How to Make Your Outdated Content Outstanding Again

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks


Content creators are constantly trying to find a balance between topical and evergreen content. But let’s face it—everything will go out of date eventually.

Like flipping through an old photo album (or visiting 2008 on your Facebook timeline), it’s kind of funny (and mildly horrifying) to look back at the content topics that were “hot” a couple of years ago. What’s not so fun, however, is thinking about the investment you put into a creating a particular piece of content, and watching it crumble like a weathered statue.

Jay Baer recently crunched the numbers and came to the conclusion that the average blog post costs an organization $900 to produce.

So, what should you do to ensure you’re getting the max return on your content investment? 

Go back and show your old content some (strategic) love.

Why should you update old content?

Beyond maximizing your content’s ROI, it’s important to have a strategy for leveraging outdated content for a number of reasons.

Regularly refreshing your stale content can help you:

  • Improve your brand’s credibility – With hundreds of thousands of new pieces of content being published on a daily basis, why on earth would anyone trust an instructional piece from 2013? Your content needs to be the most up-to-date out there in order to maintain a competitive edge and demonstrate your brand’s reliability.
  • Stay in Google’s good books – If your old content is ranking well, you don’t want to completely nix it—just fix it up to keep the traffic coming in (and staying in). On that note, it’s important to remember that Google’s Panda update targets low-quality content, (which is what your old, neglected blog posts are bound to become). Regularly audit your content for quality control.
  • Keep up with the daily content crunch – Meeting a daily content quota is tough, especially for smaller content teams. Take it from a content marketer who knows—regularly updating your outdated content is a heck of a lot easier than going through the whole content creation process, from ideation to publication. Also, if you already know what your audience is into, why change? Don’t mess up a good thing!
  • Improve your content’s performance – HubSpot more than doubled the amount of monthly leads generated from old pieces of content by adding historical optimization to their regular content strategy. If it can work for them, odds are it can work for you too.

What content should you update?

First thing’s first: When determining what to update, you’ll have to perform a content audit.

Once you have all of your content data lined up, it’s time to go through your old posts. Create a separate document for everything that is more than 2-3 years old, and make a list of your top performers.

From there, manually review each post and determine if it’s worth updating. Consider the following:

  • Is the messaging still consistent with your brand?
  • Does the pain point still persist for your buyer personas?
  • Does it still support your content marketing strategy?
  • Is the post actually, realistically salvageable?

Not every piece of old content is going to be worth saving. If it’s part of an old strategy that you’ve since abandoned, nix it.

If you like the topic and the format isn’t easily updatable (e.g. an infographic on Marketing Automation Trends from 2013), you could always create another version inspired by this one, or recycle some of the ideas in a different content format.

If you can answer “yes” to the points above, then add these updates to your editorial calendar as part of your regular scheduled content program.

How should you update old content?

Now that you know what you should update, it’s time for the actual updating process.

1. Re-edit

Re-edit the post as you would any other post in your content mix, paying special attention to the following:

  • Fact checking: Things change at a rapid pace in our digital age – change all stats, steps or facts that are out of date.
  • Outdated links: Add or replace as necessary.
  • Meta description: Rewrite or update to better outline the content of the post.
  • SEO considerations: Keep the URL the same. Ideally, you’ll want to keep the headline and keyword optimization the same as well.

You might want to consider adding an editor’s note saying that the post has been updated – I’ve come across several posts on industry blogs that will include this to maintain transparency.

2. Re-format

The biggest issues I run into when perusing our old content are usually surrounding style. Reformat your post to improve readability, especially if you’ve implemented new style guidelines over the past couple of years.

Ensure the text includes:

  • Short, easily digestible paragraphs
  • Subheads
  • Strategic formatting choices (make the best parts POP!)  
  • Effective and optimized images
  • A consistent brand voice

Polish that post until it shines like the top of the Chrysler building — or at least until it meets your audience’s high standards.

3. Replace your CTAs

Now that your post is about as good as new as it can get, it’s time to make it work for your content strategy.

Update the post’s call-to-action so it is relevant, contextual, and works to achieve your current content marketing goals. This is a great opportunity to tweak your lead generation strategy.

For more tips on how to get more out of your CTAs, check out our free webinar.

4. Republish & redistribute

Finally, you’ve made it! Republish and redistribute it as you would a new piece of content.

If enough changes have been made, I’d recommend that you change the publication date to reflect that the information is up-to-date.

Data-driven tip: Document your metrics of the post’s performance in its first life so you can accurately measure how your optimization efforts affect its performance going forward.

Survival of the freshest

Time moves forward and the digital landscape evolves. I hate to get Darwinian, but only the brands who can nimbly adapt to these changes are going to survive!

Make optimizing your old content part of your strategy to maintain a competitive edge, improve your content’s performance and maximize your ROI.

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