Many people think that in order to get more search traffic they need to create more content.
This isn't necessarily true.
It actually might be more effective to improve your current content instead, as you've already spent the time and resources to create it. The benefit to improving existing content is that it can lead to improved search engine rankings and traffic.
I call this tactic “updating content" and the concept is this: Take a page on your site and improve it by making the content a much more comprehensive resource. This might mean adding more text, images and resources, and doing other things across your site to improve the user experience.
Let's take a look at why updating your content is so appealing to search engines.
How Modern Search Engines Work
Search engines like Google and Bing use many different signals to rank content. While these search engines don't publicly list all of their ranking factors, many marketers have run tests and done research over the years to understand factors that search engines might use to rank content.
Here are three of the important ones:
“Fresher" content might get more search traffic.
Many search marketers believe the freshness of a page is a prominent ranking signal in search results.
In 2003 Google released a patent for “information retrieval based on historical data" as the springboard for often ranking pages that are more “fresh," or updated more recently, higher.
Longer content tends to rank higher.
In late 2016 the search engine optimization company Backlinko used four data partners to analyze 1 million Google search results to determine Google's ranking factors. The study found that longer content tended to rank significantly better than shorter content.
The average content length on the first page of Google results was 1,890 words.
Lower bounce rates are associated with higher rankings.
The same Backlinko study found that lower bounce rates—or whether or not the visitor leaves after visiting your page—tended to correlate very strongly to higher rankings.
The prevailing thought is that if a website is providing all the information the searcher is looking for, they won't leave the website.
Updating Your Content
Using the above three general SEO (Search Engine Optimization) guidelines, you can begin to see the benefits of updating content.
By updating your content properly, you can provide more and improved information (longer content), which may compel more people to stay on your site (lower bounce rates). In turn, the updated content may rank higher resulting in more search traffic.
If you need an example of what your content should look like, check out Wikipedia. Many of their pages rank in the top spot of search results because the pages are constantly updated, comprehensive and often provide the searcher all the information they are looking for.
Step 1: Find Low-Hanging Fruit
Choosing the content that you want to update is the first step. You'll need to identify some pages that have the most potential upside for improving the content. I like to look for pages that:
- have lots of potential traffic from ranking higher in the search engines,
- are already performing fairly well, but might need a bit of a push to make it to one of the top results on the first page and
- are excellent at converting traffic to buyers, but could benefit from more traffic.
The above are the types of content that could have the most potential impact on your business. Tools like Google Search Console give you performance information, like average search ranking, queries each month for a term and other useful data. SEMRush is another tool to help show pages and their ranking over time, the difficulty for ranking for those terms and more.
Once you've identified a piece of content that fits some (or all) of the above criteria, then it's time to start updating.
Step 2: Update
For most pages, this means adding more content. Text is the most likely candidate, and you can probably find ideas for expanding content a couple of ways:
- Higher-ranking content. Look at the content that's ranking higher than yours for the same keywords. See what's different or if they're executing any better. Do they expand on any key information that your page is leaving out? Take note of these things.
- Use the “related searches" feature. In Google searches there are often sections like “Searches related to
" or the “People also ask" box that shows quick answers to similar questions. These are great places to get ideas for expanding content that answers those popular questions.
The more in-depth you can make your content on a narrow subject, the better. Consider adding supporting images, videos, text and links out to other relevant resources. Try organizing your content with headings, sub-headings, lists and other visual tools. I highly recommend creating an in-page navigation menu that jumps the user to different sections of the page.
Try doing everything you can to provide the best resource on the internet on the topic. If you can achieve this quality of content, then you're doing everything you can to entice search engines to rank your content higher.
Step 3: Backlink and Promote
Many people would beef up their content and be satisfied. Improving your content is a big step, but you're leaving search traffic on the table if you stop there. Are there other pages on your website that might benefit from a link to the newly updated content? Try finding natural places to link to the refreshed content throughout your website.
The last step of updating your content is to promote it like you would a brand-new resource. Reach out to website owners who might benefit from linking to the new resource. Just make sure the people you're asking would actually benefit from your resource. Many marketers use the “spray-and-pray" technique of sending emails to any website owner and ask for a link. Instead, take the time to write a unique, thoughtful (and short) email to the website owner to see if they're interested in your resource.
Rinse and repeat the above process for every piece of content that you think might benefit from an update. Over time you may start to see lower bounce rates on your content and higher satisfaction from your potential customers.
Read more articles on content marketing.