Latest posts by Ahmad Imran (see all)
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I first wrote this article in January 2015 when I was only 6 months into blogging and writing.
It is fully revised in September 2016 with my more mature viewpoint about the topic of updating old articles and content in general.
With 164 published articles to date, I am not saying that my blog is huge.
For a nearly 2-year old blog, I have a frequency of just over an article and a half every week.
Call it big or small, this platform is an important part of my life. It is my passion and every blog post that I have written or published here is a building block of my brand and identity. I take pride in every word that I have written here.
“and when I feel that these building blocks (articles) need attention due to their age, I take every measure to keep them fit and healthy.”
Blog articles by nature are “time-sensitive”.
They lose their shine and effectiveness with the passage of time. Along with crafting new content, I need to keep an eye on the old ones too. They need a plan-of-action to be maintained and remain effective.
I call it the “content update strategy” or in simple terms, updating the already-published blog posts so they reflect my present state of mind.
Same applies to you.
No matter how big or small your blog has grown, there is a time in every blogger’s journey when you need to take a pause, look back at your already-published content and evaluate its quality with a view to re-visit and refine if required.
You need a strategy to deal with this situation and I am going to give you one today.
Before we go any further, let us see where you sit in relation to the other readers who have contributed in a quick 2-click poll below. You will see the results immediately.
I will explain you why and how of the “content update strategy” in this article.
I am also going to give you a tour of my own content tracker which I use on a daily basis for this purpose.
Stay tuned and I am sure that at the end of this article, you will have enough information to design, implement or refine your own content update action-plan.
Let us start with the “why” first.
Everyone has their own reasons to update their old blog posts based on their understanding, experience and feedback.
I am going to reference the two articles below which should give you a flavour of why we should consider to update our content.
Chris Warden in this article on Kikolani details his 4 main reasons to re-purpose the old articles. These include reaching a new audience, improving SEO, gaining authority in your industry and increasing conversion rates.
Cyrus Shepard in this article on Moz blog explains how he thinks Google search rankings are positively affected with a robust content update action plan.
“In summary, most of the advice on internet is about increasing your traffic and search engine rankings by updating your old articles and keeping them fresh.”
Your readers and Google will welcome this fresh information. In turn, it will increase your traffic, enhance your blog engagement and make your content more valuable and love-able.
Because everybody wants to know the latest information and most up to date viewpoint. There is no rocket science here.
I agree with the principle but disagree with the “emphasis” which is sometimes biased towards Google rankings and traffic numbers.
I am not saying they are not important.
But they are the by-products.
The real emphasis should be on the reader – that is you.
I know they are linked to each other but let me explain further.
My primary and most important reason to update my blog posts and keeping my content fresh is that I want you (my reader) to find valuable and most up to date information every time you visit my blog.
I want you to relate REASONTOUSE platform with fresh and valuable content. A blog which demonstrates a clear desire to provide accurate and up to date information as much as humanly possible.
Google cares for searchers.
If your blog visitors spend more time on your posts, engage better and feel good after visiting your articles, Google will pick up this trend. And this is going to push your traffic and organic growth further.
Let me know what do you think about the following statement.
Your “reader” first and everything after that.
Keep your site visitors happy.
Fill them with confidence and feeling that you look after your articles. You are here for a long race and you value accuracy, quality and refinement. Your audience will understand and respect you for that.
In early days of my blogging, I was under the misconception that I wrote well.
I was in the bubble of excitement in my early blogging career. I think we all do.
If you are a serious student who is open to learn, it only takes a few months before you start realising that “writing well” and producing remarkable content is an art which is mastered with practice and it takes time. It is a sliding scale and all you do with your every next article is to push yourself up this scale.
Now when I look back at some of my old articles, I rip them into pieces and sometimes even laugh at them.
They just feel amateurish. Inconsistent.
Sometimes weak, inaccurate and slightly misleading too.
Not that I wanted them this way, it was all I had to offer at that time.
I have learnt more things and I know more about my niche now. I have read more books and I have researched further. I have firmed up my brand theme, layout and styles. It is logical to identify the gaps easily when I look at my old articles.
I have highlighted below 7 key factors in order of priority that influence my decision to update my content.
1A change in concept and philosophy due to deeper understanding of the topic. It happens with anyone who is open to learn and spend time in their niche. You naturally expand your horizon and something that you believed a few months or years ago might not be the case any more.
In my personal case, I would not like to let me readers read something which I currently do not believe in. Hence a strong need to update the contents straight away.2An urge for more to add to give more value to my readers. Sometimes, I just want to spill all my beans in order to be super-useful. I find a useful resource of information or perhaps had a personal experience recently which is highly-relevant to the topic. I want to add that bit in as soon as possible. 3Your writing skills have improved. Sentence making, grammar and structuring mistakes are common to find in your older articles. As a quality conscious person, I want to re-visit my old articles to give them a makeover. Silly mistakes present an unprofessional image of you and your blog. 4An image, graphic or any other design element that are not consistent with my brand’s colours and theme present an eyesore to not only myself but my audience too. I admit that I have committed many such irregularities and inconsistencies in my early blogging days. Perhaps it’s time now to rectify through my blog’s content update strategy. 5Headline and sub-headlines are super-important. The more I am diving deep into blogging, more I am learning about the importance and value of the headings and sub-headings. And guess what, this is one area where I need to work the most. My headings and sub-headings are not brilliant in many of my older articles. 6I want to inject more SEO juice in the article so more people can find it through their search. Linking to better articles from outside, internal links to relevant content, keywords selection and placement and aligning taxonomies (categories and tags etc.) are some of the key areas where I can see clear benefits in reviewing and revising. 7Typos and small errors are at the bottom of the list. I generally attack them straight away and rectify them there and then. I just don’t want to present myself as someone who does not care about the quality of writing on the REASONTOUSE platform. Every word is precious and matters.
Your list might be different to mine. You got the gist though.
I am sure you will find enough reasons similar to above to convince you to take the next step.
Let’s start the actual updating process – the doing part.
It is easier said than done.
I am not discouraging you but I am warning you to be ready to tackle it with care and planning. It is not a one-day, one-hit type activity.
It is a strategy. It needs planning, implementation and staying persistent with it.
There are 5 key steps you need to follow.
1) Pickup Which Articles Need Updating
In other words, define your scope.
The first thing you need is an “inventory” of your blog content.
In other words, a spreadsheet of all your blog posts listed in an easy-to-use manner. You can use any method you like but make sure that the simple objective is to view your “all-content” in a bird’s eye view.
Without seeing the holistic picture, you risk to wander around with thin and superficial updating. This will not give you the required results.
In my case, I have a “REASONTOUSE Content Tracker” which is my content inventory.
I have developed this document on Google Sheets (alternative to MS Excel etc.) and it sits in my Google Drive storage (cloud). It is a live document and has been my first port of call for anything to do with my content.
Click here and have a look.
Remember it is a constantly developing and changing document. You are likely to expect variances in the contents dependent on when you view the tracker. It acts as the backbone of my content update strategy.
If you need to ask anything related to this tracker, drop me a line in comments below, I will gladly help.
Next step is to identify, on a regular basis, the scale of update and refresh required per article.
2) 5 Levels of Assigning “Article Update” Priority
Not every post needs updating and even if it does, there are different “levels of priority” you need to assign to each. You can’t go blindly spending hours and hours on every blog post, only to realise that return vs gain is minimal.
It could be as simple as a typo to be removed in a matter of minutes. Or on the other extreme, spending days to fully re-purpose an article with mostly new content.
Let us explore the 5 levels you can tag your articles with in terms of how important and urgent it is to update them.
- Priority 1 is where the existing information is wrong, misleading and needs changing as soon as practically possible. In my world, this means an action needs taking immediately and it goes on my short term daily diary as an action. I resolve these matters within 72 hours worst case but generally within 24 hours.
- Priority 2 is where the article needs an overhaul because more useful and important information is available which needs to be added to the existing article. It is also possible that the existing information is weak, slightly inaccurate and feels less than good. I give myself up to a week to sort it out.
- Priority 3 is where a need is identified to review the article at a certain date or time due to the changing nature of the topic or product/service in discussion. An example might be; a new revision of the WordPress theme — due out in 2 weeks time. I give myself a prompt through “priority 3” to review the article after this revision is out. This level is also used for recurring articles where I promise my readers that I will update say every 6 months or 12 months etc.
- Priority 4 is where no deadline is set up but I find the topic to have a potential to be reviewed again and refined further. There is no time limit for this level of update and these articles are only reviewed if I have time to do so. Most of the new articles at their publication are assigned this revision priority.
- Priority 5 is the final level which is assigned to those articles which need no future updates. Typical example is an article which is “no-indexed” from Google or a gadget review which is old now and does not need any update. This priority is for the fixed-life articles where there is no likelihood of information getting changed.
I visit my content tracker every week and keep checking my revision dates on a regular basis. A simple filter by this field shows me which article is the next in line for update.
3) The 4 Levels of Content Update
The time comes and I press the “edit” button to start updating the article.
There are 4 levels of updates that I carry out on REASONTOUSE.
You need to develop your own regime. Make sure that your level of editing is well-planned because it can be a time-consuming task. Spend appropriate time on the right articles to maximise your time investment.
Have a look at the 4 levels that I use.
- Level 1 – The published article is not updated at all. The “first published date” can be seen at the bottom of every article/blog post. No updates mean I have not reviewed the article yet to assess whether it needs upgrade or not. Alternatively, I believe that there is nothing to change in the content hence the first publication remains as is.
- Level 2 – A minor update relevant to an individual point, clause or paragraph included in the article. These updates are always preceded with the text shown as “dd.mm.yyyy update – description goes here” in blue at the location of the change. Level 1 updates mean that the whole article is not updated, instead, individual section of the article is updated in isolation with a note attached locally to highlight this change. The WordPress “first publication” date remains the same.
- Level 3 – This is the second level of update where the full article is reviewed and revised at a date later than its “first publication” date. The revision date and description of the update always appear at the start of the article/blog post in blue text such as “Last updated on dd.mm.yyyy – description goes here”. The WordPress “publication date” is still not changed hence it still shows the first publication date in search results.
- Level 4 – This is the highest level of update where because of significant changes in the old article, the full post is revised and re-published completely on a later date (with or without the same URL). Sometimes, it is also referred as re-purposing. The WordPress publishing date is changed to reflect this. The old article is removed automatically (completely erased) from its original chronological place in the blog and replaced with this new article.
4) Other Considerations While Updating a Blog Post
There are 8 key principles I follow while updating an old blog article as a part of my overall blog update strategy.
- Content and quality of information are paramount. Refinement, relevance and accuracy are the key considerations in updating the content of the article.
- Branding and consistency with the overall theme and layout is checked and amended if required. I want every single article on REASONTOUSE to present the defined and clear image of my brand/blog.
- “Focus keywords” are important when it comes to article update. When I believe that alternative keywords are to be used, I do that.
- I tend to keep the blog post URL the same as before. Yes some of my URLs from early days are not wisely chosen but due to their SEO value and link-related considerations, I tend to keep them wherever I can. There are rare occasions when I completely change the URL and 301-redirect the old URL to make sure that links don’t get affected. This article is one such example.
- Headlines are critical, in fact, tweaks in headlines and subheadings are common when I update my articles. Ask any successful blogger and they will tell you the importance of quality heads and subheads to draw the attention of your readers.
- Better paragraphing and sentence structuring are important. My earlier articles used to be bland and “texty”. I now prefer more white space, breaks, visual inclusions, bulleted lists, quotes, opinion of others and survey polls strategically included in my articles. These changes are inserted in articles as and when appropriate.
- Yoast SEO suggestions and tweaks are checked and amendments made to make the article more SEO and Google-friendly for wider visibility and reach.
- Check if the article is still linked to the right category and subcategory. I reduce the number of tags if I can and keep them to minimum but highly relevant.
If you are after some more great tips as a second opinion, Patt Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome in this article has nicely explained the 10 ways to bring new life to old blog posts.
5) Monitor Results to Implement Lessons Learnt
I have not dived deep enough in this part yet.
My content update strategy is only a few months old.
I need more time to evaluate its benefits mainly in terms of reader’s satisfaction and hence traffic numbers and user engagement. I will update this section accordingly in my next revision of this article.
If you have something to share in this section, feel free to comment. I have a feature on REASONTOUSE where relevant and useful comments are upgraded to be included in the main body of the article with your link and reference.
So chip in if you have anything to share.
Does it all sound too complicated?
Have a read of Brian Dean’s this article where he explained how he increased his organic traffic by over 260% by relaunching his old article. The broad logic remains the same as I have explained above.
You have seen my content tracker and you know my content update strategy now.
It is still early doors.
I have just started this process formally but I intend to keep refining this strategy. This article is assigned a level 3 (to be reviewed for accuracy and further refinement in 6 months time – check back in March 2017 for a planned update).
You got the gist.
I have opened up everything in front of you to give you a flavour. I am not saying this is a perfect strategy but I am sure the logic and basis are there. You need to mould it in your own circumstances.
You know why article-refinement and blog-posts-adjustments are important now. Only you can decide how much weightage you are going to give to updates in your overall blogging masterplan.
I encourage you to think about it.
Ask yourself a question if your current blog-posts update strategy is robust enough to give you a peace of mind that your reader is happy and satisfied with your old content.
You can only ask this question to yourself if you have a strategy in place.
Otherwise, time to reflect and get a plan of action sketched up.
If you want any help, feel free to get in touch.
Let me know in comments where do you stand and what are your thoughts?