One of the great debates for website owners is whether or not you need to keep publishing new content on your website to maintain its Google rankings and not lose organic traffic over time.
Some say you can, and are quick to emphasize that this is what makes online publishing a passive business model in the first place. Others say you can’t—they claim the organic traffic to your site will start to decrease the moment you stop publishing new content.
I don’t have any statistically significant data to prove whether either side is right or not, and this isn’t the goal of this post.
But I do own a couple of websites I haven’t updated in quite some time now—and I’ll show you some anecdotal evidence of the former.
Growing blogs and niche sites monetized primarily with display ads, as you’re about to see, can be a relatively passive business model.
Why You Really Don’t Need to Keep Publishing Content
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: a nine-year-old site monetized with display ads and informational products, and an eleven-month-old site monetized with display ads and affiliate links.
Site 1 (9 years old, 25 posts)
Here’s a screenshot from the “Performance” tab in Google Search Console of a site in my portfolio I haven’t updated since July 2020. So no new content and no updates to old content.
The site is 9 years old, with a Moz DA score of 20 and an Ahrefs DR score of 26. It has 25 posts published on it, and it’s monetized with display ads and informational products (sold on autopilot through SendOwl and Stripe).
As you can see, there are ups and downs, and the general trend is a slight decline. And yet, this site has been seeing 150 to 200 organic clicks per day for years.
Site 2 (11 months old, 50 posts)
This site is a new site on a domain name I bought 11 months ago.
I published 50 posts in late Q4 2021 and early Q1 2022. Then, I left the domain name—and the content that’s on it—to mature as I switched my time and money to other, higher-ROI sites in my portfolio.
The last post on this website was published in February 2022. Just like with the other, older website, I haven’t published any new posts or updated old posts on it since. (Looking at the hockey-stick growth curve, though, I’ll need to refocus on this site soon.)
As you can see, clicks and impressions on this site have been on the rise despite the fact that I haven’t published any new content on it for a few months now.
Eventually, it will even out.
Before that happens, my plan is to come back to this site and post a few hundred new pieces of content on it in an attempt to take it to 100,000 page views or more.
This site also recently got on Google Discover:
I’ve heard people say that you can only get on Google Discover if you post every day. But my experience (and this is not just with Site 2) is otherwise.
Why You Still Want to Post and Update Content
Now, the fact that you can leave your website alone and have it grow or sustain rankings doesn’t mean that you should.
I’m going to give you three compelling reasons why you should post new content and update old content for as long as you plan to keep a website in your portfolio.
The Content on Your Site Will Get Old
Content ages with time, so it gets old.
But, before you click away, hear (or read?) me out. The older your content gets, the more likely it is that Google users are likely to click on search results with a more recent publication date.
That lowers your CTR, which lowers your rankings, which then lowers your CTR, which then lowers your rankings. Don’t get me wrong; you won’t necessarily end up on page 2 or 3 of Google. But the bottom half of page 1 isn’t a great place to be either!
The good news is that this takes time. Two, three years, sometimes more. So you don’t necessarily need to keep updating your old posts every few months. (Unless they’re ranking for a really competitive keyword in a really competitive niche.)
New Competitors Will Enter the Niche Over Time
Many of them will check your site’s rankings and traffic estimates in tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Ubersuggest—and create content to compete with your highest-traffic posts.
Some will create content for low-competition keywords that slowly but surely eats away at your organic rankings. Then there are those who will emulate or copy from you, devaluing your authority in the eyes of the searcher (and probably the search engine).
A select few will simply create better content (longer, more factual, with better references, with photos, illustrations, embedded YouTube videos, etc.) than yours, and you will need to catch up.
You Can Squeeze Out More Traffic by Updating Your Old Posts
Generally, it’s easier to increase traffic to an established website by updating old posts with additional questions and answers than it is to publish new posts and see how they do.
And that’s not just because you can add a few hundred words to an old post, while you need a good 1,000 words for a new post, in many cases more.
It’s because you have an unfair advantage: You have the data in Google Search Console, and you can easily identify additional search queries from the performance data of your existing posts that you can target with these Q&A updates.
This data may or may not be available in the keyword research tools you use. And your competitors may not have it available either.