Updating your website’s existing content is an easy way to improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your site, but without the right tools, it can be a time-consuming or — worse — ineffective process.
Luckily, there are a handful of tools you can use to expedite the process and minimize the risks. And best of all, they’re all free.
Below are the nine tools I use when updating content for clients, along with notes on what each tool is useful for. After the list of tools, I’ll also explain how to combine all nine tools to form your own website content update process.
A great place to start when looking for content that needs to be updated is with Animalz Revive. Revive is a new tool that looks at your Google Analytics data to identify posts that are losing organic traffic.
To use it, you just enter your email address, give it access to your Google Analytics account, and choose which property you want it to crawl (if you have multiple properties).
When it’s finished, it emails you a report listing each piece of content on your site that’s lost significant organic traffic volume since its peak. Each result links to the respective piece of content and shows a timeline graph of organic traffic changes.
One of the most time-consuming parts of creating a plan for updating your content is finding posts that are decaying and losing rankings. Revive helps by automating that process.
Once you receive your report, it’s time to go through each piece of recommended content and decide if it truly needs to be updated or not. In many cases, it will. But it’s not always a simple matter of “everything that’s losing traffic should be updated”:
- Sometimes, the better approach is to redirect the old post to a newer post that contains the same information.
- Sometimes, it’s better to consolidate multiple posts that cover the same topic.
- Sometimes, a post that was written several years ago no longer fits with a new approach (e.g. it targets the wrong audience) and should just be left alone or deleted.
So while it may be tempting to just dump every post that Revive recommends into your editorial calendar, it’s better to first ask, “Should this be updated?”
More often than not, the answer will be “yes,” but it’s still important to ask the question so you aren’t wasting time updating posts where the answer should have been “no.”
So Revive is all you need, right? You just use it once a quarter to find posts that are decaying, update those posts, and now you have a fully functional website content update process?
Not necessarily. That’s definitely a good starting point, but ideally, you’ll want to update your content before it starts losing significant amounts of traffic. To do that, you need an easy way to track and monitor traffic and ranking decreases, and Databox is an excellent tool for that.
To monitor traffic and ranking changes in Databox, follow these steps:
- Sign up for a free Databox account.
- Connect Google Search Console as a data source.
- Create a new blank dashboard.
- Choose Google Search Console as your data source.
- Drag and drop the “Positions By Queries” Datablock onto your dashboard.
- Edit the Datablock to show as many rows (queries) as you need. If you have lots of content, you may want to show 100, 300, 500 rows, etc.
- Drag and drop the “Impressions By Pages” Datablock onto your dashboard.
- Edit the Datablock to show as many rows (pages) as you need. Again, if you have lots of content, you may want to show 100, 300, 500 rows, etc.
When you’re finished, you’ll have created a dashboard exactly like the one pictured above. It shows both:
- a list of your site’s pages with traffic volumes for each, plus an indicator that displays traffic increases/decreases
- a list of the keywords your site ranks for, the position you rank in for those keywords, and an indicator showing whether those rankings have increased/decreased
To find content that may need to be updated, review this dashboard monthly, looking for any pieces of content with declining traffic or rankings. This will help you identify content that’s in need of a refresh before it’s lost so much traffic that it would show up in a tool like Revive.
Note: Databox is a client of mine, but I recommend the tool solely because I think it’s helpful—not because I’m trying to promote a client’s tool.
As I mentioned in my post about how to find content that needs to be refreshed, it’s not just content that’s losing rankings that needs to be updated. It’s also good to update content that isn’t—and has never—performed as well as you hoped it would.
A blog post that’s ranked on page two of the search results for your target keyword is a prime example of a post that needs to be updated—irrespective of traffic or rankings changes.
Content ranked on page two is very close to being good enough for a page-one ranking, but to get there, it likely needs to be updated to compete with the results that Google believes currently do a better job of satisfying searcher intent.
To find your page-two opportunities:
- Log into Google Search Console.
- Click “Performance.”
- Select all of the available metrics: total clicks, total impressions, average CTR, and average position.
- Scroll down to the “Queries” report and export the data to Google Sheets.
- In Google Sheets, sort the “Position” column from A-Z (which will sort the numbers in ascending order).
- Look for any keywords ranked in positions 10-20.
If you update the content that’s ranking for those keywords to compete better with page-one results—and to better satisfy user intent—you can often boost your rankings to page one and drive significantly more traffic to your site.
When it comes to actually updating your content to improve/restore rankings, there’s no better tool than Google Search. Just search for your target keyword and review everything that appears on page one of the results to see exactly what you need to do to get your result on that page.
Here’s what to look for:
- Open every organic result on the page and review it. What topics do they cover that you don’t? What do they do better than your content does currently? What are they missing that you could include to make your content better?
- Look at the SEO titles and meta descriptions of the results. How can you adjust yours to differentiate your result and make it more clickable than the existing top results?
- Look for featured snippet opportunities. How can you organize and format your content to overtake the existing featured snippet?
- Look for nontraditional search results. Is Google showing things like videos in the top results (as in the screenshot above)? If so, you could boost your rankings by adding a video to your content.
- Look for a “People also ask” box. Click some of the results to expand the number of questions displayed. These are questions you might want to answer in your content.
Google is ranking the existing results on page one because it believes those are currently the best results on the internet for their respective keywords. So use those results to put together a plan for updating your content to write something Google will think is even better.
In addition to Google’s “People also ask” box, you can find questions to answer in your content using Moz Keyword Explorer.
Just create a free account, and you get 10 keyword searches a month for free. Then, type in a keyword, click the “See all suggestions” link under “Keyword Suggestions” and filter to show keywords that “are questions.”
Moz will produce a list of all of the questions people search for that are related to that keyword. Review the list, look for questions you think make sense to answer in the content you’re updating, and answer those questions to make your content more comprehensive.
AnswerThePublic is another great source for finding questions you should answer in your content. Just type in your overall target keyword (e.g. Google Search Console), and it will populate a list of questions people ask related to that keyword.
Review the questions, pick the ones that make sense for your content, and answer those questions in your content to make it more comprehensive.
Serpstat’s URL vs. URL tool lets you compare the keywords your content ranks for with the keywords two other competitors rank for. Just paste the URL for your content into the URL 1 field, and then paste the URLs of the top two ranking results into the boxes for URL 2 and URL 3. It will produce a Venn diagram showing keyword coverage for the three URLs.
Below the Venn diagram, you’ll see the top keywords for each URL. You can also click on any bubble to refresh the report and display the top keywords for competitors’ content.
This, again, can provide ideas for additional topics to cover (and keywords to target) when updating your content.
MarketMuse offers a free version of its tool to entice people to purchase the premium version. But there’s one feature of the free version that can be really helpful in updating your content: the word count report.
Just paste the URL of the post you’re updating into MarketMuse, enter your target keyword and email address, and wait for the report to populate. It crawls the top results for that keyword and provides a few recommendations, but the one that’s most useful is the word count report that shows you the total word count of the existing top-ranking posts.
If your content has a significantly lower word count that the other top-ranking posts, it suggests that you need to add more information to make your post more comprehensive than the other top results. In any case, it will give you a target word count to aim for to compete with higher-ranked posts.
Sometimes, you update your content, make it as comprehensive as possible, add various types of media, and make sure you’re satisfying user intent as perfectly as possible, and your content still doesn’t rank over pieces you think aren’t as good as yours. In those cases, it’s often a simple matter of a post having more backlinks and authority than yours.
MozBar makes it easy to compare the backlinks and authority of your page/site with that of the other top-ranked results. Just install the MozBar extension and conduct a Google search for your target keyword. MozBar populates a bar beneath each result showing its Domain Authority, Page Authority, and number of backlinks.
You can then use this data to decide if your content really does need to be updated. In some cases, you may be better served to run a link building campaign for that post instead.
Use These Tools to Create Your Website Content Update Process
Now that we’ve reviewed how to use these nine tools individually, let’s take a look at how they all work together to form a process for identifying update opportunities and updating your content:
- Start by using Animalz Revive, Databox, and Google Search Console to find content that’s in need of an update.
- Once you’ve formed a list of opportunities, review each individually and determine if each piece really does need to be updated. Consider using MozBar to see if you can compete with the Page Authority and backlink profiles of competitive results.
- For each piece that does need to be updated, use Google Search, Moz Keyword Explorer, AnswerThePublic, Serpstat, and MarketMuse to develop a plan for how to update the content to make it better than the existing top results.
Once the process is complete, you’re ready to start updating!