July 20, 2022

Content Optimization: Balancing Old Content with New

By: Mary Hiers

Websites gain rank for longevity, but they also gain rank for fresh content. How can you make sure that all the content on your site helps you ascend through the search rankings?

One key to content optimization is balance. Achieving the right balance requires plain hard work. It also requires knowing what is valuable about each piece of content on your site. 

Ideally, you should optimize content already on your site while continuing to add new content. This way, you help the website as a whole rank better. Here’s how to do it.

Keys to Content Optimization

What does content optimization mean? The definition varies depending on the industry. For example, optimizing fashion industry content means something different than optimizing plumbing industry content. 

Regardless of industry, however, the underlying concept remains the same: creating content that actual people will find useful. Though the official term is search engine optimization (SEO), you’re ultimately creating content for human beings.

In general, it means creating content that is grammatically correct, scannable, and interesting. But it also means using keywords. These, of course, are words that people type into a search engine when searching for your products or services.

Optimization also involves technical tasks like providing alt tags that include keywords. And it involves working off-page to acquire good backlinks to your pages and draw visitors from social media. 

In short, optimization incorporates many moving parts, all of which work together to bring attention to your website. 

Why Existing Content Matters

The content that has been on your website for the longest time can play an important role in showing that your site is well-established. As with your credit record, the longevity of web content shows credibility.

Search engines, particularly Google, place value on three pillars of content excellence: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Your legacy content builds your case for all three, especially if it is “evergreen” content that remains relevant over time.

This does not mean, however, that your existing content should remain unchanged forever. In fact, there is a good case to be made for updating it regularly. Such updates may be minor, but they can boost your SEO efforts considerably. 

Why Fresh Content Matters

Have you ever stumbled upon a website from the year 2000 and wondered if you fell into a time portal? If so, you can understand why fresh content is important. How people interact with websites and what they want from them evolve constantly. 

At the same time, search engines prioritize content that is new, because it shows that you are staying on top of the latest thinking. On the web, things can change drastically in a short time, and it is important to keep up.

For example, suppose you wrote an outstanding article about in-person socializing and networking at industry events, but then COVID came along and disrupted everything. That’s an extreme example, but we live in an ever-evolving world. You should revisit out-of-date content and make appropriate changes.

Should You Keep All Content Forever?

No. You will find that some of your old content simply doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t get any search traffic, and maybe it is no longer relevant. For example, content about platforms that no longer exist (like the consumer version of Google+) isn’t necessary.

But you should keep most legacy content. It can be tremendously valuable as reference material, and much of it can be updated to accommodate new keywords and concepts. 

The bad news is that you won’t know which legacy content to keep and which to prune without doing a content audit. You can’t make an audit enjoyable, but you can keep reminding yourself of the rewards of having a site filled with SEO-optimized content.

Pruning Non-Performing Content

Once you identify old content that gets no traffic, or that is horribly written or irrelevant, you have to choose what to do with it. You could simply delete it and have the site deliver a 404 HTTP response (“page not found”).

However, most businesses prefer to use a 301 redirect. This is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. People who request the old URL will automatically go to the new URL.

The good news is that a 301 redirect passes residual ranking power from the old URL to the new one. That’s why it is the most common way of pruning old content without dumping users at a dead-end 404 page. 

How to Start Optimizing Existing Content

The first step is to identify which content you want to optimize. Prioritize content based on pieces that have the most potential for improving your website ranking.

Once you do this, consider each updatable piece of content by itself and in the context of the rest of your site. Start with the best content first, and then work your way down.

Identify candidate keywords for each piece of content. Analyze these keywords using the Google Keyword Planner or your keyword tool of choice. 

When you have a handful of keywords with appropriate search volume and potential for ranking, edit each piece of content to include them. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. 

Check alt-tags and image names too. They too can be updated to include new keywords.

How Often Should You Audit Your Content?

Smaller and local websites should undergo a content audit about once every six months. Contrast this with a big eCommerce site in an industry that changes rapidly. These sites need auditing far more frequently. 

Bigger websites that rely on fickle audiences (fashion, makeup, automobiles, etc.) may need auditing as often as every week to catch errors. Otherwise, error propagation can eventually derail SEO strategies.

Any type of website that undergoes a significant change should also undergo an audit. Likewise, you should audit a site that suddenly experiences an unexplained drop in site traffic. 

Finally, if you know a search engine has changed its ranking algorithm, it’s a good idea to get a “snapshot” of your site’s current performance. Then audit your content if it loses rank and fails to rebound.

Ongoing SEO Content Optimization

You can’t weed your garden once and be done with it. Likewise, you can’t audit your content once and be done with it. Optimization is an essential part of website maintenance.

It is easier to know when a particular piece of content needs auditing if you track analytics closely. Watch for major decreases in performance and try to understand why they happened. This approach can prevent major headaches later on.

Staying on Top of SEO Content Optimization

You are not alone if you find the idea of auditing your website content disheartening. But using analytics and staying up to date on SEO trends and algorithm updates can help. 

We can help too. 

If you need a website that performs and complements your marketing efforts, or if you need a great website as well as digital marketing services, we encourage you to schedule a call. Let’s talk about getting your website and business the attention they deserve.


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