How To SEO Optimize Old Blog Posts To Boost Your Traffic
Ever get writer's block? Here's something you can do whenever that strikes to give a boost to your blog without having to create a completely new post…
I’m talking about the historical optimization of your old blog posts. Historical optimization means that you optimize your old blog posts so they’re fresh, up-to-date and have the ability to generate increased traffic.
You already know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and why it’s important for the success of your website. But... optimizing old posts?
If you’ve been blogging for a long time, chances are that you have already published tens, if not hundreds of articles on your blog, so maybe it’s time to dust these forgotten articles off and rework them to become valuable, fresh pieces of content on your website again.
Keep reading to learn how you can recycle some of your old posts to boost your SEO outcomes instead of constantly having to write new articles.
Why You Should SEO Update Your Old Posts
First of all, SEO updating old posts takes much less effort than writing a new ones… a clear benefit for you right there.
But on top of that, your old blog posts already have historical data you can leverage. Historical data includes all the views, clicks, queries, etc. a post has gathered over time since publication.
Just think about it. A 1-year old article has had a full year under its belt to collect views, clicks, and impressions for certain keywords. It would be silly to just overlook all this info it’s collected for you!
Tools, like Google Analytics (GA), and Google Search Console (GSC) — as well as a whole bunch of other paid tools — can capture this data for you. Your first job in optimizing old posts then is to retrieve it, analyze it, and use it all to carry out your SEO updates.
And when you do this, the factors that have contributed to a post's rankings — such as links, relevancy, age, etc. — will already be in place to support your updated version.
Which Blog Posts Should You SEO Update?
Even though updating an article takes less effort than writing a brand new one, don’t commit the mistake of trying to update every article you have.
Prioritization is key. Find those posts that have the potential to bring the most benefits to your blog. How to find them? Let’s figure that out together right now.
The higher up your post is in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), the better Click Through Rate (CTR) you’ll have for it. In fact, the top results get most of the traffic, while the second page hardly ever gets any clicks. As some people phrase it:
The best place to hide a dead body is on Page 2 of Google Search Results.
The difference is huge between the traffic for each position. To help you visualize these differences, here’s a graph created by Advanced Web Ranking:
As you can see from the data, pages that rank #1 in Google’s search results get 23% to 31% of total clicks (mobile and desktop respectively). The CTRs then drop to around 15% for rank #2, 10% for rank #3 and so on.
So the question we need to ask ourselves when it comes to choosing what posts to optimize is: which articles can possibly bring us the best results (a.k.a getting into ranks 1, 2 or 3) with minimal effort?
Answer: The ones that are currently in the 4 through 10 positions (6-1% CTR)
How do we do that?
By updating them based on the historical data your posts have accumulated, you’ll have a good chance to bump such articles up a couple of positions in Google’s SERPs and thus exponentially improve your CTR and traffic.
How to Identify Which Articles Are Ranking in Positions 4 through 10
The good news is, you can find this out for free. The bad news is, doing so is a little more difficult than using a paid tool. Regardless, let’s see how can you identify these position 4 - 10 posts for free first.
The Free Way - Google Analytics (GA) + Google Search Console (GSC)
If you have a blog, you probably have GA and GSC set up for conversion tracking. These tools give you access to fruitful data that you can use to improve your website’s performance. Now you’re going to put that data to work updating your old blog posts, so let’s dive right in!
First, you need to determine what your most visited posts are. As we are looking for a post with big traffic potential, we can assume that articles that currently rank around positions 4 - 10 are already getting some traction. To do this:
- Open Google Analytics > click ”Behaviour” > click “Site Content” > click “All Pages”
- Set the date range to 1 month
- Filter your blog posts — This is easy if the structure of your URL includes the word ‘blog’. If not, you’ll have to check them one by one. (Prioritize! Start with posts that you already know perform well, but still have some room for SEO improvement)
- Sort them by traffic to see the top-viewed blog posts
- Create a “top 3” list out of your old posts
Now that you have a list of potentially improvable articles, let’s examine them, see what their Google SERP position is and for what keywords they are ranking for with Google Search Console. This tool won’t give us 100% accurate numbers, but will offer an indication of the best performing queries, their CTRs, impression metrics, and SERP positions. Collecting this data is a good enough starting point for us.
To show you how this works through a real life example, I selected this Thrive Themes post published in 2014. It is old, but still gets decent traffic so optimizing this post is worth a try.
Next, go to your Google Search Console:
Open the performance report
Add a page filter at the top of the chart and simply paste the website URL into it
Tick all the 4 toggle boxes (total clicks, total impressions, avg CTR, avg position)
Click on ‘Queries’ to see which keywords this post ranks for. And voilá! Now you can see how many clicks and impressions this post had, what its CTR was and which position the post is currently ranking in, keyword-by-keyword.
Now sort the results by impression. A link URL records an impression when it appears in a search result for a user. So a high impression metric implies that the post appeared many times in search results for a specific keyword. This then implies that such a keyword has a potentially high search volume.
To help further nail down which post you should update, collect the data presented here in GSC within a spreadsheet for each old article in your “Top 3” list.
The Paid Way: Ahrefs
I admit, it is a little tricky to find these top old blog posts without a paid tool. When I have the resources available for such work, I usually use Ahrefs for this, which streamlines the research process.
With a tool like Ahrefs, you can easily see all the organic keywords in their ‘site explorer’ tab, and you can set up a filter to only show you specific SERP position ranges. For example, only keywords that rank in the SERPs between positions 3 and 10. You can also see all the necessary data listed, such as the search volume, keyword difficulty, and post URLs.
Ideally, you’re aiming to uncover keywords that have a relatively high search volume with low keyword difficulty scores.
Time To Start SEO Updating Your Old Posts
Now that you have a list of your best performing old blog posts and have identified the keywords they rank for, let’s start updating them.
I recommend starting with the post that already drives the most traffic to your website, or the one that has the most search volume with the lowest keyword difficulty.
Use common sense here, too. If you’ve selected an article about an outdated product or service you used to offer, or a post that was time sensitive, choose another one.
Once you know which article you’re going to optimize, here’s a list of strategies you can deploy to start boosting your post’s position in Google’s SERPs:
1. Optimize for Search Intent
There’s a good chance that your article was not optimized properly when it went live the first time — it’s time to fix that.
Now that we also know the main keywords our article is ranking for, we can deploy them in our old posts more strategically.
Make sure these keywords appear in prominent places of the article, such as the:
- Meta Description
- Title Tag
- Introduction (first paragraph)
- At least 1 heading
Even though it’s a good idea to include your exact keyword throughout the article, don’t get too obsessed with it. Overusing your exact keywords makes your article feel spammy. In this case study, MOZ concluded that keyword stuffing actually does more harm than good.
In fact, Google is smart enough to take synonyms and other keyword variations into consideration when it’s crawling your page.
So just keep it natural in the body text. Otherwise, Google will know.
2. Image Optimization
Image optimization comes down to 2 areas:
- Compressing images
- Utilizing captions, alt tags and descriptions
Site speed is one of the signals Google uses to rank pages. The larger images you use, the slower your page loads, which leads to poor user experience. Therefore it’s essential to decrease the size of your image files before uploading them on your WordPress website.
I recommend using Kraken.io for image compression. Simply upload your images to the ‘Free Web Interface’ , and select lossy compression. You can then download the compressed image and upload that file directly to your website. If you want to learn more about image optimization, check out Shane’s article on the usage of JPEG vs. PNG files.
Next, edit your image captions, alt tags, and descriptions for any images you include in your blog post. All three of these are crawled by Google, so make sure to add them when applicable.
Let’s see what each of these attributes actually are and how should you use them:
- The caption is the text that accompanies the image on the page. Captions are important as people (and Google) use them to scan through and better understand what the article is about. In fact, images with captions may see up to 300% more readership than the rest of your body text!
- The alt text describes the image and its function. According to Wikipedia: “In situations where the image is not available to the reader, perhaps because they have turned off images in their web browser or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment, the alternative text ensures that no information or functionality is lost.”
- The title attribute is shown when you hover over the image. It can be deployed as an extra piece of information about the image, or even a call-to-action. However, if there is nothing you really want the title attribute to convey, consider removing it.
When you save an image on your computer, give it a title that describes the image and includes a relevant keyword. Using this strategy, search engines will know what is depicted on that visual element through that associated text.
3. Improve Your Article
The more time you spend on writing, the better you’ll become at it. With consistent practice and publishing, you’ll become a better blogger and writer.
Use this experience to improve the quality of your articles; introduce a clearer writing structure and develop a more unique voice. Your readers will appreciate this effort, and will spend more time reading your blog posts as a result.
If your original article is based on old data, consider updating it. Has there been a new discovery in the field? If there’s additional value you can include in the article, add it to make your old post more comprehensive.
4. Add Internal Links
Give an extra boost to your updated articles by linking to them from other articles on your blog.
Search for blog posts where it makes sense to mention the article that you have updated. Edit these relevant posts by adding a link in the body text, pointing at the updated article.
If your blog is too large and you are unsure whether there is a relevant post to use for internal linking, use this Google search modifier:
Use a keyword that’s relevant to your updated article, and Google will find you all the blog posts and pages on your website where that keyword appears.
For example, if you type “image compression” site:thrivethemes.com in the search box, you’ll find all the articles on Thrive Themes, that include that keyword.
By adding links to these blog posts pointing at your updated piece (where appropriate), you’re creating a hierarchy between your pages, making the updated one ‘stronger’ in the eyes of search engines.
Another useful (paid) tool that can contribute greatly to your SERP ranking success is PageOptimizer Pro.
This tool tells you exactly what to change in your article in order to rank better than your competitors. Here’s a snippet of how the recommendations look like in PageOptimizer Pro:
It’s Your Turn to Dust off Your Old Articles
Now that you know how to identify which of your old blog posts are best to update, go identify the main keywords you should target in those articles and then optimize them for increased organic traffic.
Avoid the rabbit hole of perfectionism. Prioritize, and follow your gut.
Go ahead! Give these techniques a try and let me know how it goes!
Is it working or is it not? is there anything else under the SEO umbrella you need help with? Do let me know in the comments below!