Historical Optimization: Getting More from Old Blog Content

If you’re blogging and have not heard of “historical optimization,” you could be missing out. It’s a technique that could have many bloggers rethinking the past and changing up their editorial strategy.

Last week, our social team attended Digital Summit Detroit and had the opportunity to hear some great speakers on a variety of topics, from social content development to attribution modeling, beacons, email optimization and more. One I took particular interest in was a session on optimizing old blog content. Since re:group has been committed to blogging for several years, I saw potential for some practical application. Pamela Vaughan, a member of the marketing content team at HubSpot, was the speaker at the session, which was called, Optimizing The Past: How to Get More Traffic and Leads from Old Blog Content. The 30-minute talk was jam-packed with great stats and insights for bloggers trying to get the most out of their blog posts.

During the session, Pamela discussed how, in 2014, HubSpot conducted an in-depth blog analysis where she discovered some very interesting facts about where their blog traffic and leads were coming from:

  • 76% of monthly views came from old blog posts.
  • 92% of monthly blog leads came from old posts.
  • 46% of monthly blog leads came from just 30 posts out of 6,000 posts. In other words, only 0.5% of total blog posts made up almost half of all leads!

HubSpot pie charts representing blog lead origination

These stats were fascinating to me because, like most people, I assumed that the majority of traffic occurred on the day that a blog post was published:

HubSpot graph representing blog traffic over time

In reality, according to Tomasz Tunguz, a blog post generates 1-2X the amount of traffic with time.

At HubSpot, every blogger was only focusing on creating new content, when there was big potential in revisiting these older top-performing posts. Ultimately, the blog analysis led to two conclusions:

  • They should conversion optimize high-traffic blog posts.
  • They should search optimize high-converting blog posts.

Historical Conversion Optimization

The goal here was to generate more leads from high-traffic posts. If you’re not familiar with how leads are generated from blog posts, it typically happens by having an offer or some kind of call-to-action where reader can provide contact information through a form, which turns them into a lead after they click “Submit.” In HubSpot’s case, they include free offers or whitepapers that readers can download by first providing their name, email, phone number and company name.

HubSpot image representing the blog converstion optimization

Through testing, HubSpot realized that picking blog posts based on the most relevant offers was hit or miss. Then they tried conversion optimizing based on the keywords that people were using in search to find posts. Eureka! This was the winning approach they were searching for. When they tested this on a blog post, they increased conversions on that post by 240% and since have doubled the number of monthly leads generated by old posts that they optimized using this method!

How did they do it?

  • Identified old posts with a high amount of traffic
  • Identified keywords that people were using to find those high-traffic posts
  • Incorporated those keywords into the calls-to-action of the posts
  • Created new offers where existing offers were not relevant

Historical Search Engine Optimization

The goal of this second step was to generate more traffic from existing, high-converting posts through SEO. As we all know, your ranking in Google search results determines the amount of traffic your pages will receive. Pamela noted that click-through-rate drops 8X from the first to second page of Google search results. So, improving keyword rankings on some of the older, high-converting blog posts was crucial for generating more traffic and, ultimately, leads.

What HubSpot found was by updating these older blog posts and republishing, they doubled their organic search traffic. Over a six-month period, they increased organic search traffic to their blog by 50%!

How did they do it?

  • Identified posts with 1st-page potential
  • Updated the post for accuracy, freshness and comprehensiveness
  • Added SEO to the post using keywords
  • Optimized the post for conversions
  • Republished as new and promoted the post via email and social media

This worked for a few reasons:

  • Google rewards freshness.
  • They were building off of existing search authority the posts had already gained.
  • New visits led to more social shares and inbound links.
  • It was scalable.

But historical optimization is not for everyone. Pamela noted that this tactic works really well for mature blogs with many posts and a large subscriber base. If you’re not generating a large amount of organic search traffic, you may not see the results you’re looking for. She ended the session with a couple words of warning:

  • Don’t sacrifice creating new blog content for updating old content.
    • This is not meant to replace new blog content. You need to keep writing new content to create more chances to rank for new keywords. It’s also important to keep building your repository of blog posts so you have more to choose from in the future.
  • Historical optimization should be a piece of your overall blogging strategy—not the whole strategy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to start revisiting and revamping old blog posts! If you think historical optimization might be right for you, feel free to download HubSpot’s Ebook and Tracking Template. If you have tried this, we would love to hear about your results. Please leave us a message in the comments section below. Happy blogging!

Photo Credit: All images shared in this post were displayed at the Detroit Digital Summit during HubSpot’s Pamela Vaughan’s Optimizing The Past: How to Get More Traffic and Leads from Old Blog Content presentation.

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