7 content decay tricks to keep your site fresh


Sites which contain a large volume of content will almost certainly be experiencing content decay to a certain extent. 

Keeping content fresh, up to date, accurate and optimised for search engines is a task which can feel impossible if you don’t have good systems in place. 

The first step is understanding exactly what content decay is and how it happens.  

Only then will you be in a place to effectively troubleshoot your content periodically and apply fixes which will give your pages the boost they deserve.  

What is content decay? 

Content decay is the process whereby your content becomes less effective over time.

To a certain extent, this is a natural process, as once content has been live for a while without being updated in any way, it will either plateau or decline depending on its inherent quality. 

Why does content decay? 

There are a number of reasons why content can decay. These include: 

Changes in user behaviour 

Your target market is no longer interested in the topic your content discusses. As their tastes evolve, so must your content. 

Changes in expectation 

Your audience is expecting an answer to the query which is no longer reflected in your content. It will need to be updated to align with their needs. 

Outdated content 

Your page could simply be out of date, so it isn’t classed as relevant anymore. Perform the updates required or retire the page, then redirect it to a more authoritative page on your site.  


Particularly old content may not be mobile friendly or it may still be using outdated templates or an old-fashioned design that users no longer find appealing.  

Increased competition 

Your competition may have put in work more recently to make a better page. You will need to improve your content to match this development. 

Better internal content 

Your own site may have published better content since the original piece was published. Check for content duplication and keyword cannibalisation. 

How to prevent content decay 

The short, best answer is: systematically refresh your pages.  

There is a lot of value to be had in performing a regular ‘spring clean’ of your digital content.  

While you will need to take remedial measures to fix content decay issues once they arise, a better approach is to work preventatively and proactively improve your content periodically. 

When you are analysing your content metrics using a tool like Google Analytics or Search Console, it can be wise to prioritise the pages which are plateauing or starting to decline.

From there, you can see how you can improve on your pages which are already performing well. There is always something you can do to give a page an extra boost, especially if it has been live for a while.

Effective optimisations to perform during these refreshes are:  

  • Work on your links 
  • Check for accuracy
  • Optimise your imagery
  • Refresh your keyword strategy 
  • Add & improve content 
  • Fix content errors 
  • Fix your metadata 

Let’s look at these optimisations in more detail. Take these 7 steps to prevent your content from decaying and keep your site fresh. 

1. Work on your links

Internal linking

You may have published content that you can now include links to in the piece you are reviewing. Ensuring all of your content is connected with an optimised internal linking strategy is of paramount importance.

Ensure that you are internally linking across multiple site sections – for example, not just: 

  • Blog – blog  

But also:

  • Blog – section page 
  • Section page – cornerstone content 
  • Blog – homepage 

And so on. 

Link building 

Analyse your backlink profile for the pages you are reviewing and consider opportunities to build up more. It’s important to regularly put work into building up backlinks, especially when other sites which may have linked to you may no longer exist, no longer link to you or experienced a drop in authority. 

Broken links 

You also want to ensure that you check for any broken links and remove or update them as appropriate. It’s highly likely that your site will have some broken links, both internal and inbound, cropping up on a regular basis. Therefore, it’s important to stay on top of them to ensure you aren’t sabotaging your rankings.  

2. Check for accuracy 

There are many reasons why your content may become inaccurate over time. News sites will always have an archive of content which may no longer be relevant or in date due to its nature, but sites which publish evergreen and longform content will also need to be checked for accuracy on a regular basis. 

For example, sites publishing science-focused content may need to update their pages if advancements have been made that should be added in.  

Technology sites will need to consider updates to software or hardware that could render old copy inaccurate as new information is published, particularly when these sites are targeting informational keywords by creating ToFu ‘how-to’ content that may become inaccurate over time. 

Business changes, such as internal restructuring or a change in product or service offering, can make it necessary for sections such as the About Us page to be updated for accuracy. 

Don’t forget to check that your graphs and infographics are up to date, and hand over any fixes required to your Design team. 

3. Optimise your imagery 

Google’s EEAT guidelines clearly state that high-quality MC (main content) contains original imagery which cannot be found elsewhere on the web. If you are managing content on an enterprise site, it’s highly likely that your older content will contain stock imagery – or even no images at all.  

You may be using stock images at the moment for your articles, but if you want to give your rankings a boost it’s time to reevaluate this strategy and come up with a plan to create original photos, video, graphics and illustrations. 

You may want to take your own photos that can be used in content or hire a photographer to do so. Alternatively, you could work with an illustrator or graphic designer to get original images for your content. 

Where appropriate, it will also be beneficial to create original infographics to boost understanding for visual learners who struggle with their functional literacy skills. You are boosting your EEAT while also creating content that will be more likely to appear in Images results. It can also be repurposed as social media content. 

Refresh your keyword strategy 

If you notice that traffic has been steadily declining for your page over time, you may need to refresh your keyword strategy. There are a few different reasons why this approach may be necessary.  

No keyword strategy applied 

Older content, perhaps on pages that weren’t created by you or were built before you joined the company, may not have had keyword strategy applied in the first place.  

These editorial pages could have been bringing in traffic on their own merit, but as time goes on, they may stop ranking and need to be given specific direction and structure with targeted keywords. 

Keyword strategy is outdated  

Your traffic may be declining because the search volume for your target keywords has been declining over time as well.  

Use a keyword research tool to ascertain whether this is the case, and choose new keywords to focus your content towards that will bring in more traffic.  

Keywords may also become outdated because user habits have changed. The original query may no longer be of interest, in which case you should consider pivoting your content towards a related keyword that will bring in traffic.  

Competitors have improved their content 

Don’t forget that your competitors will also be investing time and resources into improving their content! You may find that you have been knocked out of your slot in the SERP by a brand which has created superior content.  

Now is the time to evaluate what they have done and ensure your fixes result in an even better page. 

4. Add & improve content 

When you run a content audit, you will be able to identify pages which have thin or no content using a tool such as ScreamingFrog. From there, you will be able to create a list of URLs to target.  

In some instances, you may redirect the page to another one which has more authoritative content on the topic, but in others, it may be appropriate to add content so that the page becomes more functional and begins driving traffic. 

ScreamingFrog will not identify all issues where content should be added or improved, so there will be a level of manual work required to troubleshoot which pages are not performing because they have minimal content – or content which simply isn’t good enough.  

Make sure you are well versed in Google’s EEAT principles and ensure that all content you add or improve is in alignment with them. 

5. Fix content errors 

Your content may be at war with itself and sabotaging its own chances at ranking well.  

Duplicate content  

You may have an existing webpage which can be found across multiple URLs. Search engines will not understand which URL should be prioritised, and conclude that it should choose for itself.  

If your content strategy is not thorough enough, you can also find yourself accidentally creating pages which are similar to others as you have written on topics that have been covered in the past. 

You may then find that the page which you want to be driving traffic has actually been dethroned by a duplicate page. 

In such situations, you will need to decide which page will be the primary one for your topic, merge content where appropriate and redirect all other URLs to this page.  

Keyword cannibalisation 

If you over-publish content for certain topics, update content without redirecting or removing older pages on the topic or optimise multiple pages for similar keywords with the same search intent, you will encounter keyword cannibalisation.

This concept manifests as two or more pages on your site unintentionally competing for rankings against the same keywords in the SERP. You are sabotaging your own efforts and reducing your authority, CTR, traffic and sales.  

To fix this issue, take actions such as merging content, redirecting URLs, deleting pages, no indexing content or de-optimising content. 

6. Fix your metadata 

It’s always worth double checking that your metadata is both fully filled out and optimised. This step will be particularly appropriate if you have made content changes such as updating the keyword strategy or adding copy to thin or no content pages. 

Check through your title tags, alt text, image captions and meta descriptions to ensure that they are all filled out, then check that your existing metadata has been optimised for the latest metrics you are targeting.  

Need help with decaying content? 

It can be difficult to keep track of decaying content and effectively troubleshoot it, so if you need help with boosting your strategy then why not book in for a Free Acquisitions Workshop?

You can gain an overview of your current standing in the search landscape with one of our Free Acquisitions Workshop. We will provide you with actionable insights that you can implement right away.  


Imogen Groome

Content Lead

Imogen is the SEO Content Lead at Skittle Digital. Imogen has worked in SEO since 2016. She helped to define SEO strategy at Metro.co.uk before guiding the newsroom at The Sun Online as SEO Editor. She has more than 5 years’ experience in scaling content strategies that drive revenue for brands through organic search channels. In her spare time, Imogen writes books, watches poor-quality reality TV and hangs out with her cats.

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