What is Content Decay and How to Fix it?

Content decay refers to the gradual decline in organic performance of SEO content over time. Unlike a sudden drop-off in clicks and traffic, content decay is a slow process. 

In the world of SEO, understanding and addressing content decay is crucial for maintaining rankings. It also ensures your SEO effort is sustainable in the long-run.

In this article, let’s delve into the concept of content decay, explore its effects on your website’s performance, and how to combat it effectively.

What is content decay in SEO?

Content decay occurs when your once high-performing content starts to lose its ranking and visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). It can be caused by a variety of factors, including outdated content, irrelevant keywords, and decreased user engagement.

The rate of content decay can vary, from a few months to a few years, depending on your industry and the type of content you produce.

Content decay can have a serious impact on the success of your website because it means that your rankings are gradually declining, leading to reduced organic traffic and fewer leads or sales from organic search.

What causes content decay?

Content decay can be a serious problem for businesses whose websites rely on user engagement, as well as for anyone who relies on websites to provide information. Unfortunately, content decay can occur due to many different factors.

1. Outdated content

One of the primary causes of content decay is outdated content. Relevancy is one of the key ranking factors in Google search algorithm.  If your content is no longer relevant to the current trends or topics, it will be less likely to rank well.

When you have a piece of article published   can occur if information on a website is not updated regularly or if there are errors in the content that goes unnoticed. For example, if a web page contains outdated facts, incorrect details, typos, broken links, or out-of-date images, this could lead to content decay over time.

2. Change in search intent and search engine algorithm

Another factor that can cause content decay is changes in search intent. As the internet evolves, and more people search for different types of information, websites must be updated to include the latest trends in order to remain relevant. If a website fails to update its content to reflect current trends, it will become outdated and less useful. As a result, its rankings will inevitably suffer.

In addition, old strategies like keyword stuffing are frowned upon in today’s digital marketing landscape, and using outdated or irrelevant keywords can hurt your website rankings over time.

3. Increased competition

Increased competition can lead to content decay. When other businesses in your industry create superior websites or high-quality content that appeals more to search engines, your ranking and visibility in SERPs can suffer.

To stay ahead, it’s crucial to consistently produce new content and update existing content. By doing so, you’ll maintain your competitive edge and preserve your visibility in search results.

4. Decreased user engagement

Content decay can also be caused by decreased user engagement. When users don’t find your content engaging or useful, they won’t stay on your website for very long and will move on to other sites. This signals to Google that the content isn’t worth ranking highly, leading to lower search engine rankings and a decrease in organic traffic.

To increase user engagement, you should focus on creating content that is informative, entertaining, and engaging. Additionally, optimize your website for mobile devices so it’s easier to navigate and view on smaller screens.

How to identify content decay?

One of the easiest ways to identify content decay is to monitor your website’s organic traffic. If you notice a steady decline over time, it may be a sign that some of your content is no longer relevant or valuable to your audience. 

Here are some signals of content decay:

  • Decrease in impressions
  • Decrease in ranking
  • Decrease in CTR

There are many data and tools available that can help you catch content decay early on.

1. Analyze Search Console data

Since Google Search Console is provided by Google itself, it tends to offer more accurate data about your website’s performance on its search engine compared to third-party tools. You can also get valuable insights such as search queries, impressions, clicks, and click-through rates.

Google Sheets

Using Google Sheets to track content decay requires a bit of manual work. I made a spreadsheet to identify declining pages by conditional formatting. I have to go to the Google Search Console data, filter the date range by a complete month, and export the data for each month. 

After some formatting and applying formulas, you will have an overview of how each page performs on a monthly basis, and quickly identify pages with a constant decline.

  • Cell in Red: impression decreased compared to previous month
  • Cell in Green: impression increased compared to previous month
  • Percentage change.
Use Google Sheet to track content decay

Google Looker Studio

You can also use Google Looker Studio to analyse the page-level organic impression trend. By connecting your Search Console data (URL data), you can simply create a Pivot table and format it to a heatmap.

As it is not possible to compare the data on the same row (or if you know a workaround, let me know!), this dashboard is not as intuitive as the Google Sheets, in which you can immediately see a downward trend if the cells are in red consecutively on the same row. 

However, you don’t have to do the work manually and you can freely choose the time period for analysis.

Google Looker Studio dashboard to track content decay

2. Track Position Change

Tracking position changes in Ahrefs or SEMRush can also help to identify content decay. These tools track your keyword rankings over time and can help you pinpoint which pages have seen a decrease in rankings over time. 

Ahrefs and SEMRush have multiple tools and data for you to analyse the changes in organic keywords and positions. Here are just some of the possible ways to identify content decay, but you can also play around and find the most suitable metrics that suit your specific needs.


In Ahrefs, you can enter your website URL in the Site Explorer and go to the Organic Keywords report. Then you can filter “Lost” and “Declined” organic keywords to see what important keywords you need to optimise.

Use Ahrefs to track organic keywords that lost and declined in terms of positions.


You can also use SEMrush’s position tracking tool to monitor how your content’s search rankings change over time, indicating whether your content is maintaining its visibility or experiencing a decline in rankings. 

All  you need to do is set up a project for your website within SEMrush and identify the keywords that are relevant to the top pages  you want to track. 

How to fix content decay?

Although content decay is a common phenomenon, there are strategies that one can employ to counteract it. This section will delve into various methods to identify and fix content decay to ensure your SEO effort remains strong.

1. Update and refresh content regularly

One of the most effective ways to combat content decay is to update and refresh your old content. This means going back through your website and identifying outdated or irrelevant information (such as statistics, screenshots), and making the necessary changes to bring it up to date. 

Another way to combat content decay is to optimise your content for user intent. This means doing research on your target audience and identifying the keywords and topics they’re currently searching for. Use this information to optimise your content and make it more valuable to your target audience. 

2. Monitor search engine algorithm updates

Search engine algorithms change frequently. To stay ahead of the competition, it’s important to be up-to-date on the latest algorithm updates and changes. This will ensure that your website is optimised for current best practices and not penalised by outdated methods.

It’s also important to monitor how these changes affect your rankings over time. This will help you identify areas where your content needs to be improved or updated.

Some other SEO best practices to pay attention to when fixing outdated content:

  • Meta description: Is the length too long (on desktop and on mobile)? Is it accurately describing the content?
  • Title: Is the primary keyword included? Are you using the current year? Do you have a captivating title that sets your page apart from your competitors?

3. Consolidate content

Consolidating content can be a smart move when dealing with internal competition or multiple small pieces that aren’t ranking well. You can either merge them into one long-form content or create a new one from scratch, incorporating existing content. 

Whichever approach you choose, make sure to set up proper 301 redirects from old URLs to the new primary URL. This signals search engines that you’ve moved the content and want the main post to be prioritised and indexed.

See my case study on consolidating existing content 

4. Repurpose and expand old content

You don’t have to create all new content in order to attract new visitors. Repurposing old content is a great way to keep your website fresh and engaging while also helping you save time. This could involve rewriting an old blog post or turning some information into an infographic or video.You can also repurpose content by giving it a different angle.

Run a keyword research with Google Search Console to discover long-tail keywords and refine your keyword targeting. By analyzing the performance of specific keywords, you can determine if they are driving relevant traffic and conversions. If certain keywords are under-performing, you can optimize your content or consider alternative keywords to target.

You can also conduct a SERP analysis to identify any content gap with your competitors.

Based on your findings, you can repurpose content by giving it a different angle based on your competitors’ research. Or add new sections or questions that aren’t currently well-covered in your article.

5. Update links

Broken links can significantly harm your website’s SEO, impeding user navigation and overall performance. To address these concerns, it is vital to thoroughly examine poorly ranked pages and identify any broken or outdated links that may exist.

  • Replace broken outgoing links
  • Add internal links
  • Update links, especially statistics or data, to the most recent source
  • Remove any spammy websites
  • Link to authoritative sources


In conclusion, content decay is a natural part of the content lifecycle and can be easily addressed with proper maintenance. 

By identifying and combating content decay through regular content updates and keyword optimization, you can keep your website fresh and relevant for both your audience and search engines. 

As an SEO specialist, it’s important to stay on top of content decay and take proactive steps to keep your website’s content valuable and visible in search engine results pages.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.