Content marketing is not a tactic born of the online era. You can go back as far as 1895 to find John Deere producing a magazine called ‘The Furrow’ that featured content promoting the company’s range of farming equipment.
But unfortunately, the catalyst or the driver for the recent wave of content marketing was not necessarily customer engagement as it was for The Furrow. Instead, it was primarily search engine performance.
Under the guiding theory that Google loves fresh content, many marketers around the globe had routinely advised that we should publish as much content as we can.
The problem with this position is that we’re reaching a point of what Mark Schaefer calls ‘content shock.’ This is the point where there is more content produced online than the global population can consume.
On WordPress alone, 83.6 million posts are published every month! Much of this is short-form content of dubious value. But thankfully, many agencies, marketers and freelancers now subscribe to producing longer-form content with the intention of providing more value to the reader. They consider that the longer the content, the more likely it will be to rank higher with Google.
This view is supported by various studies, including one from Brian Dean at Backlinko where they found that the average word count of results on Google’s front page is 1,890 words.
But the danger of concentrating on the length of content is that we’re again missing the most important factor – user engagement.
This point is arguable though. After all, marketers and content strategists perform keyword research around trending topics and keyword volume every day, showing real concern for user engagement.
I simply make the point that this research is still being influenced by what works for search. This is a mistake. For example, there are some topics that don’t need 2,000 words to provide the reader with in-depth value. So, if you take a topic that only requires 1,000 to cover it well and stretch it to 2,000 words, what do you think will happen with your user engagement?
Optimal content length aside, if we’re going to be re-focusing our attention and commitment to the user, then we should look at our entire blog and consider all our existing posts.
You should be regularly auditing and optimizing your old blog posts to ensure they still deliver the user experience you intended when you launched them.
Auditing your content – a basic snapshot
A content audit conducted by an agency will involve a more in-depth technical analysis of your website’s content than I provide here, but let me give you a quick snapshot of how you can conduct a basic audit yourself.
1. Identify time or event-related content.
For example, did you publish a piece covering your 2015 industry awards? If you did, it will have little or no value to your audience now. But will you be covering the awards again in the future? If so, use a generic URL such as yoursite.com/industry-event/ and simply update the page each year.
But if you’re not going to feature the event again, consider deleting the page (and redirecting it) to make for a better user experience. That will also save Google the effort of indexing your low-value content.
2. Identify content with high-volume traffic that converts well.
This content is likely to be generating its traffic from search, so your main objective in optimizing these posts is to find ways of increasing the conversions that you drive from each page. Start testing your calls to action until you’re happy with the improvement. Then relaunch the posts again.
3. Identify content with low-volume traffic that converts well.
This is content that engages your audience and it drives leads/sales. Do your keyword research again. Search behavior evolves and perhaps the keywords that you used to optimize the post three years ago are not the optimal targets now. Optimize your post for the latest keywords.
You should also identify opportunities to add further value to this content. This will immediately open more search traffic for you.
The benefits of re-launching your content
Beyond simply optimizing your post when you re-launch it, you should promote it like you would a new piece. Share it via your social profiles again. Repurpose it. Use your usual paid promotion channels. Conduct your outreach.
The process of optimizing and promoting your relaunched post will give you a burst of new traffic. It will demonstrate to Google that it’s fresh content and it should re-evaluate its position within their index. If you’ve optimized the post well, it will demonstrate much-improved user engagement and will continue to improve its search position.
The beneficial results of optimizing older content can be easily found among the blogging community, including HubSpot and Backlinko.
HubSpot reports some stunning results. In their analysis, they identify that they have :
a) ‘…more than doubled the number of monthly leads generated by the old posts we’ve optimized.’
b) ‘Increased the number of monthly organic search views of old posts we’ve optimized by an average of 106%.’
Backlinko’s Brian Dean highlighted that he ‘boosted … organic traffic by 260.7% in just 14 days’.
So, I encourage you to conduct a basic audit of your blog to optimize those posts that need it. Re-launch and re-promote them, then analyze the results for yourself.