If you’ve been writing online for a while, you’ve probably got a ton of posts that are underperforming. We’re going to look at how to revive dead content and improve traffic.

How old is your website and the article on there? 

Maybe the articles used to rank but slowly dropped off. Or maybe they never hit the heights you hoped they would. Either way, updating these old posts is a huge opportunity to bring in traffic.

And with more traffic comes more money. Which is important if you’re planning to buy or sell a website on Flippa. 

If you’re a seller, updating old content is a great way to give your website a value boost in the months before listing. As websites can sell for over 30 times average monthly profit, a small monthly increase can make a huge difference to your site’s value. 

Or, if you’re thinking about buying a website, finding a site with a lot of neglected posts could point to a good opportunity to increase the amount of money it makes after the purchase.

The key is finding posts to update, discovering why they are underperforming, and then optimising them. 

At Authority Hacker we run several authority websites. We’re continually auditing content and making improvements to maximize our rankings.

And we’re not alone in doing this. 

We recently wrote a post about some of the most successful affiliate marketing websites, and it’s a strategy we noticed that many of them use too.  

The good news is that updating content is quite simple. Here is a four step strategy you can use to get started. 

Step One: Gather Your Content

The first step is to identify which pages aren’t bringing in any traffic. 

If you have a small site, you probably already have an idea about which post these are. Make a list of the articles you want to improve and their target keywords.

Owners of larger sites may have to turn to Google Analytics to find underperforming posts. 

Set the report to show your stats for the last few months, head to the “All Pages” tab in “Site Content” and then scroll through till you find the posts that aren’t bringing in many visitors.  

You then need to find the keywords each post ranks for. You can do this on Ahrefs (or a similar service) by searching for the URL and looking at the keywords tab. 

Most pages will rank for multiple terms. You want to choose the keyword that is most relevant to the content on your page and has the most monthly searches for your target term.

Step Two: Check the SERP Competition

Now you have your list of pages and keywords, it’s time to check the SERP competition to discover good update opportunities. 

The aim is to find keywords that your site has a good chance of ranking for. 

Just put the target keyword into Ahrefs. Look at the Domain Rating (DR) of the sites on page one and compare them to yours.

This process is basically the same as regular keyword research. So you probably already have a good idea about what you are looking for in a SERP.

At Authority Hacker, we like to see some sites ranking on page one that have similar or lower domain metrics to our site. It’s not a problem if some of the pages are high DR sites. But if the entire first page is super authoritative, it’s probably not worth competing. 

If competition is too high, you have two options: 

  1. See if you can pivot your content towards a related longtail keyword. Change “Best hiking boots” to “Best hiking boots under $100.”
  2. Build your website’s authority and come back to the post at a later date. 

Go through this process for multiple pages until you find some good opportunities. Choose the best ones and then move onto the next step.

Discover the Reason Why Your Post Isn’t Ranking

If SERP competition is reasonable, you need to find out why your post isn’t ranking and then fix the issues. 

Three common issues are:

  1. Your post doesn’t match searcher intent. 
  2. Your post is too old.
  3. You need to increase quality.

In the next section we’ll look into each of these problems in more detail.

If your post doesn’t have any of these issues, you may just need to optimize it for keywords. We go through how to do this in step four. 

You Don’t Match Searcher Intent

You must match the searcher intent to rank for your keywords. This is the type of post that Google’s algorithm has decided people are looking for when searching. 

For example, for the keyword “best espresso machine under $200,” all the posts are lists of espresso machines at this price point. 

If your post doesn’t match this structure – maybe it’s a review of the coffee machine you consider to be the best one under $200 – it can be almost impossible to rank. You will need to rewrite your post to match the format.

The good news is discovering searcher intent is easy. Just type in your query and look at the type of page that is ranking at the top of the results.

Common types of page to look out for include:

  • Best of lists.
  • How to tutorials.
  • Reviews.
  • Statistics pages.
  • Reports.
  • News stories.

Your Post Is Too Old

Do you have a piece of content that used to rank but no longer does? An update may be all it takes to get a search engine boost. 

Look at the top pages in the SERPs to see when they were published. Google typically shows the publish date within the SERP.

If all the pages are newer than yours, but the competition is low and your page matches searcher intent, then you may be due an update.

In most cases, you won’t need to do a full rewrite. We’ve experienced huge jumps in traffic simply by updating the publish date, rewriting the introduction, and fixing some broken links.  

Just look through your article to see if any sections are outdated.

If your post is time-sensitive, for example, a post about the best coffee machines in 2019, then changing the content to reflect current trends is an easy place to start. Although, evergreen posts also benefit from updates. 

When publishing, be sure to change the publish date to that of your latest update. This will then be reflected in the search results. 

You Need to Increase the Quality

As you grow your site, you typically get better at producing content. You may improve your writing skills, get to know the subject matter more, or increase the budget you can pay others.

Additionally, website technology improves which allows us to create better-looking pages with more content that readers enjoy.

This means older posts may sometimes not have the same level of quality as your newer ones—making it hard to rank. 

Of course, quality can be subjective, and it isn’t the case that the best produced post will always rank at the top. But, for competitive keywords, it’s rare to see a truly bad post ranking near the top of the searches. 

Additionally, while Google’s algorithm probably can’t tell how well written a page is, people are more likely to spend time on pages they like which can affect dwell time. 

When assessing the SERPs, think carefully about whether your content quality is at the level required to compete. 

Look at things like:

  • Writing quality.
  • Page design.
  • Depth of information.
  • Original media.

For some competitive keywords, you’ll need all these factors to be at a very high level to rank on page one. 

Here’s an example of two pages of varying quality targeting a single term. This post ranks number one for the term “Best Bluetooth speaker under 100,” while this post ranks on page two.

Both posts are good, but there are several reasons why the top ranking post is better:

  • It has a good design with lots of easy to read tables.
  • The reviewers have clearly tested out each of the products.
  • The post contains original media.
  • It is well-written.

While the second post has a clean design and reads nicely, it doesn’t have easy to read tables, it uses manufacturers’ photos rather than its own, and it doesn’t seem like the site has actually tested out any of the products. 

It’s easy to see why the first example ranks above the second.

Check the posts that rank on page one and honestly compare their quality to your post. Identify areas where yours falls flat and work to improve these issues. 

In some cases, getting your page up to standard will just be a case of rewriting it, adding better photos, and fixing the design. 

Or, if your content is good but on the thin side, identify topics that high-ranking pages already cover and then add this information to your article.

The downside is that if the quality on page one is super high, it can be tough to compete. You may have to hire better writers, good photographers, and actually buy the products to test. This can get expensive so you’ll have to think hard about whether it is worth it.  

Step Three: Optimize Your Post

Once you’ve identified issues with your post, you need to republish it. This can be a good time to optimize your content for the keywords. 

At Authority Hacker, we use Surfer SEO to optimize our content. It’s one of our favorite online marketing tools and great for helping to revive dead content.

Surfer compares your content to the other articles on page one of Google. It allows you to create a post that closely matches the ones that Google’s algorithm has decided to rank at the top of the SERPs for your keyword. 

Theoretically, this should increase your chance of ranking. And we’ve found that it does help. 

Surfer looks at:

  • Keyword density.
  • Which keywords an article includes.
  • Word count.
  • Keywords in headings.
  • The topics you cover in your article.

To use Surfer, just create a query for your target keyword and then select the pages you want to compare your article to. 

Then paste your article into the content editor. It’s also possible to use the Surfer Google Docs add-on to check your score from within the document.

Add the recommended keywords to the body of the article and the headers. You can also lengthen or shorten the article till it meets the suggested length.

Surfer provides each piece of content with an overall score. Anything over 70% is considered good but you may want to go higher. Take a look at how Surfer rates the pages that currently rank and set your goal accordingly.  

Step Four: Publish and Reindex

The final step of any content refresh is to publish and reindex it. 

When publishing make sure you change the date to reflect the new publish time.

You can also reindex the post to Google Search Console so that Google knows you’ve made changes.

At this point you can also share your new post on any other channels you have. For example, social media or your email list. 

Results Can Come Quickly

Once your post is submitted, it’s time to wait for your rankings to increase. 

We typically see results fairly soon after republishing. Although, the exact amount of time it takes depends on your site. It could be anything from a few hours to a few weeks. 

Use tools to track how your post is ranking for target keywords over time. This can determine your strategy going forward. For example, if some types of post perform better after an update than others, focus on the high-performing category. 

Beyond that, remember to systematically track each article so you know what content is likely to need upgrading and when. While we personally use Asana, it does come at a premium, but there are plenty of alternative workflow tools available.
If you want more information about the strategy we use to update posts, you can find out more about how we update content here. We show how the strategy improved the ranking of a page from 53 to 10 for its target keyword.

Jon Hayes

Jon has been working as a full time link builder for Authority Hacker for over 5 years now. He's always on the lookout for the latest and greatest link building techniques and tactics and you'll often find him tinkering and experimenting with new ideas!