You’ve got a list of articles, blog posts, whitepapers, and other pieces of content that simply aren’t working for you. You have several options:
- Maintain the poor content status quo
- Update your existing content by beefing it up, republishing it and even changing URL slugs (with 301 redirects)
- Delete the content and redirect multiple URLs to better-performing, but similar pages
- Combine and consolidate
Through the process of SEO lensing, otherwise known as content consolidation, you can take all the best elements of those articles and recombine them in a complete and much higher-quality form. This is highly beneficial because it preserves some of the content you spent so long creating, while also maximizing the potential of your strategy.
The term “SEO lensing” comes from the effect of a magnifying glass or similar lens. If you hold a magnifying glass in such a way that it captures sunlight and focuses it onto a single point, an otherwise benign collection of sunbeams can instantly become powerful enough to burn a hole through most materials, or start a fire from kindling. Similarly, if you take the unimpressive power of a menagerie of separate posts and focus them into an all-encompassing piece, you can ignite an otherwise lukewarm content strategy.
There are a few main steps to this process. But first…
A Note of Caution
When you perform SEO lensing and consolidate your content, your organic traffic will invariably slide.
Sometimes, your traffic and rankings will completely tank.
You must be prepared for this type of black-swan scenario.
But, when your content is poor and your users aren’t converting, sometimes amputation is necessary to get out the infection.
It may take a year (or more) to see recovery.
This same scenario is also likely if you are performing a website rebranding. My favorite example of this is the Nuts.com story.
But, if you’re focused on quality and the long-term efficacy of your website, content consolidation can help to refocus users and search engines on the content that matters most to you, giving the right signals to SERPs regarding your content.
Now, let’s discuss process…
Identify Diffuse Content
First, you’ll take the time to identify pieces of “diffuse” content. In many cases, these will just be the “bad” blog posts we identified from earlier; they aren’t generating enough traffic or aren’t detailed enough to stand on their own. However, there’s one additional element we need to consider—their topical focus.
Generate a list of all the blog posts that have disappointed you in some way, and try to evaluate them in terms of their broader focus. For example, our SEO blog might have articles like
- “How to Correct Inaccurate Local Citations,”
- “How to Write Better Local Content for SEO,” and
- “How to Get Better Online Reviews for SEO”
But these all relate to the broader topic, “local SEO.”
You can establish topical connections and what constitutes a “broad” or “specific” topic at your own discretion.
Then take a look at the rankings, web pages, traffic and impressions in Google Analytics and Google Search Console (GSC).
The point here is to identify posts that, by themselves, are disappointing, but together or in a different form could serve an important user need.
Discover Points of Overlap & Duplicate Content Topics
Next, you’ll need to discover some points of overlap or even duplicate content issues. In other words, how do these diffuse, discrete pieces of content relate to each other? Are there opportunities to eliminate redundant sections? Are there ways to segue one article into another? Is there duplicate content that needs to be merged, deleted and 301 redirected?
There are a few approaches you can take here, but the easiest is to group similarly-themed articles together in batches, and review them together. For example, you might have 10 posts that all have something to do with local SEO. Are some of them entirely redundant? Does one article seem to serve as a follow-up to another? Do you have an article that thoroughly covers a sub-topic that’s only mentioned in passing somewhere else?
If after this step, you have some “islands” of content that don’t relate to any other posts, you’ll need to decide whether you want to update them or delete them entirely.
Stitch Together Related Posts
Let’s assume you now have a batch of posts with a similar topic, and you’re ready to stitch them together into a single, comprehensive post. How should you go about this?
- Define and solidify a core idea. First, you’ll want to define and outline your core idea. For example, let’s say you’ve found 10 posts related to learning how to play the guitar. You might come up with a title like “The Ultimate Guide to Guitar for Beginner’s,” or take a different angle like, “The X Most Important Lessons for Beginning Guitar Players.” Your most important considerations should be your target audience and your target keywords. With keyword research, you should be able to identify some valuable areas for optimization—keywords and phrases with high search volume, relevance to your target demographics, and relatively low competition. Use this as your basis, and consider what type of post would be most valuable to your readers and customers.
- Present content in a logical order. Once you have a core idea, you can start to organize your posts. There will likely be multiple logical options for you; for example, let’s say you’re instructing someone how to lose weight. Do you start with a section on the importance of physical exercise, or do you begin with nutrition? Do you lead in with an overview or start digging into the details? Generally speaking, it’s good to start with a brief, general premise, walk through detailed sections in order of increasing complexity, then summarize with a unique conclusion. Play around with different options, and see which one “feels” best.
- Eliminate or edit introductions and conclusions. If you’re linking your blog posts together in a single coherent narrative, you can probably get rid of (or at least edit) the introductions and conclusions of those articles. Introductions and conclusions are meant to briefly summarize the main topic of the article, but if you’re already introducing the broader topic and you have both lead-in and follow-up sections in the context of this article, these are largely unnecessary. They’re also the most common points of redundancy in a massive post like this.
- Make use of subsections. One of the easiest ways to minimize your spent effort while maximizing your SEO results is to create a separate subsection for each of your former articles. You can use the headline from each separate article as a header tag, which will allow you to continue capitalizing on them if they contain valuable long-tail keyword phrases. It’s also a convenient way to stay organized as you go through the editing process. Just make sure you keep your sections, sub-sections and sub-sub-sections organized neatly enough to remain both easy to read and easy to follow.
- Edit for redundancies. Your biggest enemy here is redundancy. If you’re pulling together many different posts that cover similar or overlapping areas, and you wrote them so long ago you barely remember them, there will likely be sentences and sometimes entire website sections that essentially say the same things. This is bad for the coherence and perceived value of your work, so comb through your evolving comprehensive post and try to spot these problem points. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple rephrasing, to make the redundant statement a reminder, rather than a simple repetition. After all, if your post is especially lengthy, people may not read the entire thing in one go, or may navigate only to one relevant section.
- Edit for keywords and phrases. When you plan the title and direction of your piece, you’ll likely choose one primary keyword to serve as the focus of your content. However, due to the massive and powerful nature of your work, it’s a good idea to choose several secondary and even tertiary keywords. You’ll want to edit your work to include these keywords and variations of those keywords naturally throughout the text, including in headers and major points. The operative word here is “naturally.” Thanks to semantic search and improved quality standards, exact matches aren’t as important as they used to be.
- Future proof your work. Ideally, you’ll also have the opportunity to future proof your work. In other words, you’ll create this post in a way that prevents it from becoming irrelevant in the future. Try to avoid dated references, if possible, and focus on “evergreen” topics and advice when you can. Obviously, there are some types of content that will necessarily include dated references, or content that will eventually expire. If this is the case for your piece, you can build in structures and formatting that make it easy to update in the future; for example, you can include evergreen sections as well as sections that are specific to the year in which you’re writing the piece. That way, you can update the post every year and only focus on this dated section.
Create 301 Redirects
If you’re eliminating or combining posts that have existing links, it’s important to set up 301 redirects. A 301 redirect will divert traffic to a new location without compromising the functionality or authority-passing value of the original link. It also shouldn’t harm your SEO strategy, as long as your new destination is relevant to the original link context and similar to the original destination. All links pointing to the individual “bad” posts that once occupied your blog should automatically divert organic traffic to your new, comprehensive post.
It’s a bit tricky to set up a 301 redirect if you don’t have any technical experience, but there are a few different routes you can take. If you’re using Apache, you can edit your .htaccess files, adding a line like “RedirectPermanent /obsolete-article-1.html https://www.yourdomainhere.com/new-article.html”.
If you’re using IIS on a Microsoft Windows Server, you can set up 301 redirects with the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager, found in Administrative Tools in the Start menu. Once you select a site, you can use (or install) the URL Rewrite module. With it, you can add an inbound rule like “Old Domain Redirect” or “Old Page Redirect” to forward organic traffic from an older URL to a new one.
There are a few other alternative methods to set up a 301 redirect as well, but all of them result in the same final outcome.
Create Content Clusters
Another alternative option is to create content clusters.
In this case you have multiple web pages covering sub-topics of the main root, but the URLs follow suit.
Our law firm SEO content is the perfect example:
And the corresponding URL slugs follow suit:
This can help break up old content, but also helps the SERPs determine the topical relevance and level of importance (and therefore potential ranking capabilities) of each piece relative to those that are similar.
More importantly, it helps readers more easily access and digest the content on your site.
If all of your content is pillar content, then sometimes people get lost in the 5K+-word posts.
Most search intent is quick and only needs a couple hundred words to answer a user’s query.
An Internal Content Audit Case Study
If you’re wondering what a content audit looks like in practice, you’re in luck; we actually did one for ourselves, and quite recently.
We started with more than 1,400+ URLs—and while many of these links were to decent blog posts and internal web pages, the end result was a cluttered mess that neither search engine bots nor users appreciated. We had redundant blog posts competing with each other, pointless internal web pages, and a number of articles that simply weren’t performing. Once we dug into the analytics, we quickly realized our content lacked direction—and that we were missing out on some major opportunities.
We started by removing some of the blog posts and internal pages that simply weren’t relevant anymore, and those that didn’t have any real value. Then, we completely restructured and redirected all our categories and tags, streamlining our system of organization.
From there, we started our most intensive work—using SEO lensing to combine elements from many different underperforming posts, and convert them into singular, much more detailed posts. For example, take our Comprehensive Guide to Online Marketing; it’s the combination of more than 15 different blog posts, but if you read it today, it looks and reads like one massive, comprehensive guide.
Thanks in part to the consolidation, this piece now ranks in the top 10 (as of this writing) for “Online Marketing Guide.”
Your website’s content is critical for the success of your business. If your old content is poor and does not deliver on user intent, search engines will eventually know.
Your job should be to continuously improve your content. A big part of that process may be some form of consolidation or clustering.
If you need help in this regard our content auditing, blog writing and backlink services we are a full service SEO company and can quickly help you. Contact us today!
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