How to Update Existing Content For SEO

A client recently asked me to review their existing blog content and make suggestions on how to improve search visibility. What started as an email reply turned into two-page Google doc worth of recommendations. Here’s a lightly edited version of my suggestions, for all those looking to improve search visibility of content that wasn’t written for search visibility:

Copy things you should do:

  1. Reorient around a keyword. Based on the existing content, identify a high-volume keyword you can insert into your blog post. Then edit your headline and copy with an eye towards inserting that keyword and its derivatives into the content. For example, if you wrote a post about your personal experience with meditation, you can reorient it around the keyword “how to meditate” (55k searches / month), finding ways to add that term wherever possible (e.g., change the headline to “How to Meditate: My Personal Experience).
  2. Write a compelling meta description. Metas help Google understand what your web page is about. More importantly, they have a large influence on your click-through rate because they comprise the sub-headline searchers will see for a given link in Google. You can see a nice boost in traffic just by updating your meta to be snappier, pithier, and keyword-oriented. 
  3. Add proprietary data if you can. Having unique data that can’t be found elsewhere is valuable because, if other outlets want to reference it, they’ll typically link back to your post. This can be a backlink bonanza, which is good for SEO. 
  4. Provide strong / contrarian opinions. Your goal with all content should be to answer questions others in your industry are afraid to answer. Publishing a strong POV will drive eyeballs and backlinks to your piece because strong opinions elicit strong reactions. Consider if the existing content presents an opportunity to state a strong POV, then double tap on it. There’s some risk here, but if executed well, this type of content also tends to generate many backlinks.
  5. Focus on earned secrets. Per Ben Horowitz, an earned secret is when “you did something in your past to solve a hard problem and learned something about the world that not a lot of other people know.” Earned secrets are the currency of good content because they teach readers something new or help them improve their skillset. This fosters trust and affinity, which fosters customers. If your existing content doesn’t contain any earned secrets, consider if there’s a way to add some. Otherwise, it may be a good content to prune

Technical things you should do:

  1. Link out to other similar articles on your site. Internal linking is important to on-page SEO because it helps Google understand the relationship between pages on your site. An extensive internal linking framework reinforces context and relevance as well as your depth of coverage on a topic.
  2. Link out to relevant third-party resources. External links to related pages helps Google figure out your page’s topic. It also shows Google that your page is a hub of quality info.
  3. Remove broken links. Most websites have a few dozen broken links at any given time. These links make it harder for Google to crawl your website (Google’s process for indexing a webpage so it becomes visible in search). Think of them like “dead ends” for Google crawlers. Remove broken links and Google will crawl more of your website, meaning more pages get indexed.
  4. Add alt tags to images. Alt tags make your website more search-friendly because they tell Google what the images are about, which makes your site more crawl-friendly.
  5. Use H1 and H2 tags. Header tags help Google understand the structure of the page, which also makes the page more crawl-friendly. Make sure your H1s and H2s contain keywords. 

It’s generally trickier to make existing content SEO-friendly because existing content doesn’t always lend itself to SEO best practices. But even updating a handful of articles that are fit for SEO (and pruning the others that don’t drive any traffic) can go a long way towards improving your site’s search visibility.

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