If you read our last blog post, “How to break free from the publish-and-forget-it content management cycle”, you’ll have some great ideas for how to republish content to get the most out of your investment.
The reason why this post has two parts, is because we want to make sure that we give you all of the tools you need to start managing content like the business asset that it is. In the first part of this post, we covered:
- How optimizing older content can generate significant results
- Why content audits are good, but aren’t done often enough
- How optimizing your top 20% best-performing content makes optimization easier
- How optimizing your top-performing content gets you more returns on your work than if you optimized content that doesn’t perform as well
So that’s the business case for investing in this strategy. Once you’re convinced of it – or even if you’re intrigued enough to learn more – the question is how to execute it.
That’s what this post is for.
So, here is your step-by-step plan for optimizing your content for maximum results.
- Define what “best-performing content” means for your company.
You should start with (and probably stay with) your business goals. Focusing on them will help you define “best-performing content” quite quickly.
Just understand that how you, me and the marketer down the street define “best-performing content” is going to be different. And that’s actually a good thing. You need to optimize for your business, not anybody else’s.
You probably know what your business goals are. If you don’t, here’s a chart that shows what your fellow content marketers say their most important objectives are.
Remember, just because that’s their goals, doesn’t mean they should be yours. Or, as Shakespeare said:
To thine own business goals be true.
(Okay… maybe Shakespeare didn’t say it quite like that.)
- Figure out which pieces of content make your shortlist of top content.
You probably know of a few top-performing pieces of content already. They show up near the top of your lead sources report every time you run it. Or in your most-visited pages report. Again and again, these pieces of content delivered outsized results.
If you don’t know which 10-30 pieces are your best performers, run a few reports and figure out which KPIs you really want to optimize for.
Here’s some inspiration – these are the most common metrics that content marketers care about, according to research from Ascend2.
- Make the list (or a spreadsheet, or a report) of your best-performing content.
Call it your “short-list content”. This could be anywhere from ten to 50 pieces of content you want to stay on top of. If you want, you could get extra-fancy and have a list of second-tier content (perhaps another 10 to 50 pieces of content) that you optimize less often.
This short-list content should represent all your greatest hits. These are the workhorses and the viral wonders of your content marketing program. They should be bringing in the lion’s share of your results.
You might even want to tag them as top-performing content in your content asset library.
- Figure out how you will optimize these pieces, and how often.
I’ve lumped these together because they affect each other so much. Here’s why:
- You have limited time.
- If you do a really detailed job of optimizing every piece, it’s going to take longer than if you optimized a couple of things and then moved on.
- The longer you take on each piece, the fewer you can get to. OR the less often you can get to them.
It’s not rocket science, but those limitations will shape how you manage your content. If you spend 30 minutes updating each item on your list, you’ll obviously get to twice as many pages than if you spent an hour.
Here’s what you might be able to do with 30 minutes of content optimization (https://getmintent.com/blog/writing-content-and-creative-briefs-that-get-results/):
- Broken links (internal and external). 5 minutes.
- Updated research, if you’ve cited any in the piece. 5 minutes.
- Opportunities to link this old page to newer pages you’ve created. 5 minutes.
- Unusually high or low click-through rates based on its position in the search results. If the CTR is low, consider tweaking the title and meta description of the page a little. 5 minutes.
- Does it have the optimal call to action, given the ebooks or other gated content you have available now? 5 minutes.
- Any opportunities for testing? If you use WordPress, there are plugins that can test a page or post’s headline. 5 minutes – if you delegate the testing setup.
Here is what you could do with an hour:
- Everything included above, plus:
- Check that the page loads in 2 seconds or less. If it doesn’t, outsource fixing that to your SEO staff. 3 minutes for the assessment/delegation.
- Confirm it is mobile-friendly, per Google’s Mobile Friendly tool. If not, delegate to your SEO team. 3 minutes.
- Check the bounce rate, or if the page has a low exit rate. 3 minutes.
- Any opportunities to make a simple graphic element that would get more shares on social media? 3 minutes.
- Would the piece be a good candidate for repurposing into another format? 3 minutes.
- Would the page benefit from an additional 300-500 words of text/explanation? If it would, there’s the rest of your half hour (or more).
You get the idea. Depending how much improvement you make to a page, you could fill up either 20 minutes or a whole day. Which is why you kept your top content list so short at the beginning of this.
How to get the SEO “freshness” bump
Many companies optimize their pages exclusively for the SEO benefits. There’s nothing wrong with that – who doesn’t want more traffic? But if you want the SEO bump that content optimization often delivers, you’ll probably need to make some significant changes to the content.
Cyrus Shepard has a good post that walks through exactly what it takes to have Google consider your page newly “fresh”.
Here are the highlights:
- Make significant changes to the page.
Just updating a link or two and swapping an image probably won’t be enough. To ensure you’ll trigger the freshness qualification, it’s best to add some more words to the page. As Google says, “a document having a relatively large amount of its content updated over time might be scored differently than a document having a relatively small amount of its content updated over time.”
- Changes to things like comments, ads, navigation, or dates probably won’t affect much either.
- Some content is more sensitive to the “freshness” part of the algorithm than others. For instance, a page that says “Spring of 2018’s Best Shoes” is more time sensitive than “How To Tie A Knot”.
- If your pages get an increase in new links, that can also mark a page as newly fresh. So consider doing some promotion and outreach once you’ve updated your pages. Just don’t do too much; You want a gradual increase in links, not a spike.
- You’ll still need to be adding new content on a regular basis if you want your site as a whole to be considered fresh.
- Optimize for visitor engagement as much as anything else. Visitor behavior is critically important for SEO.
- Go after some low-hanging fruit.
We’re supposed to be optimizing top-performing content, but some content marketers bend this rule a bit by running a specific type of check for content that’s underperforming.
Content pieces that rank near the top of page two in the search results for their primary keyword (or sometimes for a keyword you didn’t expect them to rank on), can often be nudged onto the first page of results. Which means far more traffic for very little work.
This is an elegant way to find some low hanging fruit for your optimization work. Those pieces of content that are lingering near the top of page two clearly have some quality to them, but they’re coming up just short in terms of getting more traffic.
The difference in organic SEO traffic between page one and page two is dramatic. So is the difference in clicks for the top few search positions.
If you can give those shrinking violets on page two just a little bit of love, you could get big returns for your work if they get bumped up to page one. Improving their search ranking by just one or two positions could result in 20-30% more traffic.
Here are a few ideas for how to tweak these pages so they move up to page one:
- Optimize their keywords
- Add a few hundred words to them
- Update their links and the research they cite
- Add a few examples (people love examples)
- Rewrite their opening paragraphs
- Rewrite their meta tags so they’re more engaging
Or just look at your Google Analytics reports within the Mintent interface. They’ll show you which pages are underperforming.
- Schedule the longer work.
In the points above, we often added content to a list for later review. That’s fine for an assessment, but if you want the work actually done, you’re going to have to schedule it. This means cutting into the time for other things. And that can create some friction. Going back to optimize old content might be perceived as boring or even a waste of time if a particular team member doesn’t want to do it.
So be ready. You’ll need to have done your research, so you know how much of an opportunity is there. And you’ll need to have the work well-defined.
Then, get some support from above. You’ll need your Marketing Director or even your CMO on board if you want to shift 10-20% of your team’s time over to “old” content optimization.
Managing all this content we’ve created is no small task. But it’s not an insurmountable problem.
So long as you stay focused on your business goals, and have the right tools to streamline your content marketing workflow, you’ll be building content that’s designed for success from the start.
Add in some analytics reports and some optimization on a regular basis, and you could end up with a finely tuned content machine. Even Shakespeare might be proud.