There is a lot of value in refreshing old content — we’ll discuss why and how to best do it!
Paul Barthel: I’m Paul Barthel, with Changescape Web and I’d like to welcome everyone to this episode of The Marketing Guides for Small Businesses Podcast.
And today we’re gonna talk about refreshing your content cuz you know, content gets old and outdated. And sometimes what would perform well in the past doesn’t perform that well now. And so you need to go back and look at that. So that’s what we’re gonna be looking at today. So Ian, I’m gonna start with you. Why would you refresh older content instead of just creating something new?
Ian Cantle: The first reason and the biggest reason is because you have nothing else to do. So I think that is not the reason to refresh old content. One of the reasons is that rankings diminish over time. So even if your older content, if you have old blog posts, even webpages that we’re ranking really well, they diminish over time. There’s a freshness factor in the Google algorithm that’s important.
Another reason is that you’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and brain power into creating content that’s valuable to your target audience, and you don’t want that to go to waste. A lot of times updating older content that’s valuable can be more relevant to your target audience and more powerful for your rankings than building competing content on your own website for those same keywords. So those are the two biggest things I would say is the why.
Paul Barthel: I guess to follow up on that a little bit, I might add that content takes a while to rank. And if you have older content that was ranking and maybe is still ranking, just not quite as well, refreshing and updating it could bring you higher in the rankings quicker than a new piece of content.
Ian Cantle: That’s a great point, Paul. And I thought I implied that, but I probably didn’t. And that’s really important because I have clients that have had blogs for, strong websites.
We’ve refreshed their websites over the years, and they have blog content and some of them have hundreds maybe up into the thousands of blog posts now because they’ve been doing it for 15 years. And so once you start to dig a little bit into those, and I know we’ll get into this with some further questions, there are some gold nuggets in there that Google is presenting to people.
And you wanna make sure that content stays at the top of Google ranking so that your competition who may be investing in new content if they haven’t in the past or refreshing their old content, doesn’t bump you from the rankings.
Paul Barthel: Okay. So Jen, following up on that, how do you know which pieces of content to update? Do you just guess, is there a process you can go through?
Jen Kelly: Yes, and yes. You can guess.
Paul Barthel: And I think a lot of people do sometimes.
Jen Kelly: I think a lot of people do, and I think a lot of people would choose their favorite pieces of content, the ones that they wanna write about. There’s a better process to do that is really check your analytics and see what blog posts are doing the best. And if those are a bit older and need some refreshing then do that for sure.
The other way to think about it is if there’s a topic that you have written about that just keeps changing or is something with the algorithm or something with the attitude or something with the way things are done now compared to when the article was written has changed. You’re gonna need to update it in order to stay current there as well.
So you can either guess. You can look at your analytics or you can choose the marketing element that has changed the most or the most in your industry, and make sure to update that one for sure.
Paul Barthel: I think that’s a good point about, a lot of times they want to write about what interests them or what they think is important, but that may not necessarily be what your audience is interested in or thinks is important. So that’s a good point.
Dan. There’s different types of content. I think, a lot of times when we talk about updating content, think about blog posts. But what about other types of content such as YouTube or if you’re
doing posts on Facebook, although they rotate, what other types of content should be updated?
Dan Gershenson: Yeah, great question Paul. One of the great things about the social media landscape is that most people will never remember what we said today from tomorrow to the next day, and that’s just the truth. No matter how good our stuff is people have very short attention spans. I think we’re up to a whopping eight seconds now for attention span.
The fact is that I think internally we look at a lot of this stuff and go, Oh gosh, we just said that. Should I do that again? I guarantee you that if you said the same blog like every month or something, they would probably go, Oh, that’s something interesting there. There’s always something a different way first of all, to slice and dice your content. So let’s say for example, I put out a YouTube video that’s about a certain topic and then I learned some new information. It’s inevitable that we can add to it. So in other words, I don’t think you always have to say, Okay, I’m taking up the old thing and I’m just gonna edit it.
Keep going. Keep going. Just say you’re gonna come up with a new video and say, Hey you may remember a couple months ago when I was talking about such and reference that if you want, maybe even put the link if you’re able to. But other than that, I think it’s more of a continuation. It’s not, Hey, let’s go back and re-litigate chapter one of this book. Let’s go to chapter two. Let’s go to chapter three and add on layers to your content. And you can just tell a richer story that way. Besides, I think it helps when, let’s say you’re creating a hub page of some sort on your website and you might wanna add certain links that expand that story.
I’m much more in favor of doing the new than adapting the old, because I just don’t think people care that much about it or they’re gonna care more about what’s fresh. So that is giving your content new life by adding a chapter onto it. Particularly, I think in YouTube. Social media, there’s no way in the world I would go back and edit social media.
I would never do that. First of all, maybe I’m just lazy. I would not do that. I would put it out there and do something new that feels fresh and I think that brings it back to life with something new you’ve learned.
Paul Barthel: Yeah, I agree with you on the social media part of it.
Ian, when you’re updating content from a ranking perspective, what about some of the more technical things like tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags, do those need to be updated?
Ian Cantle: That’s a really solid question that the answer is yes, everything should be looked at. And the reason is because Google is looking at it as are your readers. Jen talked about which ones to choose, which will actually help you understand if you’ve done some keyword research and you understand why something’s ranking well, what keywords it should be ranking for, that will help with the back end stuff, but also with the writing.
So things like headlines, subheadings, those are really valuable. Even putting an index at the top. What this article is about, so that people can skim it because oftentimes those weren’t done, especially in older blog posts. Adding images, updating images making sure you have alt texts to your images, adding videos. There are a host of things that you can do without recreating the blog post or the page or whatever it is.
I’m speaking mostly related to a website because I’m thinking more, on helping your rankings, helping you get found, and people leveraging and reading your content. And then adding new information. So in some industries, information is being updated constantly. I have a client in the remodeling business, and you wouldn’t think things would radically change there, but rules change, government rules change, environmental stuff changes all the time. Rebates, government rebates, all of that stuff changes. We’re actually currently going through one of our clients, the remodeling client’s website, looking for stuff relating to those rebates because some of the rebates have changed and we don’t wanna put disinformation out, and they rank very highly for that information.
So I would say scrutinize everything. We’re talking to small business owners. Even in the building of your website, you should have an expert who understands SEO, understands why you would do certain things. They should be the ones that are actually doing this, but getting information from the business owner or an expert in the business to help feed what content might be new and relevant.
Paul Barthel: Ian, and the format of the blog post is a really good point because, these days with long form blog posts, people tend to skim. So you do need those breaks and those headlines. And like you said, maybe an index so people can skim through. Cause a lot of times they won’t read the entire post, but they’ll read a section that’s of interest to them.
Ian Cantle: Two more things I would add. This is a little bit controversial. It’s not very controversial, but, and it’s so easy. A lot of people that have done kind of analytical studies of it, when you update old content, recommend that you put in a blurb that the date that your content was updated.
And that’s both for Google and for the viewer. And I was also gonna mention purely from an SEO standpoint, because schema has been growing in value over the last three years or so. And I’m not gonna go into what schema is if you don’t know what that is, but for our listeners. But just know that schema’s become quite important from a Google standpoint.
So actually when you’re updating content, you should make sure that the schema, these backend tags, have been appropriately rendered to the content.
Paul Barthel: The schema, the simplified version, is structured data that helps Google understand what your website and what your blog post is about. So there’s the oversimplified version.
That kind of feeds into the question I have for Jen. If you’re on a, like a contract model with a client, so to speak and they’re paying you to do new blog posts, new content, and you decide to start updating some of their older content. Have you ever run into any objections or questions about, I’m paying you to do new content and you’re updating this old content, and why are you doing that and have you run into that and how do you handle that?
Jen Kelly: Yes, I’ve run into that and we’ve also run into just the ongoing logging as it is, like the first blogs out, never mind updating them. So some of the pushback that I’ve got is you have no time to review this and no it can’t go out without us reviewing. We’ve already said X, Y, or Z for American listeners, I’m no good at writing.
We’re writing for them, but sometimes they just feel, Oh, what we’re saying is so complex. Let me just jot down a few notes. I’m not really sure I can get this done. Then there’s always this shiny object syndrome as in, You know what, maybe we don’t go do blogs anymore maybe we just do video, and no one reads it anyways. Why would we update it or why are we even gonna do it? And it’s so to all those things, it’s just okay, when Google reads it. It takes more than say, 15 blog entries in order for you to establish yourself as a site that is gonna consistently update and contribute to the knowledge there.
Yes, there has been all kinds of pushback on that, but we really have to talk to them that this is for your potential clients. Your potential clients don’t know as much about, whatever it is that you sell or that you’re an expert in, as you do, they’re coming to you for the first time. You live and breathe this, and so it’s really important to understand that your blog on your website is not really for you.
We always talk to our clients about the website. The content on the website being, think of it as your 24/7 salesperson, right? Your salesperson isn’t talking to you. Salesperson is out talking to potential clients in order to bring them in and hopefully the right fit to make them become clients for the company.
So, I also have to let them know too that the blog isn’t always about you and as well it’s not just your readers. It’s Google. You gotta start thinking of Google as part of a segment of your audience because Google is looking for different things on your website, on your blogs, on your content than you are or your humans are.
So in a very kind and educational way, we push back with that because ultimately we’re looking to help their business. Raise awareness, grow, get more orders, whatever it is we’ve been brought in to do. And this is one of the ways that we do that. So yes, there is pushback and then there’s pushback from us too, why we really need to do this and it is good for their business.
Dan Gershenson: I couldn’t agree with every single word you said more.
Jen Kelly: You phrased that so funny. Where is this going? I couldn’t agree with everything, Jen.
Dan Gershenson: Every word you said was wrong. No, I just kidding. No, it was beautifully said. Cause I, and I think that bears repeating because this is a tactful thing to say, but I do think you have to say it, is that I’m not writing for you. I don’t wanna be a PhD in what, I don’t want to go to college and get a degree in what you know. And that is the thing that I think clients who may be watching this is. What’s really important is as human beings, we’re not complex really in some ways as far as we wanna pull out the thing that matters most to us to relieve our pain.
We don’t care about you at that point, like up to that point when we have not hired you, or engaged with you, we don’t care about you. There’s just no other way to say it. I don’t care about your services, I don’t care about your products, I don’t care about anything about how long you’ve been around. I care about how you’re gonna relieve my pain. And what’s the one thing that you can speak to me about? So I think what you’re saying there, Jen, is so relevant because you would say that more tactfully than I just did.
Jen Kelly: That’s why we’re a tag team.
Dan Gershenson: But it’s the truth. They need to hear this, is that I don’t believe it’s a good approach to say, We’re gonna educate them on what this is.
I don’t need your education. I need to know how you can break down that language in a way that makes sense for me to absorb and unpack it in my own world, because I don’t wanna be you. Like, if I’m a customer, I don’t want to be you. I don’t wanna go to college, like I said. I wanna understand how you can help me with my thing.
The last thing I’ll say on that is we have an approach here. I know you guys have done this, where when we get the blog pushback and they say, I don’t know. I don’t have time. I can’t review this, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. There’s a little thing here called Rev or Otter that records them and it is in their own voice.
So what else you got? Cuz that one ain’t gonna fly. If you sit down, you have us journalistically interview you and get your voice down, then we can save you a whole lot of time by taking the best of what you’ve just conveyed. I think that is how we save them time and then, they only have to review it for a very small portion of time per month when you’re getting that down. So again, not to get us this way and that way, but I just thought what you said was just so important for people to keep in mind when they’re doing this and they’re thinking about how do I divide and conquer this content that I need to keep going and getting out there?
You shouldn’t be doing it. No and some people will disagree with me. You shouldn’t be doing your content. Are you kidding? No. You should be getting your butt out there and doing new business. Because only you can wear that hat. You’re gonna have me interview you, get on with your life and get the hell out there so you can do new business.
You don’t sit there behind your desk and go, What should I blog about today? That’s my job to make you look good.
Jen Kelly: And we have to take into account our clients, we talk about our clients. They have that PhD or whatever that expertise. So another pushback I’ve gotten is, You’re asking me to at the 1 0 1 level, at the 1 0 2 level, at the 2 0 2 level? I know so much more, Like how am I supposed to show my intelligence if I’m writing about some basic things that’ll help somebody understand what we do or what we can do for them? And for that, I’d be interested in you guys giving feedback on what I say to them, and it seems to be working, but what I say is, Yeah, obviously, yes, you’re very smart in what you do and you’re very accomplished and of course you have a business that helps a lot of people doing what you do.
And I say most people really look up to are really TED Talks. And I say, for the good TED Talks, that expert on stage is speaking to a whole crowd of people, and that person does not know if you are just introduced to the topic today or are like them and have a PhD, right? It’s a whole range of people.
So how are they able to convey their expertise? And their intelligence on some area that is accessible to everybody in the audience. And I’m like, you listen to great TED Talk and no one’s thinking, That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Dan Gershenson: Those are tremendous. Think about those. You got 18 minutes. That’s a wonderful example because I think you’re talking about people who do very different things than what we do, but we’re fascinated by how they break that down, aren’t we? We view things from people in medicine and science and math and all kinds of things that are not our specialty that they have made accessible for us.
And I think, that’s a wonderful example because if they said let me explain to you the concepts of this theory I’m about, Oh God, I’m done. No. And it’s the same principle. Now, the only thing I’ll say about when they say, I can say more than that. Yes, you can. You can do the 1 0 1, you can do the 2 0 1. You can do the 3 0 1 tiers. But you sure as hell better break that down when you go to 2 0 1 and 3 0 1, and that doesn’t change. So it’s not dumbing it down, it’s converting it to a language that makes sense for the people who would frankly give you money. So again, I’m not concerned about what you know in terms of that alone.
I’m concerned about what you know and how the process is going to be working with me because, if I’m overwhelmed by what you’re telling me, there will not be a second meeting. Guaranteed. I don’t care what you’ve been. I don’t care if your firm has been around for a hundred years. I’ll find another one that’s been around for 75. Like that is never gonna matter to me. What I care about is how comfortable you can make me and how quickly. So to your point, and this plays into what we’ve been talking about today, you can really break down that content for them. Into chapters, into things that, for their intents and purposes, may feel like 1 0 1, 2 0 1, 3 0 1, 4 0 1, but then it’s back to us, to break those chapters down. So that all the world out there sees is plain English.
Ian Cantle: I just wanna make sure that the audience is really clear on this point, that what you guys are saying is absolutely true. But the point that has to be made to the client, and I think you guys have said it like several different ways, but I want to make sure the audience is really clear on this. The website is not about you. It’s not vanity for you. It’s a tool to reach your target audience and it’s to communicate your value to the target audience. And Donald Miller has a great statement that if you confuse, you lose as a business. And so those 2 0 1’s 3 0 1’s might have zero relevance with what Dan said, the people that are gonna give you money to do what you need to do.
So proving your intelligence isn’t the reason for your website unless those are your target audience. If you’re trying to attract, maybe a management consulting firm needs to prove their intelligence to CEOs to help them know that they’re the right management consulting firm. But a dentist knows a heck of a lot of medical things, but really they just need to prove to you through their website to build trust that they can perform the treatments that are gonna take the pain away from you. So don’t forget the target audience.
Dan Gershenson: And I don’t think many of us give ourselves enough credit for the in-person experience we’re about to have.
We feel like, Oh, we gotta get it all out on the website. And if you’ve done your job, just like you’ve said Ian, where you have spoken to their pains at that nice high level, you don’t have to do all the selling you think your website should do for you? Because I’m a little skeptical that someone could go to a website and be like, I have to work with that person.
Not in a service based relationship. I don’t know that’s a big ask. If they’re not going to do that, and they’re not going to come to your door and say, I want to work with you, which frankly I’d be a little scared about anyway. Then you have to trust yourself that you can hold back on some of that content and save it for a really good in-person experience, like a discovery meeting or a proposal ish type meeting.
And that’s when you can get so much more in the weeds if you need to and have that connection going on. But I don’t think you necessarily have to put it all out there at once.
Ian Cantle: Or peer journals or industry journals, right? That’s your time to prove you’re above and beyond your entire industry. One interesting thing, I think, again, we’ve alluded to it related to objections, is for me, and I think for everyone on this call. The biggest, I don’t wanna say ammunition because it shouldn’t be confrontational. It’s about guiding our clients, right? So it’s more about when clients put up objections to me about what we’re doing, I like to take a step back and say, Look, here’s a strategic marketing plan that we’ve built for you. This strategic marketing plan is a vehicle to help you achieve the goals that you stated are the most important to you as a business owner. Part of what we’re doing here by refreshing old content is to attract people to your website. That is a key element of moving them to become customers.
That’s why we’re doing it. Like it, it’s almost just paving the way and showing them the path again, because I think in the day to day, we as the marketer needs to just remind them like, This is why we’re doing what we’re doing. Because it’s strategic and it’s valuable to your business.
Dan Gershenson: And I think you make them so much smarter in the process about their own process. Where if you’re taking them through what you just said and connected it to the marketing hourglass, they probably never even realize that there’s a try opportunity, a try before you buy or that could convert very well. And in you explaining that, that’s really where I think they can say if we can just get people to this stage of the process and they learn how to change a little bit of that.
Then I think there’s a whole host of benefits that can occur.
Paul Barthel: The first 10 things people care about is how can you solve the problem or issue that I have? And if your website can’t answer that, then you will never have that in person meeting.
Dan Gershenson: Yeah, I would say this much is that, I don’t really take a meeting with someone who goes, Tell me why I need to do this marketing stuff?
Ian Cantle: They’re a few years from talking to you. Or a few months or something.
Dan Gershenson: If they’re skeptical of certain things like social media or whatever, I would say this for anybody, it’s a bit of a double sale that you’re making. You’re selling them on the industry you’re in, and then you’re selling them on yourself.
So just because they get to a point where, Hey, I really like what you’re saying about marketing doesn’t mean that they’ve necessarily said you’re the person to help me do it. So I think that’s where you always have to laser focus on the people who already go, I need help, I have pain. Your website helped me understand that you are the person that can probably help me. I’m looking at two or three other people though, let’s talk. That’s where your discovery meeting, I think is going to pay dividends, and that’s the most effective kind of person you should be talking to.
Paul Barthel: So all of that said, Dan what about paying to drive traffic to content? Is that important? When would you do it and what are some of the best ways to do that?
Dan Gershenson: Yeah, I think first of all, when you take your content, let’s for our purposes of what we’ve been talking about, let’s say some repurposed stuff, okay. Or maybe version 2.0 that adds to an existing post or something. I think at that point you really need to think about when you put something like a blog on your website, that’s the hub, that’s the hub of the wheel, and there’s a lot of spokes that can shoot off of that.
But I don’t recommend to people to suddenly go crazy talking about five different things. I think that’s where they can get really lost trying to do 10 different things at once for social media or whatever that is.
Paul Barthel: Okay. So, I wanna round table this next question and I’ll start off, I think Jen alluded to this when she was talking about updating content, that there’s also evergreen content that we need to keep in mind. And you may not necessarily go back and refresh that, but you might wanna drive some traffic to it. If it’s an important piece of content and you saw that it was ranking earlier and now it’s not ranking quite as well, but it’s still relevant. You might want to drive some traffic to it or take a look at it and see why.
But with video is a great format. When you put it on your website, you need to transcribe that and put that on there as well. It helps Google know what this is about, but any final thoughts or anything we didn’t cover or that we should mention?
Jen Kelly: I just wanted to see if we can clarify. When you say transcribe for the listeners, do you mean just put the captions on it or do you mean actually have a blog sitting under the video explaining, basically what the video is?
Dan Gershenson: Yeah, would basically create a blog post to go with that video because I think Google can’t watch the video. At least not yet.
Jen Kelly: Not yet. Yes. There you go.
Ian Cantle: One thing we didn’t really talk is why you would want to repurpose content rather than create new content. And I ran into this early on in my SEO days because if a client, if they started to slip in relation to their top keywords, we would produce new content to try to rank above the old content.
And what we found is something called keyword cannibalization. And not to go into it too in depth, but this is, in reference to the objection of I hired you to do new content. The point of what we do isn’t to needlessly produce new content. The point is to attract people to the content that you have in order to get them to purchase from you.
You don’t wanna cannibalize the keyword rankings that you’ve already created. You want to step those up to the next level. Also, we didn’t talk about if you were looking at updating old content, we didn’t even talk about links, but double check to make sure there’s no broken links on those pages, because those things change with time.
If you’re referencing an older association or something like that, make sure that, people are updating their websites all the time and those links get broken. So check those. Put new resources on there, but it’s all about creating value for the reader and connecting the dots for Google.
Paul Barthel: Yeah, that’s a good point with the links. And even internal links, because if you change something internally, you can have a broken link, an internal broken link. So yeah, that’s a good point.
Dan, any thoughts?
Dan Gershenson: Yes, I think you could probably take a look at why Semrush, I think does a very good job of. It really silos some of your stuff as far as maybe you don’t even want to keep some of these posts anymore. So there’s the adapted stuff that you can update, but it’s not blasphemy to say that there are some posts that maybe should not exist anymore for you. And so that’s not just about Google, that’s about your brand kind of evolving. So if you’ve done some stuff in the past, let’s say, I don’t know, seven, eight years ago, and it really doesn’t represent who you are anymore, then that’s not even an adaptability thing at that point. And so don’t forget, I don’t propose to do this with a lot of posts, but, I do think that if you update some or adapt some do that, but if you wanna get rid of some to align with your brand a little bit better, that’s okay. So don’t forget about that.
Paul Barthel: Yeah, definitely. If something’s not relevant, then you wanna remove it, but you also wanna look and if it is getting any kind of traffic, you probably wanna redirect that to something that is relevant.
Dan Gershenson: Exactly.
Paul Barthel: I think that’s a good place to wrap up. I hope we’ve answered some questions for our audience, and thanks for listening.