The world is constantly changing, which means content needs to be regularly updated to keep it relevant. Especially in technical areas, where software updates or compliance laws may change frequently, keeping on top of content updates can prove a challenge for even the most diligent website manager. Deciding whether to bin or salvage old content is more complex and time-consuming than it sounds, which is why we want to provide you with a quick framework to help you make the choice quickly and confidently.
The way we see it, there are three options when it comes to old content: archive, optimise or repurpose.
When you archive content you are essentially taking it out of action; retiring it; giving it a gold watch and saying “well done”. You are taking it off your live site and storing it for your records, but it will no longer play a part in your marketing efforts or engage potential customers. You might think this is the safe option for most of your old content but that may not always be the case. Read on to find out why deleting your old content could actually hinder your marketing efforts.
Sometimes, old content just needs a little spruce. A quick review to tackle any updates, a new headline and new keywords can take a piece of content that was ready for the scrap heap and make it valuable again. Google loves content that is useful, fresh and relevant, so ‘optimising the past’ can pay huge dividends down the line – as HubSpot found out, when they saw organic views of old content increase by an average of 106% when they were optimised.
The content we create is not fixed to its original form for all time. An article can become an animated video, a whitepaper can become material for an audio broadcast. Just because an old piece of content has lost its zip doesn’t mean it cannot be used elsewhere, in a different medium. Our audiences span so many channels and can be found in so many places these days, the chances are your content can be repurposed to engage a different pocket of interested people in another corner of the web.
Deciding what to do with your old content
Except for cut and dried cases, where an industry or marketplace has moved so irrevocably away from the topic of your content piece that you have no choice but to bin it, we are very much in favour of trying to optimise or repurpose the content you have. The reason for this is twofold; first of all, it will save you money in the long run, and – perhaps even more importantly – it will save you time.
In order to decide the fate of different pieces of content, we recommend you use the following process:
Step #1: Conduct a content audit
You need to pull together a list of all of your current content. Depending on the size of your site, this might take five minutes or five weeks. The best and most efficient way to do it is to use a tool such as Screaming Frog, which can crawl your site and pull a list of URLs. Once you have this, export your findings into a spreadsheet.
Step #2: Dig into the data to see which content is performing
As much as we enjoy creating content, it is only worth doing if it is providing a return on investment. According to a report by Forrester, an estimated 50% of all content created by businesses goes unused. This is a staggering sum, when you realise how much money and time is poured into content initiatives. In order to avoid this creative purgatory, dig into the data to see which pieces of content are contributing to the bottom line and which are not.
Use tools such as Google Analytics to see which blog posts, videos and whitepapers are bringing in the most organic traffic and which are engaging your audience. Once you have this data, use Ahrefs Site Explorer to do a backlink analysis – are there big and influential sites linking to certain posts or topics? Knowing this is important as they may be contributing to your website search engine rankings and deleting them would be a big mistake.
Step #3: Create a ‘delete, optimise, repurpose’ spreadsheet
Once you have a good handle of what content is performing and what is not, open a new spreadsheet. This is your ‘delete, optimise or repurpose’ spreadsheet, where you make a decision on different pieces of content based on the data you have and the insights you have gleaned. In 9/10 cases, you will find total deletion of content to be unnecessary. Even content that is not engaging or converting could possibly be repurposed as something else.
With that said, be practical in terms of time and resources available. If a non-converting article would make only an average video, it may not be worth the trouble. Use your judgement and involve creative members of your team when in doubt – they may be able to help you see new angles or fresh perspectives on old content that you were not aware of.
Step #4: Update, optimise and republish
Now that you have identified content worthy of updating, it's time to get to work. Upgrade these pieces of content in line with Google’s EAT principles – Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness – and make sure they are sufficiently improved to warrant being republished.
Make sure the new and improved content is conversion and search engine optimised. Conduct fresh keyword research before you republish any old posts and identify relevant, low competition phrases you could use to make it more attractive to Google. Ensure each blog post is part of an internal linking strategy and has a clear, tracked CTA at the bottom, which can be used to further analyse its performance. Consider using Attribution Reporting on HubSpot’s Marketing Hub to accurately track how each piece of content contributes to the customer journey.
Finally, change the publishing date on the piece of content so that it appears as new on your feed when you republish it. With this done, you can promote it via email, social media, or any other promotional channels that are relevant to your audience.
Step #5: Create a repurposing plan
By now you should have updated the content you can and archived the content you cannot. The next step is to formulate a repurposing plan, which will extend your content’s longevity and help serve multiple different audiences.
In order to do this well, we suggest bringing in specialists from other areas of the business. Content marketers, SEO executives, creatives and salespeople can all help you brainstorm and come up with content repurposing ideas. For example, an article you published may find a second life as a sales deck for a product, or a video could be transcribed into a feature article or PR piece for an industry publication. The options are numerous, but it will take various perspectives to find the best course of action.
Once you have this input, it is a matter of setting deadlines for content creation and sorting out the logistics.
If you really are stuck for ideas, we like HubSpot’s 20 creative ways to repurpose content to get the juices flowing.
Conclusion: Getting the balance between new and old content
Depending on how much old content you have, you might be tempted to halt new content generation for the time being to focus on repurposing or optimising old archives. In the short-term this can work, especially if you have limited resources and hands on deck, but long-term it will only limit your opportunities to rank for and take advantage of new keywords and topics.
You need to strike an editorial balance between the old and the new. Begin by prioritising older pieces of content that could really move the dial if given a new lick of paint. Be discerning with the old content because not all renovations will equal big wins and, when push comes to shove, Google will always favour genuinely new and relevant content to rejuvenated work. With a balance between the two, and a monthly content maintenance task that repeats the process above in the schedule, you should see an uptick in both organic traffic and sales growth.
Need help upgrading and repurposing your old content? Talk to our content marketing team, who can help you audit and optimise old blog posts, articles and whitepapers for immediate re-use. Get in touch today!