Greetings friends, and welcome to another guide in my SEO Basics series! Today we’re talking about the importance of updating your old content instead of creating a new version of the post and how we can refresh evergreen content. In case you’re wondering: yes, this post was born out of my own experience and sheer horror at my 2018 spreadsheet template getting tons of views this January. Oops.
SEO Basics Guides
It’s well known that the subscriber base for book blogs is predominantly made up of other book bloggers. A side effect of tailoring content for other creators in your niche is a focus on how a post performs in the first few days because of how quickly a post goes stale in readers, rather than thinking about attracting new visitors to your blog through organic search. The purpose of Evergreen Content for Book Bloggers and today’s post is to help reframe how we relate to our content and encourage us all to look towards SEO and longevity rather than the short term for posts. So, let’s get started!
Rethink How You “Treat” Blog Posts
Book blogging is a little different from other blogging niches in that our most dedicated audience relies on post readers. I think this is why the community is so tight-knit, and definitely why I love you all! I know that I’m not the only book blogger guilty of being overly reliant on their WordPress Reader or Feedly. We’re all busy people and don’t have the time to visit our favorite blogs every day, so readers are so useful to keep up on all the content! But there’s only so far back someone will go (which is why I prefer Feedly and go back as far as a month)
All of this to say: a blog post has a much longer life beyond when it goes stale in the reader. Our blogs are a collection of our content and you never know who will find your blog randomly on Google and read everything you’ve written, so it’s important that we think about SEO.
Don’t Rank Against Yourself
A golden rule for SEO is never to rank against yourself. This means that instead of having multiple posts with the same topic (and thus having multiple posts ranking for those search terms). Hint: you don’t really want this to happen as it can affect your blog’s overall ranking. While the algorithm is mysterious, we know that duplicate content negatively affects SEO and from a visitor standpoint is kind of confusing.
Not only did I have 3 posts ranking in the top 20 for reading spreadsheets in January when I began working on this post, but two of them are right next to each other on Google! And I knew this would be an issue but I had reasons for creating a new post each year and reasons to not delete the older posts.
So… how did this happen? I made the choice to make a new post every year because I wanted my audience to see the new version of my spreadsheet template in their inboxes or post readers when it’s ready, and I also liked having a visual representation of how it’s grown over the years. It was a piece of Reader Voracious history that I’m intensely proud of, but in 2021 it’s also important that new visitors find what they are looking for (and maybe stick around for awhile).
How did I fix it? This January I set up redirects on my 2018, 2019, and 2020 spreadsheet template post links so if someone clicks on a link or bookmark, the browser brings them to the most recent version (2021). I then marked the old template posts as private on my blog so Google would stop indexing the old versions. Now, I rank #1 on Google for “reader spreadsheet template” and only #1!
How to Refresh your Content
Let’s talk about how you can update your old content with SEO in mind to help increase readability and site discoverability.
Did you know that posting date and post age may affect SEO ranking? Google tries to provide the most relevant results for a given search term, especially for news, current events, and timely topics. It’s often better to update than repost!
There are two ways for you to refresh your old content: update the existing post or update as a new post. It’s always going to be easier to update and republish the existing post. Depending on how your blog is set up (Free WordPress, Blogger, Self-Hosted), there are different strategies you can employ for creating a new post.
- Is this an evergreen or timely post? Is there a time of year where people are more likely to search for this topic?
- Has this post been linked to on other blogs? Does it have a lot of pingbacks?
If a post is evergreen, especially if it has a lot of pingbacks, the best option is to update & republish. From a search standpoint, people will feasibly always search that topic and the opportunity for them to find your post is there.
Refresh Evergreen Content
Evergreen content are those posts that never go out of style and will continue to drive traffic over time. Book reviews, guides, discussions, book lists? All of these are evergreen and things that people could Google for and find your blog!
A big part of website maintenance needs to be updating and refreshing your existing content and the easiest way to do that is to refresh your evergreen posts. Chances are you made that list book recommendations if you liked The Handmaid’s Tale in 2018 and haven’t looked at it since then… but there’s countless books that I’ve read since that I could add. #SelfBurn
I recommend monitoring the search terms that bring people to your blog and making a list of these posts so you can create a list for updates. Yes, a lot of times we simply see “unknown search terms” – but I fill in the blanks by looking at the older posts visited. When you have a list, you can set aside a little bit of time every month or so to go through the list and make any updates:
- You can add new internal links into your posts (internal linking helps SEO)
- You can add new external links into your post (external linking helps SEO)
- You can add new information that’s come out, as applicable
- You can add new books to listicles
- You should make sure there aren’t any broken links in your posts (which can hurt SEO)
If you’re self-hosted or able to use plugins on your blog, I recommend using the free Posts Modified Date plugin so Google can see the post’s being updated.
Another thing to note is you never know when or if a post will blow up. In October 2020 I wrote a first impressions and guide post for The Storygraph. At the time the website wasn’t well-known and still in beta, but my post blew up on January 1, 2021 when The StoryGraph fully launched out of beta. My post now receives views every single day and it’s ranking as it is because of the post’s age, which is why I’m working on refreshing the post!
Create a New Post
There are some instances when simply refreshing a post does not make sense, and in these cases you can create a brand new post. But you do not want to leave the original post(s) up! Don’t be like Past Kal with four spreadsheet template posts up.
A big reason that I recommend a refresh over repost are free WordPress limitations: you are left with either privating or deleting the old post. If the post has a lot of pingbacks or you link to it a lot internally, all those links will break. Dead links negatively affect SEO, but it’s also kind of a pain in the butt to update all your links.
If you’re self-hosted or are on a platform where you can use plugins, you have the option to redirect your old post to the new post version. This is ideal because if someone visits the post from a bookmark or a deep link in another blog post, they will automatically be redirected to the new post edition instead of hitting a broken link. Most people don’t take the time to search for the post if they land on a “post not found” page, which is a loss of a potential new subscriber.
I use the RankMath plugin to set and manage my post redirections. The plugin is free (affiliate link) and easy to use, and has all your SEO needs (guide coming soon!).
Once you set up the redirect, you can publish your new post and private the old version. It may take some time for Google indexing to catch up on the updates but you won’t need to do anything else!
Ultimately, it’s high time that bloggers – especially book bloggers – change how we view and approach our content management. It’s easy to get swept up in the numbers a post does in its first day/week and think the post’s life is over, but our articles, lists, reviews, and discussions live for as long as our blog hosts them.
Often times all it takes is some keyword changes or reformatting a post with SEO and readability in mind to breathe new life into a post. You never know when an adaptation of a book you reviewed will be announced, or when people will suddenly be on a “books with bodyguard romance” kick, and Google searches will bring new visitors to your posts. But just remember: don’t be like me and rank against yourself!
I hope you found this new SEO Basics for Book Bloggers guide useful!
💬 Do you have any posts competing against each other on Google? Tell me I’m not the only one!
💬 Do you refresh your old posts at all currently?
💬 What questions about SEO do you have?
This post, along with all my other guides and discussions, was released early to my Patrons.