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A Step-by-Step Guide to Updating Content (and Increasing Traffic)

Once you build up a library of content, the odds are good you have old content that’s underperforming. Here’s how to tap into its potential.

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By Caleb Malik


Creating quality content is challenging, and it only gets more difficult over time. Eventually, you may feel you’ve exhausted all possible topics, and even thinking about your content calendar brings on migraine-level writer’s block.

The good news? There’s something you can do about it.

Most marketers launch content and move on. After all, time stops for no one and there’s another month on the calendar begging to be filled with content ideas.

However, if we take a moment and look at what’s already been developed, we’re likely to find that some content just isn’t pulling its weight. That’s a goldmine of opportunity just waiting to be unearthed. Here’s the steps we take to breathe new life into old content.

Step 1: Identify content primed to perform.

You’ve created a lot of content, and it’s not all equal. You need to be intentional about where you spend your time. These are tactics you can use to select the best opportunities for traffic growth.

Pinpoint past winners.

Articles that used to send consistent, quality traffic may have diminished in their effectiveness. This could be due to a variety of factors, including increased keyword competition, outdated information, or because search engines became better at understanding the search intent behind queries that used to send traffic.

  • Look back at quarterly and annual reports. Take the top performing articles in those reports and compare their previous performance to today’s performance to find those with declining metrics. If you don’t have those reports, try segmenting your data by year and by quarter in Google Analytics. That “best grilling recipes” article may be middling in the context of annual numbers, but it could be a top performer in summer months.
  • Keep an eye out for traffic spikes — a sign that certain content performed well when distributed via channels like email or social media.

Use search data to identify opportunities for traffic growth.

Traffic trends for individual pieces of content can tell us a lot about where to spend our time, but so can the performance of individual search terms. This information can be found by going to Google Search Console, selecting the performance tab, and filtering your search queries in ascending order by position. Once you’ve done this, there are two different ranges you’ll want to inspect.

  • Look at the queries with an average position between 10 and 15. Your content ranks for these terms on the top half of page two of Google, which means there is a real possibility of moving that content to page one.
  • Evaluate the queries in positions two through five. A study of five million search results pages suggests that the average click-through-rate (CTR) for these positions increases by approximately 4 to 7 percent for each position gained. For example, the average CTR for position five is 9.5%, while position four is 13.6%. For a keyword that’s searched 1,000 times a month, every increase in position could result in approximately 500 to 850 additional site visitors a year, and a leap from position five to one would increase your traffic by a whopping 2,500 site visitors.

Step 2: Determine why your content isn’t performing.

Now that you have a list of prioritized content, you’ll need to determine what’s causing each piece to underperform on a case-by-case basis.

  • Look at the obvious. Is all the information accurate? Are you explaining any concepts using screenshots that are outdated (e.g., a how-to article using screenshots of an old version of Excel)? Do all of the links and media still work?
  • Conduct competitive research. Run a search for any keyword where you’d like to improve your ranking. Analyze the articles that outrank yours to determine how you can provide more value than your competitors. Ultimately, your goal is to understand what users are looking for when they complete their search. This will enable you to provide that information more effectively than your competitors.

It’s important to remember that you can’t win them all. If you’re ranked behind a competitor who has a much higher domain authority, many more backlinks, and they’ve spent the time to build an infographic and a video for the page, you might not be able to compete. That’s OK, it’s better to learn that before you spend time updating content for a fight you can’t win.

Step 3: Launch your content and track results.

After you’ve identified the ways you can improve your content, you’ll need to put them into action. As you implement your updates, be wary of over-investing — it may not take much to improve performance. You might just need to add a few keywords and fix some outdated information. If you think you can get by with small improvements, try that first.

Launch your content with a new publication date and resubmit the link to Google so it can be recrawled right away. You’ll also want to share it on social and include it in your next newsletter to email subscribers. This will ensure you get the most value out of your effort.

Not only that, but these steps should help you track results with greater ease. By resubmitting the content to Google, you can measure how your ranking changes in response to your updates. In distributing the updated content through social and email, you can quickly gather user data using tools like Google Analytics and CrazyEgg.

Remember, you may need to continue making adjustments in order to drive the results you want. After all, content is not meant to be launched and forgotten.

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Caleb Malik Director of Digital Marketing

Caleb brings a diverse professional background to C/A, having held sales and marketing roles both client- and agency-side. As our Director of Digital Marketing, he is responsible for SEO, SEM, and lead generation efforts. He has executed digital marketing campaigns for Arizona State University, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Starwood, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Farm Bureau Financial Services and many others.

Caleb has taught a variety of communication courses at Illinois State University and Phoenix College, and still guest lectures anytime the opportunity presents itself. Like any educator-at-heart, he still feels compelled to read non-fiction, even when a crime novel is calling his name. Outside of work, he is an avid hiker, travel fanatic and self-professed national park geek.

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