Optimizing existing content for organic search visibility

Modified on Fri, 07 Apr 2023 at 10:34 AM

Perhaps you’ve received a notification about optimizing your content for search, or you’re just curious about how to get the most value out of your content. Either way, you’re in the right place. Read on for tips from our strategy services team about how to get the most value from pieces of content you’ve already published.


What content should I focus on optimizing? How do you define "old" content?

Publishers have varying definitions of "old content" depending on their publishing cadence. For a publication that publishes three times a week, a piece of content published over 3 months ago may qualify as "old." For most publications, our team uses this rule of thumb: any content piece published over 6 months ago can be considered "old."


If your older pieces are still attracting and engaging users—in other words, if they’re evergreen—they should be specially considered for an SEO update. Within Contently’s Analytics platform, that might look like an above-average engagement rate and higher-than-average people associated with a particular story. 


Bottom-funnel content pieces that are associated with lead acquisition goals and show relatively low visitor counts should be de-prioritized during an updating exercise in favor of legacy pieces that continue to drive traffic.


When will I see results from updating my content?

This depends on where your site currently is in Google’s indexing queue. As you can imagine, it takes search engine bots quite some time to crawl and re-crawl just about every page on the Internet. You can start seeing results from content updates in as little as 4 days, but it can take up to 8 weeks.


How should I update old content?

With multiple updates being made per day, Google’s search algorithm and ranking system is constantly evolving, so it’s always wise to do some research about the latest major updates before you begin making changes. However, there are some tried-and-tested tips that you can use to freshen up a piece anytime. 


Here are some of our favorites:

  • Check for broken links and images: First, find your story within the Stories dropdown and locate the Review. There, Contently will let you know if you have any broken links to update. You should also check for broken images; if you don’t have a plugin on your CMS that does this, you can use a free tool like SEOchat’s or do a manual scan. Replace what elements you can, and delete the rest!

  • Update your references: Journalists, editors, and SEOs agree, if you’re referencing (and/or linking to) a study or interview in your content that was published more than 3 years ago, now is a good opportunity to find a newer, more timely reference. Note: If your post is already generating substantial search traffic, you may want to update the reference name or link without changing the anchor text (the words that the link is placed on).

  • Consider adding more media: If your content doesn’t include any images or multimedia assets, consider introducing visual elements—their inclusion is proven by industry analysts like Searchmetrics to improve your page’s rank on a SERP (Search engine results page). If your page already has two or more images, make sure that each image is associated with descriptive alt text that tells the user what they’re looking at. When writing alt text, aim for a sentence at least 10 words in length; avoid using abstract, short phrasing (Good: A quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog in the suburbs of New Jersey. Bad: Dog and fox).

  • Enrich your copy: If done right, this tip is perhaps the most time consuming to action on, but it can also provide the biggest impact. First, review the different sections within your piece. If you don’t have sections or subheads dedicated to specific subtopics or questions, try creating them. Whether you’re creating sections from scratch or already have them, however, the enrichment process is largely the same. Scan your piece from the point-of-view of your target reader (or enlist the help of an editor to do so). Are there areas where you could be more thorough? What related questions might your target reader ask that aren’t answered in this piece? Are there any sections that now seem slow or clunky that could be rewritten? 20-30 minutes spent adding new information or streamlining text can really pay off.

Having trouble implementing these tips or curious about how we can help you optimize your content at scale? Reach out to your Customer Success lead.

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