Trying to increase traffic to your blog? For a long time, I thought that publishing new content regularly is the only way to increase traffic.
And it’s true - a regular cadence of fresh content certainly is a key part of growing a blog. But what about your older articles? Have you ever thought about how many visitors they drive to your blog every day?
Why Should I Care About Old Blog Posts?
Why should I care about the blog posts I wrote a year ago?
Plain and simple: chances are that your older blog posts drive the majority of search traffic to your blog.
Let’s look at an example from my software development blog. At the time of this writing, it has 137 articles which I wrote over the last 3 years. Over 50 of those articles I published within the last year.
With more than 50 of 137 articles published in the last year, and Google favoring fresh content, you would think that a large portion of the search traffic would come from those 50 articles, right?
Wrong. Last year’s 50 articles only make up 20% of the search traffic to my blog:
(This screenshot is from the Blogtrack app, which is not released yet, but if you’re interested, sign up for the beta)
Part of the reason that 80% of my search traffic comes from articles older than a year is that I have written a few really good tutorials last year and never quite reached their quality with my new content.
The numbers will obviously look different for you, but chances are that if your blog is at least a year old, your older articles will make up quite a lot of your blog’s search traffic.
So, those older articles are quite valuable. And since they’re old, they could probably use a brush-up to make them even more valuable.
Let’s explore a way of improving our old content.
Step 1 - Identify a Blog Post with Potential
First, we want to identify a blog post that has potential.
The easiest way to find out if a blog post has potential is to check if it had more traffic at some point than it currently has. This means that the blog post has the potential to get back that traffic.
Go through your best-performing blog posts and check if they have been losing traffic recently. Blogtrack has a nice feature that shows a blog post’s average daily page views over time (but with a little fiddling, you can find out with other analytics tools, as well):
We’ve found a blog post whose daily page views have declined over the last months (the big rise in May was a Google update that favored me).
This blog post has the potential to re-capture lost page views! Let’s try to tap that potential.
Step 2 - Identify Search Terms with Potential
Now that we have identified a blog post we want to work on, let’s check its search statistics.
Log into Google Search Console and click on “Search results”.
In the “Pages” tab, select the page of the blog post we want to work on.
Then, click on the “Queries” tab to see all the search queries that led users to that particular blog post.
Sort the list by impressions and you should get a table like this:
The impressions are the number of users that saw the page in their search results.
The clicks are the number of users that clicked through to your page.
The number of clicks divided by the number of impressions is called the click-through ratio (CTR). The higher the CTR, the better.
Now, from this list, we want to identify the search query with the most potential for increasing search traffic to our blog post.
That means we’re looking for a query with a high number of impressions and whose CTR we think could be higher.
This is highly context-specific and different for every blog post. In my case, the blog post was about “Unit Testing with Spring Boot”, so I want to increase the CTR for the search query “spring boot unit test”.
I could have gone after other queries, too, but since this query is the best match for my content, I expect it to perform better than it currently does.
Clicking on that query, I see that the average position in the search ranking of this page is 3.3:
That’s not bad. But it was better before, and a slight increase in search ranking can have a great effect.
So let’s have a look at the pages we’re competing with.
Step 3 - Compare With Higher-Ranking Pages
We have identified a search query we want to optimize for. Let’s type it into Google:
My page is ranking third in this case. Not bad, but we want it up there at the top!
Looking at this search result page, we can think of some options to update our content for better search ranking:
- Looking carefully, we see that the page that ranked 2nd is more than a year younger than my page. We should think about giving the blog post’s content a refresh and update the modification date.
- The title “Unit Testing with Spring Boot” already contains all of the words in the search query, so we probably can’t increase search ranking by changing the title.
- We could, however, try to make the title of the article more engaging so that even when it ranks third, people will more likely click it.
- … (your idea here)
Depending on the context and the niche of your content, this may look completely different for your blog post.
Try to look at the search result page from your readers' point of view and think about what would increase the chance of you clicking the link.
Step 4 - Improve Your Content
Read the pages of your competitors. Take notes about what keywords they’re using that your article doesn’t contain.
Do they cover some aspects that your article is not covering? Can you make your text more complete or more compelling?
This is where this guide cannot really help you. Compare your competitor’s content to your own, generate ideas about what you could change to your blog post to make it more attractive, and then follow through with them.
Step 5 - Monitor the Results
Finally, measure the results of your changes. Regularly look at Google’s Search Console and check how the search query you have targeted is doing.
There’s no guarantee that the search traffic will increase, but chances are that they will increase if you have updated your content to reflect the current state of things.
Also, keep in mind that changes in search traffic don’t necessarily have to do with your changes to a single blog post. Maybe Google has updated their search algorithm again or you did some change to your page layout that caused the effect.
In any case, if the numbers go up, it’s great! If the numbers for the blog post stay the same, you know you’ve done the best you can. Only if the numbers drop should you think about what changes you did that might have caused the drop in search traffic.
Update Your Old Blog Posts
Hunting traffic for a single search query doesn’t sound like it would do much to your blog’s overall traffic. But chances are that if you update a blog post with a specific high-potential search query in mind, you will also increase search traffic for many related long-tail search queries (i.e. search queries containing a bunch of additional search terms).
Make it a habit to work on an old blog post every once in a while and your traffic will increase more than it would by just adding new content.