Should You Publish Shorter Posts More Often?

Does the thought of writing a 3,000-word blog make you want to curl up in a small ball and rock back and forth?

What if I told you a recent study said writing shorter posts, more often, is a way to gain more social shares — even if that copy was written by a machine?

Recently, Steve Rayson from BuzzSumo wrote a post called, “The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots, and High Volume Publishing.

The article throws out stats detailing how publications like BuzzFeed and The Washington Post are cranking out more short-form (under 1,000 words) content than ever before. Heck, even robots are jumping in the game and assisting with content generation.

Is more content, more often, really the key to content marketing success?

Are we back to the “bad old days” of low-cost content mills?

Let’s unpack this and talk about the opportunity.

Keep calm and ignore the robots (for now)

Hearing “computers can create content now” can strike fear in even the most experienced freelance writer’s heart. Why? Because many freelancers already complain how writing is a commodity (don’t believe me — check out typical writing fees on Freelance.com.)

Are writers now competing with content-writing robots as well as offshore writers?

The reality: Not necessarily (unless you’re a journalist, in which case you’re unfortunately living in your own hell.)

Yes, computer-generated content is a “thing.” However, computers aren’t evaluating micro-moments, researching keyphrases and developing reader-centered content. They won’t use, say, textural metaphors or employ other neuromarketing techniques.

That’s what humans do.

Will there be an uptick in computer-generated content? Yes. Will the average business have access to their very own writing robot? Not for a long time.

So, let’s put this fear aside and talk about another important point…

Brands are not publishers

Yes, we’ve all heard the “content is king” mantra. And yes, publishing quality content is important. But, does that mean the average company should turbocharge their content volume?

Newsflash: Brands are not publishers. Publishers are publishers. The average company is ill-equipped to crank out more content.

I couldn’t say it better than Ronell Smith from a recent Moz post:

“Publishing content no more makes you a publisher than running 26 miles makes someone a marathoner. Newsrooms are built to produce lots of content.”

For the average business, a sudden increase in content quantity will make the quality plummet. No one (including Google) wants to go back to the days of content mills, keyphrase-stuffed articles, and thin content.

Yes, many companies need to publish more often. Especially companies that only release one big piece of content every few months — leaving their blog a cold, empty place in the meantime.

But, does the average company need to crank out multiple pieces of content a day or week — even if that content is “just” 1,000 words or less?

Unless there is a solid reason to do it, I say no.

So, what’s a company to do?

It’s easy to chase your tail with the word count studies. This is because:

– The “perfect word count” has changed over time. It used to be 250 words, and now we say 250 words borders on “thin” content.

– It’s important to differentiate between shares and positions. Getting shares is wonderful, but it’s often a transitory bump. Companies also want their content at the top of the search engine charts.

– Different studies may have different findings, causing a WTF reaction if you’re trying to keep it all straight.

So what should you do?

Should you go weeks (or months) without publishing because you’re working on the perfect long-form, in-depth post? No.

Should you publish a bunch of little, crappy posts every day, trying to tease out as much long-tail traffic as you can? Nope.

The answer is so simple.

Instead of publishing content based on what other companies do — why not focus on what your readers want, and what achieves your marketing/brand awareness/sales goals?1

That means, stop worrying about your word counts and check your analytics instead. Survey your readers and find out what they want to read.

See what clicks and do more of it. 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you write something. Repurposing content is always a smart idea.

For instance, many companies write one big of content every 6-8 weeks. Once it’s created, they slice, dice and repurpose the piece into:

  • A SlideShare deck
  • A podcast (or podcast series)
  • Serialized blog posts (as Steve Rayson suggests)
  • Tweets and Facebook posts
  • Webinar content (don’t forget to include the transcript!)

Plus, you can fill in any “content holes” with other, shorter pieces your readers would love to read.

The key takeaway: Keep calm and keep writing.

Nobody (including Steve Rayson) is recommending you crank out crappy content for Google. Sure, there will always be studies discussing the “perfect” word count and content distribution frequency. But the real test is, what works for YOUR readers (and still gets seen in search results?).

Once you’ve nailed that down, you’re golden.

Why I’m Recycling My Old Content (And You Should Too!).

Have you ever pulled out an old pair of pants from your closet, and found money stashed inside?

It doesn’t matter if you found $1 or $100, the reaction is always the same. You get a little thrill from the experience. Your heartbeat quickens.

And a thought pops into your head like, “Woohoo! Found money! Score!”

I’ve been feeling the same way about my old blog posts. Here’s why.

I’ve talked before about the importance of performing an SEO content audit. There are many SEO advantages to doing so — for instance, you can find and fix posts with bad Titles, get rid of “thin” posts and change any bad links.

But there’s also another huge advantage that will give you a “woohoo” moment.

Chances are, you have a bunch of old posts (maybe 20…maybe 100 or more) you can tweak, update and repost as new content.

And it’s easy, too!

This idea hit me square in the noggin when I was running my own content audit. I constantly run reader surveys, so I know my readers are looking for SEO copywriting 101 tips, freelance business tips and how to increase leads with SEO content.

I’ve blogged about these topics many times before. So many times that I forgot about some of my old posts from seven or eight years back. They may occasionally receive some social media love — and many of them position well — but they are basically “forgotten.”

That’s when I had my brainstorm.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing brand new posts, why not make my existing posts better?

Woohoo!

Here are the steps I’m taking:

– I’m combing through every post on my site. Yes, every page. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming. Every couple days or so, I find a winning post I completely forgot about. A post that makes me think, “Ooh, you are like finding money in an old pair of jeans!”

– I note the URL in the “pending” section of my editorial calendar. I know that I’ll be sprucing the post up eventually — I just have to decide when.

– A week before I make an old post new again, I review the post and look for new writing opportunities. What are “new writing opportunities,” you ask? It depends on the post. They include:

  • Updating out-of-date information. This process can take a few minutes — or much more time. For instance, an SEO copywriting 101-type post can require a lot of editing. A general tips post may take an hour or less.
  • Checking the links to make sure they’re still live and relevant.
  • Adding (or heavily editing) the introduction. For instance, I may have an experience that is relevant to the post and be good to add. I did this for the post 5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs.
  • Adding or deleting graphics.
  • Including a quote, tweet or other relevant information.
  • Linking to new resources.
  • Rewriting bits of the content. My inner editor always kicks in and forces me to rewrite something — even if it’s just a paragraph or two.
  • Changing (or adding) a call-to-action. For instance, I can add a CTA for my Copywriting Business Bootcamp to many of my freelance business posts (and no, I have no idea why I didn’t do it before.) Adding a CTA obviously helps me from a sales perspective and also lets my readers know other ways I can help them.
  • Revising or testing headlines. Seven years ago, I didn’t have access to KingSumo Headlines, which lets you test different headlines. Now I do, and I LOVE trying new headlines. Side note: I like to make a bet with myself and guess which headline will pull better. The results are often very surprising.

Once the post is ready for prime-time (again), I set the post to publish. To do this, simply change the “Publish” settings in WordPress.Change publication date

 

If I wanted to revise this post, I’d change the publication date and click “OK.” Voila! That’s all there is to it!

Here are the most common questions I receive about repurposing old blog posts:

Wait — isn’t this cheating? Shouldn’t I write a brand-new post?

You certainly can, especially if you feel like writing a new post would be more valuable to your readers. However, if you already have a super post, and you can make it even better, why reinvent the wheel?

When is recycling an old post NOT a good idea?

If the post was “thin” or poorly written in the first place, the revisions would probably take too much work.

But what about SEO? Won’t this change the post’s rankings?

Possibly, but just be smart about it. You’ll want to see how the post is currently positioning and how (or if) it’s driving traffic. In fact, if your revisions are extensive enough, it’s possible that your “new” post will position even better than the original one. This is especially true if you ignored keyphrase research the first time around.

Won’t people notice?

Maybe. But if you’re offering great value — who cares. Besides, you’ll still be writing new content in addition to repurposing your old stuff. Right? ?

Do I have to disclose “this is a recycled post?”

You could. There may be a story behind why you’re recycling the post, and sharing the story would add to the post. But you don’t have to.

How often can I get away with this?

There’s no rule of thumb that I’m aware of — and it also depends on your publication schedule. I feel OK recycling one old blog post a month.

Ready to get started with your blog? Go for it! And let me know how it goes. Feel free to leave a comment (or ask a question.)

Now it’s time to check out some other old blog posts…after all, my next woohoo moment may be right around the corner.

How to Do a Content Audit

Imagine if you had to use your old high school photo for your business headshot.

Remember that perm you spent hours teasing? Your super-big hair would be showcased on your LinkedIn profile.

That cool mullet you sported, paired with your Metallica t-shirt? Yup. That’s what readers would see when they clicked over to your “about” page.

Although we’d never throw an old picture of us online, we routinely keep old, subpar content on our sites.

You know, those posts we wrote when we just started blogging.

Or those “experimental” posts that didn’t quite qualify as thin content…yet, we knew they weren’t the greatest when we wrote them.

If you’ve been publishing for awhile, a content audit will help you find those old, outdated content assets and make them shiny and new again. Yes, it’s detailed. Yes, it will take a lot of work.

Let’s get started!

What’s a content audit?

The content audit process involves combing through all your old website posts and evaluating the content from a few different perspectives:

  • Brand voice — does the voice “fit” your company’s current voice?
  • Customer needs — does the content help your customers, or is it outdated or unclear?
  • SEO  — does the content position, or does it require re-optimization?
  • Conversion — does the content help the sales/lead generation process?

According to Rebecca Lieb, “A content audit is the cornerstone of content strategy.” Although it is time- consuming (more on that later), the net result is extremely positive.

Before we get into the content auditing how-to, let’s first discuss…

Why do a content audit on your website, anyway?

It’s easy to forget about all the old content we’ve written (just as it’s easy to “forget” about sporting a mullet!). I have this problem myself. Once a page is in cyberspace, I move on to the next one.

The problem is, those old pages are still active. They’re still in the search results. They’re still on your site. New readers may click through to an old post – and not be overly thrilled with what they see.

That’s not good.

Reviewing your old content provides you tremendous SEO and conversion opportunities:

  • You never have to worry about a client landing on an old page and thinking, “This information hasn’t been accurate in over five years. There’s no way I’d work with this person!”
  • It’s a great opportunity to clean up old links that go nowhere (or, even worse, go places you don’t want people to go anymore!).
  • Revising old posts can sometimes take less time than writing brand new ones. That’s a huge benefit for those weeks when you’re already time-strapped and writing a new blog post seems too overwhelming.
  • Reformatting your posts (adding headlines and subheadlines and creating shorter paragraphs)  make your posts easier to read. This simple change can sometimes decrease your bounce rates and even increase your conversions.
  • Rewriting your Titles (and maybe doing a little keyphrase editing) can increase the page’s SEO power and drive new traffic. Bonus!
  • You can update older, evergreen posts that are still good — but, they need to be brought up to date.
  • You can find posts with old calls-to-actions (or no CTAs) and update them.
  • You can find “holes” in your existing content, and build new content to fill the holes.

In short, auditing your content is an extremely smart move. Tweaking just a few pages a day could have a huge impact on your positions and conversions.

Moz has a great list of reasons on why to perform to perform a content audit. You can check it out here.

How long does a content audit take?

You’re looking at a minimum of five hours for a very small site, to 50 hours (or more) for an extremely large, e-commerce site. Most sites will take somewhere in the 20-30 hour range.

Yes, it’s a lot of time. And yes, it’s worth it. Think of it as a marathon…not a sprint.

My recommendation is to set aside at least 30 minutes a day (more if you can) and keep yourself on a timeline. Because content audits take so long, it’s easy to start strong and put it aside as soon as things get busy (I’ve been there!).

You can also pay someone to conduct a content audit for you. Hiring an SEO content strategist is a great option if you don’t have a lot of time, but I’d recommend keeping it in-house if you can. You can learn a lot about your site (and the opportunities) when you go through it, page-by-page.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to do it!

How to do a content audit for your website

1.  Start with a great content audit tool. I use SEMrush (Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is another good tool) to spider sites and get a feel for the major issues. SEMrush will showcase the number of pages with major errors (such as no Titles,) as well as other issues like missing alt text, thin content or broken links.

Yes, you can manually check for these issues (we’ll talk about that in a bit) However, some issues (like finding all the broken links) are easier to find with a little computerized help.

Here’s a screenshot of an SEMrush report. This site’s main issues are around links and alt text:

SEMrush

Screenshot from an SEMrush content audit

2.  Create an Excel document (assuming you don’t have one already.) 

Having an Excel document at your fingertips makes it easier for you to indicate the quality of the content, flag what needs fixing, and include other page-specific notes.

If you used a site audit tool, you can export the data to an Excel document (although your spreadsheet may be filled with other data that’s not relevant to your content audit.)

To make things easier, you’ll want to customize the spreadsheet headings based on what’s important to you.

Here’s an example:

 

Many people “grade” their content to help them prioritize their pages. Content with minor (or no) tweaks would receive an A or B grade. If the content is truly bad, a D or F grade is appropriate.

3.  Take a hard look at every page. Yes, I said “every page.” 

There’s no easy way to do this. If you have an Excel document pre-populated with the Titles and URLs, you’ll need to click every URL link and view the page. If you use WordPress, you can view “all posts” and  choose where to start.

Things to check are:

  • Are there typos or other grammatical errors?
  • Are the keyphrases appropriate for the page? Is the page keyphrase-free?
  • Does the content need updating? Maybe your opinion has changed, or the industry has moved in another direction.
  • Is there a way you could make your post more readable? For instance, splitting longer paragraphs into shorter ones. Or, can you add headlines and subheadlines?
  • Is the call to action still relevant – or are you promoting a sale you ran over four years ago?
  • Does the content need a major overhaul? Maybe it’s a good topic, but your writing skills weren’t quite up to snuff back then.
  • Are the links still good, or are they returning a 404 page not found error? Did you make some newbie SEO copywriting errors, like hyperlinking all your keyphrases?
  • Are there low-hanging fruit opportunities, such as writing better Titles or adding meta descriptions?

How to start making changes to your site

Now that you have your to-do list, it’s time to start making changes.  Your content audit should end with a list of recommended next steps, along with a list of high-priority pages. If you are working with a consultant, she should provide action items for the company, recommending how to make the necessary changes.

Many companies integrate their content marketing makeovers into their existing strategy. For instance, a smaller company could benefit from this content marketing strategy:

  • Publish new content: four times a month
  • Re-optimize six pieces of old content
  • Recycle/update one piece of content a month.

You may want to start with the “worst of the worst.” You may want to work in chronological order. Or focus on one thing (like changing Titles) and then backtrack to other issues.

The key is to have a plan and work it.

Have you conducted a content audit on your site? What did you learn? Did a tool or platform make the content audit easier? Lave a comment and let me know!

What Is SEO Copywriting and Why Is It Important?

Wondering what SEO copywriting is  — and if it’s important for your site?

SEO copywriting is a specialized form of online writing that:

  1. Contains keyphrases — words your target reader types into a search box to find the information she wants.
  2. Helps online content rank higher in search results (such as Google.)
  3. Drives qualified traffic.1

SEO copywriting is quality writing. Period. The keyphrases shouldn’t make the writing hard-to-read, sound repetitive, or lose its conversion focus.3

Want to learn more about the definition of SEO copywriting?

How is SEO writing different from traditional copywriting?

The main difference is: SEO writing contains keyphrases. For instance [blue cashmere sweaters] is a keyphrase.

Typing keyphrases into Google is what we do every day, right? We type words into Google’s search box to get answers to our questions.

But the thing is, SEO copywriting is much more than just inserting keyphrases into content: Google also wants to see authoritative content that fully answers your readers’ questions and stands out from competing content.

Some people believe you can shove a bunch of keyphrases into the content and still get a high ranking (commonly known as “keyphrase stuffing.”)

Not anymore.

SEO copywriting serves two masters

Google has gotten smarter, and things have changed. Now your content needs to be high-quality content for Google to position it in the top spots.

So in actuality, your content satisfies two masters.

On the one hand, your readers need to love it. Your content needs to be relevant and a resource your readers enjoy — something that educates, entertains or enlightens them.

On the other hand, Google needs to see the content written in a certain way to understand what the page is about. Understanding how to make this happen helps your content “compete” with other pages for rankings.

This is where SEO copywriting best practices come into play.

What helps content rank in search results?

There are many factors that influence search engine rank (how a page positions in Google’s search results.)

If you look at the periodic table (which you can find on Search Engine Land), you’ll see that most of the elements on the left-hand side focus on the quality of the content.

The research, the words and the freshness of content are all important to your SEO success.

So if you’re concerned that…

  • Your pages aren’t showing in Google
  • Your pages aren’t converting
  • Your content is outdated and you never really liked it, anyway
  • Your content was never optimized, and now you think it is time to do so

The good news is that SEO copywriting could represent a huge opportunity for you!

After all, as Seth Godin said, “The best SEO is great content.”

If you can create content that grabs your readers attention, answers their questions and drives incoming links, you can finally start seeing some tasty search engine positions.

And that is a very cool thing.