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5 tips to upgrade existing content

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Upgrading your existing content doesn't have to slow you down.

Got a great content creation system in place and a library to prove it? Improve the performance of your existing and evergreen content so it continues to get results--and do it without losing slowing team productivity. Here's how.

You’ve seen the reports. Audience’s expectations change and search and device requirements evolve. And that deep repository of content you’ve amassed likely needs a tune-up. Use 1 or more of these 5 tips to upgrade existing and evergreen content to boost its performance:

  1. Lengthening. Data shows readers are more amenable to consuming longer content, even on mobile devices—and search engines dig it, too. That doesn’t mean every piece in your library needs to be lengthened, but topics that can handle more depth can now be amended to include additional context in the form of quotes, examples and more recent research findings.

Tips: Go back to original source material to identify information you couldn’t include the first time. Check back in with original or new SMEs for additional perspectives.

  1. Tightening. Longer doesn’t mean wordier. With more readers accessing your content on smaller screens, concision carries the day. Revising existing content to delete unnecessary words and phrases and complex sentence constructions makes content easier to read and more impactful. This is also a good time to rewrite ledes and endings.

Example: Our team revised a back-to-school package for Staples, tightening each piece and writing new ledes and endings to create a fresh feel for the evergreen content.

  1. Staples | Make Safe Shipping Happen infographic

    Click for larger view.

    Diversifying. The Content Marketing Institute suggests infusing existing editorial content with photos and illustrations, video clips, charts and graphs and even social content to boost engagement and currency.

Tips: Identify critical data points worth illustrating. Then search through existing graphic assets for ready-made items to include. For instance, the box-packing infographic we created (at right) could easily be inserted into this article we wrote on safe shipping. Or create brand-new visual assets to illustrate key concepts. Ask the design team to source a few relevant photos or illustrations for added interest. Craft new social content consistent with current research on length, etc.

  1. Updating. Currency is the coin of the realm. When content features outdated data, credibility suffers. It’s crucial to update “best of” articles and seasonal content regularly to improve search results and keep the content pertinent to audience needs. Replace broken links, add new contextual links and links to related content (internal and external), and research more recent data sources to improve relevance for readers. Finally, revise copy to include new search terms.

Example: We updated an existing series of articles on point-of-sale technology to reflect the new EMV card reader requirements.

  1. Optimizing. Behind every great piece of content, there’s meta data and other SEO/SEM techniques that improve discoverability. Creating new meta titles, descriptions and excerpts for existing content signals to search engines that there’s something new here.

Tip: This task has the most impact when it’s part of one of the other five upgrades. We bake it into every refresh project we undertake.

Small tweaks to existing content don’t require an update notice, but for more robust revisions, we recommend adding a notice to each article letting readers know the content is fresh. Something as simple as “Updated October 2015” gives readers confidence that you’re paying attention and that the information is reasonably up to date.

You don’t have to upgrade everything in your back catalog. Here are 4 easy candidates for upgrading:

  1. Best-of Lists/Round-ups/Reviews. This content expires quickly, so it should be pegged for updates at least annually.
  2. High-Performance Content. If the original scored lots of engagement, you’ve got a hot topic on your hands. A full renovation isn’t necessary, but tightening and optimizing can attract new eyeballs.
  3. Campaign-Related Content. You don’t want to new, campaign-specific content surrounded by older, potentially outdated content. At the very least, upgrade any content the new material links back to, or that’s featured on the campaign page.
  4. Seasonal Content. Seems obvious, but as we get closer to holidays and national observances, more people search for related information. Get ahead of demand by upgrading seasonal content just ahead of the demand curve (which you can assess through site and search traffic analytics from previous years).
Seasonal Brand Journalism

Many content teams designate a member to handle upgrades, either based on subject matter experience, authorship or workload. But if you don’t have the resources to handle both creating and upgrading, hiring out the latter is a good option. Fresh eyes on the piece often make lengthening and tightening easier.

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