Content marketing managers don’t always get to choose the quality of content they inherit, but they always have to make it work. While you may get lucky and become the successor to an epic blog like Animalz, Intercom, or Velocity Partners, that’s more of an oddity than the norm.
This blog post will look at three examples of content marketers who inherited mediocre blogs. Though each case differs, they all have hallmark characteristics—content with mismatched funnel depth, content lacking E-E-A-T, or content that missed the mark in traffic and conversions.
Each case also has similar solutions—identify the problems, decide which content to delete, refresh, or merge, and move forward by improving content infrastructure. Below is a three-step guide to help you steer the content vehicle in the right direction, up and onwards to higher traffic and conversions.
Since content marketing has been around for nearly two decades, best practices have changed and strategies have evolved.
When Eric Doty, the Content Lead at Dock, inherited several blogs in different languages that had been around since 1999, SEO value was one of the main challenges.
“Most of the blog posts were too top-of-funnel, old-school SEO garbage, poorly written, repeat topics targeting the same keywords, or never generated traffic,” he said.
SEO blogs: If you inherit a blog with articles written in the early 2000s like Eric did, chances are there will be a ton of 500-word blogs designed to rank for keywords. These posts may be thin knowledge-wise and need to be rewritten or remixed into comprehensive pieces.
What may have worked pre-Panda update would now bring down the E-E-A-T of the whole website. For example, the blog may have separate pages for every keyword (even very similar variations), which is now seen as duplicate content.
Blogs didn’t bring in much traffic: Even the best publications have articles that don’t bring in traffic. Keeping these posts as-is could bring down the overall authority of the site.
Funnel-depth mismatch: The business goals then may have been different than the business goals now. For example, the blogs may be too heavily focused on driving awareness with general topic posts, rather than more at the bottom of the funnel where you need them to be.
Poorly written: We've all seen sub-average content, whether created through auto translations or freelancers who were paid pennies per word. Some of these posts may have a good structure but need to be rewritten, or may need to be overhauled completely.
The first step in any major project is getting organized. Doing a simple content audit, pulling traffic data, and categorizing posts in an Airtable base can help you take stock of everything there.
1. First, use a tool like Screaming Frog to pull all the URLs of the site, then can export the list and filter out any non-content pages.
2. Next, get the last year’s worth of traffic data from GA for each blog post. Pick a date range, like all of 2022, and do a CSV export. GA will pull every article with at least one pageview.
3. Upload the blog and traffic data into an Airtable base, then tag and label by category, funnel depth, business relevance, and anything else (here’s a template you can use).
Once you take stock of the current state of the blog, you can start to move forward and create a strategy around updating and improving the content.
“There were hundreds of blogs, and we were a team of two, so there was no way we could refresh all of it,” Eric says. Here’s the process he followed:
Recommended Course: How to Manage a Content Team (Part 3: Strategy)
This process could take a month or longer, but it’ll help you learn:
Once you’ve run the audit, you’ll want to create a detailed report and strategy for moving forward. Documentation will help your team stay on track and convey your reasoning for restructuring the content to your higher-ups. In the same Airtable base, you can mark which posts you plan to refresh, delete, or merge.
Recommended reading: An Inside Look at Superpath’s Content Marketing Strategy (+ Content Strategy Template)
Deleting content can be intimidating—you don’t want to do more harm than good. But here’s where organization comes into play. You should delete posts that are:
Here’s a good example of a deleting-dilemma from a recent discussion in our Slack group.
So don’t delete posts without checking data first, but be confident about culling ones that don’t add value to your blog.
Note: Don’t forget to 301 redirect the URLs from deleted posts to a general page on your site to avoid broken links, which can hurt your SEO
You have to be strategic about updating or rewriting posts since you only have so much budget and manpower. Prioritize the posts with:
For example, CMM Lauren inherited an ed-tech blog in October 2022 and is currently in the process of updating all the articles.
“I think Google's helpful content update and E-E-A-T were not really things when these folks were creating this content, but now that they are, almost nothing we have holds up to those standards; I read a lot of the articles and am still left thinking "This doesn't answer the question.”
“So a big part of my update right now is just adding length and relevant content to articles to make sure they're thorough and informative enough.”
“It's also clear that they were positioning these articles way further down the funnel—tons of CTAs everywhere and sales pitches in almost every piece, even where they don't make sense—which doesn't align with the content strategy we have now where our goal is more generating awareness.”
“I'm making sure that our proposed solution to every issue isn't just to buy our software, which does have some recognized gaps and doesn't actually solve every issue in the way they suggest,” Lauren says.
Refreshing can involve many different things, but a good place to start is:
Sometimes two pieces of content will have good parts but not be strong enough to stand alone. You’ll want to consolidate those pieces into one comprehensive guide to offer more value to your audience. More detailed pieces can also perform better with SEO, depending on the length of top-ranking pages.
This is where the idea of topic clustering can come in handy. Look back at your Airtable base audit and see which pieces are tagged with similar topics and categories. Then see if you can bring some pieces under the same umbrella.
If some pieces were trying to rank for similar keywords, Google those keywords to see if they return a similar-looking SERP. For example, if “content marketing salary” and “content marketing compensation” were two separate posts on your site that returned similar search results, those would make sense to merge.
A simple process for combining posts is as follows:
Aside from the content itself, there can be technical complications with merging posts. Hiring a developer to deal with site architecture and content hierarchy may be worth it if you have the budget.
Once you decide how to restructure the content, it’s time to build a better content machine.
Lucia Tang, Head of Content at Keeper, says she inherited about 200 articles of varying quality when she started her job.
“One of the first things I did during that initial data-gathering phase was a huge content audit, trying to decide which pieces should be overhauled, kept, or culled and redirected.”
“The funny thing was, we ended up scrapping the "keep" pile. After seeing the impact of the first few comprehensive rewrites we did, we decided everything should get rewritten. It became a matter of prioritizing them. I tended to start with pieces with high traffic but low conversion. But I also accounted for other factors, like the availability of writers with expertise in certain topics.”
“As far as how I went about improving content quality, I focused on establishing the infrastructure first. That meant creating a style guide and brief template, establishing an editorial workflow, and investing in fact-checking.”
“The other major thing I did was expand our roster of writers and offer them transparent rates that seemed fair, based on my own knowledge of the industry. I started by reaching out to writers in my network — often people I edited and even wrote alongside in my old IC roles,” Lucia says.
To recap, restructure the blog by improving the following:
Inheriting a mediocre blog is a big undertaking, but you can tackle it by getting organized fast. Done right, your efforts will pay off in improved site health, better traffic, and content you can be proud of.
Though it may be overwhelming initially, it’ll make your job less stressful down the road. Plus, you’ll be able to identify wins and get more ownership over the blog by creating a strategy and sticking to it.