How To Clean Up And Optimize Your Existing WordPress Blog Posts For SEO

So you wrote a lot of great posts over the past few years which still receive a lot of traffic from search engines, but you’re always wondering how long it will last. Or maybe you were affected by the latest Google Panda or Penguin changes and lost some traffic to that old content?

Perhaps you have noticed that you have been affected by these issues, perhaps not.

Whether you are affected or not, one question remains:  how do I clean up and optimize my existing blog posts?

While there are many aspects related to your website’s backend — site speed, ads, past link building — there is one more very important aspect to deal with: see that your articles are getting updated! Ever heard of the concept “evergreen content”? It’s best to write content which never becomes outdated, but in reality it is nearly impossible. Things change so fast now, new technologies are released, programming languages are changing, everything is changing every day! You need to keep up with that! And while you can write more new articles, it is much harder to get good rankings to new pages than it is to just update your old ones! Makes sense?

But how do you do that? What tools can you use to make post editing and optimizing easier and faster?

You cannot automate processes where you need to rewrite tips and techniques because of changing technologies. We’ll get to that, but updating some tips just to make sure the content is still appropriate is not that time-consuming and hard!

Ok, let me point out some of the most common issues with old posts:

  • Some tips and techniques aren’t relevant anymore
  • You have broken links in your posts, where sources you linked to aren’t there anymore
  • Even with anti-spam plugins, you have some bad comments on your old posts
  • SEO in posts do not exist, or is bad or average, but definitely could be improved

How do you find content worth updating?

If you don’t have that many posts, it may not be an issue for you, but in case you have written 100, 200, 1000 posts in the past, it quickly can start to become one. If you have a few number of posts, you should update all of them as soon as you can, because it won’t take too much time.

However if you want to save some time or it’s not realistic to update all your articles, you should take a look at your Google Analytics (or any other tool you are using to monitor your traffic) and check which of your posts receive the most traffic. With Google Analytics you can easily export this data to an XLS or PDF document so you have something to refer to.

Here are some easy steps to get your information from Google Analytics:

  1. Sign in to Google Analytics, pick a range of one to three months
  2. Browse through Content/Site Content/Landing Pages
  3. Check show rows (50, 100, 200 – your pick) on the bottom of landing page list
  4. Export document and you have your list!

Landing pages google analytics

Since those pages drive the most traffic to your website (and usually those aren’t the newest pages), it makes sense to update those posts to let them perform even better and to improve your visitors experience!

At least in 1WD analytics, we have the most traffic coming from Google, where people’s attention span is really short. Either they find what they are looking for or they go back on Google to keep browsing. Your goal is to provide visitors with up-to-date information, to increase the likelihood that they will stick around more.

Let’s start focusing on each  aspect one at time, so you have clear action list what to do to update your old articles, pages.

Issue No. 1: Some tips, techniques have changed and aren’t up to date anymore

There are different kind of content and each type requires a different approach, but let me summarize. Basically you have two paths you can take:

  1. Changes are small and in few minutes you can update the post and it is all good again
  2. Changes are huge and it is easier to quickly update the biggest changes and create a new followup post about the same topic.

The first step would be awesome because it doesn’t require a lot of time, but unfortunately usually we will have to take the second route. We still should update information in old posts which are really not appropriate anymore, but just make the most necessary changes to save time.

And yes, it is actually better to write a new post (unless that’s not landing page, but you should update it regularly anyway) and just interlink those articles. But don’t think it’s that bad! If an existing article received a lot of traffic on a specific topic, chances are a new article will perform even better!

By the way, looking through past articles is a great source for new article ideas too! And by interlinking articles, you’ll have nice SEO bumps to the new one already increasing chances for new post to rank well.

Issue No. 2: Fixing broken links

With old posts you will often have some broken links which lead nowhere and makes the user experience worse. In this post I will assume you are using WordPress and list some useful plugins and online tools you can use to find those broken links.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth

Xenu’s Link Sleuth checks web sites for broken links. Link verification is done on “normal” links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, stylesheets, scripts and java applets. It displays a continuously updated list of URLs which you can sort by different criteria. A report can be produced at any time.

This is the most popular broken link checker, but it’s only on Windows.

Xenu

Screaming Frog

ScreamingFrog is my favorite because I am a Mac user. The app interface is a bit better and processing is really fast compared to other software and online solutions.

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a small desktop program you can install on your PC or Mac which spiders websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective. It fetches key onsite page elements for SEO, presents them in tabs by type and allows you to filter for common SEO issues, or slice and dice the data how you see fit by exporting into Excel. You can view, analyze and filter the crawl data as it’s gathered and updated continuously in the program’s user interface.

How to find broken links:

  1. Download and install software
  2. Enter URL to spider, press start and wait while processing is done
  3. Check external links and filter:all (I thought it should be HTML, but it’s not showing all the links there)
  4. Order list by status, and check for statuses with errors like DNS lookup failed, connection refused, etc.

Screaming frog

W3C Link Checker

This Link Checker looks for issues in links, anchors and referenced objects in a web page, CSS style sheet, or recursively on a whole web site. This is an option you can use in case you want an online tool, however it is much slower while processing data and results aren’t showcased in a clean list like other downloadable tools.

W3C Link Checker

WordPress Plugin: Broken Link Checker

I guessed you would also like to have WordPress plugin for this task so I found a very popular and recently updated plugin with more than one million downloads.

This plugin will monitor your blog, looking for broken links and let you know if any are found. I would recommend to use this plugin for overall site monitoring and link checking, but not exactly for old article cleaning up process. It has some handy features, but it’s not that effective for our task.

  • Monitors links in your posts, pages, comments, the blogroll, and custom fields (optional).
  • Detects links that don’t work, missing images and redirects.
  • Notifies you either via the Dashboard or by email. Makes broken links display differently in posts (optional).
  • Prevents search engines from following broken links (optional).
  • You can search and filter links by URL, anchor text and so on.

One possible route you can take is just have Broken Link Checker find those links and just unlink them, so you are not linking to non-existent sources and Google don’t have anything bad on you link wise! Downside is that you still can, and will, receive complaints that some links are not working (especially if it’s roundup article). But this technique is a quick solution for SEO purposes, even if not recommended.

I used this plugin to scan all of my broken links and to unlink all comment links where target sources were nonexistent. It was very handy for this task, however I didn’t unlink broken links in articles, because I want to clean them up manually (recommended).

Broken link checker

Here you go, with these tools you can easily find broken links in posts. Updating these links can be a bit messy and time-consuming, since you need to actually find the link in the article and then Google its new destination.

  • Open post in WordPress dashboard so you can edit it
  • Use your preferred software to search for broken links in posts (recommended: ScreamingFrog)
  • Open broken links in browser
  • Copy broken link and search for it (Code view: CTRL+F for search) on WordPress post, so you can see how previous headline was called or get some keywords to search for
  • Use Google to search for these keywords to find if link has changed destination
  • If you find that article/resource, just replace links in WordPress post and you’re done
  • If you cannot find past posting, just pick new article or remove link completely

This is quite a messy process that you need to do, but I haven’t figured or found a way to do that faster and not sure if you can do that at all. If you know of a better solution, please let me know – I will be very, very thankful!

Issue No. 3: Cleaning up comment section from SPAM

Ok, this is a really huge issue – no matter what you do, there are still some spam comments that get through even the best plugins and there’s nothing you can do about it other than coming back and cleaning up the mess.

I would advise to close comments to old posts, because most visitors just come and spam there hoping to get some link juice, they don’t usually don’t come to contribute or be helpful. Visitors tend to leave valuable comments in new posts, but as posts become older they start to attract spammers.

Unfortunately after extensive research I couldn’t find any plugin to rely on to clean up existing spam. I found one plugin which checked existing comments, but it hasn’t updated since 2009. There are also some database queries you can create and use, like banning some users by ip, website or email, but they are a bit risky. With database editing you greatly improve chances to mess something up, so if you consider taking this route, always backup your database – better to be safe than sorry. Since my site wasn’t heavily targeted by one spammer, I didn’t consider banning IP’s an option.

Some tips I suggest:

  • Close comments on WordPress after 60-90 days.
  • In the beginning of this post I advised you to get a list with the most popular monthly articles from analytics, remember? Visit these posts in WordPress dashboard and check comments there. Since they are the most popular pages, it is the most likely that you’ll find the most spam comments there trying to hurt your rankings. Just clean the most popular articles from bad comments and links getting maximal impact from smallest effort.
  • However if you are really hating SPAM like I do, go to WordPress comment section and work your way through ALL the approved comments, mercifully deleting all of them looking like spam (or ones which didn’t add anything to discussion). I have 30,000 comments on 1WD, but today I spent 4 hours to go through 2,000 of them, and surprisingly almost half of them where SPAM (even Akismet plugin didn’t catch them).

These tips may sound stupid and time-consuming, but I really couldn’t find a better solution. You can try some automated ways, but no matter how good your software or plugin is, it won’t find comments, which are submitted manually in very sneaky manner.

Make sure new SPAM doesn’t get through

Ok, while there aren’t any good plugins to check existing spam comments, thankfully there are a lot of awesome plugins doing a great job  to make sure you don’t get new spam!

To make sure you don’t get new spam, you can improve WordPress’ built-in settings and use a few handy plugins to take care of it.

Here are my WordPress Discussion settings:

Discussion settings

What do we have here?

  • I do not allow ping backs and trackbacks anymore, because usually these just make my site look spammy and do not spread the word and help as it was intended in past.
  • Automatically close comments on articles older than 90 days. I picked 3 months – more than enough. Believe me I know that most comments to old posts are being created with the intention of gaming the system and are spam.
  • I always approve each comment manually, with the exception that a comment author has a previously approved comment. This technique is encouraged because you should reply to each good comment anyway and by keeping track of them, you make sure you notice it and respond!

What AntiSpam plugins you should use?

Akismet

No brainer really, even with all the criticism about this plugin lately, I still think it is a must-have plugin. It gets most of the spam out of the way and it has several handy features in comment panel like the Check for Spam button for example.

Must-have plugin.

Akismet wordpress plugin

AntiSpam Bee

If you completely hate Akismet for whatever reason you can alternatively get Antispam Bee. It uses a similar system to Akismet, but instead of sending comment to Akismet, you send comments to Project Honey Pot which is community based.

You can get an API key to HoneyPot and join the fight against spammers by reporting spammers and learn from other people’s spammer reports.

Antispam bee

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin: GASP

Defeat automated spambots by adding a client side generated checkbox asking the comment author to confirm that they are not a spammer.

Very simple plugin, but it has a unique checkbox instead of classic CAPTCHAs. Spammers have tools which help break captchas, but they would need to put extra effort to get that checkbox checked. And personally I hate to fill captcha’s when I  just want to leave comment on my favorite blog, I would prefer a simple checkbox instead. Tried it on 1WD and it works.

Gasp

SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam

If you still want a CAPTCHA on your blog, this is the most popular plugin for that. This plugin adds CAPTCHA anti-spam methods to WordPress on the forms for comments, registration, lost password, login, or all. For WP, WPMU, and BuddyPress.

Si captcha wordpress plugin

With these plugins you will be very well prepared for future SPAM coming to your site!

Issue No. 4: Improving SEO on past posts

Chances are, if your posts are ranking well, you did something right with your SEO or social promotion. There isn’t much you can do on old articles, because articles are already ranking well for specific keywords.

You can still check which keywords your articles are rank well for and you may find that you are targeting the wrong keywords with your existing SEO plugin. If you want to find out which keywords bring traffic to exact posts read below.

Follow these steps if you have Google Analytics:

  • Go to Content/Landing pages and click the post you want to research;
  • Select secondary dimension:Keyword and you’ll see which are the top keywords used to find your post;
  • Use this information to change, improve existing search key phrases you are targeting in post SEO settings. Oh, you can update SEO headline and meta description too;

Keywords posts

Recommended SEO Plugins To Choose For WordPress Optimization

I am not sure which SEO plugins you are using now, but here is what I suggest. In the past I used the All in One SEO plugin, but a few months ago I switched to Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and have never been more satisfied!

WordPress SEO by Yoast

Improve your WordPress SEO: Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.

With this plugin you can easily optimize your new and existing content by setting SEO headlines, focus keyword, meta descriptions. This plugin really helps to get your posts and whole WordPress website ready for SEO.

I won’t give any tips on how to use this plugin because all the training you need is included in the WordPress dashboard itself!

Yoast seo

Scribe SEO

This plugin won’t do any wonders for your SEO, but it will help you analyze if you have optimized your articles enough. This is a paid plugin, but I suggest you try it for a month or two, get familiar with positive SEO practices and then do it on your own.  Scribe will help you do keyword research, analyze your content and help crosslink content within your own site. Optionally you might be set just with this excellent Chocolate Donuts optimization guide from SEOmoz.

Their analyzing feature is why I recommend Scribe, using it myself on 1WD. Keyword research is better with the Google Keywords Tool, but their analyze feature is irreplaceable!

Scribe seo

That’s it about the SEO plugin part, I tried a lot of different plugins lately, but those are the only ones I find really helpful while optimizing articles for SEO.

However, if your site is really badly affected by Google, you might take a look at the article I wrote before. It’s all about spotting red flags on your site overall, and there is also an extensive list of tools and plugins which can help you with the process. Here is the Google SEO article. Enjoy!

Let me know how you clean up and optimize your existing articles or spam comments! I would love to hear your techniques and tips so I can improve this post even further! I would love to hear your feedback in the comment section!

Dainis Graveris

Dainis is 25 years young man, who struggled for 3 years while studying in design academy and working for local design agency, because of ignorant teachers and agency boss. He couldn't believe this is all life could offer to him! And then he discovered true Internet possibilities, he was lucky to find his passion early in life and take advantage of this beautiful Information (Internet) Age! Now he is committed to help others succeed, to help others take charge of their life and follow their passion! His goal is to open Your eyes and help unveil Your true potential!

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Comments

  1. Warren says

    Hi,
    First of all thanks for posting such an article. I am a new comer to SEO field. and am just getting familiarized with the work and choices available in this field. Optimizing the search engine is a challenging job to do, but the information like that you have provided here, will help people to make it easy. The techniques for escaping from spam is also exciting. Thank you very much for sharing the information

  2. lehtu says

    Very nice article! Now I have some starting point for my fresh wordpress installation, cheers :)

  3. says

    Hi,
    Worth reading article. I used the wordpress plugin for broken link that you suggested and with no surprise haven’t found many as my blog is new and as far as Seo plugin is concerned I use wordpress Seo from the start but i really like to know about anchor text, do sometimes they also counted as spam? As they are good for Seo i personally like to use them. How to Technology blog

  4. says

    Hi,

    At first I would say GOOD Work! Second, I don’t have a question at this time because after reading this article I have to get my head deep inside my website and find out things that are harming it badly. It was good effort and the Xenu software you recommended, man its good. I have found out the broken links but still need to know how to fix them so, I am on my way fixing those and wishing you good luck as you seem quite worried about the new Google Hit, Good for you and for us too.

    Cheers,

    • says

      Waqas, oh glad to see you really are taking some action! Some broken links are confusing and may require programmers help, but mostly it’s just because of outdated posts..or old comments where links used aren’t active anymore.

      In comments I just removed them, on posts, well..you need to work a bit harder! Let me know how you go in cleaning up your own website! Good luck!

  5. says

    I’ve been looking for ways to fight spam. Thanks for the setting preferences. Also thanks for the GASP plugins. I’ve been searching for that since I hate captcha. One more thing, I’ve been using All In One SEO since I started to use wordpress to blog. I’ve tried to install Yoast SEO and it seems very very good. It’s better than All In One SEO in a lot of ways. Now I can disable the hotlink protection plugins and google sitemap XML plugins. Thank you sir. You did a great job!

    • says

      Thanks Akaun, I hope it’s your name, don’t leave keywords on your name please!

      Oh then you are in the same place I was..I used All in one seo for so long, it was hard to make a switch..but I am glad I did..:) It has pretty awesome customization features! Glad you enjoyed article, thanks!

    • says

      Pravin, one – because broken links make visitor reading experience much worse, second – search engines notice that you have many broken links on your site = outdated, old content and decreases your rankings.

  6. says

    I don’t very often find myself revising old blog posts… once in a great while I will. If there is a major revision, many times I’ll make an entirely new blog post with a different title, and link back to the old post within the new one. I should experiment though – thanks for these tips.

    • says

      Todd, sometimes it is best to create new post using similar keywords, but sometimes it’s more beneficial to just revise existing one! Depends how much time it will take, so you need to evaluate!

      I feel you, I also do rarely major revisions, but sometimes it’s good to have a good push there to do these changes :)

  7. says

    Dear Dainis Graveris,

    I have both a question and a comment. First, while evergreen content is important when you are first building your blog in order to attract readers, would you ever recommend “non-evergreen” content? I am realizing that evergreen content is best suited for my company because we offer more of a one-time service (we do service comparison work so after finding the right service, hopefully you build a nice relationship with the provider and will, thus, not likely use our site as much). If, however, you offer more of a renewable product or service, would you recommend beginning with evergreen content and then also including more time-sensitive content such as current events to stimulate reader attention? This way you develop a strong base with evergreen content while also maintaining your followers. Please let me know your thoughts.

    Second, we have used the Mozilla link checker addon to help find broken links. I, personally, found it to work well in finding broken links.

    Thank you,
    Miranda Goot

    • says

      Hello Miranda, thank you for your comment!

      Well, while I absolutely love evergreen content I still wouldn’t focus on it completely! Focus on readers instead – if you have customers you already know what are their most frequent questions they seek answers to! If they seek answers to those questions ,there are probably a lot more people googling the same questions so you need to create articles exactly about that!

      If I could – I would post just evergreen content, because it won’t go out of style, however you will get more successful for writing to your readers(clients) directly and covering more trendy topics which are hot right now.

      While working on schedule I would recommend to mix everything – write evergreen content whenever you can – it’s great, but don’t focus just on that! Mix in trendy headlines inspiring from latest industry happenings and the most importantly – just answer to client biggest pain points in clear articles!

      Put your dream customer in the first place and always write to him, not worrying so much about SEO, evergreen, trendy content directly? Does it make sense?

      How fast is Mozilla link checker? Because biggest issue with link checkers is speed. I hate to wait too long and that’s why I offered downloadable solutions not browser versions. Let me know!

      • says

        Thanks Dainis!

        Your comments about focusing on the target audience instead of SEO or even evergreen content are much appreciated (and much needed!). As for the Mozilla addon, it is not the fastest so your solutions might be a better answer.

        Thanks again,
        Miranda

        • says

          Glad to hear it makes sense – if you focus on target audience you will get lucky sometimes with SEO benefits. Oh..and one more thing – write headlines and articles simply the way customers ask the questions. If you use technical terms insider people now, you will loose slight traffic from people who are typing super simple questions.

  8. says

    Great tips – and don’t forget once you’ve updated that archive content to make sure you’re linking to the most popular posts on your sidebar.

    It’ll help users find your classic posts easier.

    • says

      Calmin, I would say go even further, create separate pages rounding up some popular topic and linking in that page to several most popular articles!

      But both ways are beneficial for sure!

  9. nishu says

    i have my eyes hooked on an interesting piece from you.

    2 doubts:

    a) I am on my site content>> landing pages and then hit on keyword, it throws up keywords across few urls and others it reads: (not set) but when i hit on individual url and then press keyword, it throws up some 10 results…out of which the first reads NOT SET, second says: NOT PROVIDED and then from 3-10 shows up diverse related keywords. What does it mean? Does the NOT SET, NOT PROVIDED display mean it is not optimized for given keywords?

    pls guide.

    b) Also, when you say comment spam. pls specify….if you are refering to outgoing links from comments or the language used?

    For us, all outgoing links from the comment section are no-follow. Do we still need to delete them?

    • says

      Hello Nishu, thanks a lot for writing in here! :)

      a) I am glad you asked this as it’s very popular problem and nightmare when tracking your top keywords. Here is useful article you can read explaining not-set and not-provided reasons in GA – http://www.heatherphysioc.com/google-analytics-not-set-not-provided

      not-provided – Google is hiding these search results if searcher was logged in any google products.
      not-set – basically is direct or referral visit..nothing we can do about it.

      You can find most popular keywords through Google Webmaster Tools, by logging in and going Traffic->Search Traffic on your site. But it is lucking details we need. I don’t know or haven’t found an option to monitor single post search queries on webmaster tools..instead I receive there just general list.

      What I do is focus on keywords I can see (from article – Analytics) and optimize posts for SEO to them.

      b) Language should be set in settings to the one you use and I encourage not to accept any other language. Mine is set to English only, most foreigners are just looking to spam. Saw several russian commenters, chinese and probably others..so I changed setting to just English.

      My comments are no-follow too, but still SEO people suggest to comment on no-follow sites too. Maybe search engines are saying that they don’t track those links, but of course they still do! Less value maybe, but no-follow is so popular practice, I really believe you must clean spam outgoing links anyway.

      The most evil usually is keyword in name like Jamaica Web Design Services, then link to their site..and sometimes even in comment they don’t contribute, but leave more links and try to advertise their project. I leave the ones which are useful, but mostly commenters are just advertising their crappy products I wouldn’t recommend myself.

      You can worry less about links, but most spammers will still leave their SEO keywords, which can hurt your site credibility and rankings.

  10. says

    Quite long article and it is good for those geeks who are affected by Panda and Penguin update and i am among one of them.

    • says

      How are you fighting with it? Maybe you can also share some tips which helped to you? If no, then implement these tips and let me know how you succeed :) This weeks for 1WD at least seems a bit more promising than before.

  11. says

    i was using all in seo plugin in a past, after reading this article i am start using “Yoast WordPress SEO” now problem is even though , i imported all setting of All in seo plugin.. but what about keywords, i ve more then 900+ posts, how i can edit all of them?
    guide me
    thanks

  12. Sanjeev says

    Useful tutorial, definitely its gives +ve advantages. But i am too lazy to do such task. But sure i will try after some time when i think my blog required such maintenance. Thanks.

    • says

      Heh Sanjeev, those are time consuming things to do agreed. But if you would be a bit desperate and really careful what you have on site, you would take the efforts! :)

      And of course, not many blogs require such high maintenance, for most blogs this would take just few hours of work :)