The term content optimization could be viewed in two different contexts. It could be referring to a newly created blog post. Before a new blog is published, you should optimize the copy for search, adding keywords where they are relevant and tweaking phrases so they are search-engine ready.
The other context, and the one this post will focus on, deals with content that has already been published. After you produce blogs, you shouldn’t just publish them and never look back. You need to make updates to ensure your content is continually optimized for search and providing value for readers.
Not doing so shortens your content’s lifespan, as we’ve learned from experience.
Below, you can see the lifetime views of a blog that was posted in January, 2016. In the months following the post’s publish date, it gradually gained traction, reaching its peak views in May, 2017. From there, the post gradually declined over the next two years.
While this blog’s content was still relevant, it slowly lost viewership, dropping in views to a level similar to where it had started.
This is normally what happens when a piece of content is left alone. It may thrive for a certain amount of time (this blog did well for almost two years) but eventually will drop off.
There are a number of reasons this could happen. Maybe the content is relevant but becomes outdated. Maybe the content focuses on a specific keyword and a new one arises to take its place. It could be something as simple as search engines devaluing the content because of an old publish date.
Whatever the reason, this graph should be evidence that you need to optimize your content. Otherwise, your posts could meet the same fate.
To make our case, consider the two blogs below:
This blog was posted in January, 2014. It took over a year to build traction but eventually did — initially peaking in views in March, 2018. From there, it dropped significantly over the next year until it was optimized in April, 2019. Then, it quickly climbed, surging to a new peak in September, 2019.
If that didn’t convince you, look at the blog below:
It initially jumped in views because of email and social promotion, but quickly gained traction organically as well. Eventually, though, it peaked and dipped like the other blogs above. This post was optimized over halfway through September of 2019 but still managed to hit a new high in views for a month. It was certainly aided by email and social promotion, but organic also spiked.
So, how can you improve your performance? Let’s explore the steps you can take to optimize your blog.
1. Analyze Your Posts
When we analyze blogs, we use a variety of metrics to help us understand how our content is performing. We analyze:
- Views, which is the aggregate number of visits a particular page receives
- Time on page, which is the average amount of time users spend on a particular page
- Bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who navigate away from a website after viewing a particular page
- Pages per session, which is the average number of pages viewed during a session on your website (we base this on how many pages are viewed after an entrance on a given page)
These metrics paint a picture of how our content is performing. Through HubSpot, we also use measures like CTA clicks, submissions and new contacts to gain a more well-defined perspective on how our content contributes to lead generation. Not everyone has access to these metrics, but if you do, you should leverage them in your analysis.
We also keep a close eye on our blog titles and URLs. Each are vital to a blog’s positioning, and if a post isn’t performing well, that is one of the first pieces we look into.
Overall, when you are evaluating content, always remember that you need to look at your metrics in conjunction with each other.
2. Don’t Evaluate in a Vacuum
Consider a post that has high views and a high time on page. A lot of people might search for the term the post is positioned for, find your blog, click on it, read the whole thing and bounce. This would result in a poor bounce rate and poor pages per session. If you only focus on these poor metrics, though, you could miss the real story.
This blog is probably effective at answering people’s questions so they don’t need to look anywhere else for more information. This could be a top performing post even though some of its metrics don’t seem immediately desirable.
Maybe you have a different post that has low views. It’s also quite short, resulting in a low time on page. Alternatively, it has high pages per session and a very low bounce rate. If you dig into the story, you might determine that this post is great at teeing up other content. While it doesn’t produce high views, it could be a vital piece of your conversion funnel.
Basically, you need to recognize that when you are evaluating content you must consider the complete story your metrics are telling you. Don’t focus too much on what one individual metric seems to indicate.
3. Group Your Posts
Once you analyze your posts, you should group them into high, medium and low performers. This will help you develop a plan for how to improve them and prioritize which posts should be optimized moving forward. Your groupings should be based on the current state of the content. If a post used to perform well but has dipped drastically since, it should probably be categorized as a low performer.
High Performers: If you determine a post is a high performer, you want to ensure it continues to produce results for your company. Most often, these posts should remain relatively untouched. You should, however, keep a close eye on them, ensuring they don’t begin to slip.
It’s wise to update these posts on a fairly consistent basis. You should make sure all of the content is relevant and accounts for any potential changes that could have occurred since it was originally published.
Medium Performers: Medium performing posts are average; they are not ideal (high performers) or overly worrisome (low performers). It’s difficult to categorize medium performers, but overall, they’re posts that need improvement — albeit at a lesser priority than low performers.
You’re likely to identify some medium performers that are unlikely to ever improve. For instance, the post could focus on a keyword that has mediocre search volume. As long as those types of posts remain relevant and maintain a sufficient amount of traffic, you should keep them around. It is integral to save these posts if they reference a specific pain point that you don’t talk about much in your other content.
Overall, the majority of your posts will likely land in this category. There are many options you can use to improve them, so be creative. If you succeed, you could create another high performing post.
Low Performers: Low performing posts leave much to be desired. You obviously never intend for your content to flop, but sometimes it does. It’s important to identify any reasons this could’ve happened. Maybe the keyword you positioned the post around doesn’t produce much search volume. Maybe there are technical errors, like missing images, dragging the post’s search rank down. Maybe the post isn’t relevant enough for your business.
If you can determine why it’s not performing well, you have a good chance of improving it. Sometimes, however, the best option is to unpublish it. With that in mind, let’s consider some of the other options you can consider for revitalizing your blog.
4. Decide What Actions to Take
After grouping your posts, you should decide what you want to do to improve them.
Update: One of your options is to make updates. That involves changing any high level aspects of your post, like revising the publish date, adjusting the title or fixing technical errors. It also involves tweaking or amending the content to keep it relevant.
For example, when HubSpot made updates to the inbound methodology, incorporating the idea of the flywheel, we changed some of our content that discussed the traditional lifecycle funnel. This update was essential to maintain relevance.
Rewrite: For rewrites, we unpublish the existing post, repurpose the content on a new URL and then redirect the old blog to the new one. A post that should be rewritten normally features a good idea that was poorly executed.
Here at New Breed, when we identify a “rewrite,” it often has to do with the post’s URL. A URL could be poorly executed if it doesn’t align with the topic, communicate what the post is about, highlight a keyword or address a persona pain point.
Overall, we use the “rewrite” designation for posts where the content itself doesn’t line up with idea we were initially targeting.
Optimize: On the other hand, we use optimization when a post is framed well, but the content is lacking. If we like the URL and general idea the blog is trying to communicate but the content of the post should be changed, we use the “optimize” designation.
With an “optimize” post, we normally identify an opportunity with the content. For instance, if a URL is well-executed but the direction we took the blog doesn’t make sense, we can optimize the post’s content to align it with the URL.
We also optimize posts that require heavy updates. If the content relies too much on an outdated concept, we designate it as an “optimize” instead of an “update” post, emphasizing the extra rework necessary.
In this way, optimization fits between “update” posts and “rewrite” posts. The bones of the blog are good, but some significant changes are necessary. Overall, there are many different scenarios where we choose to optimize posts. The sole stipulation is that the URL remains the same.
Unpublish: You should unpublish a post when it isn’t worth keeping around. Maybe the blog is well-written and the URL is adequate, but the subject doesn’t relate to what you do. Or, maybe the post is poorly written and the URL is substandard, so there isn’t a reason to retain it.
Basically, you should unpublish posts that don’t help your business. If a blog doesn’t align with what you do, it can’t drive meaningful traffic to your site. If you wrote a bad post and you don’t see any opportunities to significantly improve it, the blog might actually be detracting from visitors’ perceptions of your company. Ultimately, if you can’t find potential value in a post, get rid of it.
When you unpublish posts, try to redirect them to relevant, valuable blogs. If you don’t have any related content on your site, redirect them to the blog listing page. Also, try to pull ideas for new content from the posts you are unpublishing; they might still be able to provide some value to your editorial calendar.
A Note on Prioritization: It’s wise to place a priority level on each of your decisions, identifying how quickly each action needs to be taken to improve your website. In this way, you can develop a queue, listing which of your existing posts should be improved next.
Here at New Breed, we prioritize blogs based on how they are affecting our site. For instance, if a blog was a high performer at one time but its performance has dipped since, we want to improve it as soon as possible. Therefore, it becomes a high priority.
The success of your overall site is a culmination of how your individual pages perform. This is demonstrated through page authority and domain authority, metrics developed by the SEO-focused software company, Moz. Those metrics help predict how individual pages and websites will rank on search engines.
Websites that have many pages with strong page authority normally have strong domain authority as well. Basically, the more quality pages your site has, the better it will rank. On the other hand, if a site has posts with low page authority, they can drag down domain authority. Essentially, if you have low performing posts, they could hurt the overall success of your website.
Many marketers think that it’s best to have as much content as possible, but in reality that content is only worthwhile if it provides value. The goal of content optimization is to shift low performing posts into medium performers and medium performers into high performers. In effect, it is designed to make posts, and your site as a whole, more valuable.
Isaac is an Inbound Specialist at New Breed. His passion for the inbound philosophy of giving value to customers before extracting it brought him to New Breed. In his free time, he's an avid outdoorsman.