Updating Old Content Helps Increase Rank

Last Update: May 13, 2019

Recently I've been working on updating old posts across all of my websites. Though I've been learning affiliate marketing for almost 10 years now, surprisingly, I find mistakes and problems from things I wrote just a year or two ago.

(I guess the good news is that it's a clear sign that I'm always improving!)

Throughout all this updating, I've seen a LOT of my rankings improve, even in some unlikely areas.

Two-Word Keywords RANKED

One of my best examples of how updating content helped me increase rank was a two-word keyword phrase for a "review" post.

Usually, when you try to rank, it's important to pick out 3-5 words for your phrase AKA "long tail keywords". They are more specific topics, therefore less competitive, and easier to rank for.

There's nothing wrong with going a Hail Mary every once in a while though!

You can see from this image that I wrote this review back in Summer 2017. The rankings dipped as low as 69th position, but now I'm ranked #1. What's even more interesting is that I have a general domain name (not keyword optimized), and the other #2 position is a very optimized domain (EMD).

Wow. What an improvement!

Here's another example, and I'll even show you the keyword!

This is a post I wrote several years ago as well. It sat is position 5 or 6 for many years, until I decided to go back and update it. Aside from the two paid ads above me, I'm now ranked #1 for the review keyword.

What Did I Update?

I didn't do anythign crazy to these posts. I went though Jay's SEO Checklist. I made sure to use my keyword in the title, URL, and some h-tags.

I added some new images, and created a section for the 2019 update. I spell-checked, added content, and added new images.

I also updated the "published on" date, but my suggestion is to NOT try to game the system and just change this date to try to game the system. I suspect that search engines are, or will become savvy to this trick.

I also went back to some older posts, and added some relevant internal links. In some cases, I removed internal/external links from those posts. The idea behind this was to "plug up" holes in a leaky bucket, and focus any traffic into the post I was trying to rank.

Other than those things, I also just did a general quality check. I looked for images where I didn't SEO them very well, for example I left the file name stockphoto12345.jpg instead of what-the-image-is.jpg, or I made the alt-tag and the image title the same instead of having the alt tag actually be descriptive for the seeing-impaired.

NOTE: They do have plugins that can automatically update your post dates to try to game the system. My advice is to follow Kyle's advice, and don't automate stuff which is not supposed to be automated.

Ranking #1 Isn't Easy Money

The biggest surprise to me is that ranking #1 for these keywords has not been lifechanging. I wracked my brain for years, desperately wanting those top positions for product reviews. I thought for sure if I could just get to #1, my income would double overnight.

Well, that didn't happen.

I have seen an uptick in Amazon revenue since doing these updates, but it wasn't very related to the exact product names I was ranking for. I'm selling more products - just not the exact ones I'm linking to.

I suspect this means I'm getting more clicks due to the high rankings, but my review still has issues that can be fixed to try to convert visitors to buyers better. For the non-Amazon stuff, I really haven't seen the needle move.

All of that is to say that if you are not ranking #1 for your desired review keywords, it's not a big deal. You can still make great money by ranking for other phrases, then linking back to your product review. (This is exactly what the WA training teaches!).

Final Thoughts

I wrote last time about how running a single website is a full time job. Keeping your content up to date is one reason for that. If you are updating 200 blog posts yearly, that's a lot of work!

Keeping your content up to date is worth it. I recommend taking the "long view", and making an effort to update even just one old blog post per week. That'll be 50 updated blog posts per year, and your rankings should really improve in that time.

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TheAdvisor Premium
Thank you for your recommendations and candidness in writing this post that I had enjoyed reading, by far the best kind of learning I enjoyed in a while-

If I keep it up, I feel like I too am going to be solid on how to rank on Keywords.

The best part about having read this post is having to remember the importance of having to organize and prioritize your work schedule so that you get so much more done effectively!
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derekmarshal Premium
Wow...

I just published a post and hour ago, should I update it now?

I mean, an hour is like a year in Internet time..right?

haha!

Well, done on the rankings boost.We should all really be doing this habitually, like an SEO spring clean every quarter or every 6months.
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nathaniell Premium
I try to make a habit out of it now, but I didn't in years past. So far the results are great!
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neilc Premium
Every time I do this exact thing: freshen up posts with extra content, new images and links, change the publish date, and then fetch using Google's inspect feature - Google punishes my site and traffic dips for 24 - 48 hours. Also, the posts rankings don't improve by much either.

I'm kinda getting tired of the situation TBH lol.
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JackieSmith Premium
I've heard other people say this Neil and I was reluctant to make any changes to my post.

If you're already ranked highly for a keyword or there is a lot of competition for that keyword, then this can possibly be why your ranking doesn't improve (at a guess). Google probably sees it as you being ranked at #2 and want to be ranked in position #1.

So, what I do is to check the position of the post I plan to update in Google console, and if it's lower than a certain number in relation to my other posts, I will update the content.
I don't update posts that are already appearing on page 1of the SERP.

NB Google does seem to suggest a reindex when a page changes as they have a re-index option.

Hope all is well otherwise.
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neilc Premium
It's frustrating to say the least, Jackie.

Some 2017/2018 posts I update are either hovering at the bottom of page 1 or near the top of page 2. So I try to be tactical.

But when I update, the posts then slide down the rankings for a day or two and either revert to the old position or a ranking improvement of one or two places.

Google's just a massive pain in the butt and really shouldn't provide a fetch option if it's gonna punish folks for doing "the right" thing every time.

I think the best way we can go about it is to update reviews and not bother informing Google - letting it get around to crawling the updated posts itself naturally.

Yeah, things are well thanks. Hope you are too :-)
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mackiejw Premium
Don't change the Publish date. See my respond above
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neilc Premium
Cheers, I'll look into it.
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nathaniell Premium
Punishes? That's unexpeted!

How much do you you update? I only freshen stuff up. I don't overhaul.
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neilc Premium
I only freshened up two posts over the weekend with a day in between each one. It seems Google can't handle it.
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ownonlboss Premium
Yeah you have said this before to me and I agree that it will help to update the content that matters. Not much point however to update content that is totally not going for a keyword that can rank I suppose.

I was wondering, what about installing a plugin to show the Last updated date of the post? Is that an okay thing to do? It gets displayed below the h1, but before the text.
I recently added that plugin to my blogs, to better reflect the updates.

Steven
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nathaniell Premium
For the "recent" updated plugin, I think that sounds fine. The good thing about the post date change though is that Google picks up that meta data. Is there any schema markup for "last updated"?
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ownonlboss Premium
Plugin Name: WP Last Modified Info

Description:
This plugin automatically inserts last modified or updated info on your WordPress posts (including custom post types) and pages. It is possible to use shortcode [lmt-post-modified-info] for posts and [lmt-page-modified-info] for pages for manual insert.

Here is the part you are referring to:
This plugin also adds ‘dateModified’ schema markup in WordPress posts automatically and it is used to tell the last modified date & time of a post or a page to various search engines like Google, Bing etc.

Link: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-last-modified-info/

Steven
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jvranjes Premium
I used this plugin, modified the text and nothing happened, the date in SERP did not change, I did try fetching but no effect. Even the date in the post remained the same. Can you list the exact steps you do with this plugin? Any idea why I did not have results?
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mackiejw Premium
Yes, and Happy Birthday
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nathaniell Premium
Nice. I didn't know that was in the source code
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JTTStore Premium
I always like your posts.Great read, makes absolute sense as always! Thanks Nathaniell.

Cheers, Dunc.
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nathaniell Premium
Glad I could help Duncan. Have a great Monday.
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HuyNLe1989 Premium
Awesome post! I have always wondered if I should update the publish date whenever I go back and update old posts. Thanks for the info!
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nathaniell Premium
I do it, and it's been working. I can't say it's a hard-fast rule, but can just say I've been seeing results.
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JackieSmith Premium
Great tips Nathaniell.

I do this in between my full on posting days!

This way, I'm actively working on my site 24/7.

Thanks once again!
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nathaniell Premium
It's a lot of work, right? So much for freedom from a job! LOL
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JackieSmith Premium
Yessss lol... Although it's for our greater good - so it's worth the effort.
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Hudson Premium
Thanks for the detail Nathaniel, really helpful.
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nathaniell Premium
Glad to help Phil!
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PMindra Premium
Absolutely the way to go.
Thanks for sharing, Nathaniell.

Paul.
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Cinderella5 Premium
I have to do this for my skincare website Thanks for the remainder
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nathaniell Premium
No problem Cinderella. Good luck!
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CandP Premium
Thanks, Nathaniel. Your suggestion to update one post per week is a good one. Very doable and, as you said, that's 50 over the course of a year.
Colette and Philip
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nathaniell Premium
It's a pain to do in a month, but easy to do over the course of a year.
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wmac Premium
Thanks for this great article and your recommended advice.
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nathaniell Premium
Thanks for reading W!
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FKelso Premium
Good advice. I need to start doing the same.
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nathaniell Premium
No better time than this week to get started!
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DynamicDavid Premium
Very interesting.

Although I have updated some of my posts, I leave the published on date alone. I did see recommendations to change it, but I thought that was "cheating" and surely the search engines would know.

What I am taking from your article, is that if you make a number of changes that it would be okay to change the publish on date.

Thanks for your great article and your other great articles.
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nathaniell Premium
I think it's fine to update the date. If you are making changes, then the new publish date is when you updated. It signifies that the content is fresh as of that specific date.
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SteveMand Premium
Also in addition to Nathaniell's response if someone goes to your review and see a post date of say 2015 then they will probably leave and find a more upto date review - I know I probably would.
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nathaniell Premium
Agreed @steve. Leaving the old publishing date definitely misrepresents the content. You could install a plugin or leave a bit of text that says "last updated", but I don't think there's any markup data that could show that, so search engines may ignore it, and just see the older date.
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DynamicDavid Premium
I actually do not show published dates or comment dates/times to "kind of address this" but that may look like I am "hiding something".

Thanks for making me think some more on this.

Wouldn't people think it strange if the publish date is say May 13, 2019 and see comments with dates in 2018? Or maybe they probably wouldn't notice.
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DynamicDavid Premium
Interesting point for sure.

So the search engines use the "publishing date" as part of the algorithm to determine what posts/pages to select? And the newer that is the better?
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nathaniell Premium
I'm assuming they use publish date to detect "freshness". How much it weights your rank is unknown. For pillar content, no-date may be appropriate, but if that's the case maybe you want to make it a page.

For most content, having a date helps to show the reader relevancy to their search query. I always look for it, so assume others do too. I see a lot of people hide the date, and do rank, but I prefer to show the date.
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ownonlboss Premium
As far as I remember, every time you update a post on WordPress it does update the lastmodified tag anyway on your sitemap. So as far as search engines go by sitemap, they would know when you updated your content. You don't even need a plugin for that, it's part of WordPress (and if not than it is part of All-in-one-SEO at least).

The plugin that I mentioned earlier also does it though, so than you are at least sure it does.

Steven
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DynamicDavid Premium
Thanks. Time to try out an informal experiment and display those dates and update a number of posts along with the publishing date to see what happens.
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DynamicDavid Premium
Yes I noticed that earlier which was one reason why I did not change publish date much earlier. I was treating "publish date" as original publishing date, however maybe treating it as the date that the article was "last updated" makes more sense in this environment.

However if you change the publish date of an "old" post (after updating the content of course), then that "old" post gets "promoted" in your blog roll and so is likely to be included in the first page that displays your blog roll. Who know, maybe that has a positive bearing as well on the search engine algorithms.
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nathaniell Premium
Those are definitely possible reasons for the publish date changing having an effect on rank. I honestly don't know if changing the date is "good" or "bad", but so far it's getting good results for me, or at least I'm getting good results in spite of changing the date.
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