When something is published on the internet, the author is arguably responsible for those words. Ranging from social media to articles on news publications and even including the emails we send, we’re responsible for everything we write.

However, it’s debatable as to how long that responsibility should last. After all, if you post something on social media, are you still responsible for it 24 hours later? A week? Month? Years later?

Considering that many business leaders and politicians have had their career affected by an ill-advised social media comment years ago, it’s reasonable to assume we’re always responsible for everything we create.

Although this sounds terrifying, and might dissuade you from writing ever again, this shouldn’t be viewed as a burden. Instead, amending old content is not only your responsibility but also an opportunity. Here’s how updating it can benefit you:

Why you have a responsibility to update content

The internet is full of content but, unfortunately, not all of it is accurate. In some situations, this is because the information is now out-of-date or recent changes have come along which render the advice obsolete.

This can have negative repercussions when someone inexperienced stumbles across the now outdated article and takes it as fact. For example, despite GDPR law having huge implications for PR professionals and businesses, there are still numerous articles out there advocating purchasing mailing lists and contact details of journalists – or recommending such measures as automatically signing up customers to email newsletters.

While this was common practice years ago, the implication of GDPR legislation means anyone caught participating in those activities may be liable for an extremely large fine.

As a result, if it is practical to do so, those articles should be amended to limit the spread of misinformation. Yet, the logic behind updating these is not completely altruistic, there are a range of associated benefits as well.

Does my content need updating?

Old content should never be updated just for the sake of it. Instead, articles should be evaluated to determine which ones are still successful and relevant. If you can answer ‘yes’ to the majority of these questions, for each piece, then updating might be unnecessary:

  1. Does the article demonstrate I’m an expert?
  2. Is the article authoritative?
  3. Is the article trustworthy?
  4. Are individuals still reading the article?
  5. Is anyone linking to, or sharing, the article?

Once it becomes apparent that an article needs updating, you can do this through the following methods:

Modernising the content

Years ago, online content publishers only had one medium available to them – the written word. Times change and now these individuals can use formats such as video, audio, and social media to enhance the content they produce. Furthermore, if a webpage is not necessarily right for the material, creators can choose to present it in an interactive format or maybe even as a presentation.

The point is, if an article is no longer performing as well as it should be, modernising it could yield better results.

For example, written DIY guides are often extremely useful but can be difficult to follow when trying to accomplish a task. Instead, these might perform better in a video format.

After all, when trying to create something, nothing is more useful than a teacher showing you how to do it – even one who lives on YouTube.

Increasing the article’s value

Where content is no longer accurate, perhaps following new legislation or industry developments, it should be revised with updated information. However, it can also be expanded with new details which the reader could find useful.

For example, returning to our DIY theme, readers might appreciate an amendment detailing the best places to get the required tools. Alternatively, if an app can now complete a related task for the reader, the content creator may wish to make reference to this.

Therefore, if additional details can make an old article valuable again, these should be considered.

Linking to related reading

If the piece is still relevant, then perhaps it would benefit from improving internal linking. By providing these links to related content, readers are given the opportunity to expand their knowledge and view other articles which could be useful to them.

If you want to find out more about this, we’ve written about the importance of internal linking from an SEO point of view in our article: ‘9 common SEO mistakes to avoid’.

See what we did there?

You have a responsibility – to provide the best content possible

Your readers deserve the best content possible and you have a responsibility to provide it to them. If something you’ve created is no longer valuable, this should be amended.

A word of warning on this though, if you decide the vast majority of your content isn’t serviceable – and if you choose to dispose of it – you could adversely affect your SEO efforts.

SEO analysis from Josh Boot, CandidSky SEO specialist

Fundamentally, SEO consists of three main pillars for success:

  1. Technical excellence which allows search engines to effectively crawl and index your website.
  2. Authority, namely backlinks and who is talking about you
  3. Content. Without content you have no opportunity to target keywords, to target the terms which matter most to your business.

By removing content, you’re effectively stripping away the opportunity to target keywords, and not providing search engines with any additional context to the purpose or value of the page.

Good content gets your site ranking while excellent content drives commercial conversions.

When content fails, it is often because the creator hasn’t identified its purpose, inserted an engaging hook, or effectively produced it. By being creative and creating materials for a purpose, you can make your content great again.

Therefore, if you want an expert opinion, get in touch with our content specialists today. They’ll help make sure your website is relevant again.

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