written by
Irina Weber

What Is Content Decay? How To Detect & Fix It

Content Marketing 12 min read

Developing a successful content marketing strategy for your business requires creating new content and updating the existing content on your website. No content can remain relevant and perform well indefinitely. Over time, Google updates its algorithms, information becomes outdated, and search intent changes, which can lead to a decline in website traffic and content performance, even when new content is published. This is known as content decay, a common challenge that many online businesses face.

Content and SEO are closely linked. To drive organic traffic to your website and achieve high rankings in search engines, it's essential to create high-quality "SEO content". If you don't update the posts that already exist on your website, you'll miss out on a valuable opportunity to increase traffic and will continue to lose rankings.

In this article, you will better understand what content decay is, why it happens, and what you can do to prevent it.

What is Content Decay and its Importance for Marketers?

Content decay is a natural process that occurs to online content over time. Even the most famous pieces of content can become outdated or irrelevant after a certain period of peak performance. It leads to a drop in search rankings and organic traffic for these pieces of content that don’t resonate with your target audience anymore.

Content decay happens when information becomes no longer relevant, audience interests change, and new, competitive content is published.

According to General Google Guidelines, website owners should publish fresh, accurate, and up-to-date information. Google prioritizes these pages in search engine results that match users’ search queries with the best possible answers.

You should note that the word “decay” means a gradual and slow decrease that can go unnoticed for extended periods, resulting in significant losses over time. Unfortunately, many content marketers cannot identify the signs of content decay, leading to decreased online presence and engagement.

That is why it's essential to monitor your content's performance and update it regularly to prevent content decay and maintain your online presence.

How to Recognize Content Decay in Your Existing Content

To succeed in content marketing, you need to understand the lifecycle of online content. It starts with the idea and goes through creation, publication, promotion, performance monitoring, and decline. Knowing this journey is crucial as it shapes your content strategy over time and can instantly detect any signs of decaying content.

Content decay can happen for many reasons, and it's usually not just one factor that causes it. Therefore, it's essential to identify the signs of content decay before making any changes. That will help you create a better plan of action to prevent it from happening in the future.

Detect content decay early on and know exactly how to refresh content to boost your rankings. Try StoryChief’s integration with Google Search Console for free.

1. Content Freshness

Outdated and irrelevant information is among the most popular signs of decaying content. As mentioned above, Google prefers fresh and well-optimized content over old and unoptimized ones. The age of content matters less if it is optimized as it maintains its relevance and performance for longer. Therefore, it's important to optimize content for search engines.

Optimized content decays slowly, even if published more than five years ago. This content can still be helpful if it is relevant and meets current search trends. So, it is essential to regularly monitor and update your content to maintain its relevance and online presence.

Content age

2. External Competition

Another sign of content decay is that your competitors publish better content than yours. With many websites competing for rankings and traffic on the same topic, staying caught up with your competitors is brutal.

However, different factors can impact your content’s performance and lead to decay, including their brand authority, webpage meta-tags relevancy, quality of backlinks, and how well their content relates to search intent. It is essential to analyze your competitors' strategies and see what they're doing differently to improve your content's relevance.

3. Internal Competition

Internal competition happens when different URLs on your website cover the same topic, competing for search engine rankings. That can confuse search engines and suppress performance for all conflicting URLs. Internal competition can also occur between different pages (category pages, product pages, blog posts, etc.) on your website, making it difficult to detect since it happens gradually over time.

4. Engagement and Behavior Metrics

A clear sign that your content is decaying is decreased website traffic. If you notice that the traffic has been declining over time, it could mean that your audience is no longer interested in your content. Low engagement on your website, such as high bounce rates or short time spent on pages, may indicate that visitors need help finding what they were looking for or that your content needs to be more interesting. You can gather user feedback or observe their behavior to understand better how effective your content is.

5. Change in Search Intent

Google improves how users interact with SERP results to understand their search intent better. The sign of content decay is that people can have different intentions when they search for the keyword.

For example, you might have an article about SEO for law firms, but the user intent has changed to getting actionable SEO tips to promote law firms. Monitoring user intent and adjusting your content strategy accordingly is essential to prevent a decline in traffic and engagement.

6. Google Algorithm Updates

Google constantly releases updates in its search functions and adds new SERP features to improve user experience and provide more relevant search results. For example, featured snippets, videos, shopping results, and others can help drive more traffic to your website when optimizing for these search features.

Let’s say you have content that ranks well in search results, but with the recent update, Google shows videos for your search query. It means that videos get the most clicks from your web page. That’s why it’s essential to keep up with Google updates and new SERP features; otherwise, it can result in content decay and harm your CTR.

Detect content decay early on and know exactly how to refresh content to boost your rankings. Try StoryChief’s integration with Google Search Console for free.

Top 6 Strategies to Address and Prevent Content Decay

Now, you can quickly identify whether your content is starting or already decaying, which is the first step towards preventing content decay on your website. Let’s delve into the best practices to improve the performance of decaying content and renew its lifecycle for better organic results:

1. Revive Your Content

To revive content, you need to take a diverse approach. That means you should add new information that aligns with current trends, update outdated information and statistics, and revise the content to make it easier to read and more engaging.

Adding a few hundred words that don't add value or do not match your audience's search intent is not the solution. Focus on identifying gaps in your content and add more depth and examples to make it more informative and engaging. Check out what content your competitors have said that you might have missed.

Ensure that you review your older posts that have seen a decline in traffic or have a high bounce rate. Review them carefully and consider what additional information could be added to make them more valuable to readers.

Start by searching for your topic on Google and examining the first page results. Note the areas those sites cover that you still need to address.

Conduct more keyword research to expand your content. Check the comments section of the blog post or social media shares to see what questions readers have asked. You can also use advanced keyword suggestion tools like SE Ranking to discover frequently asked questions related to your topic, which can provide valuable insights for developing new content.

SE Ranking keyword research

Pro Tip: Keep the same URL when reviving your old posts. Google likes fresh content but recognizes the "SEO juice" you've already gained.

2. Optimize Content For Maximum SEO Performance

SEO is not something you set up once and forget about. It requires consistent effort and attention to stay relevant and effective. By implementing adaptive SEO, you can align your content with your audience's search intent and keep it up to date with search engine updates and trends.

Here are some SEO tips to consider:

  • Regularly optimize your website's meta tags to ensure they include your target audience's Keyword search intent and are relevant to the page content. You can use AI SEO Optimization tools like Nytro automated SEO software to integrate relevant keywords into meta-tags for your pages. That will help to improve and automate your SEO process for efficiency and maximum impact.
automate meta tags
  • Ensure that the titles are catchy and include the primary keyword. That will help differentiate your page from others and attract more visitors.
  • Regularly review your keyword strategy and use target keywords naturally throughout your web content. Consider targeting long-tail, more specific, and less competitive keywords to make your site more discoverable.
  • Align your content with your audience's search intent. Analyze their needs and interests through keyword research and search trends. That way, you can create relevant and valuable content that remains effective over time.
  • Follow a logical hierarchy of headings and structure your content to improve readability and scannability. Headings, bullet points, and lists can make your content more readable and scannable, enhancing the user experience.

3. Add FAQ Schema Markup

If you have web pages that answer common user questions in a FAQ section, implementing FAQ schema markup can highlight and give quick answers directly in the search results. This schema markup can be applied to pages about your product, event, service, or any marketing campaign relevant to your niche. Moreover, it will help search engines better understand and show your quick answers to users in search engine results.

FAQ schema markup example

Using the FAQ Schema markup on your web pages can be beneficial, but following search engine guidelines and ensuring the implementation makes sense for users is essential. That will prevent your content from becoming outdated and reap the maximum benefits.

4. Create New Content

Your website might be experiencing a decline in search engine rankings for a specific topic. That could be because other websites cover that topic more extensively, causing your website to slip down the SERPs. Trying to cover the topic fully within your existing content may be a bad idea.

Publishing new content for top-performing keywords can effectively recapture lost ground and achieve topical depth. By doing this, you give new life to decaying content and also get the opportunity for much more growth through new keywords in that topic.

5. Consolidate Content

If you have a lot of content pieces that are not performing well or have similar rankings, combining them into one comprehensive piece might be a good idea. It's essential to think carefully about where the content should end up and how it fits into your overall content strategy.

You have different options for how to consolidate your content. You can start from scratch and come up with entirely original material. Another option is to curate existing pieces of content and use them as a basis by adding your unique perspective and insights. Both approaches have advantages, ultimately depending on your goals and the type of content you create.

Analyze similar pages to determine which one performs the best. Once you have identified the top-performing page, you can merge the other posts with it. However, it's vital to ensure no repetition of content. You can achieve this by eliminating duplicate information and retaining only the elements that add depth and breadth to the page.

duplicate content pages

After merging content on one page, delete the old content and establish a permanent 301 redirect to the new URL. That enables search engines to recognize that the content has been relocated, and different websites will redirect to the main post to index that page.

6. Build New Internal Links and Backlinks

To prevent content decay, it's a good idea to interlink your website pages. Linking to related pages on your site can help search engines understand your website's structure, which can improve your rankings. If relevant, you can also link to external sources to make your content more trustworthy.

Make sure to update or remove any references to the current year in your content to keep it evergreen. Review your website's low-ranking pages to find any outdated or broken links. Replace them with links from authoritative sources to boost your website's ranking.

internal linking example

Focusing on link-building campaigns can boost your content and regain previous SERP positions quickly. If you're writing guest posts for other sites, add links to any recently updated posts that need an extra boost in SEO.

It's important to share your posts regularly on social media and email to increase the visibility of your content and drive more traffic to your website. When more people see your content, they may share it or link to it in their own posts, which can further increase its reach.

7. Optimize User Experience

To keep visitors on your website and make it easy to navigate, optimizing the user experience is essential. Here are some things you can do to create an inviting UX:

  • Ensure your website loads quickly, as slow loading times can be frustrating and may discourage visitors from returning.
  • Add relevant visuals and videos to make your content engaging. Avoid using too many visuals or distracting ones, as they may detract from the main message. Instead, use visuals that support your content and help convey your message effectively.
  • Optimize images and videos on your website for different devices, which improves the overall users' browsing experience.
  • Consider including a table of contents for easy navigation. That can also increase the likelihood of your content being featured in Google's featured snippets.

You can catch most issues shortly after publishing your content, but double-checking important features is always a good idea to ensure every reader has a seamless experience.

Keep Your Content Up-To-Date With A Central Content Management Platform

StoryChief can help keep your content up to date and prevent content decay in a few ways:

  1. Content optimization: By using StoryChief’s SEO copywriting tools and keyword optimization tools, you can keep your content aligned with current search trends and maintain its relevance.
  2. Content performance tracking: StoryChief provides analytics tools to track the performance of your content over time. By monitoring metrics like engagement, traffic, and conversions, you can identify content that may be decaying and take steps to refresh or repurpose it to maintain its relevance.
  3. Content recycling: StoryChief allows you to repurpose and recycle your existing content, keeping it fresh and relevant without constantly creating new material. By updating and republishing older content with new information or insights, you can extend its lifespan and continue to provide value to your audience.

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