You’ve heard it time and time again: Content is king in SEO.
It’s the seed you plant in your digital garden and nurture until it grows and brings in traffic.
For something so important, you would expect content marketers to follow complex procedures and processes, but the SEO content framework I’m going to share is quite simple in theory:
- Plant: Create content (seed and feed)
- Grow: Increase the number of keywords you rank for (prune and splice)
- Decay: Update and optimize old content to secure your position (refresh)
Each stage has one to two steps that account for the entire lifecycle of SEO content. That’s it!
And luckily, theory translates easily to practice if you have access to the right data points and a savvy content writer.
Why Bother with a Content Framework?
Since content is what drives organic search traffic (and traffic from other channels, too!) to your site, it needs to be a thought-out process. It’s too valuable an investment to be nonchalant about.
A solid framework not only helps you maintain the content lifecycle with content optimizations, it also helps you analyze your content assets.
This can be extremely difficult for organizations at the enterprise level.
With so many existing pages, and new pages being created all the time, how do you stay on top of everything and get the most out of your investment?
This is why you need to structure your approach to your content marketing efforts with a content playbook!
Note: You can run a content audit to identify all content assets on your site.
Your content lifecycle will change from having an inevitable drop in traffic, like this:
To having an overall upward trend in traffic:
This is the outcome of having an established content framework!
The Content Optimization Playbook
The content playbook is divided into three stages: Plant, Grow, and Decay. Each stage reflects a specific period of the content’s life, from creation to optimization.
First things first if you want your content to eventually bloom: You need to plant the seed and offer it nourishment.
The Plant stage deals with (you guessed it) creating content to rank and boost your search visibility.
The first step of the Plant stage is seed.
This relates directly to your SEO content creation. The volume of content you create impacts the number of content opportunities you have. Or, the more content you have, the more you can rank for, and the more traffic you can bring in!
After the content has been created and published, you move on to the feed step.
This process involves connecting related pieces of content with internal links to build authority around a central topic and strengthen the content assets.
Now that you have published content that has a home in a topic cluster, it’s time to expand your content coverage to focus on and optimize for specific keywords and topics.
Before that happens, though, you need to address the content that underperforms: The prune step involves removing dead content to maintain the health of the overall content program.
You always want to have high-quality content on your site. Having low-quality, irrelevant content, or underperforming pages on your site wastes Google’s crawl budget.
You are not better off keeping underperforming content on your site. You’re better off removing it so you have a healthy site. This includes redundant content, outdated content, and trivial content.
Identifying Redundant Content
Redundant content is duplicate content (i.e. two or more pieces of content that address the same query) or keyword cannibalization (i.e. two or more pages that compete for rankings on the search engine results page).
If you have redundant content on your site, you can do one of the following:
- Redirect one page to the other
- Canonicalize the less important page
- Merge the content together
- Change the underperforming page to another topic
Identifying Outdated Content
Locating outdated content involves perusing your content inventory for content that makes outdated references (e.g. a review of the iPhone 4). Or, it could simply be content that was published a year or so ago and has received no updates.
It’s highly unlikely that content published a year ago (a safe interval of time to work from) is as relevant to user intent today than it was a year ago.
Tip: seoClarity clients can use Page Clarity to easily identify publication date and see when a page was last updated.
Identifying Trivial Content
Trivial content just doesn't meet any performance metrics. It has no traffic, no links, and overall no value (i.e. light content). Of course, you want to give it a chance to perform, a year being a safe interval, but the ultimate decision depends on your vertical, site, and data.
It’s difficult for content marketers (or digital marketers, for that matter) to delete or unpublish content that required so much time and money, but it can bring new life to your site.
The next step in the Growth stage is splice, or taking content that is overworked and gathering ideas to create new content.
This is content that ranks for so many keywords that you can target some of those keywords with a new piece of content to create an even stronger cluster.
This is an important strategy to defend what you’ve already acquired with fresh content assets.
In the framework, we recommend you use the splice technique for pages that have 3x more keywords ranking than average.
You can find your average with Search Console data (seoClarity clients can use Search Analytics).
First, find your keyword count. This is the number of keywords that you rank for on the SERPs.
In this example, it looks like the keyword count stays consistent at around 13,000. Now, we find the URL count, that is, the number of your URLs that rank on the SERPs.
The URLs stay fairly consistent at 430.
Divide the KEYWORD COUNT by the URL COUNT, as such:
13,000/430 = 30.2
This is the average number of pages that a keyword ranks for on your site. You would use the splice technique for a page that has 3x this average.
How to Splice
To actually complete the splicing step, you need to discover those pages with a higher-than-average keyword count.
Again, we use Search Console data, and seoClarity clients can access their GSC data directly in Search Analytics.
The “Unique Page” view in Search Analytics (Keyword + URL) shows you the pages that rank for a significant amount of keywords.
Going back to our example, we know that, on average, our pages rank for 30.2 keywords. Following the splicing rule of 3x, we would splice the pages that rank for 90.6 keywords or more.
Let’s dive deeper into that first page. It ranks for 161 keywords — well above our threshold. Here are the keywords that it ranks for:
If a keyword doesn’t rank high, for example, but is relevant to you, you can take that keyword and create new content centered around it as a target keyword. Be sure to take into account impressions, clicks, click-through rate, and search volume as well.
In the end, the ultimate determination depends on your analysis and business objectives — only you can make the final decision.
Once you’ve determined which keyword deserves its own content, use Content Fusion to optimize your copy.
Content Fusion is our AI-driven content writer that crawls the SERPs for the target query and returns all the information you need to be seen as an authority on the topic. It even reveals the title tags and meta descriptions of top ranking content.
Tip: Once you’ve established which page should be associated with the appropriate keyword, set the page as the “Preferred Landing Page” so you can quickly discover instances when your Preferred Landing Page is not the highest ranking, so you can go in and reoptimize.
The Growth stage, especially splicing, gives you new content that can be interlinked with other relevant content, so the process essentially begins again. However, all content will naturally decay …
Once you’ve planted and grown your content, it will begin to wither, but this is completely natural. All gardens (and all content!) wither — it just means it can use some special care.
Follow along my content refresh workflow to tackle content decay.
Content naturally has fluctuations in impressions and traffic — it’s part of the content lifecycle.
Luckily, with a few steps, you can gain control over the content lifecycle to ensure a complete intake of visibility and impressions!