Content Refreshing: A Step-by-Step Strategy 25

Content refreshing is one of the best ways to increase the traffic to your existing content, and it’s also a great way to keep the information on your website fresh and up to date.

However, the content refreshing process isn’t always straightforward. For example, some people worry about tanking their organic traffic if they update the content (a valid concern). 

Other people find that it just doesn’t bring the dramatic traffic increase that some marketing experts promise.

Fortunately for you, I’ve been both of those people.

I’ve updated probably more than 50 blog posts in the past 12 months, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. However, I’ve also seen outstanding results, such as content that drives 10 times more traffic and soars in rankings.

That said, I really wanted to know why some posts perform dramatically better post-update than others.

So I did a data study on what makes some content dramatically more successful post-update and why others continue to flounder. 

Using this data, I’ve come up with a content refreshing strategy that has significantly improved my content refreshing success rate. Today, I want to share that strategy with you.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

Which blog posts should you update?

How to update your blog posts

Which blog posts should you update?

Contrary to popular belief, not all blog posts are worth updating. This is one of the single most impactful realizations that has improved my content refreshing success rate.

 In fact, I only recommend prioritizing updates for old content that earned 20+ monthly visitors at peak performance.


In the data study mentioned above, 45% of the updated posts had fewer than 20 visitors per month pre-update. Unfortunately, this 45% of updated posts only contributed 15% of the total traffic increase (of a 96% total organic traffic increase).

That means blog posts that already had 20+ monthly visitors before the update contributed the majority of the total organic traffic increase.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

My guess is posted with more traffic pre-update already rank for some keywords in positions #5–10. Therefore, it’s much easier to go from positions #5–10 to first than zero to first.

So what should you do with blog posts that have fewer than 20 monthly visitors?

Assuming these posts are targeting keywords that are valuable to your business or contain important thought leadership ideas, it’s definitely worth updating them. 

In addition, a smaller blog will generally have a lot more blog posts with fewer than 20 monthly visitors simply because it needs time to gain traction.

Therefore, it’s still worthwhile to update them, but prioritize posts with the most potential first.

How to update your blog posts

Once you know which posts to update, how do you actually update them? I’ve found that a lot of companies give freelance writers a process that looks like this:

Update old statistics, facts, quotes

Add additional paragraphs for keywords the posts are missing

Remove sections that are no longer relevant

However, I’ve found that the above strategy isn’t the best approach to refreshing content. It makes the content more up-to-date but doesn’t consider how the post is (or is not) fulfilling the search intent.

In other words, you have to ask why your content isn’t as useful as the posts ranking well on Google. (I’m willing to bet it’s not just because there’s an outdated statistic in the third paragraph.)

From the content refreshing research I’ve done, your post probably isn’t ranking because there is another post that:

Is more current.

Provides actionable advice (or more relevant details).

Offers an excellent user experience.

Is a better fit for the searcher’s intent.

To address these issues, here are the action steps you need to take while updating your content.

1. Update outdated information

I know I just said that refreshing content is much more than just updating outdated information—but it is a part of the process.

In addition, I’m talking about more than just updating old statistics and quotes. Often, you’ll have to update (or completely change) the examples to improve how they match the search intent.

For example, this is one of my most successful content refreshing examples ever. It was generating about 4,000 monthly visitors when I first updated it in 2019. At its peak performance, it generated about 20,000 monthly visitors.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

When I started updating it, I realized that most of the examples in the post were outdated and many were TV productions. This was a problem for two reasons:

TV commercials themselves aren’t really a great fit for someone searching “digital marketing campaigns.”
Most of the people Googling this term don’t have the budget for a TV campaign.

Therefore, I replaced all 31 examples with 31 new examples of recent SEO, content marketing, YouTube, and podcasting successes.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

SIDENOTE. In retrospect, I wish I had focused on a specific campaign rather than the brand’s entire strategy. This is as the searcher’s intent is a digital marketing campaign, not a digital marketing strategy. 

I bet the post would have performed even better if I had done that. But we’ll get into searcher intent a little later.

Is the information you provide up to date with the current trends in your industry? This includes not only quotes and statistics but also examples that you use.

2. Add actionable advice/cut irrelevant detail
How often have you read a post that vaguely describes what you should do and lacks examples or the action steps needed to execute the advice?

On the other hand, have you ever read a post that has the answer to your question somewhere in it? But then there is so much unnecessary information that you can’t find what you want.

Both are equally problematic and, unfortunately, common in content marketing.

First, let’s discuss posts that lack depth. Unfortunately, there is no specific metric you can check to see if the content has depth. Though, there are a few signals that can clue you in, including:

Few to zero examples.
A significantly shorter word count than what’s ranking.
Generic tips with no actionable information.

You can also use content optimization tools like Clearscope, which shows the subheadings that commonly appear in other top-ranking posts. 

While I recommend that you take these keyword tools with a grain of salt (don’t try to sprinkle in all of the keywords), they can help you uncover topics you may have overlooked.

For example, if you’re writing a guide to “medical SEO,” the tool may show that the word “backlinking” is commonly used in other posts. 

Given that backlinking is a key element of SEO, this is a helpful insight because you’ll definitely want to create a section on that topic.  

Beyond this, the best advice I can give you is to put yourself in your target audience’s shoes (ideally, you’ve already done extensive market research and talked to several customers).

Ask yourself: If they read this content, could they implement the advice given and see results?

To drive this home, let’s look at an example where the post lacked depth. This post, “13 Ways to Market Your Business Online,” is the very first post I ever updated. 

It was originally just 930 words long and drove between 30 and 50 monthly visits. The final product is 1,700 words. It now drives over 600 monthly visits.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

However, I didn’t just decide to make it longer to accomplish this. Instead, I added relevant, actionable advice to support my argument.

For example, in the excerpt below, you can see that I supported my argument (building a brand is important) with a quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. I also added an actionable tip to make the trip less vague.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

Everything highlighted was added or changed when updating the post.

That said, adding more depth isn’t always the best solution, as it can make content unnecessarily long-winded.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a post on “how to change a tire.” In this case, the reader really doesn’t want a 2,000-word guide—they just want to change their tire as quickly as possible!

So instead of writing about the mechanics of changing a tire and statistics on how many people know how to change tires, just give the reader the steps they need to change the tire.

While that may be a rather obvious case, I see this all the time when I update content (especially if it’s an ultimate guide). For example, here’s the table of contents of a post I’m preparing to update:

Useful Tips - About SEO Works If you are looking for SEO Expert and SEO Consultant, what questions can you ask to hire them? for more details read here.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

As you can see, the content is too long and repetitive. For one, it talks about the ROI of influencer marketing twice. Sure, it’s an ultimate guide. But even those reading an ultimate guide only want to consume the necessities to get them on their way.

Another example of how this content is too long-winded is in chapters 2 and 7, where both discuss tactics for reaching out to an influencer. Sure, they discuss slightly different tactics.

But I’d rather read one concise section on the 80/20 of influencer outreach than several sections containing every possible way you could reach out to an influencer.

When you’re writing, include the 80/20 action steps your reader needs to know, along with examples (hypothetical or real) to prove your point. However, don’t write any more than that.
The reader doesn’t necessarily need to know every single possible way to do something or the exact science behind every topic. Get to the point.

3. Improve the user experience

Google has always stressed the importance of optimizing for user experience. Much of this takes place at the site level (HTTPS, page speed, etc.). But there are things you can do to improve the content on a post-by-post basis.

First, if your post is particularly long, consider adding a sticky table of contents to help the reader find exactly what they are looking for.

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

Second, pay a designer to create attractive, branded graphics. This will go a long way in both keeping users on your page and establishing your blog as an authority.

Third, break up your paragraphs (ideally none longer than three to four sentences) and use bullets to keep the reader’s attention. Remember that most people are looking for fast answers and are, therefore, skimming.

So contrary to popular belief, making your content skimmable will actually increase the time readers spend on your page.

As simple as these things may sound, they’re super effective in my experience.

Don’t discount the importance of a blog post that is clean and easy to read. Sometimes, long blog posts are too frustrating for users, so be sure to format your blog posts appropriately and hire a designer to help you.

4. Fulfill the searcher’s intent
Search intent is basically the reason behind the search. Does the searcher want to learn something or buy something? Are they looking for a detailed guide or skimmable listicle? Do they just want a quick answer or lots of knowledge?

If you fail to understand the answers to these questions, you’ll be at risk of misaligning your content with search intent. Consequently, it’ll be much harder (sometimes impossible) to rank the content.

This is quite a complex topic, as there are many ways you may misalign content with search intent. But here are three of the main ways I’ve noticed:

A. Post style is incorrect
Before you write your blog post, Google the main keyword to better understand what kind of blog post the reader wants.

For example, if you’re about to write a how-to guide for a term like “best CRM for small businesses,” you’re wasting your time because the searcher’s intent is clearly a simple list of tools:

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)

In this case, they don’t want to read a guide about it. They just want to see some solutions!

If you notice that your blog post is in the wrong format for that keyword, you’ll probably have to rewrite it altogether.

B. You have too much information irrelevant to the reader’s pain points
Another issue I often find when updating content is that there are sections of content that just aren’t relevant to the reader’s pain points.

For example, a post on “content marketing KPIs” shouldn’t have a header with the words “what is content marketing.”

While that’s a rather extreme example, I often see subtler cases.

For example, I recently updated a post targeting the keyword “examples of storytelling marketing.” When I looked at the search results for the term, all of them were list posts that had introductions around 100–200 words. The post then dove into examples.

However, when I looked at the post I was updating, there were several sections before the “examples” section that totaled 1,800 words. In fact, here is what the post’s structure looked like:

What is storytelling?
Science behind storytelling
Why is storytelling important for marketing?
Five principles of storytelling 
Principle 1
Principle 2
Principle 3
Principle 4
Principle 5
(Finally!) Example 1
In this case, the searcher’s intent is a list of examples. So if the searcher has to scroll past 1,800 words to read what they want, they’ll likely leave. This behavior is a signal to Google that your content isn’t very good.

To update it, I cut that intro and added a few extra relevant examples (most of the other posts had 11–12, so I made the post fit that range). As of this writing (a few weeks after my updates), the post is ranking second for “examples of storytelling marketing.”

Here’s a screenshot of its traffic trajectory:

( Img Credit - Ahref Blog)