Would you go two or three years without cleaning your house? Then why would you go that long before cleaning your blog? If your blog has been around for more than two seconds, you likely have a collection of older posts. According to Moz, Google tweaks its algorithm about 500 to 600 times a year. In addition, since 2011, they've instituted some major changes, including Panda, Penguin and the latest big roll out, Hummingbird. Needless to say, older posts may have been written to SEO requirements that are now obsolete and may even hurt your blog's rank in the search engine.
Matt Cutts, software engineer and Google spokesperson, explains just how often Google tweaks their algorithm in the video below.
If Google is tweaking their algorithm daily, it becomes important to review old content and update it to meet Google's latest algorithm standards.
Chasing Rabbit Trails
You may be thinking to yourself that if Google makes changes so often, fixing old content is just chasing a rabbit trail because there will be even more changes in a week, a month, or a year.
You would be correct, if you were only trying black hat SEO tactics or not worried about offering quality content. However, what I'm advocating is tweaking old articles to get rid of things that we know will give your site a hit in the rankings or that readers no longer appreciate. Your goal should be to improve the overall site visitor experience. Google does a ton of research to determine what people want out of a search engine, including hiring live people to browse sites for them and report back. Google's algorithms can be useful in determining what the general public wants from all sites and thus can help you improve your site.
What to Change?
We've covered the major algorithm changes you need to be aware of here on Web Hosting Secret Revealed, such as Hummingbird changes and what to do post-Penguin. You should take some of the big changes into consideration as you go back and clean up your old posts and optimize your site.
Balance Speed and Big Images
There are two things you have to consider. First, studies show that larger product images can increase sales. In an A/B test at Mall.cz, different sizes of product images were tested. The results of the split test showed that larger product images resulted in 9% more sales.
At the same time, Google does look at speed. Not only does the average website visitor get frustrated if your site takes more than a few seconds to load, but Google may knock you down in search rankings if your site is slow to load.
“In 2010, Google did something very different. Google announced website speed would begin having an impact on search ranking. Now, the speed at which someone could view the content from a search result would be a factor.” — Mark Isham, CEO of Zoompf, on The Moz Blog
What does all this mean to you? Not only do you have to add larger images, but you have to make sure they are website optimized so they load quickly. While adding a couple of large images can help, overwhelming the page with images will slow down load speed and may hurt you more than help you. You'll also want to make sure that you choose a web hosting company that has strong enough servers to let your pages load quickly, such as one we recommend called A2 Hosting, who even allows you to speed your sites up more with add-on packages.
Make Sure the Post Has Value
Is your post still relevant? If you added some thoughts about 9/11 the day after it happened, you may need to update this post. Jodi, over at Rants ‘N' Rascals writes:
“Simply update your posts by adding in new keywords, cleaning up your photos and adding relevant information for how your blog is geared today. If all else fails and the post is of no value then ditch it.”
Keep this handy checklist by your side to help you determine what needs to go, what needs to stay and what needs changed:
_____ Is the post still relevant or does it need updated with current news?
_____ Do all the links still work?
_____ What keywords on this topic are currently trending? Do I need to change my wording?
_____ Are the images big enough? What can I add or delete to make the appearance better?
_____ Is the page mobile browser friendly?
_____ Does the article cover every angle of the topic?
_____ Does the article do a better job than other articles on this topic? Does it offer something more?
_____ Does the formatting on the old post match that of the new posts or have I changed to bigger headers and more bullet points? If so, make some changes to help the old posts match the newer posts.
Be Careful Where you Link
No one, outside of Google's inner circle, is 100% certain just what Google's algorithm is. Even if you do know the exact formula, you can be certain it will change tomorrow. With that in mind, sometimes you have to use a little common sense to come to a conclusion or two.
If Google penalizes for backlinks from certain sites, doesn't it make sense that they might also penalize for links to certain sites? With that in mind, go back through your old posts and see where you are linking out. Here are some things you should watch for that might make your ranking take a hit:
Too many links to affiliate sites like Amazon. Google can read this as a spammy page.
Links to sites that are seen as spam.
A link heavy page that might simply draw your readers away from your own site.
Not enough links to articles on your own site (aim for one or two per post).
Dead links that go to sites no longer there or links that do not work because of coding. Good news. If you use WordPress, you can use a simple broken links plugin to automatically notify you of broken and dead links in all your posts.
Breaking it Down into Manageable Pieces
Cleaning up your website can seem like a task you might never complete. However, breaking the job down into manageable pieces can help you stay up-to-date without taking too much time away from creating new content.
Automate whatever you can. For example, the broken link plugin keeps you from having to check manually for broken links.
You can also check your site's stats to see which pages are getting little traffic and look only at a few of the bottom traffic posts each month, fixing them as you go along.
Time yourself when you are fixing the first few posts. You can use a free source, such as Toggl.com to time yourself or simply use an online stopwatch. Take the time for the three posts and average it. Once you know how long it takes you to edit an old post, you can better figure out how much time you can devote to site edits and thus how many articles a week you can update.
Consider hiring someone to do the updates for you. You can create new content while they edit your old posts and help increase your traffic.
Come up with a plan to make sure you don't re-edit the same posts over and over. Whether you print out a list of articles and cross them off, start at the end of your list of posts or go in alphabetical or chronological order, pick a plan and stick to it.
Some posts will be faster edits than others. You may also want to choose a cut off point where you know the most recent posts are up-to-date with current SEO tactics.
You can save yourself a lot of time by spending a little extra time on the front end. Create excellent content that answers readers' questions. Don't use black hat tactics as those are frowned upon both by search engines and readers. Quite simply, provide the best content you can and be as upfront and transparent with your readers as you can and you will have fewer edits to do later on as the algorithms change again. At the minimum, you'll have well written articles that simply need a quick adjustment to up the traffic they receive.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.