Serving Your Audience: How Fresh is Your Content?

overstuffed mailboxes

If you’re new to the blogging game, you may be spending your time filling your queue with content, establishing or adjusting your posting schedule, and tracking all that new engagement. But what if your website has been around a while? Is your content still serving you? Is it still relevant to your audience? And if not, what are you planning to do about it?

Assess Your Site

One of the main reasons I personally suggest that a client review their content is that their website has simply gotten too large. This causes issues when performing maintenance or restoring from a previous backup, simply because a server will time out before it’s had a chance to work through all that content. But there’s another, more practical issue here, too.

If search engines are looking at your site, and most of what they’re finding is the outdated content, that’s going to cause your rankings to drop. There are a couple of reasons why this might be the case. Perhaps the focus of your site has changed recently, and your audience hasn’t quite followed yet. Adding new writers might have led to changes in the way articles are written or optimized for SEO, which may not be producing the same results as your older content did.

Here’s an example: last night I was searching for auto shows near me. The top two results were for events that were two years old! Now, while that might mean that other event websites don’t manage their search engine optimization as well, the fact that those two results (both from the same website, I might add) still had the top spots actually can work against that site. Google in particular heavily favors websites with timely, relevant content. Those two results just don’t fit the bill, so they have the potent to damage that website’s SEO credibility.

Dated or Evergreen?

The main requirement for reviewing old posts is timeliness, pure and simple. Is that article you posted three years ago still relevant today? Would your audience benefit from reading that just as much today as they would have when it was originally posted? If so, congratulations! That’s some evergreen, or “cornerstone” content. But if you’ve determined that a lot of your content is dated, you may wish to take steps to either archive it or remove it from your website entirely.

Archiving keeps the content available on your website, but out of public view. This would be a good option when you have older content that you might need to refer back to, but the general public doesn’t really need to see it. The biggest benefit for your website is that search engines won’t be serving up those outdated posts anymore. This will improve your SEO rankings, as search engines will only find your most recent, most relevant content.

If you don’t need to store your older content on your website, however, the best thing to do is to remove it from your website entirely. Not only does this improve your rankings, but it greatly lightens the load on your website. This translates to faster load times and improvements in site maintenance such as regular site backups. Plus, if you ever encounter an issue and need to restore your website from a previous backup, a smaller backup file is easier to restore.

If you’re unsure whether people are still reading some of your old content, check the data. Google Analytics show you every page or post your visitors view, and how many people view which posts. This can help you determine which content should stay and which should be either archived or removed.

Next Steps

Let’s say you’ve gone through and either archived or removed content that is clearly dated or no longer relevant to your overall message. But you’ve also found some gems from a few years ago that are still seeing some good traffic. Now what?

Just as recycling plastic is good for the environment, recycling old content can be good for your website. You can do this one of two ways:

  • You can review the older post, looking specifically for anything within the content that’s no longer relevant (think political references or “of the moment” cultural references), add any new information that’s related to the topic at hand, and add a small “Update” note at the top of the post.
  • If the content still works as-is, you can write a new post that refers back to it. I’ve done this frequently when I’ve written about responsive web design or social media, as much of the advice we’ve given over the years still holds true today. Not only is this an excuse to write some fresh content, but linking to another post on your website increases your site’s relevance in terms of SEO (can you tell we really like focusing on search engine optimization?).

As you move forward with creating new content, make sure you’re following certain best practices to get your content seen without overstuffing your server:

  • Resize your images to be web-friendly. Nothing slows down page load more than supersized images. As a good rule of thumb, if your images are over 1MB in size, they’re probably too big. (This doesn’t necessarily apply to photographers who use their website to showcase their work, although there is something to be said for only publishing preview images.)
  • Use meta tags on your images. No longer only for the vision-impaired, meta tags are also a very effective tool in helping your website be “seen” by search engines (there we go again!).
  • Watch your taxonomy. WordPress in particular has a great structure already in place for creating and nesting categories and tags. You can even mark certain posts as “evergreen content” which will make it a lot easier for you the next time you go through this content review process.
  • Consider an expiration date. If a lot of your blog’s content is intentionally timely, you might want to think about setting the posts to expire after a certain amount of time on your website. In many content management systems, this is a global setting. In WordPress, there are a number of free plugins that assist with this.

Conclusion

Maintaining website content is critical to the overall health and success of your website. Give your visitors the experience they’re looking for by serving them only fresh, timely, relevant content. You’ll see improvements in traffic, better results in search engines, and just a generally more positive experience for your visitors. You’ve already invested in a great website. Invest in its healthy future, too.