Content Freshness and Generating New Topics: Quality Content Series Part 9
At Brandpoint, we think content marketing is exciting because it never ends! Once one piece of content is created and scheduled, it’s time to work on the next one. As we continue this cycle, we’re also looking at the performance of older blogs to see how we can freshen them up.
Publishing “fresh” content positively impacts SEO and your search ranking, which is why you shouldn’t just publish one set of content and call it good for the year. For a better chance of getting your content seen in search results, content creation must become a regular part of your marketing practice.
In this post, we’ll explain what “fresh” content means, how to generate blog ideas and new topics for your content and how to use an editorial calendar to organize your ideas. These steps will ensure you maintain a consistent publishing schedule with fresh, new content.
What is content freshness?
Google pays close attention to new content because it wants to display the most up-to-date content for searchers. A post by Google about content freshness states:
“Given the incredibly fast pace at which information moves in today’s world, the most recent information can be from the last week, day or even minute, and depending on the search terms, the algorithm needs to be able to figure out if a result from a week ago about a TV show is recent, or if a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old.”
Types of fresh content include things like recent events or hot topics, regularly recurring events and frequent updates. Google uses the QDF algorithm (Query Deserves Freshness) to determine what topics and searches require the most updated results.
Google provides an example of a search for “Olympics.” Google wouldn’t return results about the 1900 Summer Olympics; it would instead provide information about the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Creating new content for brands
A former Google Fellow once explained that “Different searches have different freshness needs.”
Your brand isn’t The New York Times. It’s not your job to educate others about worldwide affairs and post articles multiple times per hour.
However, it is your job to be an authority in your industry and prove to current and future customers that they can rely on your brand for accurate and comprehensive information.
If there is news in your industry, try to be one of the first to write about it. Choose a thought leader in your company who can provide an original perspective on the issue or who can explain something complex. For example, Google recently released a new (and incredibly long) SEO Starter Guide, and Brandpoint’s SEO guru was the perfect person to summarize the key takeaways and break down complex topics to our audience.
Even if there’s nothing currently newsworthy in your industry, there are opportunities to create something new. Maybe there is an aspect of your industry that hasn’t been widely written about. Or you could conduct a survey and provide original insights.
New content “can be given a ‘freshness’ score based on its inception date, which decays over time. This freshness score may boost a piece of content for certain search queries, but degrade as content becomes older,” explains SEO whiz Cyrus Shepard.
To prevent this degradation as content ages, it’s valuable to regularly update your content.
It’s generally less time-intensive to update a page than to create something from scratch, and doing so still sends that freshness signal to Google.
Making bigger changes to the main content such as expanding on a topic or adding visuals will be even more noticeable to Google. You won’t see any performance improvements by editing just one sentence.
Other SEO factors to update include:
- Creating social media buzz
- Updating statistics
- Linking to new sources
- Adding more semantic terms
- Including more quotes
- Referencing new research or information released since your last update
- This content optimization checklist will help you keep track of 20-plus other factors to update
So, what content should you update? Look at your analytics to choose consistently high-ranking pages. HubSpot also recommends choosing posts that rank for keywords and those that have received a lot of inbound links and social shares.
Also consider “content relevancy and trending topics.” The next time that Google updates its SEO Starter Guide, we will update the blog that’s already been published about the Starter Guide. That way we’ll already benefit from the authority it’s built since it was first published.
Set a plan for how often, and when, you’ll update these blogs. Our editorial team uses BrandpointHUB’s interactive calendar to capture which posts we will update each month. The HUB sends us notifications so we don’t forget to make the updates!
SEO whiz Cyrus notes that updates shouldn’t be made just for kicks and giggles: “… your goal should be to update your site in a timely manner that benefits users, with an aim of increasing clicks, user engagement and fresh links. These are the clearest signals you can pass to Google to show that your site is fresh and deserving of high rankings.”
A documented content strategy will ensure all of your updates are made with a purpose, and that your time is well spent.
Quantity vs. quality
If fresh content — including new and updated posts — is a positive SEO signal to Google, doesn’t it make sense to churn out as much content as you can?
Brands have the ability to publish every day if they have a robust creation team, but for many, that’s not possible and it may not be very effective. Google wants to serve searchers the best results possible. If you’re sending half-baked content into the online world, Google will notice and move your content further down in search results. Bye-bye, page one.
Google recognizes and awards comprehensive content — which takes research, the input of experts and lots and lots of time.
Convince and Convert conducted a blogging survey and found that “today’s bloggers spend more time writing less content.” These posts aren’t 500-word articles just to fill social media feeds. They’re trending toward the long-form, 2,000-plus-word posts. The study found “49 percent of bloggers say that spending more time on each post does make a difference in the results they get from those posts.”
There’s no special number for how many times to post — it depends on your resources, your content goals and what’s been working for your team. But you shouldn’t publish new content just for the sake of getting something out there.
How to generate topics
If bloggers are spending more time creating content, then you better choose a topic that’s worth the time investment. Since topics don’t appear out of thin air, here are a few ways you can use research to inform your topic selection process.
1. Survey customers and your co-workers
Your co-workers who frequently work with customers will have the deepest understanding of what customers struggle with and what their common questions are. These are questions you can answer in your content.
To gather input, set up a whiteboard in the office or assign a place on your public server — anywhere that is easily accessible — so your co-workers can share ideas with your marketing team. You might even be able to set up an interview with a client to conduct a case study or learn more about what kinds of topics would be useful or interesting to them.
2. Read the news
As mentioned, keeping up-to-date with your industry’s latest news and trends will help you generate fresh content. Also, keep up with your competitors’ content and other brands whose content inspires you to brainstorm ideas on new formats and visuals as well as the copy. Once you’ve identified these sources, check in every day for updates.
Here are a few easy ways to stay afloat on trending topics:
- Subscribe to the top email newsletters and print publications in your industry.
- Follow the most important people, brands and news sources in your industry on Twitter. Create a list to easily look at updates from this focused group of profiles.
- Set up Google Alerts to follow key words, topics or news stories relevant to your brand.
- Use content curation tools to organize all the publications and sources you need to develop your industry expertise. Popular resources include Feedly, Nuzzel and Alltop.com.
- Visit Google Trends to familiarize yourself with current news stories.
3. Crowdsource information
Online resources help you get in the mind of your ideal buyer (but you’ll need to assemble a buyer persona first). The Content Marketing Institute recommends using discussion-based sites and forums like Reddit and Quora to search for topics and questions or ask your own. Learn more about what your audience is interested in or compile new insights that you can share in your content. Social media platforms are also great places to learn what’s being talked about in your industry — BuzzSumo is a helpful tool for social media listening.
4. Conduct keyword research
Keyword research can help you optimize your on-page content. It can also be done to discover content opportunities. Look for keywords that have little competition and thin content, as these are the topics where you’ll have a better chance of ranking. That said, make sure they are relevant to your audience, expertise and brand identity.
If you already have topic ideas, conduct searches to see what content has already been created, and how you can create something even better. I like using Answer the Public. Enter a keyword, and a list of questions are presented based on automatically suggested results.
5. Look at your data
Is there a content format or topic that always gets lots of likes or shares on social media? Are there certain headlines that seem to perform better than others? The only way you’ll know what works and what doesn’t is to measure the performance of your existing content.
PRO TIP: If you aren’t currently tracking data, use this reporting guide to know what to measure and how to record it.
6. Implement a process
What’s worked well for our team is to designate one person in charge of the editorial calendar. All ideas are sent to this person, who then identifies the best topics to add to the calendar and assign to writers. A weekly or monthly editorial calendar meeting will encourage your team to share what they’ve learned during their topic research and discuss content performance.
Using an editorial calendar to maintain a consistent publishing schedule
The editorial calendar is the heartbeat of your content marketing practice. It’s what will keep your marketing team on track to hit deadlines, publish content on a regular schedule and continue feeding fresh content to Google.
An editorial calendar could be a physical calendar tacked on the wall, Google calendar, Outlook calendar, an Excel spreadsheet or an online tool just for marketers like BrandpointHUB. This calendar should be easily accessible to your team to encourage transparency — everyone will know when topics are scheduled and when copy is due.
“When it comes to SEO content marketing, your publishing schedule rules the roost. Consistent, regular, predictable updates go a long way toward convincing search engines that your content is fresh, relevant and timely for today’s user,” explains the Content Marketing Institute.
Try to schedule content for the same days of the week and at the same time to show search engines (AND your audience) that you’re a reliable source for information in your industry.
How to choose topics
The trickiest part about creating fresh content is finding a balance of topics to add to your editorial calendar. Some topics will resonate better with certain segments of your audience, some will perform well on social media and some may rank high in search results. And, there’s the best case scenario that some topics will perform well across the board.
The good news is that an editorial calendar can help you organize it all.
First, establish how much content you and your team can create in a month. For example, you may be able to publish 12 blog posts, one eBook, three infographics and one video. (To save time, repurpose one piece of content into many formats.)
Then, create categories to break up your topics. It might look like this:
- Trends in the industry
- Thought leadership/opinion
- Case studies
- Content updates
Your categories may change each month or each quarter, depending on what has been working for your brand and the capacity of your team. Notice that I added “content updates” to the list. As you plan your editorial calendar, don’t forget to include these updates so that your top performers stay fresh in search engines.
Once these categories are in place, decide how many posts you’ll create in each category. Then, evaluate all the ideas you have and assign the best ones to the appropriate category.
How do you decide on the best topic? It will depend on your brand’s goals, but it’s best to include a mix of topics. This could include topics that could rank in search, get shared on social media, cover trends, share news about your brand, answer a popular question among customers and so much more.
Finally, add all your topics and due dates to your editorial calendar and start creating!
Keep it fresh
Google loves fresh content and without adding research and strategy to your topic creation and planning, you could miss out on connecting with potential customers. By taking the time to get to know your audience, what content they want and what’s going on in your industry, you can create compelling content that serves your audience’s needs and gives the search engines something new to index.
This post is part of the Brandpoint Quality Content Series, which analyzes how Google assesses quality content and how you can get your pages to appear higher in search results.
Part 1: What is High-Quality Content?
Part 2: Google Search Quality Guidelines: What is E-A-T?
Part 3: Are High-Quality Links Important for SEO?
Part 4: How to Create Readable Content
Part 5: How to Create Comprehensive Content
Part 6: Duplicate vs. Original Content
Part 7: Latent Semantic Indexing and Long-tail Keywords
Part 8: How to Optimize Images and Visuals for SEO
Part 9: Content Freshness and Generating New Topics
Part 10: SEO Success Stories