Why Pruning and Updating Old Content Is Critical for Content Marketing Success

2017 has all but come and gone, and we're getting ready to move into the new year. This time of the year, people automatically shift into goal setting mode, especially with regards to their business and website.

It's easy to get sucked into the resolution mentality, but instead of purely focusing on what steps you can take to add to your online marketing campaign, it may be time to see what you can take away.

To really be an asset to your business, your site needs to be constantly updated. Though it may be painful, it might be high time to get rid of some of your outdated content. Stephen King once wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings.”

Stale Content Erodes Trust

Time marches on, and things are constantly changing.

Things change in the SEO and content marketing world faster than things change in our day to day lives. Whether your content consists of how-to guides, advice or reviews, I'd advise reviewing and updating content at least once a year.

As an example, let's consider a technology website focused on the latest Android apps and trends.

One component of the content strategy for this hypothetical Android site consists of shining reviews of all the latest Android apps. But guess what? Android apps are anything but static. There's always a new version coming out, some new patch, a new security flaw...heck, the prices even change fairly frequently.

How would it look to a visitor of your site if they read a glowing review of an app they were interested in, only to find that it lacks some of the features you had reviewed (due to a newer build version)?

What if the price had risen $5.00 since the last version of the review? Do you think you'd look credible in their eyes? Or would you look like you're an old geezer who's not in the know?

Stale content erodes trust and credibility. Even though you may consider some of your content to be evergreen content, it still needs regular maintenance.

Fresh Content Improves SEO Potential

Betraying your audience with stale content is bad enough, but there's another problem with old, outdated content: it reduces your chances of securing relevant Google rankings.

There is certainly a correlation (though perhaps not a causation) between fresh posts and better rankings.

Though we don't know how the inner workings of the Google Search Algorithm's code is written, it does seem that Google rewards sites with fresher content than those with stale content, supposing it is high quality content.

Furthermore, continually posting fresh content causes your site to be indexed and crawled more frequently.

However, having said that, don't misunderstand me and think that high volume content is the answer, because it isn't. Quality should always be your primary concern.

Strive to keep producing new high quality content.

Lower Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is categorically one of the factors determining your website's rankings. And let me tell you, I have personally bounced off a web page after seeing the date in which the content was posted.

This is especially true when I'm searching for news and current event related content. When I'm doing research or looking something up online, I want the most accurate and topical information that I can find.

If it's more than a year or two old, I immediately assume it doesn't have any value to me, and thus isn't what I'm looking for. In fact, I've chosen to filter the search results based on the recency of the post time-stamp.

Other times, if that information isn't readily available, I'll hit CTRL + F as soon as the web page loads and search for '2017' or '2016' to see when the content was posted.

You may think the average person doesn't care, but the bottom line is that posts with ancient time-stamps on them dissuade people from reading your content.

Because of this type of search capability, we usually recommend you do not put a date on your blog posts.  You may have written something several years ago that's still really good content, but because someone sees a 2012 date on it, they immediately discount the quality and relevance of it.

Not good, but true. Sorry.

Safety Concerns

Not all of the reasons to update content revolve around SEO and metrics like your bounce rate. Some of them are centered around moral and ethical choices, and are necessary to make in order to protect your visitors. The last thing any ethical website owner wants is to publish inaccurate information that could end up harming someone.

These types of concerns run rampant in the health, fitness and nutritional niches. There are more studies being performed today than ever before in history, and the results of new studies help us discern what's healthy...and what's not. If you have old content conflicting with a new study, you could very well outrage visitors, or even give them advice that causes them harm.

But health related niches aren't the only areas where safety concerns exist.

Consider a parenting blog that makes affiliate sales of a crib, and created a page that's three years old advocating the use of that crib. Because the page hasn't been updated in a while, the owner didn't realize that the crib had been recalled due to injury complaints and lawsuits.

How bad does that look to the audience? Updating content for the sake of safety hazards applies to all types of consumer goods, automobiles, transportation services – you name it. Just make sure your content is up to date to avoid looking like you're out of the loop or an Internet slimeball who will advocate a poor product or service in order to make a buck.

It's Not Always About Creating New Content

I know it may be painful to get rid of or rewrite old content, but if you want to continue to rank well and keep Google's attention, it's a requirement.

If it isn't applicable anymore, you should really do away with it.

And if that page still ranks well or you think it's possible to accurately and honestly update that content, it should be updated as soon as possible. Kill your darlings, as Stephen King says. Otherwise, stale content could cause you to lose rankings and credibility.

Learn More with our Case Study: How Reviving Old Content Means Higher Rankings & Credibility

About the Author:

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis' top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis' most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.

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