I would like to write to you about what Pamela has so fittingly dubbed “historical optimization” and how it can be used to battle the ever impending content shock. The concept is simple: going back and optimizing past blogs to boost their visibility and lead generation.
Why you should read this post:
- I will relate historical optimization to Mark Schaefer’s idea of “content shock.”
- I will show you how historical optimization looks for a smaller company with less man power than HubSpot.
I highly suggest that you read Pamela’s (@pamelump) post on historical optimization and Mark Schaefer’s (@markwschaefer) on content shock for yourself. Both articles have incredible insights that I will not touch on here.
I started at MLT Creative, I was tasked with going back through and adding punctuation and other optimizations into hundreds of MLT’s blogs. It was pretty bad, but after reading Pam and Mark’s posts, I think it was worth it.
So why not just keep spending your precious time cranking out new blog posts? The answer is simple: because that’s what everyone else is doing. Over the years, everyone and their mother has jumped on the content marketing band wagon and has started to crank out blog after blog as if their life depended on it.
As Mark Schaefer points out in his article Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy, there is only so much content that people can consume, and thus the more content there is on the web, the harder we will have to work to cut through the noise and get people’s attention. One day, the cost will outweigh the profit. Already the profits are shrinking. Simple economics.
According to Forrester, 50% of content from enterprises is not even being used.
He goes on to say that successful content marketing creates content shock for your competitors. If you have tons of quality content in your niche market, it will be nearly impossible for competition to cut through.
It’s becoming harder and harder to cut through all the online noise. Just like it would be nearly impossible to start a comedy show from scratch that competes with Saturday Night Live, It’s becoming nearly impossible to drown out the fire hose of established bloggers by simply creating more content. But… There may still be hope.
Even if you are a lone blogger, if you’ve been blogging for a while, you have an army at your fingertips: your past blogs. Don’t let that army fall down on the job. Give them the tools they need to fight for you. If the quantity of blogs is hard to compete with, try increasing the quality.
Isn’t that why we blog in the first place? To build up relevant content on our websites to help us rank in organic search?
Only 9% of MLT’s blog views come from blogs written in the past month.
4% of MLT’s posts (25 of them) generate 40% of our blog views.
If I can increase the conversion rates on those 25 blogs, I could significantly increase the leads generated by MLT’s blog.
What To Optimize:
There are a lot of factors that can help a post get discovered by searchers and search engines. It’s very hard to get it perfect every time. Going back and updating can give your posts a second chance at success.
Make sure your headline clearly reflects the content of your post, and phrases it in a way that people can find it in search.
A bad headline would be “Why MLT Creative Is the Best B2B Marketing Agency In The World.” Obviously this is an extremely prideful and self centered blog (also false), but people who haven’t heard of you would never type your company name into search. A better title would be “The Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Right B2B Marketing Agency.” This title is focused on the needs of the buyer, less salesy, and is closer to something a real person would type into a search engine to find answers.
If you changed the first header to the second header, you would also need to change some of the content of the post to be less self centered as well (see #4).
Make sure your blogs have call-to-actions for relevant and valuable offers.
In her post, Pam says that picking a call-to-action featuring the top keyword that a blog is ranking for in organic search is one of the ways that HubSpot doubled their blog’s lead generation.
Make sure your blog doesn’t have broken links, or links to outdated content.
You also might want to add in helpful links to spice things up. Both internal links (links to your content) and external links (links to other people’s content) are good. If you are quoting someone else’s idea, linking to the original article is a good way to credit the source.
If the blog is pretty old, chances are you’ve read some great content over the years on this subject. Help your reader out and link to that great content!
Make sure you don’t have outdated information in your post. For example, if you have something about how important Google authorship is, take it out of there. Google authorship is dead and gone.
Can you make your post more in depth? Add a real life example? Provide an enlightening quote? Add a video? The concept is already there, why not make it better?
5) Punctuation and spelling
Don’t mispell thangs. Also: use, correct’ – “punctuation” … 🙂
Slap the text of your blog post into a word processor like Microsoft Word, or OpenOffice and see if there are any mistakes. Read over it a couple of times to make sure it’s good to go.
Pro tip: If you want to copy and paste text directly from a word processor into your blog template, use the following to paste the text: Shift + Option + Cmd + V. If you try and use the regular Cmd +V, it will screw up your punctuation.
Does a high performing blog not have an image? Chances are it would do even better withan image. Not sure where/how to get a good image? Check out this post. Also, search engines are blind, give them laser surgery and provide alt text for your images.
7) Meta description
Make sure your meta description is catchy, just below 150 characters (only 150 characters will be displayed in search engines), and an accurate representation of your post. Your meta description is an important factor in getting people to click on your post when they see it in search engines.
White space, bullet points, bold text, numbers, all of these elements increase readability. Make sure your post is pleasing to the eye and easy to skim. According to Chartbeat, less than half of blog readers read the whole blog. Help people easily identify the most important information without having to read every line.
Republishing Your Old Posts:
Updating your blog posts can be time consuming. One way to save time and develop new content while you update old content is to republish your updated blogs. You can update and republish your blog posts in the following way:
1) take an old blog post and edit it
2) repost it as a new post
3) redirect the old post to your new post
4) delete the old post.
Why would you want to republish a blog in this way?
1) Fresh content is rewarded by search engines and by website visitors. Check out this video where Moz CEO Rand Fishkin discusses this.
2) It helps you update your blog posts while publishing new blog posts at the same time.
3) While having multiple posts saying essentially the same thing may not hurt your website, it doesn’t help your website.
4) We are always learning. You should know more about your industry than you did a year ago, or even 6 months. Going back to update and republish blogs can add significant value.
5) Republishing a post gives it a second chance and a boost of exposure that could make turn it into a much more successful blog.
What kinds of posts should I republish in this way?
1) An old post you have is performing particularly well and you want to help it get even more exposure, or convert even more visitors into leads. (HubSpot did this kind of thing here).
2) An old post on your website has outdated information and makes your company look bad.
3) You’ve identified a blog post that you think would benefit your readers and would attract more attention if it was reposted as a new blog.
How do you go about republishing blog posts in this way?
1) Identify a blog post that you think would benefit from republishing for one of the three reasons above.
2) Determine if it needs editing (if you are republishing for reason three it may not need editing).
3) Copy and paste the content into a new post and make any necessary edits.
4) Get your 301 redirects in order.
Before I get into this step, I want to go over what a 404 error is and what a 301 redirect does:
A 404 error is what happens when a visitor or a search engine tries to navigate to a page that doesn’t exist anymore. A 404 error says “hey, we’re not sure why, but we can’t find the page you’re looking for. We don’t have any idea what happenned to it. Better luck next time.” Search engines and website visitors don’t like 404 errors.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. Basically, when a visitor or a search engine clicks on a link to navigate to that page, a 301 redirect says: “hey, this page isn’t here any more, but don’t worry! It’s been permanently replaced by another page that does the exact same thing, only better.” And the visitor or search engine is redirected to that replacement page. This means a couple of things:
1. whatever links that were directed to a 301 redirected page will not be broken, just redirected to the new page. If anyone shared the page on social media, those shares are redirected to the new page as well.
2. The old page is now essentially invisible to search engines and website visitors of every kind. The only remnants of the page that will remain are any snippets that appear on other pages, for example, in the preview snippet of a social post, or in the snippet that appears on your blog roll. If anyone clicks on either of these snippets they will be taken to the new page. The old page can now be deleted without worrying about search engines and website visitors seeing an embarrasing 404 error.
Redirects are handled differently on HubSpot and WordPress. I’ll walk you through how to set up redirects on either platform.
HubSpot handles their redirects a little differently than most platforms: when a url for a blog post is changed, HubSpot automatically creates a 301 redirect from the old url to the new one. This 301 redirect stays in tact until another page is published with the original url. HubSpot does this to prevent 404’s popping up whenever someone changes a url.
Ex: if the url for the blogpost: “google.com/blog/hello” was changed to “google.com/blog/hellothere” then hubspot automatically redirects visitors and search engines looking for “hubspot.com/blog/hello” to “google.com/blog/hellothere.” If someone changes the url from “google.com/blog/hellothere” back to “google.com/blog/hello”, or publishes another blog post with the url: “google.com/blog/hello” then hubspot trashes the 301 redirect.
With this in mind, if you want to republish an old post on HubSpot, you need to do the following:
1. Change the link on the original post by adding a “-1” at the end
2. Copy and paste the original url without the “-1” into your new post
3. When you’re ready, publish your new post and it will steal all of the links from your old post.
4. Now that all the links have been redirected from your old post to your new one, you can delete your old post without fear of breaking any links and creating 404s. Voila! You’ve successfully republished your post!
WordPress doesn’t do this whole automatic 301 redirect thing, which in my opinion makes it easier to republish your posts. In order to redirect your urls you are going to need a plugin. A great free plugin is the WordPress Redirection Plugin.
1. Download and setup the plugin
2. Publish your new post when you’re ready
3. Create a 301 redirect from your old page to your new page using your plugin and it will steal all the links from your old page.
4. Delete the old page.
Things to Remember:
Focus on posts that are already doing well, really need to be updated or that your readers have forgotten about and could benefit from.
2) Be Patient
If you are a smaller company (like MLT) and can’t put a ton of man power behind optimizing old blogs, this process may take a while so you may not see a sudden leap in your blog’s productivity, but over time, if you continue to update and republish blogs, your blog’s performance will improve.
3) Reward Your Reader
With things evolving so quickly in the b2b marketing world, it doesn’t take long for content to lose relevance. Don’t just add punctuation in, or just increase the conversion rate, if it got a lot of views at one time, try and figure out how you could update the blog post’s copy, or add to it so that it is just as high value today.
- There are a ton of aspects to a successful blog. It is impossible to get it right every single time. You might as well use that 20-20 hind sight and make sure that you are getting the most out of those times you did get it right.
- When you create new content, you have to earn people’s attention, when you optimize your content you are making sure that you are taking full advantage of the attention you have already earned. Waste not want not.
- While historical optimization will have to remain a process for MLT for the time being, HubSpot doubled their leads from their old updated blogs, and increased views from organic search by 106%.
So what do you think? Could historical optimization be the secret weapon for your b2b blogging?