Keep It Fresh: Steps for Updating Your Website Content
There are four pillars of SEO content: expertise, authority, trust (E-A-T) and maintenance. These are exactly the qualities search engines look at to rank your site. Google even says so outright in its Quality Rating Guidelines.
To demonstrate expertise, you publish comprehensive content about your topic.
To demonstrate authority, people share your content through links and linkless mentions.
To demonstrate trust, you publish examples of your successful projects, client testimonials and reviews, and make your privacy and security statements clear.
To demonstrate maintenance, you keep your content up to date and ever-relevant.
Be mindful of these four things and you’ll be on the right track for developing high ranking, highly engaging and useful content for users and search engines.
Here we drill down into maintenance — keeping your content up to date and ever-relevant.
BCI is deep in the process of a full content inventory to maintain and upkeep BruceClay.com. With this process fresh on our minds, we walk you through the full program on how to update website content.
Read through from start to finish or skip to a section with the links below:
- Define and set up conversions
- Inventory content, identifying updates
- Analyze current performance
- Get user feedback
- Put your strategy in place
- Update content
- Test changes
Wrap your head around the situation that is your website. You know what you want it to do for you: assist your business. To get your game plan in order you want to:
- Get specific about the goals your website should accomplish for your business and its visitors. This is where you get your conversions in order.
- Have a full and clear understanding about the content that exists on your domain. This is where you take an inventory of your content.
Define and Set Up Conversions
You have probably already defined and set up your goals in Google Analytics at some point but it’s worth doing again — from scratch.
BCI brought together our managers and stakeholders to define every conversion and micro-conversion we want tracked on the site.
List the conversions you want performed on your site. Maybe there are new ones since you last did this exercise. Maybe you forgot about something that you needed to be reminded of.
If you didn’t have a list of conversions as part of your website strategy from before, now you do. Let it guide your site design and content offerings.
Conversion examples include:
- Quote request
- Phone call
- Store locator
- Appointment scheduled
- Video viewed
With your conversions defined, your team’s techie can match your conversions and micro-conversions with online actions.
One can configure goals in Google Analytics with great flexibility and granularity. For instance, Destination goals are usually thank you or order confirmation pages. Event goals can track things like downloads and clicks. Think of Destination goals as the page a visitor lands on and Event goals as actions a visitor takes.
Read all about creating your goals in analytics here.
Inventory Content, Identifying Updates
If you find the process of organization cathartic, you’re about to get your zen on. You’ll start with a crawl of your webpages and end with a clear view of the content to update, optimize or even cut.
For the last website crawl I needed, I turned to my team techie who wrote some custom code that spidered a site and dropped into a spreadsheet the following:
- HTTP status
- First-level directory
- Last modified date
- Title tag
- Description tag
- Keywords tag
- H1 tag
- External links
- Snippet of body text
Then I add columns to sort through what has outdated content and pages that are 404s are other errors. I also identify the pages that are the main theme hub pages that should be getting link juice from deep, supporting content. A column that spells out the goal of the page or goal that it supports is critical too. By the end of this, you have a clear view in of the shape and focuses of the site.
How to inventory your website content is a topic hole here on BruceClay.com, so for more how-to info, I’ll point you to Facebook UX expert and content strategist Jonathon Colman’s recommended hub on all things content inventory related.
Dig Into Content
Analyze Current Performance
To analyze current site performance, check your analytics and figure out what people are doing on your site. What keywords are bringing in organic search traffic, social traffic and other sources of traffic? What pages are visitors hanging around on a while and which pages are they bouncing from? Use this data to inform your priorities and next steps.
Get User Feedback
Along the way you’ll be reading your website. It’s so close to you yet it may have been on autopilot for a while now. It’s time to rekindle your familiarity with the site navigation, information, conversion paths, search traffic. Ask friends to read pages. Other eyes see things you won’t.
Do user tests. Hire UserTesting.com to do some user tests on your site. Or have a friend navigate a conversion path. Draw up a scenario that happened at the office today and ask your friend to try to navigate to the solution. Do they get hung up anywhere? Have them talk as they’re walking through your site. Specify an action they should try to accomplish and record their experience. This information is critical to your understanding of how your customers are experiencing your site.
Update and Test
Put Your Strategy in Place
At this point you’ll have an understanding of what users are coming to your site for, what they’re doing when they’re there, and anything they might be having trouble with on the site. From this understanding you can make improvements. This happens in two ways:
- Creating new content to address unanswered questions and needs.
- Updating current content so that it’s optimized for search and the user experience.
Consider site architecture. This is the point where you’ve taken inventory of the pages of your site and can decide whether the way the pages are connected is the best way.
Are you familiar with siloing? Does your site’s hierarchy match the way a user navigates your site? Basically, each big idea or category of your website is a pillar of your website. There will be a main page on that topic, usually reachable through the main navigation. Depending on the size of the site or the topic, there may be a group of pages containing supporting content on that topic.
All the pages about a topic would link together as appropriate to answer a reader’s questions on the topic. This gets a little technical, but only link from one silo to another from the top landing pages; this is done to maintain a concentrated theme in that section of the site, increasing chances of good rankings due to subject relevance.
So in short, there’s three things to think about at this stage:
- Navigation that fits what users are looking for when they hit your site.
- Information structured as strong themes with supporting content.
- Linking throughout the site in a way that maintains the individual themes.
Addressing a website’s architecture might be considered an update or the changes may be drastic enough that it’s like starting new. Whichever the case, the site architecture structures your site as a topic expert. From here you can position and build up content.
As you create and update content, link thoughtfully to support site themes across the site and help your users navigate to the content they need on your topics of expertise.
A clear site architecture is key to building your content themes. Design your site as an architectural masterpiece of the finest quality content.
Update old content and add new content. Break out that spreadsheet. Add rows for new pages that will need to be written under your site architecture. For all new pages, assign keywords that will ensure that page supports its theme.
Write content that informs, engages, sells, serves, collects information … whatever it is the page is meant to do, including containing keywords and a call to action to move them down the intended path.
For all pages that already existed, make sure the assigned keywords are appropriate, and also make sure they’re actually used in the content on the page. Use a tool like the SEOToolSet Single Page Analyzer (free SPA here) for a report of content optimization, including the phrases most commonly used on the page.
Ask yourself if the page accomplishes what it’s intended to, and if it’s clear what you want the visitor to do. Make sure the answer is “yes” before you check off the columns for body content and calls to action on the spreadsheet. Consider where a page links to help a user through the funnel and discovering more useful content.
A couple additional tips:
- Assign priority. Take a list of site pages and silos and give them a rank of importance to the business goals. On your spreadsheet, indicate the goals a landing page or silo is responsible for. Key pages and/or sections of your site can be addressed first. You can use this spreadsheet throughout the refresh project to manage the updates to keywords, body content, Meta data and calls to action. Create a column for each of those essential elements on your spreadsheet as well.
- Set deadlines. Time management 101. If you have set dates for when you want certain pages or sections of the site reviewed, edited, optimized and published, the project is likely to keep moving forward.
All the insight you got from asking friends and testers to use your site? You should get that for your new content, too. Testing lets you serve different versions of a page to segments of your visitors and gives you information about how each performs.
Use the testing tool Content Experiments in Google Analytics and see which versions of your new page (or old pages with new modifications) get more of your desired actions. This overview will get you up to speed on Content Experiments, how it works and what you can do.
Now isn’t that nice and fresh?
Let us make your content work harder for you.
This post was originally published on Aug. 9, 2012! #refresh