What is Content Decay? How To Stop it from Destroying SEO

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), content decay refers to the gradual loss of a webpage’s search engine ranking over time. This happens when the content on a webpage becomes outdated, irrelevant or less useful to users, causing search engines to perceive the content as less valuable. As a result, the webpage’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) decreases, leading to a decrease in organic traffic.

According to a study by Ahrefs, about 30.7% of pages in the top 10 search results will get replaced by new pages in one year. The study found that the average age of a top-ranking page in Google is over two years old. This demonstrates the importance of regularly updating and improving website content to avoid content decay and maintain a high search engine ranking.

What Exactly is Content Decay?

True to its etymology, content decay refers to content that has become stale, losing its original freshness and usefulness. It happens when content is not regularly updated. This results in a drop in organic SEO rankings and its ability to drive online traffic.

Like every decomposable matter, content decay is an inevitable fact. It happens to all online content. Think of it as a natural part of a page’s SEO lifecycle. In other words, no evergreen content is truly evergreen. But there are interventions we can perform to preserve content recency.

Leading causes of content decay

If you’re wondering why content decay happens, here are the leading causes:

  • Age. Aging content has less traffic and attention pull compared to newer ones. New content implies that the information is up-to-date compared to old published material.
  • Cutthroat competition. Losing visibility is more likely to happen when more businesses compete on a “hot” topic. In other words, content expiration happens at a quicker rate than normal.
  • Your company focuses on new content. Many companies tend to look ahead into the dawn. Unfortunately, outdated contents are the things overlooked in this forward-thinking mindset. Nonetheless, this reasoning is founded on reality because…
  • Google prioritizes newer content. New content signifies freshness and up-to-date information, which grants them advantages over old materials. 
  • Changes in search intent. The user’s goals behind search queries may change over time. If the search intent behind a keyword changes, search engine results page or SERP ranking will also shift drastically.
  • Modern-day irrelevance. Some keywords are tied to a specific timeline. For instance, searching for a keyword in 2018 will yield different results if searched today. One example is, “best computer games of all time.”

How Does Content Decay Affect Your SEO?

So, if Google is hung up on newer content, why should we still fear content decay?

Content decay is an inevitable acid test that all online content goes through. During this process, your webpage will suffer from various drawbacks:

  • Traffic received from your content will decline
  • Organic SEO ranking will drop
  • Your webpage experiences an increase in bounce rate
  • Businesses will have a decreased online visibility

Here’s the thing: If these were the only issue, then content decay is manageable. Regularly publishing new content mitigates the losses incurred from outdated content.

However, content decay is more detrimental to your SEO strategy than people credit it for.

Let me give you an example.

Google uses signals and algorithms to determine which online content outranks others in SERPs. Expertise is one known Google ranking factor— characterized by high backlinks, decent time-on-page and low bounce rate. Unfortunately, a high bounce rate comes naturally to outdated content.

When Google detects a high bounce rate on your content, this affects the level of “authoritativeness” of your business.As a result, Google gives your content lesser credit, a.k.a. lower SERP rank, even with new high-quality publications.

This just shows that content decay has a domino impact on your overall SEO strategy. All your old and new content is interconnected into one cohesive piece. Therefore, a single decaying piece of content can impact the rest of your high-quality material.

How to Track and Identify Content Decay on Your Website

Convinced of the detrimental impacts of content decay? It’s not the end of the world. There are workarounds to prevent content decay and keep your articles in tip-top shape.

Continue reading to see the best ways to track and identify content decay:

Monitor website analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is your best friend in your SEO quest. Actively monitoring your analytics gives you access to information that can thwart content decay in its tracks. The more important question is, “which SEO KPIs should you focus on?”

Here are the golden GA metrics to look after:

#1 Search rankings

Your SERP ranking or position gives you a bird’s eye view of how your content is doing. A prime position for a keyword indicates that Google values your content, placing you above others. But SERP ranking is more volatile than cryptocurrency as it can change in a blink of an eye.

It’s important to monitor the trend of your search rank. Once your content goes on a slow downward spiral, you better spruce it up before decay happens.

#2 Page views

Page views are another indicator of your content’s inherent value. More page views mean more people are interested in what you have to say on the topic. Page views tend to hover around a certain range. But once it reaches the tipping point and drops, revisiting your content may be necessary.

Search ranking and page views are interdependent because the higher your SERP position, the more page views you get. According to First Page Sage, the first organic link on Google has an average CTR of 39.8%. But this drops to 18.7% for the second organic result.

You can imagine how much impact your ranking has on your CTR. And speaking of CTR…

#3 Organic click-through rate

As mentioned, your SERP ranking may influence low organic CTR. However, other elements, like your meta tags, may also come into play.

Here’s the thing: people have no clue about your content before clicking your link.

The meta description and titles are supposed to give people a glimpse of what to expect. If your meta tags don’t excite any desire or interest, expect zero click-throughs.

One way to improve your organic CTR is by inserting relevant keywords into your meta description. Keeping your title concise and interesting also adds intrigue to your content, influencing CTRs.

Track user engagement

Aside from face-value GA metrics, another way to track content decay is by looking after content-influenced analytics. There are three that come to mind in this regard: time on page, bounce rate and conversion rate.

#1 Average time-on-page

How long do you spend on a webpage? You might be surprised, but the global average time-on-page across industries is only a little over 50 seconds. That means people spend 50+ seconds on each webpage, including SEO content.

While that is average, you must strive for more time spent on your content. Why? Because low time-on-page is an indicator of either poor content or non-engaging copy. 

If you see people spending less than a minute on your articles, stop and analyze the reason why. Are you giving them information that aligns with their search intent? Is your copy engaging enough to keep them reading?

#2 Bounce rate

The bane of poor content or non-engaging copy is the bounce rate. When the title or the first paragraph of your SEO content fails to interest users, say adios! Expect them to bounce faster than a rubber ball.

Mitigating your bounce rate can manage your content’s decay rate. So, try to see what causes the bounce rate to spike. Is your opening paragraph not engaging enough? Do you have a poor article title? Does your intro leave no room for more desire?

Fix those errors.

As time passes and content decays, your bounce rate will inevitably increase. But not taking charge of your bounce rate today also hastens your content’s decay rate. It’s a double-edged sword you must actively be aware of.  

#3 Conversion rate

Finally, the conversion rate is another user engagement metric you must manage. While SEOs are not originally meant for conversions, some copywriting can add direct-response elements to them.

If your content receives good conversions but suddenly struggles to convert despite good page views, there’s something wrong. Perhaps your CTA needs a little makeover to reinvigorate its engagement factor.

The little things matter in preventing content decay.

Conduct regular content audits

Content auditing is the practice of analyzing the content and their performance on a website. While Google Analytics may be enough for most businesses, getting SEO tools like ahrefs or SEMrush augments their auditing prowess.

One benefit of content auditing is allowing businesses to purge obsolete information or revamp existing content. For instance, updating is necessary if you’re a science-focused business that regularly cites scientific journals. Citing 15-year-old research studies for modern solutions does not help your content’s freshness or reliability.

In reality, being an SEO manager is a full-time job, especially with content decay considered. SEO experts conduct content audits to know which content performs or not. Those that perform well are replicated in future publications, while those that deliver mediocre numbers are rehabilitated— how?

3 Ways to Fix and Prevent Content Decay

Check our tips below if you want to spruce up and give your decaying content some well-deserved makeover.

Regularly update content

Facts never change, but facts change when presented with new and sound facts. 

If your business model relies on facts like scientific findings, keeping up with the times is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you risk your authoritativeness and reliability by presenting audiences with outdated information. This is true for pharmaceutical businesses and healthcare providers.

Meanwhile, updating content is also crucial for websites that depend on the latest news and trends. Trends drastically change, so look for the next big thing and update your content accordingly.

Here are some suggestions for updating your content:

  1. Remove outdated information or texts and write new content on an existing article
  2. Seamlessly insert high-performing keywords
  3. Update media and featured images
  4. Insert new hyperlinks that lead to up-to-date content
  5. Purge content beyond saving

Plot your content audits and updates on the calendar

Content auditing should not be based on a whim. It must be performed intently to look after your search engine optimization efforts. That said, it’s important to conduct content audits on whether your content performs well, per Google Analytics.

The best way to approach this is by planning your content audits ahead of time. Set a specific monthly date when you will analyze your existing content and revamp as needed. This makes your anti-content decay efforts proactive or preventive. Otherwise, some content may no longer recover from content decay when businesses only react to drastic changes.

Leverage user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) can be a powerful tool for businesses to connect with their audience and increase engagement. By leveraging UGC, companies can showcase the authentic experiences and opinions of their customers, which can lead to increased trust and credibility.

To leverage UGC effectively, businesses should encourage their customers to share their experiences and opinions on social media and other platforms. This can be done through incentivized campaigns, challenges, or simply by creating a community around the brand.

Once UGC is generated, businesses can use it to create social media posts, blog content, and other marketing materials. By featuring real customers and their experiences, companies can show the human side of their brand and connect with their audience on a deeper level.

It’s important for businesses to obtain permission from users before using their UGC to avoid any legal issues. It’s more important to monitor and respond to UGC to maintain a positive relationship with customers and ensure that any negative comments or feedback are addressed appropriately.

Overall, leveraging user-generated content can be a valuable strategy for businesses looking to increase engagement and build trust with their audience.

Take action today to prevent your valuable content from losing its relevance and authority over time. Unlock the full potential of your SEO strategy with our expert insights and practical tips. Click to know how!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: