One of the most worthwhile ongoing projects for businesses is working on SEO for old content. Although businesses will always need to create great new content, it also pays to ensure that old content works just as hard—and doesn’t hurt your overall SEO strategy.
What SEO does for old content
Optimizing older content, whether you wrote it months or years ago, ensures that each piece on your website fits into your larger strategy as it changes. If you’re doing SEO right, you are constantly testing and tweaking the strategy. If you only do this kind of work with fresh content, your older posts will not be up to date from an SEO point of view.
This strategy also eliminates waste. If you simply create, post and forget pieces of content they aren’t working for your business as much as they could. Don’t waste the time and effort you’ve already invested in your content; instead, optimize it.
Why is historical optimization important?
More and more content gets created every day. This means that competition for traffic and conversions is always growing while demand for content is basically staying the same (with some industry specific growth). The result is a content surplus and a more urgent need for quality. In fact, a Forester research report from 2014 found that about half of all content online is essentially unused.
What can businesses do, then to increase traffic and grow their online presence? Simply creating more and more content isn’t necessarily helpful (and may not be possible). SEO for your old content mitigates this problem by ensuring all of your content is useful and making more out of the content you’ve already produced.
Do you need to optimize old content?
Historical optimization is useful to businesses in several positions. First, even if your blog is relatively new you can begin this recycling process and grow faster than if you were ignoring your existing content. Second, businesses using social media (and today that’s just about all businesses) will really benefit from this updating process because each time you republish content you’re sharing it with a new crop of social media followers (for example, Moz consistently republishes a study on the most important ranking factors, each time, it gets more shares). Finally, the historical optimization technique only works when you actually have good content (that is content with ranking and sharing potential) that you already published; if your older work is less than stellar or your blog is so new that there isn’t much old content this may not be a technique you need to employ.
Define what your old content is lacking and your new goals
The first step in SEO for old content is assessing your needs. What leads is your older content generating? Where is it falling short? What are the pain points you need to hit as you optimize? Every business is different, so this first step is critical to optimization.
Look at things like
- Top landing pages report in Google Analytics
- Top links report in Google search console
- Top ranking report in SEM Rush
- Most shared content in Hootsuite, BuzzSumo or Google analytic social data report
Next, analyze which of your pieces of content have been the most useful for generating leads. Which posts are getting more people to click through and convert? What is the page layout of those posts, what is the content, what is the CRO strategy and what do the meta titles and descriptions look like? You can analyze this and use it to update the same concepts on other posts. If your business is like most you’ll see that many, if not most, of your leads are coming from a handful of posts. What do they have in common, and how are the posts that don’t provide leads different?
After this step, use a link analysis tool to find out whether your old content is hurting or helping your SEO right now. Using this kind of tool you should be able to find out which of your old posts are the most authoritative and track your page’s performance in the context of competitor pages. You will also be able to find out how old your posts are compared to competitor posts on the same topic. Google is likely to see your older post on the same topic as outdated.
Next, give each old post a general review. Is the information still relevant? Is the content too short? Longer, detailed articles are better for SEO rank now, but this wasn’t always the case. It may behoove you to lengthen or combine older posts to create a single longer, more authoritative post.
Finally, chart your results in each area. Focus first on the posts that are hurting your overall SEO strategy. Get rid out outdated posts that won’t update well (they could hold down your site due to Panda), and then optimize older pieces that are most like your best posts now.
If you have a post that ranks #1, don’t just leave it. You will still want to make sure that post is updated when anything changes on the topic.
If you have multiple posts on the same topic, you have two options. Option 1, take all the posts on one topic and combine them into a hub page. Option 2, if one of the posts is clearly better than the others, and the others do not add anything, you can 301 redirect all the other posts to the one that is the clear winner.
Boosting conversions from old posts that receive high traffic
Most of your site users get to your posts based on specific keyword searches (or maybe social media shares). This means that if you know what the keyword searches look like you know exactly how to give searchers what they want in your content. Find out what keywords your posts are ranking for on page 2, 3 or 4 and update the optimization on those posts and pages so that it is better optimized for those terms. Do you best to provide more information, some level of keyword density and a relevant conversion.
Boosting traffic to old posts that already convert
If you have great posts that already convert, all you need is more traffic, that is the same quality. Go into Google Analytics, find your posts with the highest conversion rates and look at the quality of the content and the traffic. Then create a strategy to create more relevant, fresh content and attract higher levels of that quality, high converting traffic.
The bottom line
As you move forward with your historical optimization project, be sure to conduct an in-depth audit of your existing content first. You shouldn’t “wing it” and randomly target older posts. Make sure you’re working on a comprehensive strategic plan that is analytics driven.
Remember, optimization of old content is one important growth weapon in your arsenal—not the whole strategy. There is no substitute for generating high-quality new content. But when you generate this new content, you need to make sure it does not compete with your old content. It either needs to add to it or target a new topic and set of keywords. Your site structure and conversion rate optimization strategy need to also be considered here.
A final example
I would like to add this post with a specific example. Right now, if you Google Ignite Visibility HTTPS we have the following pages that rank.
Now, these are 4 posts that are all optimized for different things. Now that we have these 4 pieces of content on the topic, it is time that we create one main page on https.
The main page will be a top level page that will have it more general keyword strategy, unique content and link into these other pages.
Here we see an example of what Search Engine Land has done on the topic.
This is actually a hub page that lists 4 other hub pages.
- Google Panda Update: Must Read Articles
- Google Panda Update News
- Google Panda Recovery Tips & Tactics
- Google Panda Update: Winners & Losers
If we organize our content in a responsible way and make sure to account for and organize old blow posts and pages inside our site structure, we will rank higher.