The idea behind historical optimization is that it allows you to do more with your existing content. So, instead of working harder to create double the content in hopes of getting better results, you’re working smarter by getting better results from the posts you already have.

But does it work? Let’s start with the basics.

Which posts should you update?

When I started my blog optimization experiment, I conducted an audit of all our existing posts to identify the underperformers. As I dove into our analytics, I was looking for outliers:

  • Which blogs were performing well?
  • Which posts weren’t receiving a ton of traffic?
  • Which posts were seeing declining views and/or engagement?
  • How long were visitors spending on each post?
  • What’s the bounce rate for each post?

In Google Sheets, I made note of the URL, title, meta description, blog views and current ranking keywords of the posts, and I added a column where I could record my thoughts on the post and whether it was worth optimizing.

If you’re thinking about updating some of the older posts on your own website, you’ll definitely want to start with an audit to understand the lay of the land.

Related Content: A 5-Step Guide to Conducting a Full Content Audit for Your Website

You should also consider whether the posts are relevant to your target audience. Chances are you have some older posts on your site that don’t address the wants and needs of your buyer personas and don’t fully answer the questions they have along their buying journey.

I was surprised to realize this was the case with a few of our own posts, and I decided not to spend time optimizing those posts, since the topics of the posts just weren’t right for us.

By the end of my audit, I had a list of 25-30 posts that were relevant to our audience but weren’t performing well. Many of these posts had a low number of blog visits and were ranking poorly (or not at all) for targeted keywords. I also came across a few posts where the title and/or meta description didn’t match the content of the post, and I added them to my list as well.

How to refresh the SEO of old blogs

Once I had a good idea of the blogs I wanted to update, it was time to dive in and start optimizing them. I chose to test three common blog optimization methods:

1. Update the title and meta description

The simplest approach to take when refreshing old posts is to update the title and meta description of the post.

First, though, I needed to do some keyword research to identify the new keywords I wanted to target. When choosing keywords, I had to consider what the post is about and which keywords (regular and long-tail) would match the content.

I then updated the title and meta description with this new keyword. I also made sure the keyword (and variations of it) were in the post itself, which meant updating the content in some places. With your own blogs, you may also consider updating the featured image, image alt text, internal links and call-to-action (CTA).

Overall, I was pleased with the results I was able to achieve simply by updating the page title and meta description tags with the right keywords:

Post Title

Change in Views

Change in Keyword Rankings

Conduct a Better Case Study Interview With These 3 Tips

87% increase

"Marketing case study interview": 46 22

"Case study tips": No ranking 23

"Case study interview tips": No ranking 37

"Case study tips and tricks": No ranking 41

"Questions to ask in a case study interview": No ranking 69

Our Inbound Marketing Process: Getting Started With Inbound

71% increase

"Inbound marketing process": No ranking 40

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71% increase

"Simple SEO techniques": 27 17

2. Expand the post

There’s a growing body of evidence that longer posts perform better in search engines. In fact, the average length of top-ranking posts in Google is a healthy 2,400 words. As I looked through our underperforming posts, I identified a few opportunities to boost the word count of posts that were a bit short to begin with.

For some of the posts, I expanded the post by adding more tips to bullet point lists or even adding whole new sections of content to dive deeper into the topic of the post. I also looked for opportunities to update internal links in the post to reflect newer content we had published since the post’s original date. In one post, I also repurposed the content into a handy template format that readers could download.

The results I saw by expanding the posts were even better than simply tweaking meta tags: 

Post Title

Change in Views

Change in Keyword Rankings

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212% increase

"What is an editorial calendar": No ranking 20

"Google Drive editorial calendar": No ranking 26

"Editorial calendars": No ranking 54

"Editorial calendar spreadsheet": No ranking 79

How to Become a Subject Matter Expert on a Topic You Know Nothing About

101% increase

"How to become a subject matter expert": 14 8

"What are subject matter experts": No ranking 41

"Subject matter expert": No ranking 53

3. Rewrite and publish as a new post

As you’re adding new sections or updating outdated information in your posts, you may find that you’re rewriting more than “just a few” sections. If this is the case, consider rewriting the post completely and publishing it as a new blog on your website.

For my blog optimization project, I only took this approach with one post, but it really was the best option for that one. After trying to rework the existing content and struggling to make a lot of the content work, I realized it would take less effort (and stress) to start from scratch.

Here’s how rewriting the post affected its results: 

Post Title

Change in Views

Change in Keyword Rankings

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82% increase

"Content marketing for boring industries": No ranking 4

"Writing engaging content": No ranking 41

"How to write engaging content": No ranking 52

So, is it worth it to refresh the SEO of old blog posts?

Based on the effort I put into refreshing our old posts and the results we saw, I’d say: It depends.

As you can see from the examples above, we have some great success stories from optimizing our older posts. But the results I’ve shared here are just a small portion of the posts I refreshed. There were also several scenarios where views increased only minimally and keyword rankings either stayed the same or even decreased.

The deciding factor will depend on the approach you take.

Based on our data, I don’t think it’s enough to just target a new keyword and then update the title and meta description. It’s simply not realistic to take a short, 500-word post, throw in a new keyword, and expect to see the post ranking on page one.

However, if you’re willing and able to take the time to either expand or completely rewrite the post, then yes, you may be able to increase traffic, keyword rankings and conversion rates. Although I’m very happy with our results so far, I do believe if I had used this approach with more of our underperforming posts, our results could have been even better.

Ultimately, it comes down to being strategic about how you approach your blog optimization. Rather than spending a handful of minutes making minor changes, take your work a step further. Spend time doing keyword research, read other blogs out there on the same topic, determine what’s missing from your post, and find a way to make your content 10 times better than anything else out there.

That’s how you get results from historical blog optimization.

If you’re thinking about putting our results to the test and refreshing the SEO of some of your own old blog posts, one of your first steps will be to understand how your content is currently performing. Download our free SEO Toolkit, which is packed with three valuable tools that will help you understand how to improve your on-page SEO.

Download Your SEO Toolkit Today!

Topics: Content Marketing, SEO, Strategy

Christina Bockisch
Written by Christina Bockisch

I’m passionate about helping my clients achieve their goals – whether that involves helping them show up in search engines, generate more of the right leads or nurture existing customers into brand evangelists.

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