How to update an old blog post (and why you should!) + CHECKLIST
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Regularly updating old content is an important part of SEO. Search engines want to send traffic to well-maintained websites. But how do you do it? Here’s how to update an old blog post… plus a handy checklist to work through as you update your old content.
If you have been blogging for a long time, the chances are you have A LOT of blog posts – many of them will be well written, evergreen content, which your readers love and you are rightly proud of.
If you have been blogging a long time, the chances are you also have a lot of old content you are not so proud of!
Perhaps because it’s out of date, poorly written, has terrible photos (or maybe even no photos at all!), is very short…or any number of other reasons!
Blogging is a journey and one of the great things about blogging is we grow and develop as we do it…and we get better and better. Just think what your beginner blogger self would think of the content you produce today – they’d be AMAZED!
Whilst it’s nice in a way to look back on old posts and reflect on the progress you’ve made… the problem with all that old content is it can seriously hold back your new content, and indeed your whole blog from performing well in search engines and so growing and earning good money!
But why? You might ask…
Why you should be regularly updating old blog posts
The reason is pretty simple. The top priority for search engines, like Google, is to give their customers (i.e. searchers) the best possible results.
This doesn’t just mean sending its searchers to a great blog post that really answers their question well (although obviously that is hugely important!). Search engines also want to send their users to well-maintained websites.
If your site is full of posts and pages that are old, out-of-date, irrelevant or poor quality, this will have a BIG negative effect on your SEO and consequently your search engine traffic.
Conversely, if your site only has good quality, up-to-date posts, search engines will see your site as a high quality, well maintained blog and this will boost your blog in the search rankings.
All this means tackling that old, out-of-date content should be a big priority for bloggers who want to grow their search engine traffic!
Some of that content may be totally unsalvageable – in which case it should be deleted.
Some of that content you may need to keep on your site for some reason – in which case you should noindex it, so search engines don’t take it into account.
But the rest, should be updated…
How to update an old blog post – CHECKLIST
To help you update your old blog posts I’ve created a helpful checklist which you can download and print off to keep beside you when you are updating blog posts.
How to update an old blog post – step by step
Step 1: Identify which posts need updating
Obviously the very first step in the process is to work through all your old posts to decide which old posts need updating. If you already have a content calendar, you could mark which posts need updating in your content calendar. If not, you should create a list or spreadsheet of blog posts which need updating.
Focus on old content, content which hasn’t been optimised for search engines, out of date content, ‘thin’ content (i.e. content which is very short), poorly written content, and any other content which you feel needs to be updated.
Step 2: Keyword Research
Once you have your list of posts to update and have selected the first post you are going to update, you should start by identifying which keyword/keyword phrase you are targeting.
To do this, you may need to carry out some keyword research to identify the most promising keyword.
Let’s take a silly example. Let’s say years ago, long before you knew about SEO, you wrote a post called ‘My Aunt Maureen’s Best Pie’. Now obviously no-one is on Google searching for ‘My Aunt Maureen’s Best Pie’!
So you need to think of a better keyword. For example, ‘Best Apple Pie’, ‘Perfect Apple Pie’, ‘Traditional Apple Pie’, ‘Classic Apple Pie’, ‘Apple Pie with Cinnamon and Raisins’…
Use my Keyword Research Spreadsheet to identify which of these has the most chance of success with search engines, i.e. good search volumes but low competition.
Let’s say, through working through these possible keywords (and a load of other ones), the best result was ‘Traditional Apple Pie with Cinnamon’.
Now you are ready to move onto the next step.
Step 3: Rewrite the title
The next step is to rewrite the title of the post so it contains the keyword phrase you chose in Step 3. In the case of my example, this would mean changing ‘My Aunt Maureen’s Best Pie’ to ‘Traditional Apple Pie with Cinnamon’.
Step 4: Rewrite the text
Next you should read through the text and improve it as you see fit, so that it better serves your audience AND it is optimised for search engines.
This is likely to include:
- Writing more text – older blog posts are often too short!
- Making sentences shorter
- Making paragraphs shorter
- Adding in extra helpful information
- Removing references that make your post seem out of date
- Checking facts to make sure they are still true
- Checking all the links to make sure they still work
- Adding your new keyword(s) throughout the blog post in a natural way
READ MORE >>> How to write the perfect blog post
READ MORE >>> How to write high quality blog posts that rank (according to Google)
Step 5: Add in headings
Using headings is really important – it makes it easier for your readers AND search engines to understand your text.
And when you add in your headings, make sure you use ‘H tags’.
You should use H1 for your title (usually this is done automatically), H2 for your subheadings, H3 for your sub-sub-headings and so on…
So, with our apple pie example, you might have headings such as ‘Tips for making the perfect apple pie’, ‘What to serve with apple pie’, ‘Can you reheat apple pie?’ and ‘Can you freeze apple pie’…
You might even have a heading ‘Why my Aunt Maureen’s Apple pie is the best apple pie’ where you tell the story behind the recipe!
READ MORE >>> How to use H tags correctly for SEO and your readers
Step 6: Add links to other relevant content
Including links to other relevant content on your website, known as ‘internal links’ is hugely important for SEO. Internal links will keep your readers on your site for longer and provide them with a better UX.
So make sure you add some internal links to the post you are updating. You can do this within the text, where you naturally mention other blog posts and/or at the end in a ‘further reading’ or ‘if you liked this post, then you might like…’ section.
READ MORE >>> How to use internal linking to boost your SEO
Step 7: Update the images
Most old posts have terrible images, so make sure you take some gorgeous new photographs (or use high quality stock images*, if appropriate) and use them to replace the old ones.
As you do, take care to complete the alt tags appropriately (this is what a screen reader will read out to a visually impaired person AND what Google will use to try and understand your image). Make sure you include your keyword(s) in some of the alt tags too.
Step 8: Add a (new) pinnable image
And when you are updating the images, don’t forget to add a pinnable image so that you, and your readers, can share the post on Pinterest.
Remember, a pinnable image should…
- be portrait (not square or landscape)
- be ideally 2:3 width to height ratio – e.g. 400px wide by 600px high (2:4 is also OK)
- include text
- include at least 1 image
- include your blog’s URL
If the post you are updating already has a pin, make a new pin to attract new readers from Pinterest.
If you have time, make a few different pins. Add one of these images to your updated blog post and upload the others directly into Pinterest (or Tailwind, if you have it).
READ MORE >>> Beginner’s guide to Pinterest for bloggers
READ MORE >>> How to use Tailwind – a step-by-step guide for bloggers
Step 9: Use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimise your updated post
Once your post is updated, it’s time to use the Yoast SEO plugin to ensure your post is optimised for search engines.
Start by putting your new keyword into the FOCUS KEYPHRASE section at the top of the Yoast metabox.
Next, edit your post’s snippet preview. (N.B. DO NOT CHANGE THE URL or you will break all the links to the post AND remove the authority the link has built up over time.)
Then, use the SEO analysis to check your post is optimised for your chosen keyword.
Finally, use the readability analysis to check to make sure your post is optimised for readability. This section will highlight if you have too many long sentences/long paragraphs, if you have not used enough headings or transition words, and if your text is difficult to read.
READ MORE >>> How to use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimise a blog post
READ MORE >>> How to get a good readability score in Yoast (and why you really want to!)
Step 10: Edit your newly updated post
Don’t forget to check over your newly updated blog post! Go through it with a fine toothcomb making sure it reads nicely and there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. And double check too that you have covered everything you need to and not waffled or said the same thing twice.
READ MORE >>> How to edit a blog post (tips from an ex English teacher turned blogger)
Step 11: Share your newly updated post EVERYWHERE!
Don’t just update your new post and then do nothing to promote it – share your newly updated post EVERYWHERE!
Share your updated post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social media channels you have.
Pin your post to all your relevant boards. If you have Tailwind, add it to your SmartLoop and any relevant Tailwind Communities.
Add your newly updated post to any link parties, or sharing threads you take part in.
READ MORE >>> 14 things you should do AFTER you publish a new (or newly updated) blog post
Step 12: Link back to your updated post
Don’t forget to link back to your newly updated post from a few related posts. This will help your readers AND search engines find it more easily.
Search engines rely on links to find new and updated content… and search engines see posts with no links pointing to them as unimportant content. Blog posts which have no internal links pointing to them are sometimes known as ‘orphaned posts’.
So, with our example from earlier. I might go into my apple crumble and blueberry pie recipes and link from those two posts to my newly updated apple pie post.
Step 13: Send your newly updated post to your email subscribers
Finally, don’t forget to tell your subscribers about your newly updated post! Send them an email telling them you’ve updated the post and what’s new.
(If you are updating a lot of posts in one go, it might be better to send one email telling your subscribers about all the updates you have made, rather than bombarding them with lots of separate emails!)
Bonus step for food bloggers: update your recipe card
If you are a food blogger, you have one extra step – and that is to update your recipe card! Go through your recipe card making sure you have completed as many sections as possible. For example:
- prep time, cook time and total time
- conversion (e.g. metric to US customary or vice versa)
The more sections you complete, the more information you are giving to search engines, which will help your SEO… and all that extra information will also be a great help to your readers too… which in turn will improve your user experience (UX) and so your SEO!
If your recipe card doesn’t let you include this information, then I would seriously encourage you to get a better one. As more and more food bloggers are wising up to the need to provide all this info to Google via a recipe card, you are becoming at a greater and greater disadvantage if you don’t have a fully completed recipe card (or worse still, you don’t have one at all!).
If you need a better recipe card, the one I recommend is WP Recipe Maker*. There is a free version, which you can download from the plugin repository on your WP dashboard. However, if you can possibly afford it, I recommend getting the Pro Bundle* which will give you lots of extra features including an easy way to generate nutrition information and the ability to allow readers to convert your recipes into their preferred measures (e.g. metric to US customary).
I really can’t recommend WP Recipe Maker highly enough. It’s a great plugin, talks nicely to Google and their support is second to none!
Don’t forget to grab your blog post updating CHECKLIST!
- How to optimise your blog’s site structure for SEO
- 14 things you should do AFTER you publish a new (or newly updated) blog post
- How to use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimise a blog post
- How to set up the Yoast SEO plugin PROPERLY!
- How to write your first blog post in the WordPress block editor (AKA Gutenberg)
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!
Hi Eb! I have been searching your site and others to find out about changing the date when updating an old post. I have read from both camps: change the date to the current date and therefore ‘republishing’ it, bringing it to the front of my blog, and leaving the date/reindexing it with Google Search Console. Can you tell me what is best to do when updating old posts? Thank you!
Hi Cindy! No matter whether you change the date or leave it where it is, Google will still find the changes, so there’s no need to change the date and ‘republish’ for Google’s benefit. I only advise doing that when it makes sense for your readers (like when I changed my 2021 dated content to 2022), or when you are making a very big change. And, actually Google came out and said pretty much the same thing, recently… ‘Google’s John Mueller said it only makes sense to update the date on a piece of content or article when you either “write something new or significantly change something existing.”‘ >>> https://www.seroundtable.com/google-update-content-date-32878.html Hope that helps! Eb 🙂