Content Optimization: Publish Less – Polish More for Google

Huge highway cross in China congested with cars viewed from above.

2022 was the year that content optimization went mainstream finally.

Over the prior decade I haven’t published many new posts on this blog here.

Nonetheless I have been spending much time working on it:

polishing existing content instead of publishing new content.

It worked! How do I know? I have numbers to prove it from this very blog!

46% Traffic Growth Without Significant New Content

In 2021 I grew my blog traffic on SEO 2 by 46% while only publishing three new posts!

Now let me get that straight: this means the blog was almost dead!

In contrast I used to post three posts per week in the early days.

Sure, those were shorter than modern day blog articles.

Yet later even with long form content I rather published three a month.

So three posts per year is not really significant. It’s just enough to tell Google that the blog is still alive.

How exactly did I grow traffic by almost half then?

I was reviewing existing content and improving it aka performing SEO for Google.

And indeed the additional traffic was not due to the new posts.

Legacy content that had been updated surged in organic search popularity!

Creating AI Content in 2024?

With the advent of mass produced albeit often sloppy AI content in 2023 content optimization is more important than ever in 2024!

Why? You can’t simply flood Google with often mediocre fully automated content.

At least you need to fact check and make sure the AI gets the context right.

Google has introduced several so called HCU or helpful content updates to its helpful content system.

It’s a system leaning heavily on Google’s E-E-A-T values that ensure

  • experience
  • expertise
  • authority
  • and trust.

None of these qualities can be reached by AI that merely regurgitates content from third party sources.

So in case you throw automated content at Google you need expert editors who

  • humanize
  • optimize
  • and fix it!

Again, here comes content optimization or content SEO to the rescue.

So how does content SEO work with existing content that is not good enough to rank on Google but also too good to be deleted?

Updating Evergreen Content is an Ongoing Process

You may have noticed it: I’ve been updating existing postings from years ago regularly.

Sometimes I’ve been just fixing links and adding white space or subheadings. Ideally it’s more though!

  1. In many cases I’ve been rewriting advice that no longer rang true.
  2. Often I added new images.
  3. Sometimes I linked out to new resources.

Sometimes I just needed to fix a few links but in some cases I had to rewrite the whole post for it to still make sense.

I added new internal as well as outgoing links. In many cases I changed the tone of the post as my opinions have changed over the years.

For instance I’m not as enthusiastic about social media anymore.

While doing it I was always in doubt: should I write “fresh content” instead?

Should I focus on new postings instead of fixing sometimes outdated posts? I wasn’t sure.

Although I focused on the articles that still get traffic via Google I could have been writing new posts instead to get more of it. Yet it seems to work as the visitor stats show.

How China Can Teach You Fixing Things

In case you wonder whether updating existing content makes sense read these articles that have finally convinced me that I was doing the right thing:

One blog post deals with the right posting frequency on a blog.

The other one was an article about a more than 60 mile long traffic jam in China in which people were stuck for nine days.

These exemplify that you don’t need more content, you need better content.

Whether it’s content or means of transportation, you need to improve the quality and not to add more more of it.

Once you have content published you need to keep on polishing it.

Let me explain: China had no traffic problems a few decades ago. Everybody was riding a bike and only a few people could afford a car back then.

Then China embraced the corporate capitalist system where you need to buy more things to keep it running.

Their former system was falsely labeled communism for propaganda reasons yet it was state capitalist by design.

From State to Corporate Power

Technically the Chinese system was so-called “state capitalism” as the state controlled capital and means of production.

It failed as the market demand can not be planned by a centralist government.

On the other hand the current “corporate capitalism” system only proposes creating more and more to solve any problem.

Consumption is the alpha and omega it seems. The effects of it are often ignored.

Environmentalists already know that resources are finite and we can’t grow forever on this planet. Likewise your time and creativity resources as a blogger are finite.

You can’t blog all day seven days a week and you can’t write about one topic for years without becoming repetitive. Instead

it’s better to update the resources you have already provided earlier.

You have to adapt to the current situation and likewise you have to update your blog posts for them to reflect the current state of affairs.

Don’t be a state capitalist trying to plan market demand five years into the future. Instead adapt to ongoing market fluctuations. Change your content accordingly.

Sometimes you even have to use different words to describe the same things!

Why? Even the languages people use changes so you have to keep up with the most used words and phrases.

For example in the early days of social media you said “submit to social media”. Nowadays you just say “share” or even “post” depending on the context.

China vs Europe

The Chinese want cars like the rest of us in the Western world. By now the situation has changed already completely though.

There are way too many cars out there and progressive people in the West try to get rid of those. In European countries people embrace simplicity again.

Affluent people who can afford cars rediscover bikes and trains. They even use cargo bikes for transportation like the poor Chinese of the past.

In contrast western cargo bikes are very expensive though and only middle class buyers can afford them as of now.

The Chinese prefer to make the same mistakes the Westerns made during the last 50 or 100 years.

They buy so many cars that their more than impressive highway system with sometimes six lanes per direction is already overcrowded and SMOG prevails in the cities throughout the year.

The solution are bikes but the Chinese people ignore it. Bikes remind them of poverty and the past.

Sometimes the past already had the right solutions though. So you have to go back and improve them.

The same applies to blogging. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel anew each day.

Just improve the existing one. It worked for bicycles. The bike has been invented 200 years ago.

How Bikes Are Like Blogs

Over the years the originally so called “safety bike” we still use today has been improved gradually and many new bike models appeared on the market.

The original safety bike concept from Rover is more than 100 years old now and still works well thanks to ongoing optimization.

The people don’t want fresh content for the sake of it.

They want solutions that work, they want proven techniques. They want to know how to improve the tools they already use. They want

  • cheap
  • easy to use
  • long lasting solutions.

Capitalism attempts to sell you new stuff as often as possible. I prefer sustainability. Believe me, you need better not more.

More cars won’t transport you faster they just congest the highways.

More blog posts won’t automatically bring better solutions! They will just clutter your audience’s

  • social media streams
  • mailboxes
  • feed readers

When you grab people’s attention repeatedly for no apparent reason people start to ignore as repetitive or even annoying.

Only ask people for attention when you really deserve it. Don’t be sensationalist just for the sake of “traffic”. You lose credibility.

Also existing content has so many broken links or worse can contain links to bad neighborhoods by now that you need to fix or remove them for the sake of Google optimization.

State capitalism failed also because they never improved their exiting solutions and kept using outdated tools. I experienced it first hand. I lived in state capitalism myself.

Existing Content Updates Get Search Traffic

OK, so did it actually work? Yes and no. Updating many articles did not make them rank or get search traffic from Google. Isn’t that the original purpose of SEO?

In some cases an update helped to propel existing posts into high rankings organically or through Google’s other search features.

For example my post on Twitter pros and cons has been getting thousands of visitors many years after initial publication because I updated it a few times, expanded it and added informative images to it.

This made Google show it in the “people also ask” answers for the main search query [twitter] at first and later for queries like [twitter business].

Some of the pros and cons showed up on Google but people had to click through to view all of them and the whole post.

You may want to be selective about the posts you polish.

Some of the existing posts are irrelevant by now and many need a lot of work to show up anywhere near the top.

So for the sake of efficiency do niche keyword research first and find out whether your work will be futile or fertile.

The most successful SEO blogger on the planet – Brian Dean of Backlinko simply updates his popular posts.

Before Semrush acquired Backlinko for an undisclosed sum the pillar content has been updated every single year.

Brian invested many hours into the updates each time so the years updates are worth revisiting for readers.

Do you already invest in content optimization of existing assets or do you ignore content SEO when it comes to legacy content? Tell me below in the comment section!