Content | November 20, 2015

Digital Upcycling: How to Resurrect Dead Content

For years and years now we’ve heard that ‘content is King’. Marketing departments have invested exponential amounts of money on digital content. And with good reason; it works for the most part.

But a lot of the time, for various reasons, it doesn’t.

Inefficient content: the statistics

These stats come from Kapost’s report The $958m Marketing Problem (PDF). It’s well worth a read.

  • B2B businesses in the US spend $5.2b a year creating content 
  • $958m is wasted on inefficient and ineffective content
  • 67% think there’s room for improvement 
  • Meeting deadlines (92%), redundant content creation (90%) and co-ordinating writers (81%) all contribute to wastage
  • The most efficient operations are 7x more likely to invest in technology to streamline. 

That most important stat again:

  • $958m (~18%) is wasted on inefficient and ineffective content. And that’s only B2B businesses in the US… 

If content is king, as we’re so routinely told, then it’s become The Mad King from Game Of Thrones – fat, bloated and unfit for purpose.


Simply throwing money at content doesn’t mean it’ll work. We must be strategic, and often we find that means using the content clients have created years back and forgotten.
First, I’ll take a look at why you should work with what’s already on your site and then I’ll unpack some methods to make your content come to life.

Why it’s best to work with what you’ve already got

  1. Your old content has trust and will be generating visits
  2. Your old content could be doing more harm than good
  3. Your old content is often where the ideas are
  4. Your old content provides insights into your users
  5. Your old content makes you very efficient

Your old content has trust and will be generating visits

Pages, like domains, have built up years of trust from search engines. What’s more, there’s every chance that your content will have picked up other ranking factors that generate trust:
  • Links
  • Social signals
  • Click-through factors
  • Keyword factors 

As a result, your content could be ranking for various longtail search terms, picking up traffic and getting users onto your website.

So it makes sense to ensure that the content  on your site that’s getting traffic is up to date and trustworthy. Which leads us to…


Your old content could be doing more harm than good


Out-of-date, below-par content can negatively affect a site. If people visit a blog, written in 2009, and find that it’s peddling irrelevant information then that doesn’t reflect well on the brand.

Bad content doesn’t help from a search perspective either. Google wants to present the most reliable, high-quality results to its users, so it pays attention to analytics information:

  • Page sessions
  • Ensuing direct visits
  • Click-through rates
  • Bounce rates
If your pages have unhealthy Analytics stats, or if you compare unfavourably to other competitors, then the page, and your domain, will be adversely affected in search rankings.
Therefore, instead of creating new content, it makes sense to update and improve content that could be turning people off your brand. And if you update a page to make it more engaging and users respond with better analytics information, we find that you’ll see a positive difference in your search rankings. 

Your old content is often where the ideas are

While ideas generation can be almost infinite, there are a limited amount of ‘evergreen’ content ideas that your brand can create. The best, most customer-focused, concepts could have been dreamed up and published years ago.
Which isn’t to say that the actual content is any good, but the idea is already there.
For instance if you’re a sports brand, the chances are at some point your marketing team made a ‘How to Choose the Right Pair of Football Boots’ blog. So it’d make sense to update that.

Your old content provides insights into your users

Depending on the type of brand you are, and the industry you ply your trade in, users react in different ways. 
Analysing old content allows marketers to ascertain how users behave at specific messages, designs and calls to action. This lets you know, ahead of you repurposing the piece, what’s effective and what’s not.
Looking at your old content, you get to see:
  • What’s important to your personas
  • How they react to content
  • Discrepancies between industries and personas 

Your old content makes you very efficient

Fast results. It’s what we all want – something to impress our boss with. It’s true that working in marketing means we’re always espousing the long game, but improving existing blog content is one of the speediest quick wins out there.
We’ve already seen that the ‘throw enough turd at the wall’ nature of content marketing means that wastage can be high. But there’s no wastage in updating existing content because it forces us to be completely strategic.
While there’s the temptation to create anything when writing new content purely for the point of being ‘new’, updating old stuff forces us to think about the page:
  • What is it?
  • What’s the point of it? 
  • Where should it take users? 
  • What people are clicking on it? 
  • What should it look like?

What Content Should You Choose?

OK, OK, so we’ve established it’s often better to use the content that’s already live on your site. But how do we identify which content to work with? 

Consult your brand: what’s being pushed?

What’s hot right now in your business?
Depending on the comings and goings in your office, and seasonal peaks in demands, you’ll know best what’s being promoted by your brand in the next 3-6 months. And if you have old, relevant content stinking the place up that ties into these trends then it makes sense to revive it.   

Consult Analytics: What’s getting traffic?

Simply logging into your Google Analytics account informs which content you should be paying most attention to. Navigate like thus:
Visit Behaviour -> Site Content -> Landing Pages -> (search for blog URL)
From here you can see which blogs are bringing in traffic, and so which are the highest priority to update. And by segmenting your traffic to only include organic users, you can discover which blogs are bringing in a steady stream of traffic from Google. 
You can sort by:
  • Bounce rate
  • Exit rate
  • Session duration
  • Pages per session
And see which pages are performing particularly poorly. Then you can start thinking about how to make them better.

Consult Google Search Console: what’s getting clicks?

While Google Analytics is a valuable resource to ascertain which of your old blogs are enjoying traffic, Google’s Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools) shows you where your content is showing up in search results yet isn’t ‘quite’ bringing traffic in.
Visit Webmaster Tools and then click:
Search Traffic ->
Search Analytics ->
Pages (filtered by) blog URL
You’ll see something like this:
This shows which content is showing up in search results. Of course, you’ll recognise some blogs from Analytics which are bringing in traffic (these are represented by the ‘Clicks’ column and are usually accompanied by a decent amount of impressions), but you’ll also see some with a small click through rate (<2%) that are slipping through the net. 
The ‘Impressions’ column shows that your content is showing up somewhere in search results, getting your meta information seen by users. But if the click-through rates are low, then content isn’t quite high enough in search rankings – or relevant enough to users – in order to generate decent organic traffic to your website.

That’s when you know that a little leg up can do your ailing blog the world of good.

Content CRO: How to Resurrect Dead Content


Understand what’s wrong

Before we can do anything, we have to work out what’s wrong with the page.
After all, if we don’t know why it’s not working, we can’t make the right changes and we can’t take a look at the right metrics to work out if it’s changing.
  • Is the bounce rate too big? If so you need to make the page look better and link more effectively to other pages
  • Are session durations low? Then write more or take users to other parts of the site 
  • Are users not going to targeted places? Your calls to action aren’t much cop. 
  • Is the content wrong? Quite easy, this one
  • Is traffic too low? Look into ways that you can get more eyes on the content in the first place

Earn rankings: improve the content

If your content is failing to engage users, or search engines, then it’s not relevant enough or special enough. So we need to make it better than anyone else. Sounds simple, right?

This Moz whiteboard, Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die, encapsulates my feelings entirely.

Our content needs to be better than anyone else, with:
  • More detail
  • Stronger research
  • More incisive analysis
  • Exclusive imagery
  • Better writing 
…than its search rivals. If it’s not, then do something else. It doesn’t matter what our content’s USP is, but it needs to be there.
Detail is hugely important; there is a strong correlation between content length and success. This Moz study shows that the more words a blog post has, the more people are going to like it and therefore the more links it’s likely to get.
And that correlates with stronger search rankings. 

Slash bounce rates: improve the aesthetics

People are fickle. If they’re not responding to your blog then it could just be because it looks bad. After all, 65% learn visually.
  • Add in images. These act as a subconscious trust signal and make it easier to process text. And if they relate to your article then they’ll immerse the reader in the piece. Great images are also incredibly sharable – increasing the chances that your blog will get published on social networks and get more eyes on your blog.
  • Use social. Of course, imagery doesn’t have to be pictures. Embed relevant Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram images, YouTube videos. This is a major trust signal.
  • Improve white space. A study, Lin. 2004, found that improving white space between paragraphs and in left and right margins increased comprehension by 20%. So use headings, frequent paragraphs, larger fonts and images.

Share it


Boost visits: Write for (and including) influencers

A lot of content doesn’t die because users hate it, or because the writer is a berk with a stupid moustache, it shuffles off this mortal coil because people simply don’t know it exists.
So when you’re writing, try to include relevant social influencers – and then let them know about it:
  • Email them 
  • Tweet them
  • Send them a nice letter
At the very least you’re telling a relevant person that your content exists. In a best-case scenario they’ll share it with their social connections, drive traffic to your site and link to your domain.
If you aim at the moon etc. etc. and so on.

Increase click-through rates: optimise your content

When your old content was scribed, there’s every possibility it wasn’t done so with search intent in mind. So do a little keyword research around it and ensure it’s well optimised.
Play around with relevant search terms that arise in your content into Google’s Keyword Planner, or Ubersuggest, to see what you could adorn your blog with.
We’ve already read that Search Console highlights those blogs that are nearly bringing in the bacon. If we’re able to tweak meta titles, meta descriptions, headers and body content with the terms it highlights, there’s every possibility we’ll see a growth in search rankings, and improved organic traffic.

Boost visits: go native

Once you’ve adapted your content, you want your stuff to be seen by as many people as possible. Here’s where native comes in.
Native advertising allows you to promote your content in highly relevant places. This gets your creation seen by targeted people that perhaps wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Gmail in particular allow for highly targeted promotions, allowing you to speak to relevant personas easily.

Native providers such as Taboola and Outbrain also work on a similar premise, getting blog content listed on high-traffic websites and driving users towards your content. They don’t always have the best reputation online and are often the preserve of low-quality clickbait-style sites, but if you’ve got some great content that you think could engage users then it’s well worth investigating.

Increase visit durations: include calls to action

It’s really common for me to come across old, decent client content that looks good, is well researched, well written, optimised well and ranks well for specific longtail keywords. Which is great! But it’s often doing nothing long term – bounce rates are high and the business isn’t getting anything directly out of it.

That’s often because blogs aren’t utilising calls to action effectively enough. Blogs might have some relevant content that people would like, but they’re just not letting people know about it. So we need to direct users clearly, in image-based and text-based links. Let users be in no two minds about where you want them to go next.

Convert users: master the funnel

So much of the success of your content depends on the strategy behind it. Millions of pounds of content is wasted because it’s irrelevant or not part of a greater plan.
That’s where the content funnel comes in.  The funnel recognises that different types of content exist for different reasons and helps us to show users where they want to go next.


For instance, someone who visits your site to read an infographic may be interested in a relevant case study or white paper. Likewise, a reader who enjoys your content may follow or like on social platforms.
Both of these actions cause personas to become more invested with a brand; making sales or conversions more likely in the future.
Of course, users aren’t always ready to go to a more sales-focused point. They might be happy where they are in Uncommitmentville, so you need to give them something they want before they leave the site. Clear links both across and down the content funnel are essential.

Now start creating

The funnel also works the other way: if you find that you’ve some strong content that sits slightly further down towards a point of conversion but isn’t enjoying any decent traffic, you might need to create less sales-focused blogs. These can attract users and bring traffic to your site, while imploring them to visit your more detailed content.
And if you have lots of unfocused ‘top-funnel’ blogs on your site that are bringing traffic but not converting, then creating relevant, slightly more sales-focused content will bring users closer to a point where they become customers.
This way you’re creating content for a reason, as part of a strategy. And you’re not part of the billion dollar problem.

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(Dogs image: Brian Gatwicke under CC BY 2.0)

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