Old blog, new tricks

In the era of social media, a great deal of our online experience is dominated by some form of the 'feed'. While algorithms play their part in filtering content and prime-timing what's hot, the effect is still that of a linear, chronological stream. Platforms understand that choice can be overwhelming so they present us with an orderly queue to keep us engaged for longer.

This idea of a feed – a conveyor belt of goodies – is ingrained in the public imagination. Likewise, as corporate and agency marketing teams produce and distribute content, they often do so on a linear timeline. New posts are seen as important and relevant while old ones are forgotten about. If they chip in a few visits for the visitor stats, great.

The origin of 'blog' of course is 'web log' – a sort of online diary meant to capture moments in the life of its creator. Although this isn't the intention of corporate content, using blogging software to publish their business websites has meant that the term has leaked over along with some of its meaning.

The problem with all this is that while website content is produced along a schedule, it is consumed on demand. An article will be surfaced any time an organic search occurs for terms it ranks on. Thinking of older pages as done-and-dusted like snapshots consigned to the past is counter-productive. Yet this is very often how corporate websites are managed.

Post with purpose

A website editor should be like the area manager for a wildly diverse restaurant business. Yes, you've just opened a fish restaurant on the coast, but how's that fine dining place uptown doing? What about the vegan café that was your top priority a year or two ago? Like the restaurateur, you want all of your addresses to be thriving and attracting customers. They serve the same purpose on day 800 as they did on day one. To achieve this, you need to be ready to spot your mistakes, tweak the formula and adapt to changing circumstances. The responsibility does not end with the initial act of content creation.

In the past, I've seen high quality cornerstone content left to languish. These are authoritative and well-written posts which have done lots of heavy-lifting in terms of generating organic traffic. They are banished from prominent navigational spots, never revised and starved of both internal links and social media love. Slowly but surely the value they offer is diluted as they are superseded. Competitors' blog content begins to rank higher in search engines and we lose our advantage.

ROI for corporate blogs

If we've taken the time to identify a topic area which is of interest to our customers, we should want to stake our claim on that territory. If an article fails to attract interest there is, in many cases, little analysis of why. It's put down to experience and we move on to the next blog.

However, the writer has gotten to grips with the topic – perhaps even interviewed a contributor or two in the process. If after a period of time our Google Analytics show little or no interest, we need to look at why. Failing to do so squanders that effort and misses the opportunity to learn what we've misunderstood about the subject or the audience.

Perhaps the writer just got the core questions subtly wrong. Or maybe they presented answers in a muddled format that made the page seem less authoritative. Maybe it wasn't distributed to the right audience in the first place. An updated post, backed with renewed distribution, might well see you appearing in more search results as you attract renewed interest and inbound links.

If a feature becomes popular and we simply pat ourselves on the back and move on, we miss the opportunity to make that content work harder for the business. Popular posts should be nurtured and maintained. Once we've created content – particularly exhaustive and in-depth pieces – it takes less time to update those than to create something new so it makes sense to do so. Are there newer sources that you could cite and do they affect the content of the piece? Are we suffering from broken links? Has terminology changed in a way that would impact on our keyword research? Do new SERPs features mean it makes sense to update page titles, meta descriptions or the overall formatting of the content itself?

Building upon older posts is also a fundamental part of any good content strategy. What are the related questions and how can we write to satisfy those too? As per Google's quality raters guidelines we should be striving toward Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (the acronym EAT is commonly used in SEO circles). If we maintain our standards, creating pieces of content which act as partners to high ranking features should fuel this. Publishing date should not be a factor here.

Take a holistic view

When we work with clients, we recommend a review of performance as part of the editorial planning process in order to identify where existing posts can be built upon. This should involve placing SEO and traffic analysis alongside the broader goals of the business to create a data-driven plan.

If we're commissioned to take over content production on a site with an extensive back catalogue, we also strongly advocate undertaking an in-depth website content audit. As well as identifying technical or structural issues to be addressed, this builds an understanding of what's been tried, what's working well and where priorities should be.

Going on to create a schedule for refreshing old blog posts alongside creation of new content serves to keep this map up to date. It lets us spot opportunities for internal linking which can signpost the most important high-converting pages you want visitors to get to.

With our World Whisky Day site, we've maintained traffic by regularly tending to our existing content. We've capitalised on opportunities such as SERPs jump links and pushed to have our content appear in featured snippets. We've reached out to contributors to see that they still stand by what they wrote and offered the opportunity to submit updates. This attentiveness combined with carefully planned new content has led to a doubling of our baseline traffic over the course of 12 months.

When so much activity is calendar driven, it can be difficult for website managers to make time for revisiting older content. But we should care if that 2017 post ranked and if it did, whether it still does the business. Done right, as part of a clear strategy, this sort of review can make content marketing more effective and deliver greatly improved ROI from corporate websites.

Of course, having an award-winning content agency keeping an eye on the prize for you makes that all a lot easier!