We are so fortunate to have among our membership and audience various experts on multiple subjects who are very willing to share their knowledge. So we will take advantage of this huge asset in a new feature called Industry Question of the Week. If you have a question that you would like me to offer to the experts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s our first question:
We are having a debate at our company about updating old online content for SEO and engagement purposes. We are being told by an SEO and engagement expert (whose background is in content marketing, not journalism) that we should go back to older articles that are still performing well in SEO, or that are relevant to a keyword we want to target as a subject for improving search results, and update them, including changing the date. If we did change the date, we would have to make sure the information in the article is up to date, which would mean trying to get in contact with old sources. At that point it would probably take less time to write a new article on the same topic.
And here are answers from three experts:
Kim Mateus – chief strategy officer, Mequoda
“In our view, there are two kinds of journalism online—one approach that keeps the original date forever in order to maintain that proper historical record, and another approach that is appropriate for evergreen content that we publish through our portals (aka the free sections of our site that we use for audience development). We believe both of these content types have a place in a publisher’s portal. For evergreen content, we believe the best service you can provide your readers is to keep the content updated, and simply keep a note on the bottom of the post stating the original post month and year, i.e ‘This post was originally published in January of 2008 and is updated regularly.’
“So for this particular example, they should determine if this content is evergreen and needs to be updated and maintained like you would a reference book, or if it is more like a newspaper article that you want to keep on record and maintain its chronology forever. In our view, the example could be considered an evergreen piece and could be updated with a new publish date, and reference that the quote was originally acquired in 2008, while also adding in that sentence at the bottom of the article that says, ‘This post was published in January of 2008 and is updated regularly.’ The fact that the company name has changed and that [a person quoted] is now deceased could be acknowledged in a slight rewrite of the post’s lede and anywhere else in the post where an updated reference is needed.
“Google is clearly giving publishers an incentive to keep evergreen content updated by sending publishers traffic to these evergreen posts, and this is a strategy we’ve seen enormous success with across our entire client base for many years.”
“Yes, I’ve heard this one before. It’s made the rounds a few times, and it is just as useless as other ‘SEO tricks.’ Update a few words here or there for SEO (page title, headline), but don’t lie to your readers or to Google. Changing the date is cheating, IMO.
“It’s a terrible theory that made its way into mainstream SEO articles. I’ve seen some people remove all dates from their websites, but it doesn’t change anything. Plus, it makes readers upset when they can’t trace a date to the information! When Google spiders a page, it downloads the meta data (date pub, language), the content of the page, URL, etc. Any changes are matched against the original to update Google’s index. Changing the date doesn’t change the history
David Longobardi, chief content officer, CyberRisk Alliance
“I agree it’s wrong to simply change dates on old content. But you are on the right track about updating certain assets. The concept is known as managing ‘living URLs,’ and it can be a great SEO support. The idea is to review all of your high-ranking content and identify all of your ‘annuals’ and ‘evergreens.’ Annuals include stuff like rankings, and listings, year-end outlook features and so on. Evergreens (in this context) would be other content you might justifiably elevate to annual or quarterly status. Be generous in what you choose to bring under these umbrellas; think of it as part of your content strategy rather than SEO system-gaming.
“In looking at annuals, I’ve found that one year’s iteration of, say, a Top 40 Under 40 feature, always seems to outperform others in SEO and often it’s one of the older, outdated iterations!. Going forward, rather than spread that content across multiple URLs, there’s a way to structure it all under one, so that the full authority remains concentrated and searchers have the optimal experience. Meanwhile, in thinking about evergreens, you may find service features that have real shelf life and might legitimately be updated on some regular cadence. For example, if you hit an SEO home run with an explainer or how-to piece in 2018, decide whether it would add audience value to update it annually.”
We thank our three experts. Again, if you have a question, please send to email@example.com.