How to Optimize Your Older Blog Content for Long Tail Conversion

By , June 27th, 2014 in Content Marketing | 3 comments
Back to the Future meme
… and optimize our older blog posts. Image source.

A few weeks ago I was talking to Joe Chernov of HubSpot, a leading marketing software company with a very active blog community. As VP of Content, Joe’s role is to ensure that HubSpot’s content is consistently high in quality and driving valuable lead gen.

One of the surprising insights from our conversation was that Joe found that many of HubSpot’s older blog posts from prior months or even years were getting extremely high conversion long tail traffic.

It turned out that people digging deep into the blog’s archives had a very specific pain point to address. Accordingly, HubSpot saw conversion rates much higher than that of their most recent posts, albeit at lower volume. This is why Joe’s team continues to tinker with older posts.

If it can work for HubSpot, it can work for you. Here are three things you can do to optimize older evergreen posts on your blog for long tail conversion.

1. Do a content audit

Many companies have very little visibility over all their content. As content marketers, our goal of near-term lead gen may sometimes trump the long-term goal of content planning.

But as Joe saw, auditing older content can pay off in a big way.

If you don’t have time or resources to do a proper audit, a quick way to get a better understanding of your content is to look at your analytics to see which content pieces are still driving traffic.

While my blog has a shorter blogging history than HubSpot, I wanted to see if some of our older but still relevant blog posts could similarly benefit. It turns out there was lots of room for improvement.

We looked through Google Analytics and our own proprietary analytics tools (which help us identify lead gen) to uncover our best performing pieces.

11 of our blog posts had the most call-to-action click-throughs, with one post blowing away the competition. I filtered out that post so I could see how the next 10 performed. To account for the advantages older posts have over newer ones, I normalized the referrals over elapsed time.

Content Marketing: Sharebloc referrals

Not surprisingly, our top converting posts were those with great relevance to content and inbound marketers, our largest user cohort.

The best performing post was a summary of Rand Fishkin’s Reddit and Inbound AMAs (crowd-sourced interviews where interviewees encourage readers to “Ask Me Anything”). Both of these platforms offer a similar user experience, with Inbound catering to a user base very similar to our own target market.

I wanted to see if referrals also correlated with our most viewed blog posts.

Content Marketing: Sharebloc referrals - pageviews
Sharebloc found that referrals did not correlate proportionately with page views.

It was interesting to see that the top converting posts did not correlate with the most viewed. The takeaway from this analysis is that posts that correlate better with buyer persona trump all other vanity metrics.

Our relatively short content history made this exercise relatively easy. If your blog has a larger archive of posts, you may choose to focus only on the top quartile of your best-performing posts. Doing so will make the next two steps more palpable.

2. Update your calls to action

Our blog’s older posts used to contain a plain hyperlink to our sign up page.

As part of our optimization process, we went back and updated every link to a more eye-catching CTA, similar to the one Buffer uses in the example below.

Content Marketing: Buffer CTA Example
Buffer’s blog posts lead into eye-catching CTAs to turn readers into leads. Image source.

This was a great improvement given our limited blog post repertoire, but companies with years of great content can do even more to optimize old but evergreen blog posts.

For example, many of Unbounce’s older blog posts in their PPC category are evergreen pieces of content. When I scroll to the bottom of this older post I’m given the option of either signing up for a trial or joining their mailing list.

Content Marketing; Unbounce CTA example

Unbounce has an opportunity to optimize this older but still relevant post by replacing the first CTA with a link to their recent ebook, The Ultimate Guide to PPC Landing Pages.

Content Marketing: Unbounce PPC CTA example
Update older posts to reference new marketing assets. Image source.

A simple quarterly audit of your most popular pages can help you guide older content toward more recent marketing assets.

3. Recycle old content

A simple way to take advantage of the power of long tail conversion is to reference old content in a more recent post. Nobody does this better than our friends at HubSpot. Here are some ways in which HubSpot has transformed older posts into new marketing assets:

Reference past content in context

This post, The Anatomy of a Highly Shareable Infographic, immediately references an earlier post on the hard truths of content marketing. Since the post is light on content (and heavy on infographic), a user may be inclined to click through the older, content-heavy post for elaboration.

Create roundups

This post, Finding Good Ideas, Internet Trolls & More, is simply a roundup of content posted earlier in the week. If you really want to get the most mileage out of past content, you can create roundups on a weekly or even a monthly basis as the folks from Crazy Egg have done.

Show old content in a new context

This post about Data Driven Fundraising is targeted toward a specific vertical. The author repurposes older, broader marketing content (such as this post on personalization) and reframes it for universities and non-profits.

Bringing old content back to the future

Before you consider deleting old posts, stop to think about the long tail conversion you could be missing out on.

At first glance, it may seem like your post traffic steadily declines after publish date. If you regularly check on your posts’ analytics, you may have seen some variation of the traffic graph below:

Content Marketing: Moz traffic graph

The team at Moz certainly found a traffic spike like the one above when they looked at the way their content performed.

However, they also found that their evergreen content had a much longer life and continued to perform long after the original publish date.

Content Marketing: Moz evergreen traffic graph

The same is true for your blog. Older posts can still add value to the top of your funnel.

Keep this in mind next time you catch yourself abandoning older blog posts. If you’re producing great content, your work should continue long after you press publish.

– David Cheng

About The Author

Photo of David Cheng

David Cheng is the CEO at ShareBloc, a Reddit-like platform for sales and marketing professionals to share, curate, and discuss business content that matters. You can find his writing about content marketing, social media, and growth hacking on the ShareBloc blog.
» More blog posts by

Comments

  1. Gobinda Roy says:

    Hi David ,

    Thanks for these great tips . It has come to me at right time as I was looking for ways to optimized some old posts with long tail key words . As you mentioned , I have found few old posts are performing well in search terms without any major optimization . Now I am planning to optimize those old content .

    I am not expert in this domain , still learning . This a great piece of information .

    Thanks again !
    Gobinda

  2. Vinay says:

    Great ideas David, I would also add building on a theme or content bucket around topics that seem to be popular.

  3. Louis Gudema says:

    Excellent post, David. Another name for “referencing past content in context” is interlinking. Interlinking among your posts not only helps increase readership, but is likely to help with SEO. And no one does interlinking more/better than HubSpot.

    I’ve also found it useful to rewrite a few headlines that were colorful but not very keyword-rich, and look at at the content through that lens, too.