Yup. The name of the game here is accuracy. Over time, there are quite a few things about a piece of content that can get stale and out of date. Evaluate the post for accuracy and determine what needs to be modified, added, or removed. The first thing I usually do is delete any parts of a post that are no longer relevant, and add headers for new sections that need to be added or replaced. Then I go through the post in its entirety to fill in the blanks and make my changes.
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Here is a checklist of things you should keep in mind as you’re updating your content:
Remove content that is no longer relevant.
Update outdated copy.
Replace outdated data/stats with fresher, more timely ones. Add new, fresh examples or replace outdated ones.
Update screenshots if things have changed (this is particularly important for step-by-step guides, etc.).
Add any new best practices that have emerged (and remove “best practices” that are no longer so).
Check and replace internal links (particularly if there are now better resources or lead gen offers for you to link to).
Update the post’s call-to-action (CTA). Evaluate whether your CTA’s offer is still the best option for this post. Do you have a better article? Is the CTA’s creative out-of-date?
Optimize the post’s meta description
Review the post’s meta description. Is it still accurate? Can you update it to make it a little catchier? Remember, meta descriptions don’t affect the ranking of your content, but they can impact its clickthrough rate from search. Make sure your meta description is both an accurate reflection of what’s within the post, and enticing enough to get searchers to click through to your content from search results.
Yay! By now, you should have an awesomely updated piece of content that’s ready for publishing. While the process of actually publishing your content will vary depending on the blogging software you use, I’m going to share some tips for doing it using HubSpot’s Blogging tool.
Replace the old content with new content. This will probably be the same no matter what software you use. Like I mentioned, I usually copy/paste the HTML from my new draft to replace the copy in my original article.
Wait until you want to publish the “new” post to update its date/time. If you’re using HubSpot’s new Blog COS, you’ll want to wait until the specific date/time you want the post to appear on your blog homepage to click “update.” Changing it to a date/time in the future will result in a 404 error for those who stumble upon the article in search before the newly designated publish date/time (not a good thing if your article already ranks well in search results).
Send a manual email to instant subscribers. If your blogging software is (or is like) HubSpot, it will only trigger the automatic email notification to subscribers for a post once. This means that if you’re just changing the publish date/time on an already-live article, the email will not get triggered again. However, if you’re using HubSpot’s new Blog COS, there’s no stopping you from creating a manual notification email in HubSpot’s Email tool and sending it to your instant subscriber list. If you use the same template you use for your automatic emails, your subscribers won’t even be able to tell the difference. Plus, you can use the opportunity to run an A/B test!
Track the before/after performance
Okay — maybe I got a little bit ahead of myself. Before you publish your new post, it’s a good idea to create a record of the post’s “before” stats. That way, you can compare it to the post’s performance after you’ve republished it to understand how your update affected its overall performance. Over time, this might also give you a better idea about which posts are worth targeting for updates. The following are the data and stats I keep track of before and after I republish:
Post’s Title (in case I tweak it for the republished version)
Post’s URL (just so I have the information in one place)
Before/After Publish Dates
Before/After Number of Comments
Before/After Number of Inbound Links
Before/After Number of Social Shares (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.)
Before/After Post Views (use the month before and the month after as a proxy)
Before/After New Contacts/Leads Generated (use the month before and the month after as a proxy)
Before/After Keyword Rankings
Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this actually hurts your SEO because search engines consider this keyword stuffing (i.e., including keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of ranking highly in organic search).
It also doesn’t make for a good reader experience — a ranking factor that search engines now prioritize to ensure you’re answering the intent of your visitors. Therefore, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two long-tail keywords per blog post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time optimizing for just one or two keywords.
You may be wondering: Why long-tail keywords?
These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. For example, the long-tail keyword “how to write a blog post” is much more impactful in terms of SEO than the short keyword “blog post”.
Website visitors searching long-tail keywords are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you. In other words, they’ll help you generate right type of traffic — visitors who convert.