How to Revive Old Content: Tom Drake’s Strategy for Annual Content Site Audits
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In the past few weeks of podcasts, I've noticed a consistent pattern. The strategy to revive old content is seeing results.
Brock McGoff, Jon Gillham, Mushfiq S, and I have all said updating old content seems to be working with the current Google environment.
Why is updating websites and content auditing popular right now?
Well, 10 years ago, people didn't need to audit their websites. It wasn't a thing. Generally speaking, websites we're pretty new.
Now that sites are getting to be 10, 15, or 20 years old. There's a lot of upkeep and maintenance. Some are referring to this problem of old “blog content decay”.
If I'm looking ahead to the future, I think this will be a much more common topic and problem, and process that people follow in the coming years.
In my latest podcast, I sat down with Tom Drake, the owner of MapleMoney.com, and a partner at GetRichSlowly.org.
To revive old content, Tom is no stranger. He started his blog a decade ago. And Get Rich Slowly (founded by JD Roth) was one of the original personal finance blogs started about 15 years ago!
With over 5000 old blog posts to update and audit, it's no easy task. Tom breaks down precisely the process he uses to update (or delete) content.
- View Entire Interview
- Starting MapleMoney
- Initial Growth
- Choosing to rebrand
- The Start of Treating a Blog Like a Business
- Auditing Process
- Determine Strategy To Revive Old Content
- Revive Old Content With Link Building
- Partnering with GetRichSlowly to Revive Old Content
- Final Content Site Update Advice
View Entire Interview
Tom Started a financial niche site MapleMoney.com in 2009 as a hobby. Back then, the blog was called Canadian Finance Blog. Just out of curiosity, I went to Archive.org to see what the site was about years ago.
In 2009, Tom had just gotten married, had a kid on the way, and was looking for a house. With all the changes happening, Tom realized that his finances were essential to get under control.
After reading the financial blogs at the time (including Get Rich Slowly), Tom realized he could create his own. With a slightly different take on the topic, the initial investment to start the Canadian Finance Blog was made.
Like a lot of blog stories, growth felt slow. It took six months to make the first Google adsense payment. But once that happened, everything started to take off. Tom reinvested the money into the site, and it continued to grow.
The blog was still a hobby for him, so he reinvested every dollar. Tom bought other sites, hired staff writers, and was continually trying new things to grow the site.
The effort paid off as about a year and a half in, his site was one of the top websites in the Canadian personal finance niche.
Choosing to rebrand
The initial name Canadian Finance Blog wasn't working well for Tom. “Canadian finance blog was such a terrible name that even bloggers that knew me well, couldn't get it right.”
So in 2017, 8 years after launching the site, Tom rebranded to MapleMoney.com.
The rebrand was no easy decision as the site already had a significant following and backlinks.
Traffic from search engines plummeted with the domain change for about six months, but Tom knew he had to keep pushing forward.
Changing the name was only half the battle. Tom was reaching out, asking people to update their links. He knew he had a lot riding on the rebrand and didn't trust the redirects as his only strategy.
The decision paid off. Monthly blog traffic increased to mid-six figures, his best years of traffic yet.
The Start of Treating a Blog Like a Business
For years Tom was looking at his blog with a blogger mentality. Even when things were going well, it was still a hobby.
Over the last couple of years, Tom decided to treat his blog as a business. Instead of Tom handling everything from start to finish, he began delegating tasks.
Tom now delegates tasks with the help of others. Design Pickle creates all his images, and he has a full-time VA in the Philippines that handles blog management.
Staff writers and Editors make sure all content creation is both grammatically and factually accurate.
While it doesn't seem like a lot of time to upload or format a blog post, doing so multiple times over the year starts to add up.
Tom could now focus on SEO, where his strengths lie and could grow the blog at scale by adding help.
One of the strategies helping with growth is focusing on updating old content. It's not just updating. The process is more of an “audit.” In many cases, Tom is making the difficult decision to delete content altogether.
Tom's auditing process happens about one or two times a year. Here is the process.
- Exporting the data
Using WP All Export WordPress plugin, export the data to see all the URLs, dates, author, anything you want.
You are essentially taking a snapshot of the database of existing content. In Tom's case, he would even pull the Link Whisper inbound and outbound links to see a clear picture of what content was currently on the site.
- Pull in Keyword Data
Using a similar process as step 1, you'll add the Rank Math information. If you are using Yoast SEO, you can pull similar data.
The primary piece of information you are looking for in this step is the focus keyword.
- Merge Ahrefs Data
While this step is optional, it can add some great additional metrics for your keyword and link information if you are good with Excel.
- Google Analytics
Finally, as you have merged in the previous metrics, you'll pull in Google Analytics data for the traffic numbers.
You'll want to pull in the time frame that makes the most sense for you. Tom will pull a full year of traffic data.
At this point, you should have an excellent excel sheet you can easily see all your posts. Next, you'll have to start making some difficult decisions.
Determine Strategy To Revive Old Content
You'll need to either Rewrite, Delete, or make technical updates to the content in most cases. The best way to do this is to create an additional column in your spreadsheet and mark each one accordingly. Once you've gone through your posts, or at least your top posts, then start making the updates.
If an old post has little traffic, but you want to give it a chance, a rewrite is likely your best option to revive old content.
For example, a post may be the only one on a particular topic and only has 500 words. By adding and updating content, the post may have a much greater opportunity to begin ranking.
Another reason you may want to rewrite content is by updating older content.
For example, if a blog post was written on “Top 10 Investments” 10 years ago, those same investments may no longer be relevant, so it would be a good idea to rewrite with more fresh content of investment suggestions.
When evaluating the spreadsheet and finding content with no traffic, and outdated content, it should be a pretty quick and easy decision to delete the content altogether.
Half of the battle when it comes to deleting a post is mental. When deleting content for Niche Pursuits, I knew how much time and effort I had put into creating the posts, and deleting them forever is painful.
Tom agrees and said it was a lot easier to delete content that he hadn't written. Post that he didn't have as much personal attachment was far more comfortable to delete.
“The more factual you are with it, the easier it becomes to delete. You can look at the numbers, and can make your decisions.”
Deleting content may sound counter-intuitive to the goal of reviving old content, but when you delete content and only provide what's important Google has a much better chance of finding your quality pages.
When deleting content, you may still have links to the post, in those cases, you'll want to be sure to 301 redirect the links to another page.
While the most significant changes in the auditing process will be for rewriting and deleting, there will be instances where technical updates are needed.
The technical update can be a lot of different things. Most common is adding in internal links or fixing broken links.
There are no strict rules for updating or deleting when it comes to the auditing process. Human judgment is required, even with all the data.
Revive Old Content With Link Building
Whether you are making technical updates, rewriting, or even deleting (post deletion link forwarding) each step, there is an emphasis on link building. For Tom, link building consists of a few different strategies.
Internal Link Building
One of the things that was evident for Maple Money in moving the needle was link building.
MapleMoney had been putting out lots of new content. Great content too. It was all very keyword researched and well thought out. However, the posts had no internal links.
Now internal linking is part of the process. When a new post goes live, the team goes back and finds at least three internal links with the Link Whisper WordPress Plugin.
Since the post is brand new with no Google Search Console data yet, Tom uses Link Whisper to determine the best internal links for keywords.
External Link Building With Guest Posts
Tom admits that link building hasn't been a direct focus for a while. Likely due to the difficulties he faced in 2012 during the Google update.
After receiving the Google Penguin penalties for spammy links, Tom admitted he was pretty shy regarding external link building.
Getting safe links with guest posting is of focus for Tom and his team, but their strategy for guest posting is different from most.
Often when you see guest posts, they are poorly created generic posts. Shallow and self-serving content just trying to get a link. When Tom writes a guest post, he writes it well.
Guesting Posting Great Content
Doing keyword research and gap analysis for the guest post is part of the process. A Maple Money guest post is real content with value for everyone involved.
It makes a lot of sense. If the guest post does well, it means there is a greater chance the publisher will use (and keep) the post long term.
Tom has seen success with his content gap strategy. He will find a blog that isn't ranking for a keyword, and he'll reach out to the owner of the blog asking to write the post.
It makes for a comfortable conversation and a low-risk situation. All you need to do is reach out to the blog owner and say, “I see you don't have a post on this topic. I want to write one.” Then it's a win-win for everyone.
If you are good enough, you can have multiple guest posts all ranking for the same keyword. If the first pages of Google are all your guest posts, it takes SEO authority meaning to a whole new level.
Podcasting For Link Building
MapleMoney Podcast has helped with growth by adding a new channel for audience members to consume content.
What is an extra benefit in podcasting is great for link building as well.
” My podcast gets links at least twice as much as, the blog posts.”
Placing the podcasts show notes pages to blog posts that matter from an SEO standpoint can be a simple way to generate links.
In addition to link building, new audience members find MapleMoney from new sources like the Apple podcast, Google podcast, or Spotify.
The strategies Tom is using for link building and site auditing are not just for his own sites. Others with large content sites are coming to Tom to do the same for them.
Partnering with GetRichSlowly to Revive Old Content
Tom has recently partnered with JD Roth the owner of GetRichSlowly.org. The two met many years back, but recently the two began to work together to revive old content on the site.
GetRichSlowly is a huge site. At one point JD sold the site to a larger company before buying it back.
During the time it was owned by a large lead generation company staff writers added a lot of mediocre if not poor content.
The staff writers were likely more concerned about building links quickly or getting the posts written before a happy hour than they were on quality.
When JD purchased the site back, it was no longer a one-person operation, and adding in some structure and help to the business was necessary.
Jd needed Tom's expertise in site auditing. With so much content deleting or updating posts was necessary.
Final Content Site Update Advice
The biggest tip Tom had was you just have to get started. The second, is you have to be willing to cut posts. You have to look at it from a data perspective and can't be afraid to delete content if it's not performing well.
If you're struggling to get started with your content site audits. Check out Tom's sites MapleMoney.com and GetRichSlowly.org to see the sheer size and work it takes for a larger site.
You can also check out my experiences of deleting and updating content in my latest content site audits.
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