How To Identify And Fix Content Decay In 7 Easy Steps

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min read

It can be frustrating to see content that once performed well suffer a dip in organic traffic,  backlinks or conversions. Especially when you’ve invested precious time and resources into a solid content strategy. 

At Eleven, we’ve seen first-hand how good content can slowly lose its place in SERP rankings. Whether due to optimization issues, broken links, or outdated content that no longer meets user intent, we’ve helped our clients identify and fix issues to get the most out of their marketing efforts.

Thankfully, this process identifying content decay and remedying it is relatively easy—once you know what to look for, that is.

In this article, we’ll show you how to make sure your content remains relevant and continues to perform well. 

What is content decay?

Content decay refers to the slow decline in relevance, visibility, and effectiveness of online content over time. If not identified and fixed, it can lead to loss of revenue and have a seriously negative impact on your content marketing ROI.

Pro Tip

Suffering from a sudden drop in performance? This could be due to a recent Google update. Check out this article on Bouncing Back From A Google Algorithm Update: A Step-by-Step Guide

What causes content decay?

There are many reasons for content decay. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones: 

  • Relevance erosion: Content can become outdated as industries evolve, new information emerges, or trends change. This diminishes its value and makes it less appealing to the audience seeking up-to-date information.
  • Technological changes: With advancements in technology or changes in algorithms (especially in search engines and social media platforms), content that doesn't adapt may lose visibility or relevance.
  • Increased competition: As more content gets published on similar topics, your content might get overshadowed or pushed down in search engine rankings, reducing its visibility.
  • Audience shifts: Changes in audience preferences, behaviors, or interests can mean that previously engaging content is less appealing or relevant to the current audience.
  • Link rot: External links within content might become broken or outdated over time as websites change or pages get removed, affecting the credibility and usability of your content.
  • Searcher intent change: The reasons behind user search can change over time. For example, in 2000, people searching for electric vehicles were mostly looking for educational content. Now, the same search is with transactional intent.
  • Search updates: New Google search updates (like the recent helpful content update) can mean your old content drops in visibility and rankings. 

How to spot content decay

Identifying content that may be suffering from decay offers a great opportunity to maximize ROI from existing content

The simplest way to spot content decay is through regular reporting.

Search Console offers some visibility into page performance over time—but it’s a bit cumbersome. You can view the performance over time of individual pages, but only one at a time. 

Doing this for dozens or hundreds of pages is impractical. 

This is also true of Google Analytics, which doesn’t make it very simple to see historical data for a large number of pages. 

For this reason, we recommend creating a simple spreadsheet with all of your content and importing data from Google Analytics, Search Console, and other tools each week. 

You can use a different sheet for each metric and easily monitor them all:

From there, it’s simply a matter of using graphs and/or formulas to quickly identify decay trends. 

Content Metrics to Monitor:

Collect data and monitor trends on the following metrics:

  • Traffic trends: Monitor traffic patterns for individual pieces of content using a tool like Google Analytics. A decline in traffic over time, especially for previously popular content, could indicate decay. 
  • Engagement metrics: Analyze engagement metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate, and social shares. A decrease in engagement might signal that the content is becoming less relevant or appealing to your audience.
  • Search engine ranking: Check your contents’ search engine rankings for specific keywords associated with your content. A drop in rankings could suggest that your content is losing visibility and relevance.
  • Backlink monitoring: Track the number and quality of backlinks to your content. A decrease in backlinks might indicate diminishing authority or relevance.
  • Content age: Compare the performance of newer content with older content. If newer content consistently outperforms older pieces on similar topics, it could indicate content decay in the older articles.
  • User feedback: Pay attention to comments, feedback, or reviews related to your content. Changes in sentiment or a decrease in positive feedback might hint at declining relevance.
  • Competitor analysis: Compare your content's performance with that of competitors. If their newer content consistently outperforms yours, it might signal that your content needs updating or refreshing.
  • Trend relevance: Evaluate whether the content is still aligned with current trends, industry updates, or changes in audience interests. 

With this precious data in hand, you can identify articles that are losing traction and take action. Below, we explore the seven most effective ways to combat content decay and make your content shine anew. 

7 ways to fix content decay

Now that you know how to identify it, here are seven ways to fix and prevent content decay. 

1. Refresh old content

The digital world is dynamic so it’s important to keep your content fresh and relevant to stay in the game. Refresh with new, helpful information to extend the life of your existing content and combat decay.

Look out for these key areas and update your content accordingly:

  1. Is the information still accurate and up-to-date? Have there been any new developments or changes in the topic since the content was published? Are there any outdated facts, statistics, or references that need to be updated?
  1. Is the content still relevant to our target audience? Does the topic address current interests, challenges, or trends within your target audience?  Are there any new audience segments or demographics that the content could be tailored to? What feedback or comments have you received from your audience on the old content? This will help you address audience pain points, identify which content to prune (covered later), and adjust to meet their needs.
  1. How can you address common questions or concerns raised by your audience? Are there any recurring questions or issues that need to be addressed in the refreshed content? Add in FAQs, amending your headers and text to answer these questions (a great way to get a featured snippet!), or add in new sections.

2. Expand content

Another way to refresh your old content is to expand it. Enriching a topic you’ve already covered will add more value for your audience. 

To do this:

  • Are there related topics or subtopics that can be explored in more detail in the refreshed content? Add in extra headers for more information to add value to your existing article.
  • Add images, videos, or infographics to enhance the content. This also increases readability. 
  • Add new insights in the form of case studies, fresh examples, expert opinions, and references that support your existing content.
  • Include user-generated content like reviews, testimonials, or video how-to’s.
  • Get quotes or input from experts to add credibility and authority to your content. Ask your team or find experts through tools like HARO.
  • Address common questions or concerns. You could do this by adding in new sections or FAQs on the article page.
  • Add in practical advice like tips, strategies, or best practices to give more value to the reader. 

3. Re-optimize posts

Align your content with evolving searcher intent to remain relevant and valuable. To do this, update keywords, meta descriptions, and title tags to improve search visibility. Consider adding relevant subheadings or restructuring the content for improved readability, too.

Here are two ways to do it:

  1. Improve the readability and user experience of the content by enhancing the layout or formatting of the content. Is the content easy to understand and navigate? Are there opportunities to improve the layout, design, or formatting of the content to enhance readability?
  1. What keywords and SEO strategies can we incorporate to improve visibility? Are there new keywords or search terms that we should target? Use tools like Frase and Ahrefs to see which keywords you could be targeting. Can you optimize the metadata, headings, and other on-page elements to improve search engine visibility?

To learn more, check out this helpful guide for how to optimize content for SEO in 2024

4. Make sure internal links are working properly

Your content strategy is often used to drive traffic to your site and increase conversions. If your internal links aren’t working properly, this means you’re losing out on potential conversions. You’ll also be able to strengthen your site's structure and enhance user navigation.

To address this, it’s a good idea to do a site audit to make sure your links are working correctly. Our handy guide on how to perform a technical SEO audit shows you how to make quick work of a big task. 

Then, fix any issues with internal links — taking special care to make sure your CTA links are working well. Plus, add in new internal links to content that’s been published recently.

5. Prune irrelevant content

Although it can feel tough to remove content you’ve worked hard to produce, it can be a useful way to improve your site’s overall quality. Plus, it can help you focus on improving content that’s worth optimizing, repurposing, and consolidating. Sometimes it’s simply better to remove content than spending hours trying to fix it. 

Here’s what to look out for to decide which content to prune:

  • If your content is highly underperforming, with consistently low views, high bounce rates, or low social engagement, this could mean it’s not resonating with your audience. Prune content that doesn’t align with your audience’s preferences and interests.
  • Consider whether your content aligns with your current brand’s expertise, values, or messaging. Content that was produced several years ago may no longer reflect your brand standards or be outdated and could be doing more harm than good. 
  • The same goes for content that references outdated trends or opinions. If your articles were created in response to of-the-moment trends or opinions, it may be time to prune it.

In general, it’s recommended to prune content that does not support your strategic goals or that distracts from your core messaging priorities.

6. Consolidate your articles

One way to expand your content is to merge related posts. Consolidating your articles will help you streamline your content to create comprehensive, high-quality pieces from existing material. Here’s what to look for:

  • Overlap and redundancy: Identify articles that cover similar or overlapping topics within your content library. Look for redundancy in content, where multiple articles discuss the same concepts, ideas, or information. 
  • Keyword and SEO analysis: Conduct keyword research and SEO analysis to identify articles that are ranking well for valuable keywords or topics. Look for opportunities to consolidate articles that are ranking for similar keywords to improve search engine visibility and organic traffic.
  • Content gaps and opportunities: Identify gaps in your existing content library where consolidation could help fill missing pieces or provide more comprehensive coverage of certain topics. Look for opportunities to create authoritative, cornerstone content pieces that address key topics in depth.

Once you’ve identified which articles you can consolidate, take the highest performing piece and merge any other content into it. Copy and paste sections and text, taking care to maintain the readability of the merged article. Remove the low-performing article and redirect links to the higher performing URL. 

Pro Tip

It’s a good idea to copy over any comments from the removed article as they add value to the new, merged one.

7. Boost social media engagement

Boosting your social media engagement increases the visibility and reach of your content, driving more traffic and interaction. By fostering active engagement with your audience on social media platforms, you can keep your content fresh, relevant, and top-of-mind, mitigating the effects of content decay and maintaining a strong online presence.

  • Start by breaking the content into smaller, more digestible pieces for different formats or platforms. Use AI tools like Lately and Hootsuite to generate a selection of posts from existing content. 
  • Then identify which channels will work best for your target audience and content. LinkedIn is great for business professionals, X works best for short, snappy text-based posts, and TikTok is great for connecting with younger audiences. 
  • Connect with new audiences through influencer marketing. Brandwatch, Modash, and inBeat all offer influencer databases that help you reach the right people to match your brand and content.
Pro Tip

Check out more ways of repurposing content to different social media channels in our helpful guide on How To Maximize ROI From Your Existing Blog Content.


Addressing content decay is crucial for maintaining the relevance and effectiveness of your online content. Identify which pieces will benefit from being refreshed, expanded, optimized, or given a promotional boost. This will make sure that your content remains valuable, engaging, and visible to your target audience. 

By taking proactive steps to address content decay, you can maximize the return on your content investment and maintain a strong online presence in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Looking to boost your content marketing? Get in touch to learn how Eleven’s topic-expert writers can help. 

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