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Better Done Than Perfect · Season 8 · Episode 7

Optimizing Existing Content with Kai Davis

You'll learn how often you should update your pages, the two levers for improving your SEO, how to use heat mapping, and more.

Kai Davis

How can you get more mileage out of your existing content? In this episode, we talk to Kai Daivs, an SEO consultant. You'll learn how often you should update your pages, the two levers for improving your SEO, how to use heat mapping, and more.

Show Notes 📝

Thanks for listening! If you found the episode useful, please spread the word on Twitter mentioning @userlist, or leave us a review on iTunes.

Key Learnings 💡

Kai Davis has been working in digital marketing, email marketing, and SEO for about two decades and he just loves what he does:

"I love helping people sell products online. I love helping software companies or physical product companies reach their audiences online."

He also served as the head of marketing for Segmetrics, gaining a few exciting SEO wins with the company.

Nowadays, Kai is focused on helping clients grow their businesses through SEO and more effective marketing.

Get more mileage out of your existing content

When it comes to content marketing efforts, most companies are trapped on the content creation treadmill where they create a great piece of content and launch with a splash. When the traffic drops over time, businesses tend to think about the next piece of content they need to create:

"It's become such a treadmill of content creation where you're constantly chasing the last traffic high."

So instead of spending more time on the treadmill, Kai says you should revisit your existing content on a regular basis:

"You can do this maybe once every month or once every three months. Look at the analytics, look at the metrics, and help improve the piece so it's attracting more traffic to your site and not slowly dwindling over time."

Kai shares why Google stops sending traffic to older pieces of content:

"I had a friend who ran into an SEO problem. He works at a software company and runs a technical blog. He publishes software articles and he's pretty prolific, publishing a larger guide every week or so.

I took a look at his SEO metrics one day and I noticed that his older content is not attracting any traffic because it just gets pushed a few pages back. Google sees it as older, sees it as kind of stale, and stops sending traffic there."

He advised his friend to make a couple of changes and update the existing content to send Google a signal that they should send traffic to those pages:

"This content you spent hours or even days creating, it's still relevant and timely. Updating the content will help Google start driving more traffic back to those pieces. It just feels like an effective way to get the most mileage out of the content you've already created."

How often should you publish and update content?

It depends on your business

"I think it's always worthwhile to publish new, well-researched, and well-created content. It sends signals to Google, your users, and your audiences. But for some businesses, the idea of publishing a weekly guide is not feasible because they don't have enough time and resources.

So how often you should publish depends on business to business."

Start with a minimum of one well-written piece a month

At the minimum, you can aim for a well-researched piece of content once a month.

"Eventually, you can improve your processes so you're getting maybe 2-4 pieces out every three months and just slowly increase the content velocity in terms of updating your existing content."

Establish a process

"It's valuable to have a process in place so that you're doing it regularly and repeatedly and it's not just a one-off one and done."

The cadence for revisiting existing content

If you want a more aggressive approach to SEO, Kai suggests doing it on a monthly cadence.

But if you're a bit time constrained, you can revisit your existing content once every three months.

Should you change the date of the existing content?

Some SEO gurus say that changing a couple of phrases on existing content and updating the date might result in Google penalizing you.

For Kai, he thinks that having a publish date and update date on articles has its value:

"I think there's value in having a publish date on a piece of content just so when somebody lands there, they'll know that something was written 15 years ago and it isn't relevant. Or if it was written 15 years ago and it was updated last month, it's still relevant.

So I'll aim towards having a publish date and see if we could get an update date on there just so we're sending Google the right signal."

But what if the page can't have two dates?

"I think Google's systems are advanced enough where they can determine if all someone did was change the date field and tell that it's not an actual update. Maybe they'll do a diff on the content and see that you added a thousand new words and redid the intro so it seems like a 'new piece of content' so I'd say it's a case-to-case basis."

Kai emphasizes that at the end of the day, think about what's most helpful for the user:

"If it's a significantly updated piece of content, see about updating the published date. If it's only some light changes, maybe just mention at the top in italic text, 'Hey, this article was updated this date in this year,' just so the visitors know there were some eyes on this."

Establishing the content optimization process

Start at a data-driven point

If you're still establishing your process, the best starting point is to be data-driven. You could do it yourself or ask a consultant to do the audit for you.

"You can start by looking first at Google Analytics and filtering down to just organic visitors to your landing pages. This will help you understand which of the hundred pages on your site are actually bringing in the traffic from Google.

You can then identify the five best landing pages that bring the most organic traffic to your site. And if you want to grow, one great tactic is to help improve those existing pages."

Once you've identified your top pages, you can then move into the process of identifying your ranking keywords on Google Search Console.

Identify your ranking keywords on Google Search Console

"Once the pages are identified, I'll usually go through those top pages in Google Search Console and I'll just use its filtering mechanism to look at it on a specific date range.

If I want fresh data, maybe I'll set it on the last seven days. If I want to see stuff aggregate and see if long tail keywords bubble up into more specific demand, I'll set the range at the last three months. Then I'll filter down to just the specific page I want to look at."

For each page, you will want to look at the top performing keywords or keywords on the edge:

"I look at a couple of clusters. I'll look at keywords that the page is ranking between say 3rd to 12th or 15th (top segment keywords). I think of these as more impactful keywords to target because usually the page is already ranking for them.

Google already associates the pages with these topics and keywords so if we're able to put a little juice behind them, we could help the pages perform better."

The value of looking at lower ranking keywords on pages

"I'll look at the keywords ranking between 25th to 35th to see if there are any interesting opportunities.

I also look at longer tail keywords at maybe the 30th to 50th spot just to start to understand the different keywords that this page is ranking for. What are the different topics Google seems to associate this page with and where are we seeing a significant amount of clicks or impressions?"

Kai says that these act as signals around keywords that will give you an initial map for optimization:

"Let's say you have an email marketing guide and it's ranking 12th for SaaS email marketing guide. We know that's maybe our primary keyword, the one we want to improve. We know our current position and so that starts to give us enough data to say, 'Okay. The page is starting to perform for this keyword. If we want to improve performance, we're going to have to start to go outside of Google Search Console offsite and look at competitors who might be outranking us.'

And also our own page. What's the SEO title? What are the headlines? What's the on-page content like? Just so we could start to identify the different levers we can move."

The two SEO levers

Kai says that it comes down to two levers: on-page content and off-page content and internal linking.

On-page content

The on-page basket includes things like:

  • SEO title
  • On-page content
  • Headlines

"We want to make our content more relevant so let's make sure our SEO title has our keyword near the start of it. Let's make sure our headlines mention our primary and secondary keywords, and let's make sure our content is authoritative and relevant."

Off-page content and internal linking

"If you have this page on our site, you should ask yourself: 'are we frequently linking to it from other pages on our domain?' And not just any random page, but relevant pages that either Google or the reader might see as more relevant. This could be your homepage or pages where you have a significant number of links pointing to them like a popular article on your blog or a feature page."

Kai says you should look into where links are coming into your site and then link from those pages to your target article:

"Those internal links significantly boost performance. Partially, from the SEO juice perspective, links are sending SEO juice to our site. And if those links are pointing to a few top-performing pages, we could help that SEO juice flow towards our target page just by building internal links."

"Link building is a good thing. I think so much of the net and promotion comes down to finding watering holes–the sites or places where people are hanging out–and politely getting a link pointing to your site. It has SEO and marketing benefits."

Kai says it gets tricky when you are paying for links:

"That's something Google has repeatedly said that they don't want you to do and they're always working on clamping down on it. So I don't really recommend folks doing paid link building campaigns where they work with an agency to do outreach on their behalf."

What you could do to earn links is to create relevant resources for your audience:

"Maybe it's a guide, a calculator, a tool, a free download, or an interview series. It could be so many different things but it should be something of value to your target audience. You can then reach out to relevant sites, let them know about it, and ask them to link to it.

I think that's a great way to create relevant resources, promote them, and earn links back to your site."

Some SEO consultants say that adding links retrospectively might no longer be as cool for Google, and why they advise placing links on fresh, outgoing articles.

But in Kai's experience, adding links after the fact can have SEO and customer benefits:

"Let's say you published this article and recent news came out and you've added that as a link. Google's not going to get you for that. That's relevant, timely, and creating the best resource you can."

He shares that he uses this as an internal linking tactic for his clients:

"When I have a client who has a landing page that's ranking poorly, I'll look through articles, landing pages, and other pieces of content they've published over the last year.

I'll try to see what would be relevant to the landing page. Where would a link elsewhere on their site make sense and help them build it."

For link collaborations with other sites, Kai says it's always best to see if those sites are useful and relevant to your audience and visitors:

"Even if it was a no-follow link, it would still be relevant for you because it's getting the link in front of your audience."

Where it gets tricky is when you're doing it with sites that aren't relevant to your audience:

"Let's say you're running a SaaS email marketing software and you're getting links from poker sites. Google is going to be like, what on earth? These links don't make sense."

Use other SEO tools for competitor insights and keyword research

Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush can be used for competitor research and keyword research.

When it comes to keyword research, he compares it with the results from Google Search Console and vice versa:

"I'll usually use the tool for a project to see which keywords a site or page is ranking for. I'll compare the keywords loosely in a sense to see if Semrush is seeing anything Google Search console isn't and vice versa."

From the competitor insights perspective, these tools help in determining how you're content is performing and what you can do to improve it:

"We look at a page on the site, look into Search Console, and see the top keywords. When we identify a primary keyword we want to rank for, we can search for it and see who the competitors are.

We'll then start plugging those competitor pages into Semrush to get a perspective.For example, if we have our email marketing resource guide and they've got theirs, what are we ranking for? What are they ranking for? Are there primary or secondary keywords we could see through Semrush that we could start to appropriate and move over to our article?"

How heat mapping contributes to SEO

Heat mapping tools are very useful in optimizing your existing pages and they help you dig deeper into your page's performance.

But since this takes a significant amount of time, you can use heat mapping tools on high priority pages at the minimum. Kai shares his recent experience where they were driving a bunch of content to a page but they weren't seeing any conversions:

"We could see a decent amount of rankings. We could see clicks, see impressions, but zero conversions. So we started looking and we saw that the time-on-page is around 15 seconds. So somehow we're ranking and getting the traffic but we are not meeting the user's needs."

From this insight, they decided to go back to square one and ask the important questions:

"What's the search intent? What need are we meeting? What are people trying to achieve? Is our piece of content actually doing that? And so we started a process of revising it from the ground up."

Kai says that while it might not play into SEO directly, this tool helps with conversion rate optimization, which feeds into the SEO process:

"If you've written this long page and visitors get a third of the way down, what are they encountering? Is it a link to another article? Is it an embed? Are they just getting bored and clicking back?

All of that qualitatively and quantitatively feeds into this SEO process. This lets you know if your content is meeting that user's need and if it's matching the search intent it led them to."

When should you display your lead magnet?

Depending on how your visitors interact with your site, Kai says the only way to find out is through testing. He shares his experience in a previous project:

"The conclusion I landed on was to look at the average time-on-page for that traffic channel.

Let's say if it's organic visitors, the average time-on-page is 30 seconds. About that length in, have that popup appear so folks have had a chance to experience the content, start using the page, and start reading it. When they get to the average length, you can trigger that popup that says, 'Hey, you want this as a PDF? Put your email here.'"

Kai shares that lead magnets are tricky because you want to be polite but you don't want to wait too long to show it:

"I want my popups to be polite and not just hit the user over the face with a baseball bat. It's hard though because sometimes you need to hit them with the baseball bat to get the email.

And so I think testing makes sense. Start polite and dial it up a bit and see how performance is impacted."

How to audit and improve your SaaS website

Do a technical and keyword audit across the site

The audit aims to answer questions that include:

  • What keywords are we ranking for?
  • Where is traffic coming from?
  • Can we tie this keyword on this page to more conversions down the funnel?

"I'll start with a database approach and an audit, and just try to tie these signals together. Not all traffic is created equal so we might have a post on the blog that's generating traffic but there are no conversions and the traffic isn't relevant.

So I like putting that lens on first, just to understand what are the most relevant pages, what are the most relevant keywords, and what might not matter."

On-page optimization

This process involves reviewing a page's keywords versus competitors:

"We do this to understand how our SEO title, content, and internal links stack up to what [the competitors are] doing. If we're behind in some spots, we can make changes and evaluate the performance."

This is a recurring process

Kai emphasizes that this is a recurring process and should be done regularly:

"It's very much a kaizen iterative improvement process. We're going to start off with a few key pages, make some changes, set them aside to let them sort of mature, and wait a couple of weeks while Google reindexes them.

Work on another page or two and just continually move it forward a few pages at a time and see if the changes are driving improved conversions, more traffic, more clicks, and higher rankings. You can then feed those learnings back into the process."

Final advice

Do schedule time on your calendar for the process.

"Block three hours of your time on your calendar to start this process. You're going to look in Google Analytics and Search Console. Or if you don't have either of those set up, maybe use this time to set those up on your site. Everything else will get a little bit easier when you have that time blocked out."

Don't worry too much about your competitors.

"Use your competitors as a source of inspiration and a source of research.

And if they announce they just got 10 million opt-ins, don't stress about it. They're on a different journey and they're playing a different game. All you could do is focus on how your business is doing."

Thanks for listening! If you found the episode useful, please spread the word on Twitter mentioning @userlist, or leave us a review on iTunes.

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