One of the first things I always do when we take over content development for a new client is to perform a quick content audit on their current blog. I do this for one main reason:
It almost always highlights a few low-hanging fruit (blog posts) that can be optimized to immediately start ranking better in search results and drive more traffic.
In fact, this works so often that it kind of shocks me that companies don’t immediately turn to old blog posts to help drive more traffic. It seems like once a blog post is published, tweeted and “liked” on Facebook, it’s forgotten – forever to be buried in the archives and never heard from again.
This is such an enormous waste of an investment, that it makes me want to pull my hair out and violently shake our clients. You pay money for your content – even if it’s created by internal staff, it still takes time and expertise. So make use of your old blogs. Don’t waste that investment!
Oh noes! I’m wasting valuable content! What can I do?!
Great question. The next time you find yourself with a spare half hour to work on your company blog, go through this quick process to get more traction out of your old posts.
1. Sort through your analytics to find the top 10 or 20 most popular blog posts on your website. Organize them (I like to use a spreadsheet like this one) in a list with headings for the blog title, permalink, blog topic, and keywords targeted.
2. Start with the first blog post and ask yourself this question: If I had to sum up this blog topic in 3 to 4 words, what would it be? Use that as a starting point for your keyword research. For instance, this blog post is about “optimizing old blog posts”. On your spreadsheet under the “blog topic” column, type the corresponding word or phase.
3. Now, once you’ve got a concise blog topic pinpointed, it’s time to figure out what people searching on Google are typing in when they’re looking for the content that your blog post contains. Pull up Google’s Keyword Tool in your web browser – we’re about to go keyword hunting! Pop in your blog topic description (those 3-4 words that described your post), and Google will generate your results: the first result will be the exact phrase you typed in and the list of results afterwards are similar keywords/keyword phrases that other people are searching for. Your results will look something like this:
For instance, when I looked up “optimizing old blog posts”, guess what I found? The number of monthly searches is so negligible, Google doesn’t report it. That means that if I use that keyword phrase in my content and my title, it’s not going to do me any good, because no one is searching for it.
4. Ok, so we’ve got a list of additional keywords/phrases that people are searching for, along with a lot of data. internet statistics . What does it all mean? There’s two main numbers I look at for quick content optimization: Competition (Low/Medium/High) and Global Monthly Searches (even if your business is local, driving overall traffic is still good). I like to sort Google Keyword results by Competition, and then look for keywords that have low or medium competition and searches of at least 1K so that it will be easy to rank quickly for them.
Browse through the keywords on the left to look for phrases that match your blog topic well. While I was looking through my results, I noticed that “content optimization” and “seo for your blog” both summed up my post pretty well; they both have low search competition; and they each get 1,900 searches a month. (Quick Note: to make sure you’ve chosen good keywords, be sure to pull up an incognito window in your web browser and search for those keyword phrases. This will make sure that the phrases that you’re about to optimize for are garnering the types of visitors that you want. For example, imagine you’re a baker and you wrote a blog post about baking delicious pies and you see that there’s 5,000 searches a month for the phrases “making pies” that has little search competition. On the surface, that seems great. But maybe there’s a new pop artist in town and he just released a Top 40 hit named “Making Pies”. If you optimize your blog post for that phrase, you’re going to get a lot of angry pop music lovers visiting your blog who wanted to listed to music – not learn about pies. You’ll get a traffic influx, but ultimately they’re not the audience you want, and those visitors are going to be worthless.)
Once you’re sure that your new keyword/s are perfect (low search competition, >1,000 monthly search queries), type those phrases into your spreadsheet under “keywords”.
5. It’s time to optimize your blog post. This is the part where we take our newer, better, more search-friendly keyword and put it into our blog post. Now, updating your actual blog content with optimized keywords is ideal (so long as you don’t stuff keywords and keep your content readable), but this post is all about quick optimization techniques, so we’re going to ignore the body content of your blog. What we are going to focus on are the: Title, Permalink, and Keyword Tags. First things first, take the 1-2 updated keywords from your earlier research and update your keyword tags in your blog post. If there are a bunch of other keywords listed, get rid of those. As a rule of thumb, I never have more than three keywords for each blog – you want to keep it simple so that Google understands what your post is about.
6. The next step is to take the best keyword/keyword phrase out of your research (this will likely be the one that has the most searches) and work that into your title. For this post, I’m focusing on the term “optimize content”. My original title was “A Quick Tip for Optimizing Old Blog Posts”, but this doesn’t integrate either of my new targeted keywords for this post, so I changed it to: “How to Optimize Content on your Blog to get More Traffic”. Adding your keyword into your blog title will help Google realize that your blog post is about optimizing content, and if it sees this phrase in your title, keyword tags, and body content, it’ll be able to easily pinpoint that phrase and rank your post for it.
7. The last step is one that is almost always looked over, and it’s the easiest way to optimize your blog post: create a custom permalink that includes your target keyword. What’s a permalink? A permalink is the specific URL for a designated blog post. For instance, this permalink is http://stuntandgimmicks.com/blog/optimize-content. If you don’t specify a custom permalink, you’ll get a very generic looking one that’s generated by WordPress or Blogger that looks something like this “http://stuntandgimmicks.com/blog/ps325. This is bad because when Google’s crawlers browse your content, an un-optimized permalink doesn’t give them any info on what your blog post is about. A custom permalink, however, tells them exactly what your post is about and what keyword or phrase it should rank for.
UPDATE: When you’re changing your permalink, remember to create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL in order to make sure that earlier links that may have been sent out via social media or other sharing sites don’t end up going to a blank page.
And there you go – seven easy steps to optimizing old content on the fly. Do you have any quick and dirty optimization tips that you want to share? Let me know below!
Is it worth it to re-optimize old URL’s if it means losing social numbers?
Hey Megan, that’s a really good point. And it’s something I should have included in my article (I’ll update that today). You can get around this problem by setting up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL. That will keep all of your social links valid and functioning. Check out this article from Wikipedia for more info on 301 redirects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/301_redirect#HTTP_status_codes_3xx
Loved reading this: it explains what you have to do, completely. No missing steps, really actionable advice: thank you!
Thanks, Anabel! Glad you liked it. I’d love it if you’d share this with your friends and colleagues who might get use out of it too.
Some of my well written old posts lost ranking and I’m thinking to optimizing them for traffic. Which WordPress plugin you will recommend for 301 redirection?
Hi Plaban, Thanks for reading the blog! This WP plugin should help you manage 301 redirects: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/redirection/.
Good post, very clear and easy to read. I would however, not recommend bloggers update keyword tags – it could actually lead to a negative effect. Google does not use the keyword tags anyway, and it is thought those who do fill out keyword meta tags could be actually penalizing their site.
Hey Corey, thanks for the response. You’re right that Google no longer uses keyword meta tags. But as a best practice, if you’re updating keywords throughout a page, you should still update keyword tags, since even though Google doesn’t use them, other crawlers potentially might. Unless people are abusing meta tags (ie being spammy), you’re not going to get penalized for using them. That’s also why I mentioned only using 2-3 per post. If you’re still worried about being penalized, you could always just remove the tags altogether, but I would caution against updating the keywords in the permalink and headline/body copy, while leaving the old keyword tags.