When you’re content marketing with a focus on creation, the answer to every scenario is creating new content.
If you’re trying to rank for a new keyword, you create a new piece of content targeting it.
If an old piece of content becomes outdated, you let it die and create a new version.
But this approach keeps you on a never-ending treadmill of constant content creation.
One step up from that approach is one where you publish less frequently and focus more on your evergreen content.
But “evergreen” doesn’t mean always growing, so if you just publish evergreen content and forget about it, it dies slowly over time.
Every kind of content must be nurtured and maintained with regular content updates, often called content refreshes.
Here’s why this approach is so powerful and below, you’ll find a step-by-step process for completely refreshing your own content.
Why Content Refreshes are Key
I often look to the entertainment industry for content distribution lessons. Think of content refreshes as Billy Joel coming out with yet another remastered version of his greatest hits or a live concert album.
To make sure you’re consistently nurturing your evergreen content, it helps to create systems for updating and refreshing content that hasn’t been touched lately.
This is particularly important if it’s seeing declining traffic, rankings, or conversions (and definitely if it’s all three).
Google’s John Mueller recently addressed questions about old content vs. bad content, and how to deal with both. Refreshes are one option.
So what goes into the system for a content refresh?
Step 1. Conduct a Content Audit
The first step to refreshing content, whether it’s a one-off project or a regular refresh routine, is to conduct a content audit. Which metrics you want to look at will depend on your own goals for marketing and content strategy.
An audit will tell you which content is succeeding or failing by your business’s unique benchmarks.
That’s how you can decide which content to refresh and which updates should take the highest priority.
For example, let’s say you have two blog posts that are a few years old.
- One is still increasing traffic steadily.
- The other’s conversion rate is decreasing month-over-month as traffic stays the same.
The second post should take priority.
Don’t make the mistake of only thinking about search rankings and traffic in your decision-making. This can lead you to end up with content that gets lots of attention and praise, but no tangible results for your company.
Here are some suggestions for which metrics to look at based on marketing goals:
- For top of funnel/awareness-driving blog posts, keep an eye out for declining traffic, search click-through rates, and rankings.
- For middle of funnel/nurturing content, look for declining engagement rates like the click-through rates to landing pages, or conversion rates on calls-to-action.
- For bottom of funnel/conversion content, look for declining purchases or signups.
Once you have the insights put together, you can begin to categorize and prioritize your content changes and updates.
I like to focus first on two categories:
- “Greatest but not latest hits,” which are your older pieces of content that are still highly relevant both to your audience and your business strategy.
- “Hidden gems,” or content that is high quality and aligned with your business strategy, but never took off with your audience or got the results you’d expected.
Prioritizing these categories helps ensure you’re not wasting time and energy refreshing content that’s not worth saving.
Instead, you can prune that content or merge it with other pieces.
Step 2. Identify Content Gaps
Once you’ve conducted a content audit to help prioritize which content to update, you’re ready to move on to strategizing the updates.
This is primarily about identifying what gaps you need to fill.
Think about both informational and strategic gaps, meaning how to make the content both more informative and higher performing.
On the information side, consider:
- Is there anything you need to add or expand on?
- Is there anything you can remove to tighten the focus?
- How can you improve the formatting and readability?
- Can you supplement the text with visual media?
You want to make the content as helpful for your reader as possible.
Then on the strategic side, think about:
- Where can you naturally reference your product or business?
- What is the current next step for a consumer of this content?
- Do you make that next step clear?
Don’t forget to focus on improving the conversion rate to the next step in addition to higher rankings and more traffic.
I see people forget this all too often, and they end up with high-ranking content with an outdated call-to-action (if there’s any at all).
Step 3. Remaster the Content
Once you’ve strategized how the old content needs to be remixed and improved, it’s time to start remastering it into something newer and better.
How long this takes and what it involves again depends largely on what gaps you find.
If the updates are mostly aesthetic — such as improving the readability and formatting — it might be easiest to just log into your CMS and make the updates.
But if larger updates are required — such as writing new copy — it’ll probably be easier to use a Word document to edit any existing sections and write new ones.
That way, you can stop and start without worrying about messing up the live version. Then when you’ve finished developing all the updated content, you can change it in the CMS.
There’s a lot of debate around changing the dates of blog posts when you update them. Your choice will depend on your own content and business.
In general, I’m a fan of including dates of both the original publication and last update, as it provides the most clarity for the reader.
Something else to keep in mind at this step: When you’re making larger updates that require a team, such as designing an infographic or producing a video, you’ll want some kind of overall project document that tracks:
- What changes are being made.
- Who’s responsible for each.
- And where it’s at in the production process.
Any systems that you’ve developed for new content creation can be applied for content refreshes, as well.
Step 4. Repromote the New Piece
Finally, once the refreshed content is live, it’s time to put it to work.
You should promote a remixed and refreshed piece of content just as heavily as you would a new piece of content, if not more.
You can feature it on your website by:
- Pinning or pushing it to the top of your blog archive.
- Making sure there are internal links to it from any relevant content.
- Using an announcement banner on your website promoting it.
Any off-site promotion you would do for other content, do for remastered pieces, too.
For example, some options are:
- Sending it out to your email list.
- Sending it to anyone referenced or quoted.
- Sharing the link on social media.
- Sharing excerpts on social media.
- Running ads to it.
This doesn’t all need to be done the day the content is updated, either.
Now that the piece is all updated and fresh, you can share it frequently without worrying about staleness.
Build a Content Refresh Habit
Refreshing content is never really finished. It’s something that should be done to all of your evergreen content on an ongoing basis.
I have five-year-old blog posts that I refresh once a year, every year.
Once you see the results updating content can bring (and with such little energy and effort), it becomes addictive.
Which is a good thing, in this case.
Building a habit of refreshing one or two old pieces of content per month is probably one of the highest effort, lowest reward content activities you can find.