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Website Maintenance: Update and Refresh Your Content

Do you have an old website that’s seen better days? Or a site that’s been offline for a few years? In this post, we’ll explain what you should check to get it up to modern standards, and how to update your SEO at the same time.

Check the site set-up

Want to make any big changes? Do that first

Before we start delving into the depths of your old website, it’s worth thinking about any big changes you want to make. Maybe you’ve always wanted to change your domain name or your URL structure, but it was too much work when everything was up-and-running. Or perhaps you could benefit from changing to a different CMS, such as WordPress. If you do want to make sitewide changes, you’ll be far better off planning this from the start.

Are your plugins out of date?

The impact of out-of-date plugins really depends on which plugins you have installed. But whichever plugins you use, you should check these too. The same goes for themes; these can stop functioning if they’re too old, or not supported anymore. On the web, the older your technology is, the more vulnerable it is to hacks — so keep everything updated!

Check your data privacy set up

If your site is more than a couple of years old, there’s a good chance your data privacy setup isn’t good enough for modern standards. For instance, if your site uses cookies and tracks user behaviour, it’s now a legal requirement to ask users’ permission for this in most regions of the world. Similarly, if you have user data stored on your site, you absolutely need to make sure that you’re storing it securely and using it in a legally compliant way. If that data is old user data, the safest option is probably just to delete it all.

Check your content

Refresh your keyword research

When it comes to updating the content on your old website, refreshing your keyword research is a good place to start. The words people use in their search queries change over time, so the longer your content has been out-of-action, the more likely it is you need to do this.

When checking your keywords, you should see if you’re still using the most suitable keywords for your site and your audience, and whether you can still compete in the rankings for those keywords too. Aside from changing the keywords themselves, you should also check if you’re still using keywords correctly in your content. Keyword stuffing is very much a thing of the past, and doing so nowadays is bad for SEO. So when you go to update your content, make sure you use keywords in a natural way.

Does your content need updating?

It’s important to update your old posts and pages to keep them fresh and relevant. Old content can face various issues:

  • Is the quality still good enough? Modern internet users expect useful information, provided in an easy-to-read format.
  • Is your information accurate and up-to-date?
  • Is your content optimised for SEO according to the most recent guidelines?

Take a look at each page, and be critical. What could be improved? Do you really need to keep each page? Will you need to rewrite the whole thing, or will some small adjustments be sufficient? It could take a while to get through all of your content; if some pages need a lot of work, you might want to set them to noindex until you can improve them.

Check your internal linking and site structure

Making sure your content is high quality and well-optimised is only half of the story. It needs to be findable too. By linking related pages together you make your content easier for your users to reach. And on top of that, if you make sure your most important pages get the most internal links, it helps Google to understand your site structure. As a result, those central pages (we call them cornerstone content) are likely to rank higher in the search results!

Check technical SEO

Mobile-friendly is a requirement

More and more people are using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to access the internet. As a result, Google switched to mobile-first indexing (for most sites) starting in 2019. This means that if your site doesn’t work well on mobile, it won’t rank as highly in the search results. Things like switching to responsive/adaptive web design and checking mobile usability are more of a requirement now, rather than a nice extra. Make sure everything works, and that it looks good on all kinds of screens sizes.

Core Web Vitals and page experience

Back in the days of dial-up internet, you always had to wait patiently for pages to load. But that’s a thing of the past; pages that load quickly are a basic expectation nowadays. And loading quickly isn’t the only consideration — your pages need to actually work well once they’ve loaded. In 2021, Google introduced a new ranking factor to measure things like this. So you need to make sure you’re meeting expectations for the following aspects:

  • Loading performance (how fast does stuff appear on the screen?)
  • Responsiveness (how fast does the page react to user input?)
  • Visual stability (does stuff move around on the screen while loading?)

The details behind these factors are quite technical, but it’s worth delving into to make sure your technical SEO isn’t holding you back.

Read more: What to do with old website content »

Clean up bad backlinks

One or two bad backlinks aren’t a big problem. But if there are a lot of bad backlinks pointing to your site, Google might notice a pattern and flag your site as spam. So do check your backlinks, and if there are a lot of low-quality sites showing up, clean them up!

Check your media usage

Another thing that changes over time is the best practice for using images and videos on your site. Nowadays, high-quality images are expected by most users, and they’re expected to load quickly too. Meanwhile, since Google’s Panda update in 2011, so-called ‘thin content‘ has been an issue for SEO. And that means it’s no longer an option to have a page containing only an image or a video (at least not if you want it to rank). Don’t forget to optimize your images for SEO as well.

Accessibility

As more and more people have started to use the internet in recent years, you have to accommodate the needs of different types of visitors. Accessibility means making small adjustments and additions that let everyone enjoy your content. You don’t need to redesign everything; there are simple improvements you can make, such as adding alt text to your images.

Structured data

If you want to have the best-looking search results in Google, you’ll need to start adding structured data to your site. Structured data is a way of telling Google about the context or purpose of different types of content. You can label your news items as news, for example, and Google can identify that and add your content into its News section. Or you could label your products using structured data and have a chance of getting listed in Google’s Shopping results. There are loads of ways that structured data can give your content a boost, so give it a try!

Start publishing and sharing

Start (re)publishing and sharing content

And now for the final step in updating your old site: start publishing content again! Publishing content regularly and sharing it on social media will help you to build awareness of your site. Plus you might be able to gain some new fans and followers! If your social media pages are outdated, give them a refresh to let people know your site is back and ready to welcome them!

The original version of this article was originally published on Yoast.

If you’d like to learn more about other great SEO practices, we run a free digital marketing course that covers all. In this course, you’ll learn how to improve your online visibility, practical tips on how to rank higher and get more visitors to your website!