Content Refresh for SEO: What It Is + A Case Study Guide

In the ever-evolving landscape of search engine optimization (SEO), providing fresh, helpful content is crucial for staying ahead of the competition and improving your website’s visibility. But why is that? If something’s done right the first time, shouldn’t that be enough?

Discover why keeping your content fresh is one of the best things you can do for organic search health (yes — even when you already have fantastic content). At Big Sea, when our site needed a quick keyword and traffic boost, we used content refresh to jumpstart our new in-house content marketing strategy. Learn why we did it, how we did it, and how our top keyword share skyrocketed.

Collage featuring a typewriter

What is a content refresh?

Simply put, a content refresh involves updating and optimizing your existing website content to align with current search trends and user expectations. It goes beyond mere cosmetic changes and focuses on enhancing the relevance, value, and overall performance of your web pages.

There are a few reasons why content refresh is a powerful strategy, but one of the main is that recency is an important factor in Google rankings. More recent content tends to perform better because Google’s algorithm wants to provide users with the latest (and most accurate) information on topics. Keeping your content fresh by renewing your research, improving the user’s experience on the page, and adding new data will signal to Google that your content is high quality.

What are the benefits of content refresh?

The primary reason to refresh your content is to encourage improved keyword rankings in search results and increased traffic. It ensures that your content that’s already performing in SERPs is as strong as possible by allowing you to optimize it for the keywords it already has. It also allows you to respond to the way that a search algorithm is interpreting your content so you can take advantages of the topical authority your site has built.

Additionally, content refresh helps you keep up with shifting user preferences and search trends, enabling you to provide fresh, valuable information that resonates with your target audience. This, in turn, fosters increased user engagement, longer website visits, and a higher likelihood of conversions.

Keep in mind that Google won’t reward pages that simply change their dates without significant revision. Your content updates need to be robust and provide new information/insights on/into the topic.

content refresh results for Big Sea

Why does your brand need a content refresh strategy?

Most of the time, SEO is a long game. One thing that distinguishes content refresh is the immediate returns you get from relatively small changes. Refresh can produce impressive results in a matter of days. They will also continue to show increased gains over several months. Other SEO strategies rarely yield such direct results.

Furthermore, content refresh allows you to build on the strengths of your site, making it an effective and efficient approach to content optimization. By improving on the content that already works, or that worked well in the past, you spend less time and money on higher returns than new content publication.

How does content refresh work?

Now that you understand content refresh, it’s time to take a closer look at how it works. So let’s look at what we did at Big Sea to make quick but substantial changes to our blog in order to kickstart our keyword gains. Here, we’re just focusing on the first 30 days so you can have a sense of how quickly this strategy can impact your site. First, we’ll look at the relevant metrics, and then we’ll discuss how we got those results:

Top 10 Keywords from January 2023-April 2023
Top 10 Keywords from January 2023-April 2023
Keyword growth from September 2022-April 2023
Keyword growth from September 2022-April 2023
  • 30 days to see results
  • 10 refreshed blog pieces
  • 33% more keywords overall
  • 30% more top 10 keywords in the segment we targeted
  • 47% more top 3 keywords overall & 88% in the targeted segment
  • 16% increase in traffic in the targeted segment

Here are five steps we took to get these results:

1. Identify top-performing pages

Identifying our top-performing pages was the first step we took toward content refresh. By focusing on pages that are already performing well, we maximized the impact of our updates. Here’s how we broke it down:

a. Website Analytics

We began with Google Analytics to gain insights into page performance. We filtered our results for organic traffic, then we downloaded that information and added further filtering for pages with high organic traffic, low bounce rates, and longer average session durations.

b. Conversion Paths

Assessing the conversion rates of our pages was key to putting our resources in the right place. For this campaign, we were focused on newsletter sign ups. We used GA4’s Path Exploration tool to analyze how our visitors were arriving on our Newsletter confirmation page.

In addition to tracking specific events, Path Exploration is a great way to Identify pages that contribute significantly to your desired actions, such as generating leads or driving sales. Optimizing these pages can further enhance their performance and yield greater results.

c. Social Media Engagement

We paid attention to the level of engagement our content received on social media platforms. Pages that garnered significant likes, shares, comments, and retweets were flagged for refresh. Whether or not they performed organically, we knew that these pages had resonated with our audience could extend our reach and impact.

SEMRush helped us keep track of the number and quality of backlinks pointing to our pages, as well as referral traffic from other websites. Pages with a high number of backlinks and referral traffic demonstrate their value and authority in the eyes of both search engines and other website owners. Refreshing these pages can help maintain and enhance their visibility and link-building potential.

e. Report on Everything

Key to this stage was setting ourselves up to continuously monitor and evaluate our website’s performance in the future. Not only could we pinpoint where we had the biggest success, we could also easily identify any refreshes that caused a drop in rankings or traffic (there’s almost always one).

2. Choose high-potential keywords

Once we had isolated the top-performing pages, we used SEMRush to find the top search terms on each page. While we could just focus on the top ranking keywords for each page, that doesn’t necessarily yield the most comprehensive results. Instead, there were two main metrics we used to select target keywords:

  • Keywords in positions 4-10 on search engine results pages (SERPs) that strongly matched intent
  • High volume keywords within “striking distance” (ranks 11-20). These were an especially important driver behind that leap in top 3 keywords.
  • Keywords that align with our expertise and that we want to have a SERP presence for (such as “nonprofit marketing” and “museum marketing”).

3. Create topic clusters

After choosing the keywords we wanted to target, we needed to organize them in a way that would align with our current lead generation goals and supported the new content we planned to produce alongside our refresh. For this round, we were focused on expanding our nonprofit and B2B content.

Here’s how our first nonprofit cluster turned out:

  • digital fundraising
  • Google ad grants for nonprofits
  • museum marketing
  • linkedin nonprofit
  • nonprofit email marketing
  • nonprofit branding

And our first B2B cluster:

  • ssi linkedin
  • inbound and outbound marketing
  • linkedin B2B marketing
  • customer journey management
  • B2B buyer persona
  • digitizing customer experience
  • B2B search marketing

These lists included terms from both refreshed and new content, which was crucial to being able to envision how the editorial calendar would be laid out. It also enabled us to add internal links much more efficiently once we started working through the material.

4. Perform competitive analysis

Performing a thorough competitive analysis for specific keywords was a vital step in our SEO content refresh strategy. By reviewing the other pages that rank for a particular keyword, we figured out what commonly discussed information we needed to add and where we could differentiate ourselves. Here’s how we conducted our competitive analysis for specific keywords:

We analyzed the search engine results pages (SERPs) for our target keyword by looking at the top-ranking pages that already had visibility for the keyword. This analysis allowed us to understand the content types, formats, and structures that search engines favored for that keyword. We then carefully evaluated the content of our competitors’ top-ranking pages. We assessed the quality, depth, and relevance of their content in relation to the target keyword. We looked for unique angles, comprehensive information, and engaging elements that made their content stand out.

Based on our analysis, we identified opportunities to differentiate our content from our competitors. We looked for gaps or areas where the existing content did not fully address user intent or provide comprehensive information. This allowed us to create unique, valuable content that would stand out in the search results.

5. Optimize for SERP features

In a way, steps 3 and 4 went hand-in-hand, as one of our main goals was to help Google understand our pages better by analyzing SERP features. We also wanted to know more about the other questions searchers had about our topics. We looked at several SERP features and heavily incorporated them into our refreshed content as follows:

  • People Also Ask results helped us to create new sections in our posts to answer common questions about topics.
  • Knowledge Panels and Featured Snippets offered insights into what Google considered a clear explanation of an entity.
  • Analyzing image packs helped us identify new opportunities for design elements that would enhance the quality of our pages.

Finally, we wanted to make sure that we enhanced our content both for search engines and for our visitors. By linking related pages together, you create a hierarchy and interconnected web of content. This helps search engines understand the relationships between different pages, prioritize important content, and crawl and index your website more effectively. Internal linking also allowed us to optimize anchor text to provide search engines with valuable contextual information about the linked page’s content. Properly optimized anchor text within internal links also helps users understand the purpose and destination of the link, further enhancing the user experience.

Incorporating new media into our refreshed content was another high priority for us because it offers another way for search engines to better understand our pages and provides a lot of value to the visitor. We solicited our design team to make us new assets when necessary, and we incorporated examples whenever we discussed digital content. If you don’t have a design team, you can check out this list of free design software to help you create assets.

Remember to add alt text to your media, including your target keywords whenever possible. Also, keep in mind that this text will be read by users with screen readers, so make sure it flows naturally with the text and offers them a quality experience on your page.

Last but not least, we made sure our claims were up to date, and sought out new research when posts were more than a few years old. We also looked for any unsubstantiated claims and made sure to cite them.

And that’s it! We finished off each refresh by dropping the updated page into Google Search Console for re-indexing and waited for our results. But keep in mind that a content refresh is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that should be integrated into your overall digital marketing strategy. By embracing the power of content refresh, you can ensure that your brand remains visible, authoritative, and successful in the dynamic world of SEO.

When should you refresh your content?

Determining the ideal timing for a content refresh can significantly impact its effectiveness. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, several key factors can guide your decision-making process. Start by monitoring your website’s analytics and performance metrics regularly. If you notice a decline in organic traffic, a drop in keyword rankings, or a decrease in user engagement, a content refresh can provide a quick boost to overcome that loss.

Additionally, keep a close eye on industry trends, search algorithm updates, and changes in user behavior. If you find that your content is becoming outdated, lacks relevance, or no longer aligns with current best practices, it’s time to take action. Finally, consider conducting a content audit periodically to identify underperforming pages that could benefit from an update.

Work with an agency that knows how to leverage content refresh

Ready to take your SEO content refresh strategy to the next level? Partnering with an experienced agency that understands the intricacies of content refresh can make all the difference. At Big Sea, we specialize in helping businesses and nonprofits unlock the full potential of their content through strategic refresh initiatives.

Our team of experts is eager to discuss your goals, assess your current content strategy, and develop a customized plan to unlock your brand’s full potential. If you’re ready to harness the power of content refresh and elevate your online presence, contact Big Sea today.