We’ve been asked this question a lot by consulting clients and on Quora. The jist of the question is essentially this: Suppose you have a given keyword you’re trying to build ranking for. Maybe you wrote some articles a year or more ago on it that have gotten some traffic, and now you’ve created some newer and — you’re pretty sure — better content around the same keywords. But the old stuff ranks better.
This can be frustrating, especially if you feel you’ve gotten better at writing SEO content over the last year. Google likes new content, right? Surely older material isn’t as relevant because it’s old, right?
The opposite can often be true from a ranking standpoint. The longer any decently-optimized page on a website remains indexed the stronger its ranking potential. Partially this is because it’s had more time to propagate through the search engines and be read and reread by bots.
But it can also be because, by having been out there longer, it’s been shared and linked to more times by others. When content is shared continuously search engines take that as a cue about its relevance, popularity, and usefulness. Same with content that’s been linked to or referenced repeatedly.
“But what if a piece of new content gets shared a bunch right off the bat? Won’t that help?”
It will, but not always as quickly as you think. Sure, being shared a bunch right out of the gate might generate a spike in traffic to the page, but its ranking power can still take a bit to build. This is likely because search engines want to see if the material is strong enough to maintain interest over time rather than one initial burst followed by nothing.
You can get a page indexed pretty quickly — a day or less — especially if your site has already built some trust with Google/Bing. But being in a search engine’s index and being rank-worthy are not the same thing. You can’t rank if you’re not indexed, but an indexed page can float around out there awhile before finding its footing.
The thorough propagation into cyberspace is real and can’t be shortcutted past a point. I’ve seen many times where you do everything right with a new article or page and the traffic is unimpressive for a couple weeks. Then on week 2-3, if the promotion and interest have been ongoing, its numbers start to jump.
What you can do to help the new page along
Since Google follows cues from links and references even internally when trying to understand your site and how pages relate to each other, you can edit your older post(s) to include anchor links to the new material. Because the link houses those same keywords, it’s a declaration of how the linked page represents those words. This builds an association to the word in general, and the relation of the new post to an older, well-established one can improve its ranking.
You might even add an intro sentence or two at the beginning of the old article(s) referencing new one. This steers readers that may have just arrived toward the new material instead while still benefitting from the ranking of the old stuff
That increased traffic and attention can build the new article up over the next month or so.
In extreme cases you can use 301 redirects to forward all traffic from the old page to the newer one, but in most situations I’d recommend against that. I say that mostly because there are better ways (like above) to build the new content out without damaging other pages. More overall traffic is generally better, so if your old page can continue to rank well along with the new material, that’s ideal.
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