The majority of experts and companies that give content advice to new and upcoming businesses focus on establishing “new content” and “new strategies, ” but there is also something coined by HubSpot as “historical optimization,” which in other words refers to how to “SEO the past.” Historical optimization is all about updating content that you have already created and posted to your blog. By doing this you can not only impact your SEO, but also generate more traffic and leads in the process.
Why It’s a Good Idea to “SEO” Your Past Content
There is likely a lot of good content that you have already posted and has not been viewed in a while that could be put to much better use. Historical optimization allows you to reinvent, update, and reconstruct blog posts that you have already written. There are quite few reasons this might be a good strategy to incorporate in your existing SEO plan including:
You can update ANY information no longer relevant.
Has something changed? Do you wish you could update new information or ideas on a topic you wrote about a while ago? By using this strategy you can ensure that everything you have ever posted still holds true today. By updating your content with relevant and up-to-date information, you are sending a message to search engine bots that there is something new to consider, but you are also staying relevant for your readers, allowing them to visit older pages of yours and still finding the most accurate information.
You can look to improve conversion rates on older posts.
Did you have a blog post which got a lot of traffic but did not convert well? Using analytics, you can easily identify which of the content you have already posted were your top lead generators, therefore, using this same (but opposite strategy) you can also identify which posts were your worst lead generators. By also looking at your “historical” traffic data, you can look to see which posts were generating a lot of traffic but had low conversion rates. These posts provide an opportunity, if you take them as a sign that they were eye-catching in some way (in order to generate that traffic in the first place) then by finding ways to tweak and update them, perhaps by looking at posts that had your highest conversion rates and modeling after them, you can easily improve your conversion rates on these posts.
You can find historical traffic data by simply navigating to your Analytics like always and changing the date. Unfortunately you won’t have all of your data since the beginning of time, but this is a good place to start. You can start to record your data in a spreadsheet so that you’ll have older data in the future.
On the flip side, you can get more traffic on high converting posts.
You may also find that some of your older blog posts have quite the opposite situation. In other words, they may have been high-converting posts, but they did not get the traffic that some of your other posts had. By applying the opposite strategy and looking to improve traffic on these posts by making some alterations, you can get these particular blog posts to rank higher and ultimately improve their SEO.
There is no reason to let existing content go to waste.
According to HubSpot, we now have a “content overload” problem. Because developing and publishing content is becoming a lot more important for visibility and back linking purposes (and ultimately SEO purposes), more businesses are creating content everyday. Check out the graph below that they cite on their blog:
They suggested that while blog content available (as depicted in the graph) has grown, Forrester’s data suggests that an estimated 50% of business blog content is going completely unused. The moral of the story: It is simply not sufficient to continuously develop new content without improving and making use of what already exists on your site.
It is pretty clear that this is definitely untapped potential that can lead to more leads, more traffic, and higher rankings. Making use of content you have already published provides an unseen opportunity to improve your site all together and deliver more value to your readers.
The first step really is to look at your analytics and see what posts did well and which did not, as discussed above, but that is not enough. You also need to figure out the reasons they did or didn’t do well. In the break down I gave above I mentioned two scenarios with traffic and conversion. By finding out which of your content had high traffic or high conversion (or, conversely, low traffic, and low conversion), then you can make a game plan for creative ways that you can optimize those posts and “SEO the past.” Below I’m going to walk you through 3 examples of how you can do this in a creative way.
How-To SEO the Past: Make Creative Changes and Republish Old Content
If there is anything I have made pretty clear in this post, it is that you cannot neglect your old content. There are definitely posts you have developed which could do much better if you made changes and republished them. Google rewards newer “fresher” content, which is why when you see a high-ranking post on a search result it may only be minutes old.
In the example below I did a search for “Martian Luther King Jr. Day,” which with its historical legacy likely has a lot of content, or a lot of “older” content to reference and rank higher. However, Google chose to favor posts that provided the most up-to-date information with the approaching holiday. This is a good illustration of why Google preferences “fresh” and updated content over content that may have had more traffic and views over time, historically.
One of the ways you can be in Google’s good graces and get older content to rank and be considered in search results again is by updating and republishing your content. Below are some suggestions on how to make changes and republish in a creative way:
Choose the blogs you want to update.
As I mentioned before, you are going to have to do a little footwork to see what posts are worth working with again by looking at your analytics. You don’t want to choose posts that totally tanked and were not successful at all, but rather, content that could be improved in one way or another (traffic, conversion, linking, updating time sensitive information, repurposing content in a visual way, etc.). Here are a couple of questions you can ask to get the creative juices flowing:
- What did this post do well? What could be improved?
- Have I displayed the information in the most captivating way possible? Does it make good use of visual elements?
- Does it have an eye-catching or a sensible title that explains the topic clearly?
- How would I view this post as a reader?
- Is the post up-to-date? If information is time-sensitive, how can I creatively present something from the past (possibly an event or something that has already happened)?
- What is Google looking for and how can I make this content fresh again?
Define your approach.
The reason you find for selecting the posts you want to update is going to define what it is you are going to change or strive to improve. Make sure that you are making substantial effort to change and refine the post as much as possible, so that it is worth it to republish it.
Focus on SEO and conversion.
This is really what this post is all about right? You want to put improving both your conversion and your SEO as a top priority. Do everything you can to keyword optimize, link build, and improve CTA’s (calls to action). This is where you can get creative and really aim to improve the content in substantial ways that are going to make an impact.
Feature the post as “new” content.
Once you go through these steps, you are going to want to publish your updated post as new by changing the publish date so it’s featured as a brand new post on your blog. Then you are going to want to promote your updated content just like you would any brand new post—use your email marketing to reach out to your blog subscribers, post to social media, and utilize any other channels that work for promoting your content. You may want to consider even announcing the content is new if it was well read by your readers before.
Improving your content does not always mean developing something new. Sometimes there are great pieces of content that can be reworked or reshaped in creative ways and can ultimately become more successful than they were when you first released them. It is really all about looking and defining opportunity and trying to approach the task in fresh creative ways. If you take this approach, Google and other search engines are likely to reward you for your efforts.