Content updates are a part of site maintenance that usually gets placed on the back burner—not the best place for it to be. Let’s introduce two hypothetical companies to illustrate how it typically works.
Company A has an ongoing process for content updates and dedicated people in charge of refreshing old content. Dips in traffic occasionally happen, but site health and growth are steady. Content optimization is baked into the overall content and business strategy.
On the flip side, Company B doesn’t do content updates until a problem arises. Their team is busy keeping up with an ambitious publishing schedule and they have no process for updates. The team scrambles to fix the situation when site traffic takes a nosedive or there’s a sharp drop in leads.
Though it’s hard to find the time and money for content updates, your team should strive to be like Company A. You don’t have to hire a separate content analyst (because who has the budget?). Still, every company should identify who will do content maintenance and create a process for it. Here’s our take on who should do content updates based on the size of your content library.
We’ve included library sizes based on what’s typical for each type of company. For example, bootstrapped B2B SaaS companies typically have a few hundred articles, while funded B2B companies have 500 pieces of content or more. We’ve also added examples of huge content libraries with thousands of articles to show how the process works for them.
Many B2B SaaS companies have a content library with under 500 articles. The consensus seems to be that the Content Manager or SEO Lead goes through and sees which articles need to be updated, then writers execute the updating. Spoiler alert: this seems to be the process for companies of all sizes—but more players are involved as the company scales.
Marketgoo, for example, is a bootstrapped B2B SaaS company with 265 articles on their site. The Senior Marketing Manager, Larissa Murillo, decides which content should be updated, redirected, or deleted. She then contracts a Copywriter with SEO knowledge to execute those changes. Since the content is centered around SEO topics, the updates are usually writing-focused, ensuring that all recommendations and facts are presented accurately.
Like Company A, Marketgoo takes a proactive approach. “Certain posts of ours were getting linked to and were gaining higher visibility in search, which led to more traffic. With an increasing number of visitors, I knew the information on those posts had to be as up-to-date as possible. If we served outdated information, it would affect the user experience of the large volume of visitors we were getting,” Larissa says.
Overall, Marketgoo has a very SEO-driven content strategy, so doing frequent updates for accuracy is important. Updates may not need to happen as frequently on other sites where the content strategy is not very search-driven. However, it’s still good to have a process laid out.
Zach Grove, Growth Marketer and Advisor, recommends a two-step approach that’s similar to Margetgoo’s.
“On all of the SaaS content teams I’ve worked with, the SEO or Content Marketing Lead will conduct a content audit to identify posts due for a refresh. The goal is to figure out which posts, if updated, will drive the biggest business impact. From there, a content writer (or team of writers) will tackle the actual updates,” he says.
If there are an overwhelming number of posts with a large impact, it’s about prioritizing.
Marketers can prioritize which pages to update by seeing which have lost the most traffic in Google Search Console, then see which have the highest conversion rates. From there, high-priority refreshes can be assigned to freelancer writers, Zach adds.
Podia is another example of a real-life Company A. They have a pretty sizable content library of 362 articles and 208 videos. They also have a few resources that live on guide pages, a set of content generators, over 30 comparison pages, and a 45-page creator wiki, says Benyamin Elias, Director of Growth Marketing at Podia.
Since Podia has switched to a freemium model, their content strategy is no longer search-focused. They’re now focused on creating courses (hosted on Podia) that solve users’ problems, such as not having an audience. For this reason, updates look different now than how they used to—but for a while it was built into the ongoing process, Benyamin says.
“Updating was left up to the two writers on the team who would draft and refresh content, which the manager identified with help from an external SEO consultant,” he explains. Podia stopped updating content frequently because it didn’t make much sense at their scale or for their strategy. Now they just do ad-hoc updates on pages with high potential for leads or traffic.
For example, Benyamin and his team recently updated several comparison pages, such as “Teachable vs. Podia,” when he noticed that the traffic to those pages had declined. He started investigating and realized the search intent for the old page, “Teachable alternatives,” was wrong and didn’t match the URL.
His team of writers then did the SEO research, sent outlines for the new Teachable vs. Podia page, and updated the Teachable alternatives page to match search intent.
As your content library grows, you have to start thinking about content updates in terms of the strategy. Will it really move the needle? Again, updates should become more targeted to pages with high traffic and intent.
“If I were at a business with huge pillar pages that ranked for head terms and were bringing in a ton of traffic, I would have to be thinking about updating those pages all the time,” he says. For example, when Benyamin worked at Active Campaign, they had 200,000 page views per month. By doing small updates to pages that had declined in performance in the last 6 months to 8 months, they boosted traffic to 250,000 page views per month.
“Unless you're operating on that scale of traffic or higher, I don't think it makes a ton of sense to put a ton of effort into updates,” he says. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a process for when you need to update to win back traffic, better match search intent, or another objective.
Here’s the key question if you’re dictating updates: What’s the maximum amount of traffic, business leads, and conversions that this piece of content could bring in? Every piece of content has a ‘ceiling’ of potential value which is helpful when thinking about updates.
With a library of thousands of articles, your team will likely need a dedicated person for updates, like a Content Analyst. Still, writers can help execute those updates to keep the site running smoothly.
Another Company A example is WPBeginner. “We have over 2,000 articles published on WPBeginner, and it's our goal to keep it all up to date. All of our writers are subject matter experts and handle writing new articles as well as updates,” says Keri Lynn Engel, VP of Content at WPBeginner.
“We also have a writer dedicated to working on update sprints. It's not someone we hired externally, but someone who moved into the role. This person was already very familiar with the big picture and all our processes, so she's able to analyze the data and set her own goals based on our strategy and priorities. Overall we're big believers in training and giving as much ownership as possible to all our writers,” Keri says.
The lesson we can learn from a company with a huge content library like WP Beginner is to empower writers. Content updates should be a team-wide effort led by one person who understands the business goals and how they relate to the content strategy.
While the person leading the team on updates is usually an in-house Content Manager or Analyst, some companies opt to hire an SEO consultant or agency. “The only downside to this approach is in-house folks have better instincts for what's important to the business and can tell if content is really worth updating rather than taking a purely analytical approach to updating things,” says Jillian Wood, Director of Content Marketing at Coconut Software.
Finally, this article wouldn’t be complete without a giant publisher example—NerdWallet. The company has more than 36,000 indexed pages (they started publishing around 500 pieces per month from 2011 to 2012, then scaled to thousands per month in 2014 and 2015). Today they have several Content Management Specialists who “focus their content strategy, writing and editing skills on maintaining a library of content that's accurate and up to date.”
Though it’s not written anywhere, we reckon that writers at NerdWallet are also responsible for updates. Even doing ad-hoc updates would be a massive undertaking with a library of this size, so a team-wide effort is required.
You won’t become Company A overnight—creating an SOP for content optimization takes time, planning, and resources. Even though each company has a slightly different process for updates and refreshes, there seems to be a basic two-step process for success.
Someone should be leading updates, whether an SEO consultant or the Head of Content, but all the writers on the team should take ownership of their work and care about keeping it up to date. A good process keeps your content team running like a well-oiled machine, reducing stress and increasing success over time.