As soon as you finish publishing a new article in your blog you have to start preparing the next one.
It’s an endless cycle that usually demands meeting very tight deadlines. If you don’t even have an editorial calendar that allows you to plan and monitor all your actions, it is very easy that you stop paying attention to the content that has already been published, forget about its existence and make mistakes that can be very harmful to your website.
Do you have articles in your blog that don’t work or have lost strength over time? In today’s post, we will explain step by step how to optimize old posts to increase the traffic to your blog, you will learn what is evergreen content, we will go over concepts like Hummingbird and SEO cannibalization and you will learn how to build strong client relationships thanks to all those articles that you don’t even remember.
Why You Need to Optimize Old Blog Posts
Time to clean up our blog.
Our way of writing changes over time. If we add to that the fact that SEO is in constant evolution, it is possible that if you come across a post that was published 5 years ago, you put your hands on your head and even scream for help, either because of the way it’s written, or because it has such a short extension that it resembles a telegram, or even because it’s plain and pointless.
And yes, optimizing your blog articles is beneficial for your entire website, but did you know that it will also help you improve your relationship with your customers?
It is possible that at first, you wrote articles without considering your buyer persona. Nobody doubts the importance of optimizing a post to generate more traffic and improve your SEO, but your blog must also be able to respond to your readers’ needs, offer them what they are interested in and guarantee that their experience on your site is impeccable.
If you feel that your articles are no longer interesting to your target audience and that they may not be as interesting as they used to be, it is time to modify them.
Some reasons to optimize your old posts and take advantage of the potential of your blog are the following:
You’ll Save Time (And Money)
Whether you take care of your blog content or have a team of writers, optimizing a post is a faster and cheaper process than creating content from scratch.
Besides, you’ll be giving a second chance to a post that at the time did not finish setting, and now, years later, could be a key element to increase the CTR (click-through rate) of your website.
You’ll Improve the SEO of Your Site
You will correct bad practices of the past, you will be able to establish a hierarchy and an order (it is a good moment to start using the technique of the pillar pages and the topic clusters, for example) and you will make your website more attractive in the eyes of Google, as it will be able to crawl, index and understand your content way better.
You’ll Improve the Quality of the Content in Your Blog
You will be able to get rid of posts that do not represent you, with spelling mistakes, typos and even wrong or outdated information.
You’ll Improve the Relationship With Your Clients
You will be able to adapt and respond to the needs of your target audience that you may have overlooked until now. As a result, you will attract their attention much more and gain their trust.
You’ll Take Control of Your Website 100%
You will be aware of what is happening at all times and it will be more difficult to experience unpleasant surprises.
What Is Evergreen Content and Why Is It Important?
Optimizing a post is a great opportunity to create evergreen content.
You may have seen this word before and perhaps don’t know exactly what it means.
“Evergreen” is a term that comes from botany and refers to evergreen plants.
Evergreen content, as its name suggests, refers to all the articles that are fresh, valid and relevant even over time. They are timeless and receive a constant traffic flow, so Google considers them quality content.
Here are some of the main kinds of evergreen content – although they are not the only ones:
- Cooking recipes.
- Definitions of terms and glossaries.
- Success stories.
Including evergreen content in a blog will allow you to improve and strengthen your rankings even for years. Relying on evergreen content is the basis of a good SEO and content strategy since you will be publishing a post that will be relevant and valid even over time.
How to Choose Which Articles to Optimize?
If you can measure it, you can improve it. This is a quote by the man who is considered one of the greatest philosophers of business administration in history, Peter Drucker, who also wrote some of the most influential leadership manuals in the business world.
This maxim perfectly applies to content, for which it is essential to have web analytics tools. If you don’t measure what you create (and not only that, you also have to review, contrast and analyze), you can’t know what impact your work is having.
Before we start optimizing any post, we will first check how all our articles are performing. To do this, we will open Google Analytics, choose to show us the data from the latest 30 days and select the following route:
Behavior – Site Content – All Pages
You will have access to different metrics, such as the number of views to each article, the average time on page, the bounce rate, the number of exits, etc.
If you select “Pageviews”, you can sort them from less to more visits.
You may see an infinite number of indexed URLs, so use the arrows until you find the articles on your website that have the worst performance (and those you should start optimizing sooner).
What content will we be updating? Although according to Drucker everything can be improved, we will focus on optimizing the following articles:
Posts That Don’t Work
They have always performed very poorly. You may have asked yourself more than once what they do there and sometimes even wished they didn’t exist, but now it’s time to optimize them and give them a second chance!
Posts That Have Lost Strength
They used to rank very well, but for some reason traffic has plummeted and now your competition appears in the SERPs long before you do. Don’t let your posts die – try to understand what happened, optimize them and recover your throne.
Posts With Repeated Topics
This happens when we have two or more articles that talk about the same subject and may even be difficult to distinguish. They tend to cover generic topics and have a very short extension. They usually don’t work, or maybe there’s one that doesn’t and another one that does.
How to Check If There Is Already Content on a Topic in a Blog?
To find any article from WordPress, it’s as easy as going to “all entries” and searching for the keyword you are interested in. For example, if you have a cooking blog and you don’t know if you have already written about how to make tacos, you will put “tacos”.
Google Analytics also allows you to make a similar search, precisely in the section we just saw (Behavior -> Site Content -> All pages). You will only have to enter the keyword that interests you and, while you are at it, you will also be able to see what performance the articles that appear are having.
The bad thing about these methods is that there are times when you will work for a client and you won’t have access to their Analytics or WordPress account. Also, these searches will only show you these keywords if they have been included in the URL (Analytics) or the H1 (WordPress), but they will not show you their variations or similar words that do not appear there.
You can try with the search bar of the blog. The bad thing is that many blogs don’t have it, and there are times when they don’t show everything we want to find. Is there another way to search for it? Of course!
To find a post containing any word that interests you, type the following in the URL bar:
All entries currently indexed on the allrecipes.com domain containing the word “guacamole” will be displayed.
You can use other combinations to find results that include two words:
site:yoursiteURL.com “keyword” AND “keyword”
site:allrecipes.com “guacamole” AND “pico de gallo”
All blog entries that include both “guacamole” and “pico de gallo” will be displayed.
And what do you do when you want to find posts that include any of the two words that interest you? You can use either different keywords or combinations of them (singular/plural, etcetera):
site:yoursiteURL.com “keyword” OR “keyword”
site:allrecipes.com “guacamole” OR “pico de gallo”
Entries including either “guacamole” or “pico de gallo” will be displayed.
Make sure you do this type of search before starting to write a new post, especially if it’s a very big blog or a company where there has been a lot of staff turnover. You may want to write a post on a topic that has appeared before and not even be aware of it, so make sure you double-check first. If you don’t, you risk your pages cannibalize each other’s ability to perform.
What Is SEO Cannibalization and How to Avoid It When Optimizing Posts?
For Hannibal Lecter the culinary issue is not over here, but for you, if you follow our advice, it is.
SEO cannibalization (or, more specifically, keyword cannibalization) happens when we try to rank ourselves by the same keywords with different pages on the same website. Instead of focusing on beating the competition, these articles are pushing each other.
Taken to an extreme, we will find practically identical articles, in which only the title changes slightly. For example:
Instagram Trends: Part 1
Instagram Trends: Part 2
Instagram Trends: Part 3
To solve it, the best thing to do is to unify the content in the way that best suits the keywords for which you want to rank yourself.
Once we have clear all these concepts, we can finally get down to work with the optimization of our articles.
What to Optimize in a Post: Step by Step
At the time of optimizing a post, it’s important to check both the article itself and the elements that complement it. There is no established order and you will see that some points complement each other, so I recommend you to go back whenever you need to.
Spelling and Grammar Errors
Text with grammar mistakes, bad orthography or wrong spelling generates mistrust and lack of credibility. If orthography is not your thing, or you’re so busy that sometimes miss things, LanguageTool and Grammarly Chrome extensions will help you avoid a few issues.
Whether you write in your native language or publish articles in other languages, make sure the final result is flawless. Avoid automatic translations and hire the services of a freelance translator. If you don’t know where to find one, at Be My Content we offer personalized advice and results-oriented translation services, with keyword optimization in mind and with the objective of improving your international SEO rankings so that your website has global visibility.
Make sure your text is understandable and organized into short sentences and paragraphs. Use headings and bold, but don’t overdo it. Keep in mind that the reader will not stop to read your article, but will scan it instead. Not only that, but they will most likely be reading you from their phone. You should do your best to have your articles read smoothly and fit any device.
A good way to encourage your users to read extensive content is by including a table of contents in your posts. This way, the reader will be able to see right away what your article is about and select what interests them. They will usually want to get to the point, so try to make it as easy for them as possible.
If you use WordPress, it is as easy as installing Easy Table of Contents plugin.
Does the main title (H1) contain the main keyword we want to rank for? Is it an attractive enough title to catch the reader’s attention?
Remember that long headings are more likely to position well (since they contain more words), as well as if you include questions that match users’ searches (i.e., “How Do I Cook Rice in the Microwave?”).
Another format that has been working for a long time is “listicles” (“12 Cooking Tricks That Will Make Your Life Easier”, for example).
In this last case, I recommend you to put unusual numbers, not just 5 or 10. For example, 14, 23, 72, etcetera.
People will wonder why you use that number and not a more generic one – you will pique their curiosity (and their desire to click), but save the decimals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “5.25 Ways to Make a Fried Egg”, and I hope I’ll never have to.
Also, make sure that the other headings (H2, H3) include relevant keywords.
Veracity and Expiration of the Information
Do the facts make sense? Which sources are used? Is everything that is said still valid? Are the facts and figures outdated or up-to-date? Make sure the information is reliable, factual and still valid today.
Remove time references that no longer make sense so that the article remains relevant over time (and if you can get them to be evergreen, even better).
This point also applies to photos. Do you have articles with photos of old cell phones or of soccers wearing shirts of a team they haven’t played in for years? Unless it is a news website or they are in a context that justifies it, you should adapt them to the present time.
Tone and Language
It is possible that the blog used a more formal tone in its early years and, over the years, it was decided to use a more friendly tone to match the buyer persona‘s needs. It is even possible that you work in an ecommerce with youthful products and others that require a very formal tone because of their target audience and you have to mix them up.
In any case, make sure the tone of the post is adjusted to the target audience and that the final result is natural. Also, avoid misplaced opinions and comments when the context requires you to be objective and stick to the facts.
Check that they include alternative text (ALT text) and that it makes sense. It should reflect nothing more and nothing less than what’s in the image, and you should avoid the temptation to cram it with keywords if they don’t make sense.
ALT Text is a key element in improving the accessibility of your website, as it allows your blog visitors who need screen readers to read you without any obstacles.
Alternative text is one of the most important ranking factors for photos. If you use WordPress and you haven’t figured out how to do it yet, it’s as easy as modifying a photo or uploading a new one so that the platform gives you the option to insert it.
The name of the image file you upload is also a key factor. Avoid any default names generated by cameras (like “DSC24352”, for example) and go for something related to the image instead.
If you have a very long post and only use a header image, add more pics. The final result will be more eye-catching and will also encourage the reader to keep reading.
Unless you have access to a paid image bank, make sure you use royalty-free images and attribute them whenever necessary.
Some of the most frequent image banks are Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash and Kaboompics. Be careful with Wikimedia Commons – their images are usually valid but some need attribution, as they are copyrighted. You can also use the ones you find in Google Images, making sure that the images you choose appear in the “labeled for reuse” section.
Meta Title and Meta Description
Make sure you include meta titles and meta descriptions on every page of your website and blog posts. You should consider them as a kind of promise you make to the reader, so that if they decide to choose us instead of the competition we won’t let them down as they’ll find exactly what they’re looking for.
How to add them? If you use WordPress, it will be as easy as downloading the Yoast plugin and adding them to every blog post.
If you want to see how both the meta title and meta description will look in search results, SERPsim.com makes it easy for you.
What keywords have you worked on? are they generic or long tail? Are they the most suitable for that article? have you already worked on them in other articles?
We have already told you about cannibalization. By concentrating efforts on ranking for a keyword with two (or more) posts instead of one, you make them compete with each other. As a consequence you could drive Mr. Google crazy, that will wonder what you want – or if you even know what you want.
Use the words that users will potentially use to find your posts. Don’t overuse technical language (unless it’s justified), and in case you don’t know if the user understands what you’re saying or not, try to define the concepts that may be out of their knowledge.
Again, think about your target audience. Some users may make more specific or more generic queries. If you take into account these differences in search behavior when defining your keywords and make a good mix, you’ll surely get better results.
Keyword Planner by Google Ads helps you discover keyword variations and check the estimated search volume for each one.
Also, Google Search Console “Performance” report shows you the main queries in which your blog or website is displayed and which of them are attracting more traffic.
Make sure the keywords you choose for your article are based on the user’s search intent. This means that your article is what the user will want to read when searching for those keywords in Google.
Google’s mission is to satisfy users’ intentions in the least number of clicks. To this end, Google can understand the content on a semantic level and determine what a person wants to find when using a certain keyword.
For example, if you search for “escape room in Barcelona” you won’t find any definition of what an “escape room” is, since it is not what the user wants to find.
And we owe all this to a hummingbird.
If you work as a copywriter or content creator, Hummingbird is one of the reasons why your work is always more necessary.
In 2013, Google introduced an algorithm called Hummingbird that affected 90% of searches and with which Content Marketing gained more weight than ever.
Since the implementation of Hummingbird, Google makes searches are based on semantics – the relationship between words, phrases and their meaning. This helps search engines to understand the actual user’s intent, beyond mere keywords that lack context.
Thanks to Hummingbird, Google is based on conversations, on searches that would occur naturally in a spoken conversation and taking into account all the words the user is looking for – hence the importance of long tail keywords.
Its appearance was so important that it’s not a surprise that this friendly animal occupies the cover of one of the most important SEO manuals ever published, The Art Of SEO. If you don’t have it, I recommend that you get it to go deeper into concepts and not miss anything.
What page or pages do I want to lead the user to with my posts? What product do I want them to know and buy? What other trusted pages can I include in my article to complement the information?
Use internal links (to your site) and external links (to other trusted pages), but try to make them add value to the user, so that they expand the information you present in your post.
Also, check that all the links in your post still work. If you find broken links (i.e. links that no longer work, either because they no longer exist or because the URL is incorrect), change them.
Don’t cram your article with links but don’t publish articles without any link either. Instead, try to distribute them throughout the text: avoid them at the beginning or end of a paragraph and in places where they don’t look good.
Also, avoid linking to any competitor. It might sound obvious, but believe me: when you work in content and SEO you find this all the time.
Do you want to take the linking strategy in your blog to the next level? Whenever you can, use the technique of pillar pages and topic clusters: choose a central article (pillar) from which similar topics are extracted (clusters), so that by linking to them you go deeper into the subject.
You can do this with both new and existing posts. Restructuring your blog posts is also part of the optimization process.
The anchor text is a word, phrase or part of a text that contains a link to another post or website. In short, it is the text that we insert a link to for users to click on.
Limit single word anchors to very specific things, such as dictionary definitions of a word or a link to a brand (brand anchor).
Also, avoid very long anchor text. Make sure they are short (3 to 5 words) but descriptive. Don’t overuse generic words (avoid “click here”, “this link”) or exact keywords and avoid including text that has no relation to the content of the page you link to. The more natural they are, the better.
Call to Action
We all like to be encouraged to do something. So it’s not surprising that articles that include a Call To Action (CTA) are more effective. If you didn’t include it at the time, do it now. It will help you get your readers to comment, subscribe to your newsletters, or take the action you want more easily.
Another thing you can implement is downloadable content, such as ebooks, guides or templates. You can do this to encourage them to join your mailing list (does the “subscribe to my newsletter to receive my ebook” sound typical to you? I’m sure you took the bait than once) or include a direct download link in the post, depending on what you need.
If the original text was a little short, add new paragraphs. Do you have short posts that don’t rank well? Although the ideal length of posts is a topic that always generates debate and SEO is not (and will never be) an exact science, long-form articles (between 1000 and 2500 words) usually generate more traffic, since they include more topics and consequently answer more questions that users might ask.
Besides, by writing a post of a certain length you will be able to spread the keywords much better, as well as avoiding the so-called “keyword stuffing”, which is nothing more and nothing less than jamming keywords everywhere and getting penalized by Google for that excess in density.
And yes, there will always be a scene from The Simpsons to describe everything that happens around us.
One last note – even if longer posts tend to rank better, don’t add fluff. Make sure that your content adds value to the user, regardless of its length. Sometimes less is more.
Plagiarism, Duplicate and Thin Content
Luckily or unfortunately, “don’t copy” wasn’t something you’d only hear while you were a student in school, as it will accompany you for the rest of your life. As a copywriter, content writer or journalist, it is normal to consult sources when writing, but for Google, as well as for your teachers, plagiarism is not justified.
Google calls low-quality content “thin content”. Although the name “thin” suggests that these are short articles, this definition is not entirely correct and doesn’t have to be the case.
Generally speaking, “thin content” can refer to content that is self-generated by content automation tools. They are very easy to recognize because they generally make no sense at all.
Another example, which is also the most frequent (and which you may have without being aware of it) is duplicate content.
According to Google, duplicate content is substantive blocks of content within or across domains that “either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”
To avoid duplicate content on pages you do want to position well, use Copyscape or Plagiarism Checker from Small SEO Tools. These are tools that indicate the percentage of plagiarism and the sentences or paragraphs that were copied, so that you can rewrite them or, if you think it’s necessary, eliminate them.
In general, anything over 10% plagiarism can do a lot of damage to your site, so always check it and do your best to lower that percentage to a minimum.
Don’t forget! Being original will help you distinguish yourself and attract the attention of the reader who is more than likely looking for something unique and different.
Date of Publication and Update
Did you write a post 10 years ago, you optimized it but you are afraid that the user won’t read it because it’s too old?
Normally, the best option will be to keep the original publication dates and include the “last updated” date. This way, we will avoid confusing the user, who will see that the post has been updated over time and also, we won’t fool Google with date changes.
You might need to do some redirection. For example, in case you changed the URL (because you needed to improve the keywords in it or whatever reason) and you want to maintain the rankings that the post had previously.
You can do this with WordPress plugins such as Redirection, although depending on how it’s set, it could even create it automatically. Also, don’t forget to update the links to that post in other articles – this way you will reinforce the SEO even if a redirection has already been done.
To find those articles, it is as easy as inserting the exact URL in the WordPress search bar and you will find all the posts there.
Never delete an old post. It may have links from some other page and, even if you think that deleting it will make it disappear, the user could still find an unwanted 404 error when landing on that page.
If you have old articles with little movement and you have newer posts with similar topics, you can do a 301 redirect to the newer and better performing ones.
If you have installed Redirection, you will be able to manage 301 redirections, track 404 errors and improve your site, without any knowledge of Apache or Nginx required.
What to Do After Optimizing a Post?
It’s possible that you feel a bit overwhelmed. And it’s the most normal thing in the world, because we could potentially optimize any post in so many ways.
However, optimizing a post is often nothing more than implementing small changes and checking weekly if the traffic improves or not.
If you analyze these changes, you might not appreciate any improvements at a glance. However, they can have an incredible impact on the user experience and the organic results of your website.
Once you finish with your optimization, check that the URL is correctly indexed via Google Search Console (with the URL inspection tool.)
Once this check is done, make sure you share your optimized post with your Social Media channels and your newsletters.
Remember that being active in Social Media helps you prevent your customers to forget who you are. Instead of spending months in silence, if you don’t have time to publish content regularly, you can reshare your posts from time to time to generate more visits and let them see that you’re still on top of things.
If you need help with the optimization of your posts, remember that you can get in touch with Be My Content. We will be more than happy to help you!
Header image: Freepik.