James: James Schramko here from SuperFastBusiness. I’m chatting with my friend, Gert Mellak, from SEOLeverage.com. And we’re going to be talking about recycling old content with the context of for search engine optimization results.
Good day, Gert!
Gert: Thanks for inviting me today.
The this is definitely an interesting topic because many sites have been growing over the years. And they think it’s old content, it doesn’t rank anymore, it’s really worthless. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
James: We have a lot of content on our website, been going for over 10 years. And there was some content on there, you know, which was disappointing when you did a review of it and found there’s quite a lot of articles or posts that don’t get that much traffic. But were probably good at the time when we published it and had some eyeballs. But over time, I guess there’s inflation and what sort of content is out there. And basically it needs to freshen up. So we had to go through the site and either decide to turn off content, to update the content, or keep it but linked to it better.
So do you want to just talk about what sort of approach we should take if we do have a big site or we’ve been adding content for a long time, how do we even know if the contents being viewed or not?
Gert: So this is definitely an important one. So a constant monitoring is definitely important and monitoring it with the organic segment. If you want to get SEO traffic, you need to break it down on your analytics by organic segments. So you can really just look at what traffic comes to the individual pages from the search engines, because many people just take the overall traffic. And as long as this is going well, they don’t care about which URL really gets this traffic. They’re just fine with the traffic. If it goes up, that’s even better.
But sometimes, it’s really only the new articles that get more traffic. And the old articles just keep dropping in rankings, keep attracting less traffic. And the reason for this is really because Google wants to present fresh content. And I think people have a misunderstanding here.
It doesn’t have to be new to be fresh. So what this means is I don’t have to produce, necessarily, every single week a few pieces of content just to have fresh content, which is like a theme in SEO and has been a theme in SEO for many years. But I can also go back to my existing content and just freshen it up, put in new references, put in updated information, check if it was the best product comparison of, I don’t know, surfboards from 2018. I can make it probably on the same URL at 2020, 2021 comparison with updated surfboards, new models, new brand, certain trends in this industry, etc. And this way, the content is valuable again. From Google’s perspective, they don’t want to send someone to a page that has outdated information. And this happened to me in the past.
Google is much smarter now. But in the past, when I was still doing web development, this happened a lot to me. So, I was searching for some information, some way to solve a certain problem. And I would have encountered information that was eight years old. And this is a really negative experience. So you finally think you find what you’re looking for, you read the answer, you spend some time, then you check out the date. And this is from 2008 and say, oh, it’s not going to work anymore. So I have to start all over again. And this is an experience Google wants to avoid and especially the more technologic your niche is, but also in other not so fast-shifting niches, we see that old content doesn’t perform as well.
So you want to constantly be monitoring what is happening with your content as soon as you detect there is a drop in traffic or drop in rankings. And this just requires an ongoing resource dedicated to this kind of work.You can then go back and recycle this old content. And what I mean by this is really, you bring it into today’s standards. So for example, in 2008, a page-only with text and 800, 1500 words of text, no sub headlines, no formatting, no styling, no images, no video was perfectly fine. So it ranked, people liked it because it was just what was out there at that time. But today, this doesn’t work anymore.
So if you have any articles still out there that are only text, no formatting, no styling, no sub headlines, no help for the reader to make this more engaging, there’s a very high likelihood that it’s not going to work anymore.
James: One of the tricks people used to do is not put a date on a post. And I imagine that’s confusing for the reader and difficult to try and interpret when this was published and if it’s still relevant. What’s the best protocol?
Let’s say I go back to one of my old posts from 2013 or 2015. It’s pretty old now, it may need updating. Do we update the date on it or do we leave the old date and then we put an extra bit of text saying, you know, update as of 2020 or 2021 and then put a new sort of a paragraph explaining what’s changed. Is there a good protocol for this? Or do we scrap the post and put a brand new post on it with the same page name or post name and category that replaces the old one that’s just brand new content.
Gert: I think there are two important points here. First of all, removing the date assumes that Google is stupid and they are not. So they can definitely figure out if you change something on the page, or nothing changed in the last 10 years. So they can definitely figure it out. They don’t need the date to know if this is updated and fresh content or not. This also goes hand in hand with some people trying to only change the date and not the content. So Google can also figure those things out. So they can figure out, okay, that the only thing they really changed was the date, they changed it by five years just to make it look fresher. It’s also not going to work.
So what you really want to do is you want to have an updated date there. Sometimes you can see people and I think there is no clear guideline here. Sometimes you can see people they put created in 2015, last update 2020 or 21. What I usually encourage my clients to do is to actively put a date on there if there’s no date. And so really updated on some date references in the article as well. Like, as you can read from this article on 2020, this is still a thing, something that is and put some update references in there. Google just really wants to connect the dots and they want to connect the dots from the date, freshness, to the references you’re giving. And you should be fine then.
I think when it comes to protocol, what’s also important is that while many people have a content machine created or we help them with that if they don’t, and SOP on what goes on new content, etc. There also needs to be a protocol to care for old content. I very often compare this with caring for a pet, you need to feed it, you need to clean it, you need to to walk it if it’s a dog, you need to walk it. You want to care for your old content, especially the one that drives traffic.
And this is where it’s so much to really know your data, know where organic traffic comes to. Determine at least your top 20, top 50 articles that are driving traffic on your site. Go back to them every few months and see if there’s anything new you can contribute, if you can improve the value. If the top-ranking results are still in line with what you have or if you need to step up your game and maybe add a video or structure the text differently. Maybe you could break it up in a complete topic hub with a lot of individual articles rather than one long article. You really want to know what’s going on for those 50 articles, or at least the top 20 on an ongoing basis. And this is going to make sure that you first of all, maintain a normal standard on every single post when it comes to traffic. And usually with this, if you do this consistently and have a momentum going here, it’s going to drive your traffic up.
James: So just a final question is, if you find that there are a few articles that are performing well, or blog posts, and there’s a whole bunch that are not, that are not getting visits, that are not linked to, that may be out of date, can you explain why in some cases, it’s better just to “noindex nofollow” those pages?
Gert: Absolutely. And this comes to the idea that Google is paying money in order to crawl our sites, okay? So they spent processing time which at scale is millions or billions, I’ve got no idea. But they spent money to crawl the site, which we just think they have all the money that is there. It’s no big deal for them but it is. Even if it’s a few seconds everyday, they spend money on the site.
So it’s in our best interest to have them spend money processing the pages we really want to show to users. We update frequently and not spend money on 500 pages we have lying around like dead weight. So this is where we do content audits for clients and say, Okay, look, these are all your 1500 URLs. This is the search performance. This is how often they came up in search in the last six months. And very often we identify hundreds of articles that have not been showing up in search for the last six months here.
And this is a very good sign that you either need to prune them directly because they’re just not relevant anymore. There’s nothing else on the site which where we could redirect them. Or very often, we also come up afterwards with a list of articles that need to be repurposed. We say see, okay, this article was great. And we can even track the performance over the years and historically and say, Okay, this article was doing really well in 2013. But now, it’s not doing well anymore, but the topic was good. So very often, we just came across an article on a client site, we found out the topic was amazingly good, it’s still has a lot of search volume, just the article does not correspond at all to what Google users want to see today.
So the only thing we did was rewriting the content completely based on today’s standards. And they are getting, like just for this article, I think they’re getting 1500 clicks every month more just for the single article just because we brought a very good idea and a very good topic to today’s standards.
James: Beautiful and you help people with this at SEOLeverage.com.
Gert: Exactly. So in SEOLeverage, what we do, we have a specific framework that also covers old content or recycling old content, making sure that we are aware when ranking start to drop you want to interpret the early signs and not act when the site is already ranking on page 10 of Google. Page two, page three might be enough to act, redo the content, go back to page one where you want to be. And this is definitely something we take care of, because it’s really hard to do this on your business.If you have other things to do. It’s really hard to keep track of those things.
James: Yeah, I appreciate you been helping me, you’ve identified an area of topic that we should be focused on. We’ve got some help to complete some content on that particular topic. We’re going to publish that. Hopefully, it brings new SEO results. That’s exactly the sort of help that I need because we’re busy doing other things.
So thanks so much for coming and sharing, Gert. And I look forward to getting a few more little training topics with you that we can publish over the coming weeks and share some more SEO tips.
Gert: Thank you so much James.
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