The word optimize tends to pop up almost daily in the marketing lexicon, whether it’s in reference to your paid social ads or your project management processes. But what about content optimization? How can you make the best and most effective use of your content if it’s been piling up for a few years?
Having a backlog of marketing content is an opportunity to connect with prospects, but not if your older content has become disconnected from the rest of your recent content output. Perhaps your brand had a shift in messaging strategy, or a recent Google algorithm update left you feeling behind the eight ball. During times of change, consider whether you should leverage these existing assets and optimize, or leave them in the rear view mirror in favor of net new content.
Image attribution: Hugo Ramos
To Optimize, Or Not To Optimize? That Is The Question
A Skyword study examined where nearly 1,000 marketers fall on the Content Marketing Continuum-a simple aptitude rank ranging from Bystander to Visionary-and found that 49% of marketers fall in either the Bystander or Novice categories. So what exactly does this mean? Primarily, that investment in content marketing is increasing, and that marketers are leaning into the value of having a content strategy. However, that content may not always be created to the highest standard, especially in the early stages. This beginner content is often overlooked by Google crawlers and prospects.
With online publishing exceeding 1,400 blog posts every minute, the competition to gain visibility in search is stiffer than ever. Before you dive into a large-scale content optimization, consider these questions about your existing content:
- Do I have a significant amount of content?
- Is my content still relevant?
- Are my priorities as a marketer still in line with what I was trying to achieve when I started creating content?
If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, then you likely have content that is worth saving and improving. All of the hours of work that went into populating your site are not lost if you are able to execute some subtle but effective adjustments to make your content more relevant and useful. Here are three key categories to review when evaluating and optimizing your content archives.
First and foremost, if you want to ensure that your content is providing the maximum possible value, a well-established keyword strategy is imperative. If your original batch of content was not optimized around keywords, or it was optimized around some less-than-effective terms, then this can be a great opportunity to brush up on SEO best practices and bring a useful piece out of the the shadows with exponentially more search visibility.
Let’s use the topic of keeping your home safe from burglars around the holidays as an example. Identify keywords that are search-friendly and align with your reader’s intent. For instance, readers often lead a search phrase with “how to.” Using a long-tail keyword like “how to keep your home safe” can be much more effective than something as generic as “keeping your home safe,” which isn’t as natural to type into a search bar.
Proper keyword identification takes time; you can use simple tools like Google trends or lean on a content strategy team for help getting off the ground. Either way, strategically using keywords in your content if you haven’t already is a great way to extend the value of your brand offerings.
Beyond just slotting these new keywords into your content body, make sure that your keyword is added to other fields of your post as well. Your keyword should be featured in the title, the SEO description, the HTML title, and the URL. (Many brands add a keyword to image alt text, but remember that this field primarily exists to help visually impaired readers.) These subtle updates are extremely important for Google’s understanding of the context of your content and the value you plan to bring your readers. If your content isn’t aligned around the right keywords, search terms are a good place to start.
The user experience (UX) for your readers is directly connected to the outcome you are looking for from your content. If you want your readers to convert to a product page, then you should have a clear call to action (CTA) prompting them to do so. If your goal is deeper engagement, like increased page depth or time on site, then your strategy should aim to help readers easily discover more content.
A few key optimizations can improve your overall UX and better help you achieve your goals.
Develop a linking strategy
Links to external and internal pages are important not only for SEO purposes, but also for keeping your readers on your site longer exploring related content. Pro tip: be sure that as you add links to external content, you use your CMS to set these links to always open in a new window for your reader so that you aren’t bouncing them off your site completely.
Tags are another seamless way to lead your readers to discover more and related content. This removes the barrier of having to use a search field, for instance, and allows your reader to simply click a term that is related to the post they’re reading if they want to find more content around that topic. Having tags on your site helps your SEO efforts by building additional indexable pages of your site while providing a better UX.
If the best KPI of your content is conversion, then you’d better have a clear, strong call to action in a place where it makes sense. CTAs can take many forms. More subtle nods to a next step can be built into appropriate anchor text, or a product or account creation button can be built into a banner-like experience. Take a look at past performance and consider how traffic to your past content can be used to optimize your future conversion rates.
Perhaps one of the more labor-intensive feats to tackle is optimization around messaging. If your brand has just undergone some sort of major shift-maybe your platform now prioritizes thought leadership over products, or the way you talk about certain products has drastically changed-then it is important for the written content associated with your brand to reflect it.
Messaging optimizations will require a keen editorial eye. You’ll need to ask for advice from your site editor, or you might enlist the help of one of your writers. To tackle shifts in brand messaging, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of your new content creation guidelines. Are your organization’s guidelines clearly defined with examples? Having a clear understanding of brand tone and preferred terminology will help your tactical approach to historical content.
As you work on messaging optimizations, having a form of version control will be helpful. With an established permission system in place that assigns different members of your team to specific roles within the revision process, it’s much easier to communicate and implement any important updates that need to be made. Likewise, knowing what areas of your content have changed is useful for answering future questions that your management or content team may have. You’ll want a tool that allows your team to pull up the full version history of every piece of content to understand when and where changes were made.
Image attribution: MilkovÃ
Commiting to Change
With all of these avenues in mind, a large-scale optimization may sound like a cumbersome task-and it certainly can be. But in the end, optimization is essential to proving content marketing ROI and earning the greatest value from each asset you create. Take full stock of the volume of content that you have. Conduct an audit over time, using parameters like relevance as a starting point. Create project plans and set achievable goals so that in a few months or a year, your older content can provide just as much value as the new content you are creating today.
Learn more about how Skyword360 can support your brand’s content optimization efforts by empowering marketers to measure and share the performance of all of their content through customizable dashboards, email performance snapshots, and robust reporting and analytics.
Featured image attribution: Brandon Lopez