If you’ve been blogging for sometimes or more, you might feel like you’re running out of ideas. There are plenty of great posts in your archive, but you’ve covered so many good topics already.
Where can you go from here?
Well, one place to go is… backwards.
Instead of struggling to come up or generate brand new blog post ideas, look at the ones you’ve already had.
Are there posts buried in your archives that new readers would find helpful? Have some of your best posts become a little dated?
This is a great opportunity to update and republish your posts to get them in front of a fresh audience (or remind long-term readers they still exist).
Why You Should Update and Republish Old Posts
Any given moment, someone could stumble upon a blog post you wrote months (even years) ago that ranks well in search engines. This is one of the biggest advantages of blogging — content that continues to drive results in terms of traffic and leads over time. But if that searcher doesn’t bother to check the date/time stamp on that blog post, they might have no idea they’re reading outdated and possibly inaccurate information. Moz’s Rand Fishkin showed that Google rewards re-published content with improved search rankings.
Okay, that’s one good reason. The other reason is that not everyone who is reading your blog now, was reading your blog months and years ago. And even if they were, it also doesn’t mean they read every single article you published. By updating and resurfacing some of your older yet high-performing evergreen posts, you can extend the life of your best blog content as well as increase the results it continues to achieve over time. Attract different audiences and get new readers since the post was last updated.
Finally, it’s often much easier and quicker to update and republish an old post than it is to write a new post from scratch. Face it—new content ideas are scarce. This content exists. It’s much easier to edit and revise it than to create new content from scratch. While I wouldn’t recommend you do this for every post you publish — you should still be publishing lots of new, original content — this is a great way to shave some valuable time off your content creation efforts while still maintaining a consistent publishing frequency.
Vox did this during the traditionally slow news readership period around Christmas. Their writers reviewed and changed articles that were over 2 months old. Some were minor changes and some were major changes.
Vox ran 88 of updated articles during a 5 day period. Together, the articles brought in 500,000+ readers!
Like Vox you can drive more readers to your existing content by republishing it. It will extend the life of your content. After one month, daily article traffic drops s to a mere 1.7% of the initial traffic during the first 2 day peak.
3 Ways To Republish Existing Content
Tap the power of your existing post by using a mix of these 3 strategies for republishing content.
- Repost existing content
You can republish an old piece of high value content on your own site or blog. This gives it a new date and makes it feel fresh.
For transparency, editors will reference the fact that the article was published previously. They’ll add an editorial note either at the top or bottom of the piece.
Rationale: You’ve got new readers who haven’t seen it. Therefore you republish it. Some may consider this to be another form of content distribution.
Here’s an example of how Boost Blog Traffic annotates its reposted articles. This article was first published in August 2013 and the information is still useful today.
Reposted Content includes Content Reprinted Elsewhere
You can have others publish your existing content. It can be on social media or third party sites. I call this content uberization because it shares your content with other people’s audiences. (As a result, I consider it a form of content distribution.)
Depending on the strength of other people’s brands and the size of their audiences the content published there may rank higher than your original content on your own media. Depending on your goals, this may be acceptable.
Take care to not create duplicate content that Google penalizes. Neil Patel recommends that the second publisher use “rel=canonical” in the reprinted content. This helps Google to know the original source. (Check what Google says about canonical URLs.
Here’s how the source code pointing from Entrepreneur.com Kissmetrics looks: (via Neil Patel):
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://blog.kissmetrics.com/words-that-enhance-trust/” />
- Update existing content
Like Vox, you can proactively review and change existing articles or content. This falls into one of these 3 types.
- New data. New information has made your content look dated. Update your content to ensure it remains relevant.
- Rationale: Keep content fresh for readers and Google.
- Change presentation. Your content remains useful but its appearance hinders traffic and branding. You rewrite the title (but keep the keywords!) and add or change visuals and formatting. A more enticing headline or visual increases social sharing.
- Rationale: Improve content consumption and sharing with optimized presentation. Small investment can yield big results.
- Overhaul. Think reality-TV makeover for an important keyword term. This content needs serious revisions and changes but it’s worth the investment.
- Rationale: Keep your URL for key search term alive to build longevity.
- Convert content to another format
You can convert your content from one format to another. This applies to new content and existing content.
Ideally, you create additional content formats during the new content creation process. Jay Baer calls this content atomization. By creating multiple content formats at once, you minimize cost and extend content reach.
Due to time and resource constraints (Who doesn’t experience them?), you may decide to convert existing content into another format once it’s proven to be a winner. This extends your existing content reach.
- Rationale: Expand your audience by reaching people who prefer visual, video or audio content.
For example, Social Media Examiner adds an audio version of their articles to their top performers.
How to Choose Which Posts to Update
Okay, hopefully now I’ve convinced you of the value of updating and republishing updated blog content. But what’s your plan of attack? How should you decide which posts are worth it to resurface? Here are some important variables to consider:
1) Identify your top-performing posts.
Let your analytics be your guide here. In general, focus on posts that are backed by some good-looking metrics, such as:
- Inbound Links: According to SEO experts, this is the most important metric to look at, since it is most indicative of search authority. Which of your posts have a lot of inbound links?
- Traffic: My recommendation is to look at your blog analytics, and specify the last full month as your time frame. Which old posts are still generating a lot of traffic for you?
- Social Shares: The number of social shares a post has generated is also a good indicator of a high-performing post. To determine how many social shares a post has, enter its URL into LinkTally.com, a free tool created by HubSpot Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella that tells you how many times a URL has been shares on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.
- Keywords: Use updating and republishing content as a way to support your keyword strategy. Are there certain keywords you’re trying to rank better in search for? Use a keyword (like HubSpot’s Keywords tool or Google Analytics) to identify keyword ranking opportunities. Do you have any posts that already rank for these keywords? Could you improve their ranking positions?
2) Consider content relevancy and trending topics.
In addition to a metrics-driven selection approach, you should also consider content relevancy and trending topics. In fact, depending on your content strategy and marketing goals, updating content for the sake of these two variables may actually trump a metrics-driven approach from time to time. For instance, we recently found that a lot of our prospects and customers were asking questions about Comprehensive Guide on setting up a wordpress blog. While we’d already published a post about this very topic, it had become a little outdated (and buried on our blog). Rather than create a new post from scratch (and risk rubbing Google the wrong way with duplicate content), we decided to update and republish that original post — even thought our metrics may not have indicated it was a good target for updating.
How Much Should You Change When Republishing a Post?
When you’re preparing a post for republication, you should:
- Read it carefully. Did you miss any typos the first time round? Are there any factual errors? Do you need to tweak any clumsy or confusing sentences?
- Update the post to fit with what’s happening today (particularly if you write about software, social media, or any other area that changes rapidly). For instance, if you posted about setting up a blog on WordPress.com, you might need to take new screenshots and make sure your step-by-step instructions are still accurate.
- Consider adding more detail. Are any areas of your original post a bit sparse? Flesh them out.
- Check all links. Even if a link is working, you may need to point it to a more recent resource.
- Link to some of your (recent) posts. If you wrote your post two years ago, you’ve almost certainly written something since that relates to it. Add a link at an appropriate point.
- Spend the time to make it more attractive. One of the great things about republishing is you save a lot of writing time, which means you can put extra effort into sourcing images, laying out your post, and so on.
There’s no hard and fast SEO rule about how much you should change or keep the same. For a post that’s already ranking well, try not to change any of the title tags, especially if Google is already using them as a list to answer a search query in a ‘featured snippet’. Ultimately, what matters is that you (re)publish the best post you can.
Best Practices for Updating and Republishing Posts
Okay, once you’ve identified the posts you want to update, it’s time to actually update them! Here are some best practices to consider.
1. Use the same post, and keep URL the same.
Rather than publishing an additional article on your blog — which could result in a ding from search engines for duplicate content — modify the original article. Because this article is live, I usually copy/paste the post into a new draft, make my changes there, and then copy/paste the HTML back into the original post when I’m ready to re-publish the original article (more on that in just a minute). While you may be tempted to update the post’s URL slug, it’s important to keep the URL the same, even if your software automatically creates a redirect. Redirects will remove some of the link value, so it’s best to just keep it as is.
2. If you change the title, keep keywords.
If you feel compelled to update the post’s title, try to avoid changing it drastically from the original. While the URL is more important to keep the same than the title, if you really need to change the title, do your best to keep your keywords in there.
3. Add an editor’s note for transparency.
It’s a great idea to add a little editor’s note at the bottom of your updated post — if for no other reason, then for transparency’s sake. This is particularly a good idea if your post has accumulated a lot of comments; your readers will be confused if the publish date is current, but there are comments from months or years ago. Here’s an example of what we typically include at the end of our republished posts:
4. Update the content for accuracy.
The name of the game here is accuracy. Over time, there are quite a few things about a piece of content that can get stale and out of date. Evaluate the post for accuracy and determine what needs to be modified, added, or removed. The first thing I usually do is delete any parts of a post that are no longer relevant, and add headers for new sections that need to be added or replaced. Then I go through the post in its entirety to fill in the blanks and make my changes. Here is a checklist of things you should keep in mind as you’re updating your content:
- Remove content that is no longer relevant.
- Update outdated copy.
- Replace outdated data/stats with fresher, more timely ones. Add new, fresh examples or replace outdated ones.
- Update screenshots if things have changed (this is particularly important for step-by-step guides, etc.).
- Add any new best practices that have emerged (and remove “best practices” that are no longer so).
- Check and replace internal links (particularly if there are now better resources or lead gen offers for you to link to).
- Update the post’s call-to-action (CTA). Evaluate whether your CTA’s offer is still the best option for this post. Do you have a better article? Is the CTA’s creative out-of-date?
5. Optimize the post’s meta description.
Review the post’s meta description. Is it still accurate? Can you update it to make it a little catchier? Remember, meta descriptions don’t affect the ranking of your content, but they can impact its clickthrough rate from search. Make sure your meta description is both an accurate reflection of what’s within the post, and enticing enough to get searchers to click through to your content from search results.
6. Republish it!
By now, you should have an awesomely updated piece of content that’s ready for publishing. While the process of actually publishing your content will vary depending on the blogging software you use, I’m going to share some tips for doing it using WordPress Self-Hosted Software.
- Replace the old content with new content.This will probably be the same no matter what software you use. Like I mentioned, I usually copy/paste the HTML from my new draft to replace the copy in my original article.
- Wait until you want to publish the “new” post to update its date/time. If you’re using wordpress, you’ll have to schedule the publish time like 10minutes ahead. You don’t need to wait until the specific date/time you want the post to appear on your blog homepage to click “update.” Changing it to a date/time in the future will result in a 404 error for those who stumble upon the article in search before the newly designated publish date/time (not a good thing if your article already ranks well in search results).
- Send a manual email to instant subscribers. If your blogging software is (or is like) wordpress, it will only trigger the automatic email notification to subscribers for a post once. This means that if you’re just changing the publish date/time on an already-live article, the email will not get triggered again. However, if you’re using latest wordpress, there’s no stopping you from creating a manual notification email in your email marketing software and sending it to your instant subscriber list. If you use the same template you use for your automatic emails, your subscribers won’t even be able to tell the difference. Plus, you can use the opportunity to run an A/B test!
7. Track the before/after performance.
Okay — maybe I got a little bit ahead of myself. Before you publish your new post, it’s a good idea to create a record of the post’s “before” stats. That way, you can compare it to the post’s performance after you’ve republished it to understand how your update affected its overall performance. Over time, this might also give you a better idea about which posts are worth targeting for updates. The following are the data and stats I keep track of before and after I republish:
- Post’s Title (in case I tweak it for the republished version)
- Post’s URL (just so I have the information in one place)
- Before/After Publish Dates
- Before/After Number of Comments
- Before/After Number of Inbound Links
- Before/After Number of Social Shares (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.)
- Before/After Post Views (use the month before and the month after as a proxy)
- Before/After New Contacts/Leads Generated (use the month before and the month after as a proxy)
- Before/After Keyword Rankings
The last piece, which wasn’t mentioned above was the comments section. Your best bet will be to delete those, for a couple of reasons:
- Comments dated before the post date will not only look weird, but will confuse your readers.
- Your readers may also be confused if they read through the comments and something is referred to in the post that is no longer in it.
Depending on what you need to do to update a post, it may be take you 15-20 minutes, or a lot longer. In any case, update the small tweaks and republish. In the end, it will be good for everyone.
3 Tips To Improve Content Republication
To improve your existing content by republishing it, you must make it part of your on-going content editorial process and allocate relevant resources. This requires less investment than creating new content.
- Ensure your content is republished regularly
Make it part of your editorial process. Here are 3 ways to accomplish this.
- Based on content audit Track content that needs improvement or updating on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis.
- Based on seasonality. This is important for content related to holidays, seasons and annual events. Often this content has a short period when it’s relevant.
- Based on results. Enhance or add different content types to your best existing content.
- Allocate resources to revise, edit and create visuals for your updated content
While it’s less expensive than fresh content, it still requires resources.
- Plan related content distribution to maximize updated content efforts
Content promotion is necessary to ensure that updated content gets attention.
Conclusion On How to Republish Old Blog Posts and Why You Should
Improving your existing content is a winning content marketing strategy. It helps to increase your reach, improve your search results and lower your content marketing costs.
You no longer have to cringe at the idea of less-than-top-quality content. You can always improve it and expand the audience it attracts. Of course, don’t forget to allocate budget to promote your updated content.
Have you improved your existing content? What methods did you use and what were the results?