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:
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 strategy.
There are a few main steps to this process. But first…
When you perform SEO lensing and consolidate your content, your 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.
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…
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. 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.
Next, you’ll need to discover some points of overlap. 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?
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.
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?
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 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 http://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 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.
Another alternative option is to create content clusters.
In this case you have multiple 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.
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 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 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.