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Historical Optimization: How To Drive Traffic By Improving Existing Assets

On any given day or minute, how many new web pages do you think are made? It’s reported that on WordPress sites, about 70 million new posts come into existence each month, and over 409 million people view 20+ billion pages monthly. That’s a lot of competition. And those staggering numbers are for WordPress alone.

So, is churning out new content regularly the only way to make your website stand out and gain traction over time? No. In fact, one strategy people tend to overlook is historical optimization. It involves reaching back into your publishing history, finding pages and posts that have the potential to drive more traffic than they initially did, and improving them in certain ways before republishing them.

Here is a detailed guide to implementing historical optimization for your blog or website.

What Pages To Prioritize For Historical Optimization

If you’ve been diligent with blogging for years, your first problem may be where to even start. Which blog posts and pages are the priority? Which ones are most worth taking precious time to “re-optimize” and tweak?

To answer that, let’s keep things as simple as possible. If we apply the 80/20 Rule based on the Pareto Principle, that means among all the stuff that’s published on your website, about 20% of it actually yields what you need – or at least has the potential to. So to find that 20%, use Google Search Console to analyze the current search traffic of your site. From what you see there, you’ll eventually uncover a select group of URLs that’ll give you the greatest upside, as they’re falling slightly short of driving lots of web traffic.

Here are the pages and posts of your site that are in prime position for historical optimization:

1. Placing 8th-20th in search results with a high click-through rate (CTR). The good news about these pages is when people come across them, they click and read. But that’s where some room for improvement applies. Most searchers don’t look past the first seven listings appearing on Page 1 of search engine results. It’s worth getting those URLs to climb up several spots higher.

2. Placing 8th-20th in search results with a low CTR, but rank for popular searches. While not as favorable as the ones in the category above, the fact that these pages already have decent rankings for high-volume searches means they also have a fair amount of potential. The hurdle with low CTR might be caused by people – those who come across your listing – not being compelled enough to click and visit.

3. Published over 12 months ago. These are the pages that, due to their older existence, are better placed to be “freshened up” so as to give newfound exposure to your website. The more recent pages are likely still running their course in terms of being indexed by Google and being discovered by searchers.

4. With highly informative content. Are there pages you published that took hours and hours to write, as they contained lots of details and descriptions, and have valuable information that’s still mostly relevant? Those are worth republishing as well.

As you run all your webpages by the Search Console, it helps to export all URLs and their analytics into a spreadsheet. From there, use the spreadsheet to first sort out everything by publishing date (remove entries for pages published within the last 12 months). Next, organize the entries by views, marking those specifically with a high number of organic views but have been impacted by low conversions, high bounce rates, or outdated content.

Soon after, you should have a shortlist of pages and posts for historical optimization. And at this point, here’s the best way to reorder this list: highlight and prioritize the ones that best fit with the current, main objective of your business. What is your goal at the moment? Increasing conversion? Launching a specific product? Promoting something that’s exclusively for the season? Once you’ve established your objective, it’s much clearer which URLs must be reworked.

How To “Re-Optimize” Previously Published Content

Know that historical optimization isn’t a strategy with obvious dos and don’ts. Some trial-and-error is involved, which is why not all existing pages that you rework will immediately lead to impressive results. But in general, these are the best measure to take:

1. Analyze The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Of Targeted Keyword

This ties back to the original keyword that you intended the given page to rank for. So do a double-take – does the existing content truly match the search intent of that target keyword? Are competitor pages that rank higher for that same keyword perhaps just more relevant to the search intent? How does your page compare to them in the depth of information?

Furthermore, it’s good to check the “searches related to…” portion at the bottom of the SERP you’re analyzing. Are there related questions that you might be able to answer with some tweaks to that old page? Or related keywords that you didn’t include but can be included with the help of some rewriting? Pay attention to these related keywords and questions, as they’re the ones that search engines determine are relevant to the target keyword. They’re the ones that you can even aim for your republished content to land on “Position Zero” and become a featured snippet, if you’re strategic enough.

2. Review On-Page SEO Elements

This step will require a website auditing tool with on-page SEO checking capabilities. Once you have access to this, all you need to do is plug-in the URL of that page you plan to republish, together with the target keyword. And minutes (or seconds) later, you’ll be presented with specific recommendations for improving the page SEO-wise. A reliable site auditor can check everything from the title tag to the headlines, image alt tags, meta descriptions, outbound links, text readability, page speed, and how mobile-friendly the page is.

3. Adds Elements To Keep Viewers Engaged

Yes, reader engagement still matters a great deal even if you’re reworking existing content. readers engaged with your content. How can you encourage a healthy degree of engagement? Consider the real purpose of that page, and include additional elements that help in delivering that purpose. It helps to think about both good UX writing and how to really talk to your audience instead of simply dishing out information.

For example: is your page meant to generate sign-ups for a service or subscription? If so, then add images directing readers to register or place a sign-up form where it’s relevant within the page. Also, remember that a helpful call-to-action located at the bottom of your content, or something like a “slide-in” lead flow, works wonders for allowing audiences to stay engaged and not feel disconnected as they continue reading.

4. Stay Recent & Add A New Publish Date

Here, you ought to check whether any referenced data or hyperlinked research is dated too far back to keep your content as relevant as possible. Such outdated information can lead to a higher bounce rate for that page, no matter what you do in terms of on-page SEO improvements and additional elements. Your audience prefers to read stuff that’s current and updated. And once you’ve taken care of that, republish the page with a brand new date. If it’s a blog post, consider attaching a note at the bottom to indicate when it was initially published and when it was last updated.

5. Show It To Google & Everyone Else

This final step is self-explanatory. Once you’re confident that your republished page is ready for Google and the world to see, go ahead and submit the URL in the Google Search Console platform so it can be recrawled more quickly. After that, it’s about promoting it with the use of multiple methods like Facebook status updates, Instagram stories, or emails to subscribers to your blog. This exposure paves the way for receiving backlinks to your page, which will only improve its rankings and authority on Google.

One more thing. Note that historical optimization doesn’t mean abandoning new website content altogether. Fresh content will always serve a purpose, no matter how actively you republish old pages. If you’ve got the time and people to help, you may find it useful combining both strategies, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be balanced. If you’ve got hundreds of existing blog posts, a 70-30 split between historical optimization and creating new posts may be ideal. However, you should base your strategy on how much traffic your site has gained from your re-optimized pages after 30 days, 60 days, etc. So keep track of your web traffic periodically, and be open to adjustments. Ultimately, it’s finding out what works best for you.

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