I have a love-hate relationship with SEO (search engine optimization) analysts. I love their enthusiasm for making content easy to discover through search. I hate the outdated SEO advice many pass off as expertise and that, in turn, hinders good practices such as content archiving. Let me share a recent example from automobile media so that SEO myths don’t take your content off track.

Legacy Content + Legacy SEO Advice = Content Bumbling

A large media organization asked us to advise on an archiving strategy. So, we rolled up our sleeves and audited the content as well as analyzed its performance. Here is an example of the very old content we discovered:

Yes, that’s an overview of the bumblebee (black and yellow) Camaros available for sale on the site in 2009 / 2010….complete with an outdated hook based on the opening of Transformers 3.

As you might have guessed, we recommended archiving this content. And, we did our due diligence in articulating the reasons, such as

  • User experience impact – A user looking for bumblebee camaros could easily misunderstand the article, try to find the camaros that are no longer for sale, and become quite disappointed. Further, outdated content like this clogs the on-site search results, preventing users from finding the quality content they seek.
  • Brand + credibility impact – A user who recognizes this content as outdated, lacking relevance (we’re on to Transformers 20 by now, right?) and of poor quality certainly isn’t going to think highly of the automobile media brand. Content like this undermines the brand’s credibility.
  • SEO impact – Junking search engine spiders with content like this prevents the spiders from indexing the quality content, especially with very large sites that have hundreds of thousands of pages.
  • Minimal risk to revenue – The amount of traffic and resulting likely advertising revenue for this content were negligible.
  • Costs of maintenance – Maintaining a large set of content, outdated or not, is not an insignificant expense.
  • Longtail keyword opportunity – Compared to other old content, we found this content enjoyed an occasional modest spike in traffic because of the term “bumblebee camaro.” This longtail keyword, then, is an opportunity for the organization to develop some handy, fun evergreen content (content that is timeless) about bumblebee Camaros. That content, in turn, can engage users to go deeper in the site.

You get the idea. And yet…and YET…the organization’s resident SEO analysts tried to say archiving or removing any content would jeopardize the media organization’s domain authority. That simply isn’t true, especially when the archiving or removal is done properly.  The outdated perspective of these analysts delayed implementation of an effective content archiving strategy and its benefits. I hate to think about the money and impact this organization lost during the delay.

Tips to Avoid the Sting of SEO Myths

Now, you might not be dealing in bumblebee Camaros. But, you might be feeling the sting of outdated SEO advice. So, here are some tips to prevent SEO myths from thwarting good content practices such as archiving strategy.

1. Educate Yourself or Your Content Team About SEO

The best way to fight ignorance? Education. You or your team will have to become like the Snopes of SEO, countering SEO myths with the truth. Fortunately, there is a wonderful set of SEO resources out there called moz. From the assessment products to their blog, moz continually updates best practices and explains the impact of search algorithm changes on those best practices in easy-to-understand ways.

2. Let Analysts Inform Content Decisions, But Do Not Defer Content Decisions to Analysts

Please don’t let SEO, business intelligence, analytics, or similar analysts take over major content decisions such as how to archive. A good content decision balances a range of considerations. The data that such analysts provide is only one of those considerations. As Harvard Business School professors Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman said in Marketing Metaphoria…

Do not mistake data for solutions, ideas, insights, or strategies.

You might be thinking, “well, that sounds like a lot of work.” Yes, making a good strategic decision about anything, including content, usually is. A solid strategic decision requires gathering the pertinent data and information, thinking through options and their full set of implications (not just SEO implications), and then picking one of the options.

3. Combat Emotional Bias by Making Ruthlessly Rational Content Decisions

SEO analysts often use a risk argument that preys on emotional biases such as negativity and loss aversion. What if our content won’t be found? What if we lose our search equity? What if we lose our domain authority? When such risk arguments sting, it’s hard to combat the emotional inflammation. (And, the less educated your stakeholders are about SEO, the more susceptible they are to the emotions of a risk argument.)

So, this bias is hard to combat—but not impossible. If you follow tip 2 above, then you have synthesized pertinent data with content best practices, business goals, and implication considerations. Take the time to articulate the content decision (or options for the decision) with well-reasoned arguments. And, whenever possible, connect the decision to ROI.

(Learn more about mastering content ROI here.)

Avoid or Recover from Content Bumbling Starting Now

When content is becoming increasingly important to your organization’s success, you can’t afford to bumble content decisions. So, don’t make the same mistakes my client made with delaying their content archive strategy. Overcome outdated SEO advice with SEO facts, a full set of considerations, and ruthlessly rational, well articulated content decisions.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm that has advised or trained hundreds of the world’s leading organizations since 2010. She also is the former head of content at MailChimp, the marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the  content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as an instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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