Historical Optimisation: How to Breathe New Life into Underperforming Content
I wrote a blog post once, oh, many moons ago now. Its title was something like “Let’s Save the Internet!! Please Share if You Agree”.
You know the sort of thing I mean? Yeah, so I thought I’d try and write a blog that highlighted the damage that the perpetual posting and sharing of such tripe was doing to one of the 21st Century’s most valuable resources – the internet.
The post concluded with four or five stories I’d mined from Google that would hopefully restore people’s faith in the World Wide Web. I used a picture of Mighty Mouse as the featured image, hit publish, and waited for my inspiring little polemic to launch the website I was writing for to dizzy new heights…
[Enter tumbleweeds stage right]: I think it got about 11 shares.
Why Good Content Underperforms
I stand by the post. It was a good one – you know, we can’t win ‘em all, and I freely admit that I’ve dropped some clangers into the mix during my career. But that post was one of the good ones.
But, unfortunately, it went the way of so many good articles that get written by capable bloggers every single day, and just vanished into obscurity. I don’t even know if it’s still live.
So what was wrong with it?
Well, for one thing, the title was a bit naff. “Let’s Save the Internet!! Please Share if You Agree”.
In the context of the blog post itself, the irony of the “share if you agree” bit comes through. However, as a standalone title, it perhaps simply resonates too familiarly with those bloody awful “share if you agree” memes that the post in fact set out to mock.
And as for “Let’s Save the Internet!”, well – I guess people didn’t really think that the internet needed saving, thank you very much.
What else was wrong? Well, the Mighty Mouse image was this one:
Mighty Mouse, of course, is dated (sorry, old chap). I thought the use of this character might be a bit nostalgic for the Millennials I was trying to connect with. But, to be honest, Mighty Mouse is a character originally dating from the 40s and 50s, and maybe people didn’t catch the The New Adventures in the 80s like I did when I was a wee one.
Furthermore, the image is poor quality – and Mr Mouse wasn’t really about saving the internet, was he?
All in all, a poor choice indeed.
So, why does good content underperform? Well, perhaps because of poor title choice, perhaps because of poor image choice – but, sometimes, I’m sure it’s just the luck of the draw.
But, does this mean that underperforming old content should be buried six feet deep, never to be revisited again?
And in fact, there’s some pretty compelling research out there that demands the opposite approach.
In her eBook Optimize the Past: The Secret to Doubling Blog Traffic Leads, Pamela Vaughn of HubSpot made some enlightening discoveries, the most striking of which being that 76% of HubSpot’s monthly blog views came from old posts (“old” being defined as “anything published prior to that month”), and that a massive 92% of the site’s blog-generated leads also came from old posts.
Since making these discoveries, HubSpot – which, as we all know, is a pretty big deal in the content marketing world – has altered its blogging strategy. Since old content is showing to be more valuable – especially as a lead generator – than the fresh stuff, the team there have developed an ongoing project they call “historical optimisation”, which simply means that they delve into their archives and update old blog content so it’s optimised for the present.
And this makes perfect sense in light of the research. Since old content will always be turning up in SERPs, and users, for whatever reason (this blogger suspects that old content must have a stronger SEO than the fresh stuff: the older the website, the stronger its DA – so presumably the same holds true for web pages as well) are evidently keen to read it, it needs to be up-to-date and looking fresh, right?
Right. My goodness – there could be hope for Mighty Mouse yet!
How to Breathe New Life into Underperforming Content
Ok, so we know that historical optimisation is valuable – but how to go about it?
Here are our top tips.
1. Revisit and Re-optimise those Headlines
If I was going to revisit my “Let’s Save the Internet!! Please Share if You Agree” post, the first thing I would change is the title.
It didn’t work. The irony was lost, and the call to arms misguided.
The bulk of the post, in the end (if I recall), centred around “5 stories that will restore your faith in the internet”. Indeed, this highlights another reason why the blog failed – it didn’t live up to the expectations of its title.
So, perhaps changing the title to the BuzzFeed-style list-post offering of “5 Stories That Will Restore Your Faith in the Internet” would give it a boost.
Titles, after all, are what people click on – not the actual blog post itself. So, if you’ve got a few pieces of underperforming old content, then first revisit the headline and see if you can make it better. And use the CoSchedule Headline Analyser to help you (it’s free).
2. Rework the Content
As I’ve already said – I stand by my “Let’s Save the Internet!!” post. But perhaps the way I went about it missed the mark.
The title of the blog veers quite sharply away from what the post ended up being about – i.e. feel-good internet stories.
And so, my solution here would be to create two separate posts – a brand new one called “5 Stories That Will Restore Your Faith in the Internet”, and then a revived internet-saviour one.
That story has got legs – I’m convinced of it. The problem is that the information isn’t very well targeted. I would have to come up with a new title, and aim the content very directly at a user-base who could be relied upon to share my cynicism about the persistent sharing of garbage on social media, and generally turn it into a thought leadership piece, rather than a tone-deaf rallying cry.
With your old underperforming content, perhaps the angle you chose to address your subject was just a little off-kilter. So think about how you could rework your text to make it more targeted. Maybe it’s a case of your audience being more interested in how to do social media marketing like a ninja, rather than how to perform the traditional Japanese art of ninjutsu like a social media marketer as you initially thought. With all the social media marketing ninjas on Twitter, it’s an easy mistake to make.
3. Link Your New Content to Your Old Content
It’s very possible to drive fresh traffic to your old content via your new output.
Indeed, every time you write a new post, you should always be finding ways to create internal links to other posts in your archive. Internal links improve SEO rankings in the first place, but if an old piece of content is struggling, it makes sense to give it some support.
What you should be aiming for in all your content output is to build up an interlinked network of posts that promote, inform and bolster one other. In fact, this is a sound approach to building your brand as a trusted online fountain of knowledge of all things related to your industry. So the benefits here are many.
4. Bolster with Additional and/or Updated Research
Internal links are one thing, but one of the reasons that some of your old content might be underperforming is the fact that you weren’t backing up your opinions with research from credible sources.
Each of your blog posts need to have a fine array of external links that prove to your audience that you are not just full of wind and conjecture, but a committed citizen journalist willing to perform research on your followers’ behalf.
Put simply, some decent outbound links will add credibility to your old content, which it may have lacked the first time round.
5. Update the Image(s)
Unfortunately for us writers, a blog post’s image has far more influence on click-throughs than the real meat of our work will ever have. And so, if we’re ever going to get people to read our fantastic, life-reaffirming posts (such as this one, oh yes), then the images we choose to promote them have to be a lot more compelling than ones featuring a 70-year-old mouse wearing his underpants on top of his trousers.
If you need help optimising your historical content, or indeed are looking for a complete content marketing solution to transform your business, then look no further. Here at My Social Agency we specialise in marketing for the web, and we’ve got the package to suit your needs. Please browse our services and use our Contact Page to reach out.