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Where Marketers Go to Grow

August 19, 2014 // 6:00 AM

Why You Need to Stop Neglecting Your Old Content

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neglected_contentRaise your hand if this sounds familiar ...

As an inbound marketer, you work hard to keep your content engine going. You publish new blog posts, launch new ebooks, and produce new webinars regularly. You rinse and repeat, pumping valuable time and resources into new content creation to keep your blog fed and your offers fresh. 

But have you ever noticed how fast that new content becomes "old" content? Posts quickly get pushed off your blog homepage, and offers stop getting promoted. You put all this work into creating the new stuff that you fail to realize how much you're neglecting the old.

I recently analyzed the performance of our blog content, and do you know what I found? 76% of our blog's monthly page views is of old posts -- that is, posts that were published prior to that month. Crazy, right?

Actually, it makes perfect sense. The real crazy thing is, even though that stat is probably similar for most marketers, we still put practically all our effort into creating brand new content ... and virtually none into optimizing the old. 

Here's why that's kind of a big deal.

Why Marketers Need to Stop Neglecting Old Content 

1) Old Content Already Ranks Well in Search

If your focus is primarily on creating new content every month, that 76% stat may seem startling. But when you think about why marketers create content in the first place, it makes perfect sense.

New content becomes old content, and old content is perfect for SEO. Over time, it gets shared, linked to, and clicked on, boosting its search engine rankings and thus continuing to generate traffic long after it was originally published. 

And, whaddya know? Digging deeper into that 76% of traffic, I realized that search is exactly where the traffic to our old posts is coming from. And if you've been at this whole content creation thing for a while, it's likely that you'll find a similar trend in your own blog analytics.

While brand new content will get that initial surge of views from direct traffic, email, and social media promotion, it takes time for content to generate ample traffic from search. But old content has had some time to marinate in search and increase in ranking. Knowing this sets the stage for why you need to stop neglecting all that old content ...

2) Chances Are, a Lot of That Old Content Is Outdated 

Out of sight, out of mind ... right? Not to all the people who are still actively accessing your content from search engines, that's for sure. 

In looking at all your old blog posts and offers that still get discovered in search every month, you might notice that a lot of it is, well, out of date. 

We have posts and ebooks from years ago that continue to generate thousands and thousands of page views every month. As you'd expect, over time, this content has accumulated some holes and inaccuracies as things have changed in our industry. This is content I wouldn't deem worthy of putting on our blog homepage or emailing to our subscribers and leads now, so why are we okay with it getting discovered by new visitors in search every day?

Exactly. We shouldn't be. Which leads me to point number three ... 

3) Updating and Republishing Old Content Saves You Time From Creating New Content From Scratch

In addition to the fact that your content (and thus your brand) will benefit from a credibility boost, updating, republishing, and re-promoting your outdated content can be a huge time-saver from creating content from scratch. And let's face it -- content creation can be time-consuming. 

Conduct an audit of your old but continuously high-trafficked content to identify targets for revamps. Depending on the format and subject of the content and how old it is, some of it may take more of an effort to update than others. Create a backlog of content to update, making note of how much work each piece of content would need.

If you're updating an offer like an ebook, use the same landing page/URL -- just update it to reflect any changes to the ebook. If you're updating a blog post, use the same post URL, but change the publish date to the current day. For a complete guide to updating and republishing blog content, check out this step-by-step blog post.

In addition to top-trafficked old content, you can also experiment with updating and republishing old content that still generates some -- but not a ton of -- search traffic to see if the influx of new traffic you generate as a result of re-promotion helps to improve that content's overall ranking in search.

4) You May Be Competing Against Yourself 

Since it launched in 2006, the HubSpot Marketing Blog (the one you're reading right now) has upwards of 5,000 posts. We also have hundreds of offers. Because of the high volume of content we create at HubSpot, it's easy to believe that we would have more than one piece of content on the same topic.

For instance, over the years, we have published more than one blog post highlighting awesome Facebook business page examples. You could argue that having more than one post about the same topic means we have more than one opportunity to get found in search for that given search term, but it also means we're actually competing against ourselves.

That may not sound like a bad thing, so let me explain: Rather than getting one Facebook page examples posts to rank higher and higher over the years by updating and republishing it, we have been making it harder for ourselves to rank high by creating new posts that have to climb the rankings from scratch. What ends up happening is we have two posts that rank okay rather than one post that is at the top of the search results. Make sense?

5) It Can Generate More New Leads With Very Little Work

This one may be last on my list, but it's definitely not least. If the majority of your monthly traffic is to old blog posts, where would you guess the majority of your leads comes from? Yup ... likely, it's old posts.

If you're an effective inbound marketer, you're coming out with new offers all the time. But if you haven't touched the call-to-action on a blog post since it was first published two years ago, chances are it's not the most effective call-to-action (CTA) anymore, and you could be missing out on a lot of new leads. This is where conversion optimization comes into play. 

As you're auditing your old, high-trafficked posts, take note of the main CTA being used. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a newer offer on the same subject that converts better than the current one?
  • Do you have an offer that's more relevant to the subject matter of the post?
  • Is the design of your CTA outdated? 
  • Can you improve upon the CTA copy
  • Are there opportunities to include text-based CTAs within the body of the post?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it might be time for some conversion optimization. Just think, with a simple CTA update, you can significantly improve the conversion rate of posts that are already generating a ton of traffic month over month. Talk about low-hanging fruit! 

To track how well your conversion optimization efforts are paying off, record data such as your CTA's clickthrough rate and your post's conversion rate before and after you make updates.

The Solution to Content Neglect 

Unfortunately, it's all too easy to neglect your content. It's not like you have those tear-jerking ASPCA commercials featuring Sarah McLachlan and a bunch of malnourished puppies and kittens to remind you that you're being neglectful of your marketing content. 

But here's what you can do:

1) Make a commitment to regularly audit and spend time conversion optimizing your old content.

For your blog, sort your blog analytics (HubSpot customers: Use Page Performance) by the posts that generated the most views last month, and then get rid of posts that were published that month to identify the oldies but goodies. For your offers, sort your landing page analytics by landing pages with the most views to identify old offers to update. Do this on a quarterly basis.

2) Replace net new content with updates of old content. 

Depending on your publishing frequency, replace a few slots on your blog editorial calendar that would've been held for brand new posts with old posts to update and republish. Do the same with offers content, replacing one new offer with an update/revamp of an old offer that performs well.

Unfortunately, the more content you create, the bigger the content neglect problem will become. The flip side of the coin, however, is that you'll get even more bang for your buck from your optimization efforts.

Are you neglecting your old content? How can you address old content neglect?

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Topics: Content Marketing

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