People remove content when it stops adding to company goals. They fix content when it’s broken by redirecting content or repurposing it as new opportunities arise.
One thing marketing teams and website owners overlook by assumption, however, is that stagnant content can re-perform to previous levels and set new peak performance standards.
The definition I use for stagnating content is:
Content which has seen reduced performance contribution toward its original intended purpose, and has therefore slowed down, or stopped adding marketing value completely.
This post examines the top five ways to enrich stagnating content’s performance reflecting its original purpose.
It isn’t about moving the goal posts, but giving the content the boost it needs to return to its intended best.
Content may stagnate in a matter of weeks, months, or years (years in the case of key/evergreen/cornerstone content pieces) depending on:
- The content type.
- The robustness of the content when it went live.
- The speed at which the contents perceived value deteriorates over time.
Trends that tell you content has stagnated can be identified by:
- Reduced metric performance.
- A slow declining reduction.
- Lower value derived over time.
The goal of reading this post and taking action on the advice included is to turn these slow declining trends, or long term under-performance into fresh spikes of new content value.
Something that looks like this:
There are fundamental actions that you can take to redress content performance decline and natural stagnation over time, enabling you to revitalize your business-critical content.
These are covered in the remainder of this post.
1. Keeping Up With Changing Audiences
When you create content over time it becomes dated and disjointed.
The leading signals that tell you content is beginning to fail include:
- Lower engagement rates.
- Declining social shares.
- Fewer page views.
- Reduced time on page.
- Decreased results – impressions, traffic, new users, goal completions, etc.
All of the above stagnation triggers can be positively impacted through greater awareness of the people digesting the content in question, plus using this insight to revise your content.
Firstly, you need to compare the demographics of the people reading the content now, to those engaging with it at historical peak performance levels.
You can also take a look at the top performing current ranking content on Google (organic and paid) as well as being shared and promoted on social media.
From this increased audience awareness, and external content examples you can distill the data into content repitch activities such as:
- Content title changes.
- Advert updates.
- Core term seeding.
- Mixed content type inclusion.
- Fresh content promotion to revised audiences.
2. Improving Technical Performance
From time to first byte (TTFB) and mobile friendliness, to lazy loading images and fixing internal broken images or links, there is a myriad of technical improvements that can be made to improve content performance and accessibility to the audience.
Content speed is a ranking factor as much as it is a site maintenance and usability issue.
When you make content all-device ready, faster to access, and available spanning all relevant mediums, you expand its reach and suitability for purpose.
It is not uncommon to see content performance peaks derived by improving the speed of delivery and associated technical updates in isolation.
Technical SEO has experienced a dramatic resurgence in its strategic application and resource attention over the past several years. In no small part, this is directly correlated to technological changes such as:
- Mobile first content prioritization.
- New SERP features including accelerated mobile pages (AMP) re-results.
- The broader gains attributed to technical activities implemented.
3. Increasing Content Understanding
Partially overlapping with technical updates, content understanding can factor in structured data as a key focus area, as well as on page content revisions.
You can even consider the external link signals (for example anchor text used, and external site topical relevancy) as part of the content understanding exercise.
For the purposes of this post, structured data and the associated items (schema.org, microdata, JSON, rich snippet targeting and more) should be your primary concern.
Google QAPage code is a must for longer page question and answers content. This single technical update can refresh and flag the topical value of existing content to Google for inclusion within the SERP rich results such as the pre-results and Google Answers.
Other examples of structured data update you can make include:
- Local business
- Social Profile
4. Enriching Topical Completeness
Completeness of content coverage is a subtle trend that has been growing in marketing value for some time, coming to the fore over the past 3+ years.
Surprisingly, few companies are investing the time, resources, or expertise required to fully maximize this opportunity to impact stagnating content.
Some of the most impactful actions to take to enrich the completeness of the content you are improving focus on:
- Bringing the content up to date.
- Adding new statistical reference points and sources.
- Including genuine authorship to content topics.
- Expanding/adding the depth of FAQs.
- Covering all core intent areas tied to the content topic and purpose.
- Focus on making the content better than the closest match or top performing/ranking content.
- Turn individual content items int hubs of topical value or series on content pieces.
- Provide alternative ways to digest the content (podcasts, videos, webinars, presentations, infographics, images).
5. Pruning & Combining Competing Content
Why have one page on a topic when you can have 20?
Because those 20 pages are most likely fighting each other for position, causing content confusion, and sending conflicting messages to users and search engines.
Typically unnecessary content pages on the same topic create problems understanding what the content is for, which content is expected to rank well, and what you want people or bots to do with the content compared to it alternatives.
There are of course logical ways to create content clusters, align disparate content items into logical series, and bring together competing signals, but at this time, the question to ask is:
Do all these items add value to the user?
If the answer to this question is no, consider what elements of the content do add value and think about how you can bring all of these shallower content articles valuable elements into an integrated hero piece of content.
Most likely the hero content will be currently stagnating and ready for improvement.
Content stagnates all of the time and frequently gets removed, repurposed, or overlooked entirely.
Here are the five core tactics to deploy and improve the stagnating content present on your website towards your business goals:
- Keeping up with changing audiences.
- Improving technical performance.
- Increasing content understanding.
- Enriching topical completeness.
- Pruning and combining competing content.
- 7 Ways to Keep Great Content from Dying a Slow, Unremarkable Death
- Content Optimization: Boost Traffic by Improving What You Already Have
- How & Why You Must Improve or Remove Your Old Content
All screenshots taken by author, April 2019