How We Grew Organic Traffic 300% By Updating Old Blog Posts

We hear constantly about the need to publish high quality content consistently.

Companies who publish daily see better results than those who only put out content a few times a month.

SEO dominance belongs to the prolific.

More content leads to more traffic.

The arguments for more content go on and on.

But what about all that old content that’s hanging out on your website? When we took the time to revisit and republish just a fraction of our old blog posts we increased traffic over 300%.

So, while regular content production is certainly vital, keeping an eye on your existing content can be an amazingly efficient way to boost your results.

Our Republishing Success Story

As part of a newly-launched content strategy initiative, I began to take a long, hard look at the blog for our sibling software company, SurveyGizmo.

After many, many hours of investigation, and even more hours spent revising and re-releasing blog posts, I’m happy to report that we improved the unique page views to republished pages 369% in the past six months.

This was by no means a quick and easy project, so I want to share exactly how we pulled it off so others can replicate it if they need to.

Unearthing a Decade of Blog Posts

For a blog that’s had dozens of individual contributors and few dedicated managers over the past decade, it was actually in reasonably good shape. The main problem was that it had over 900 blog posts, with nearly 30% falling into the category of ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial) content.

For example, at one point we used our blog to document release notes — changes we made to the SurveyGizmo app — so our customers could follow along with our progress. Although interesting to some at time, these blog posts were now over five years old and no longer reflective of the state of our software.

They all needed to go.

Compounding the already tedious task of wading through 900 WordPress blog posts is the fact that our WordPress installation is…unique. The specifics aren’t relevant to this project, but they made using WordPress for most of our work totally impractical.

We needed a tool that would let us keep a running list of all blog posts in a single place, including data that would help us evaluate each post’s future on the blog.

We needed a content audit. Enter my new best friend, Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

How a Frog Saved Us Hours of Time

By connecting our Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools accounts to Screaming Frog, we were able to get a complete report that included:

  • Post URLs
  • Metadata (title, description, and keywords)
  • Word count
  • Headline content (h1 through h3) and length
  • Inbound and outbound links
  • Any Analytics data we wanted (we chose Unique Page Views, Bounce Rate, Time on Page, Entrance Rate, and Exit Rate)
  • Search Analytics data (clicks, impressions, click through rate (CTR), and average SERP position)

I cannot tell you how time consuming it would have been to compile all of this without Screaming Frog. Even with this fabulous tool, I still had to look at each and every blog post to evaluate its quality and identify a strategy for its future, but it let me focus my energy on that half of the audit process.

The Republishing Process We Used

Once I had compiled all the data and looked at all the posts one by one, I put each one into one of three categories:

  1. Purge
  2. Revise
  3. Keep as is

First myself and our website development team slogged through WordPress, unpublishing all the posts that were on the Purge list.

Since Screaming Frog had told us which posts had existing inbound links, we took care to setup 301s as needed. But nearly all of the “Purge” posts had no incoming traffic or links at all, which was what put them on the chopping block in the first place.

Now working with around 600 posts instead of over 900, I started prioritizing the posts tagged for revision.

My primary goal in this phase was to give the whole blog a boost in organic traffic by increasing its engagement metrics, so I focused on posts that had the highest bounce rates but still got a reasonable amount of search impressions.

These, I reasoned, would receive a nice boost in traffic if people were finding what they were looking for on the page and engaging with the content instead of bouncing off.

What Does “Republishing” Really Mean?

In our case, it varied from page to page.

Some of the posts just needed new introductions, some headline to break up the flow of text on the page, and a few updates to outdated information. These kept their original authors and their URLs, but I changed their publication date and updated their metadata.

Others required a top-to-bottom overhaul. In these cases I changed the author to give credit to the person who rewrote the piece, as well as the other changes above.

I never changed the URL of any of our republished pages.

The Data!

I’ve been republishing about one post per week since October, and the results are very, very exciting. The most important stats that I’ve been tracking are below, but of course I re-run Screaming Frog every month to get updated stats and adjust my revision priorities accordingly.

(These changes are comparing traffic from March 2015 to March 2016.)

Blog Topic Unique Page View Change Average Time on Page Change Entrances Change
Product Concept Tests +600% +27.29% +584%
Statistical Significance in Market Research +87.18% +101.68% +80%
Survey Fatigue and Bad Data +700% -56.18% +670%
5 Ways to Avoid Survey Fatigue +168% -11.63% +135%
Customer Satisfaction Surveys +1,225% 369.73% +1,100%
Survey Writing Goals +792% -16.38% +763%
Representative Sample +85.42% +16.73% +83.11%
Survey Question Order +29.41% -7.49% 0%
SPSS Survey Variables +392% +97.88% +434%
Surveys for Fun or Profit +283% -38.01% +366%
Survey Question Wording +696% -49.92% +752%
Informed Consent +375% -25.49% +162%
Pie Chart or Bar Graph +90.67% +6.08% +91.84%
Improve Email Invitations +72.63% -13.61% +72.28%
Survey Sample Size +119% +4.98% +133%
7 Tips for Testing +200% +78.31% +227%
AVERAGES: +369.71% +30.25% +353.33%

I find the occasional decreases in time on page particularly fascinating. My optimistic theory is that it’s because people are finding what they’re looking for more quickly, but this data bears further investigation.

When Republishing Old Posts Starts to Make Sense

There are three things to consider when deciding whether or not to embark on a republishing scheme:

  1. The age of your blog
  2. The number of posts it contains
  3. How time sensitive your topics are

How Old Should Your Republished Posts Be?

This will depend heavily on the third criterion above. You could have a post about a timeless best practice that will hold up well for years, or your topic could be in a constant state of flux.

On MarketerGizmo, for example, we wrote an article about whether or not B2B companies should be investing time and resources in Pinterest. Several months later Pinterest added their new “Buy” button and functionality, so we revised and republished the post to reflect those changes.

Posts about company news, such as hiring new executives or moving to a new building, won’t make a lot of sense to be updated no matter how old they are.

But posts about volatile topics should be in rotation for consistent review to keep your content current.

Minimum Post Volume for Republishing

Until you’ve amassed at least 100 posts, you’re most likely better off continuing to expand your content library instead of revisiting existing content.

With that said, you’ll also want to keep track of time-sensitive articles that may fall into the ROT category quickly and need your attention sooner.

Do More With It, Not More Like It

Your old blog posts shouldn’t fall into a black hole and be ignored once they’re published. Keep your content audit spreadsheet current so you can quickly and efficiently identify candidates for republishing.

It’s a speed process, and it just might triple your organic traffic.

Have you had a republishing success that you want to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment

  • This is a great idea to rewrite your old posts ,as a result it will make your posts SEO friendly and will keep your blog/domain away from Google Panda update Penalty. I do this once in awhile, I thought about going through some of the older ones that I believe would be helpful and plan to reschedule them or post them as newer blog entries. You should change the date to latest date..but don’t dig and bring the oldest article because the user may think you are lagging behind better to update the previous date…

    Also, Interlinking old posts within the new articles will play a major role in proper indexing of those articles. It works most of the time. These old posts have good page rank, so we can share the page rank to other new posts. This will increase the SERP ranking also. I think Related posts and putting them on the sidebar is the best option to get them noticed…

    Really this post will be of great help to make the blog look and behave like a website so that the good content remained evergreen. Thanks!

    • Afryrear

      Great point about updating your interlinking — that’s definitely a helpful step in improving the rank of all your historical pages. Thanks for reading and for the suggestion!
      – Andrea

  • @vinayaketx:disqus I have found that interlinking on old posts are often invalid and result in 404s, especially after a web redesign and re-evaluating URL structure, etc. Sometimes redirects go missing. I think that is a great point. Great article Andrea, I really like Screaming Frog, thank you for the tips!

    • Afryrear

      Any updates to URLs are going to need to be carefully monitored to avoid 404s- you’re absolutely right Larry. Glad you enjoyed the article and Screaming Frog :)