One Blogger’s Experience of Growing Traffic Without Producing New Content
If you’ve been blogging for a while you’ll relate to Todd Tresidder’s story in this episode of our Blogger Breakthroughs series.
A blog that’s been around for a year or more ends up looking messy, and gives readers an inconsistent user experience. Content is old and repeated. Links are broken. Content comes in different styles and voices. Graphics look dated.
A blog can become a house with many extensions that hasn’t been architecturally designed with any clear thought or plan.
So what should you do? Scrap the blog completely? Or is it worth giving it a major overhaul? That can take time – sometimes years – but the rewards come quickly.
What Todd did:
- New code base
- New theme
- New redesign
- New internal linking
- New navigation structure
- Deleted junk, irrelevant and out-of-date content
- Redirected deleted content to other posts
- Rewrote, combined and updated remaining content
- Branded image and social media policy
Todd stopped creating new content and started updating old content instead. And Google started rewarding his efforts.
It’s not about more content. It’s about better content. Quality is the new SEO.
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Darren: Hey, there. Welcome to episode 265 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger, a blog that is designed to help you start and grow a successful, profitable blog.
Now, today you’re going to hear from Todd Tresidder who has a remarkable story to share with you. I first came across Todd a number of years ago now at a conference. In fact, I heard about him before I met him. I kept bumping into bloggers who said, “You’ve got to talk to Todd. You’ve got to hear his story about how he completely updated his whole blog, which had been around for years, and gave it a real overhaul that just drove so much traffic and good things.”
Today, Todd is going to share his story of how he did that. He grew his traffic tenfold without producing hardly any new content on his blog. In fact, he deleted content on his blog and he’s going to talk to you about how he did that.
I think you’re going to love today’s episode, particularly if you’ve been blogging for a couple of years. This is one that is particularly relevant for anyone who’s got an archive of content already. This is something that you can do. It’s not going to be something that you can do quickly. It’s a big job but it can have amazing benefits for your blog.
So, hold on. This story doesn’t go too long but it is one that I’m sure you’ll get some real value out and you’ll probably have some questions. We may have to get Todd back on the podcast to answer them. So, hold on. Here’s Todd Tresidder.
Todd: Hi. This is Todd Tresidder from Reno, Nevada, United States. My site is called Financial Mentor and you can find it at https://financialmentor.com. I teach advanced investment strategy and advanced retirement planning to build wealth. It’s an educational site that offers books, courses, the Financial Mentor Podcast, and one of the largest collections of free financial calculators anywhere on the internet.
I started Financial Mentor back in 1998, basically prehistoric times for the internet. Back then, all I had was a brochure where static website, built-in frames that modelled every mistake you shouldn’t do building a website. It was a showcase for worst web practices. Then I started using WordPress to run the site around 2008, which is where this breakthrough story I’m going to share with you picks up.
I quickly ran into a problem building the site in WordPress. It’s going to sound all too familiar to anyone who has been blogging for a couple of years or more. You start your site by writing your first blog post, then you write another, and another, and another, in a linear fashion until your site starts to take form. I followed the same linear build-as-you-go process, but also got sidetracked into detours as my business plans and goals changed over the years. Plus, I had no training on how to do this right.
I learned everything on the fly by doing and by picking up tips and tricks here and there. What I did was the equivalent of the guy with no previous construction experience suddenly deciding he’s going to build a house by picking up a board and driving a nail into it.
In my case, it was even worse because I was building the first room board by board. Then when my goals changed, I would start hammering away on the next room, and so on. The result was a hodgepodge mess of a site that had a little of this and a little of that but lack a clear focus and delivered an inconsistent user experience.
My writing style changed dramatically over the years, but none of the old posts have been updated to reflect my new writing style. I had no consistent publishing plans, so posts had widely varying topics and quality. There’s no consistent in internal linking. I had legacy problems like inline HTML because coding standards hadn’t been established when I started. There’s no proper use of social media or images because Pinterest and other outlets didn’t exist back then. The list of problems went on and on and on.
I realized I had a serious problem when every time I hatched a new plan to take the business to the next level, I would think, “Yeah, but I need to fix X and Y, and three other things before I can implement that strategy.” The site was so broken that I literally couldn’t build on it anymore. I either needed to scrap the business entirely or had to completely overhaul my site from top to bottom, set everything work right and provide a solid content marketing platform that I could build on.
I was actually leaning towards scrapping the entire business because reworking the entire site from top to bottom seemed overwhelming. But eventually, I figured out a step-by-step logical process to get it done one chunk at a time over a period of a couple of years, so I decided to go for it.
Now, before I explain exactly what that process was, please keep in mind that back then, content audits were unknown thing like they are today. Nobody was doing them or talking about them. I totally fumbled into this simply because my site was way more broken then most, so I had to get it fixed.
What I since learned is anyone who’s been building their site for two or more years faces the same situation I faced. The degree of the problem varies from site to site but we all confront this issue because their sites evolved naturally over the years that we develop them. It’s no different than writing a book. You start with chapter one and you write the book, page by page until it’s done. No author would ever publish that first draft because it has to go through several rounds of edits before the manuscript delivers a tight, cohesive reading experience.
Well, it’s the same exact thing with your website. You built it article by article, except most people never go back and edit it to create a tight, cohesive visitor experience. Instead, their published site is the equivalent of a first draft for a book.
My site audit checklist included the following; a new code base, new theme, new site redesign, upgraded internal linking, new navigation structure. I deleted a third of my content that was junkie, out of date, or irrelevant to the brand. I rewrote, edited, and combined what content remained to improve the quality. I then created a brand and image policy and social media promotion policy, and the list goes on and on.
When the audit was done, the site was entirely new, but with old articles. I literally stopped producing new content for years so I could dedicate all that writing time to improving the quality of what was already there. The counter-intuitive result was that the site grew faster than it ever had before.
Surprisingly, Google rewarded this effort almost immediately. It took exactly one week. However, that one week was harrowing because the first thing I did was delete and 301 redirected about a third of my post that were low quality. Google responded the very next day by practically removing my site from the search engine. For example, keywords that I’ve ranked on page one for years got pushed back to page 12. I was completely freaking out because I thought I’ve done the right thing but Google clearly wasn’t happy.
I held my breath for exactly one week as the loss of rankings and traffic continued. Then suddenly, everything reversed again and my rankings were better than they’d ever been. Keywords where I’d ranked on page two or three for years were suddenly on page one and keywords where I was on the bottom half of page one were now on the top half.
It was a huge change and this was just in the first few weeks with just the first step of deleting and redirecting junk content. But the content audit process I outlined was much more involved so the whole thing took me roughly two years to complete. During that time, my traffic to the site tripled with almost no new content added. In fact, the amount of my content was reduced by 30%. It was all about quality improvement, not quantity of content. Fast-forward to today and my traffic has grown roughly 10X with very few additions to content, but continual improvements to quality.
This nearly 10X breakthrough growth in traffic, while simultaneously reducing the amount of my content by a third, taught me a valuable lesson–quality is the new SEO. Growing your site is not about more. It’s about better. Google has always stated they want to return the highest quality result for any search query and they get smarter every year figuring out exactly how to do that. Don’t try to game the search engines and don’t be a slave to producing new content. Instead, align what you produce with what the search engines want to deliver. If you focused first on quality above all else, Google will figure it out and eventually they’ll reward you.
Darren: Wow. Thank you so much, Todd, for sharing your story today. You can find Todd’s site at financialmentor.com. It is a great site to have look around. He’s put a lot of work into not only the content audit that he talked about and the design of his site, but also you pick up a lot of tips just by looking at how he’s calling his rate is to action, how he’s getting them to subscribe to his newsletter and lots of other things as well. Lots of good tips just by looking over at that particular site.
There’s so much in this particular story that we could pull out now. I particularly related to the first part of Todd’s story and I’m sure many of you have related to that feeling of looking at your site after a couple of years of blogging and thinking, “My goodness, it’s a mess.” Content that’s dated, links and code that might be broken, plugins that kind of have broken, different styles of writing, different voices, different mediums, dated-looking content, the graphics that you’re using may outdated. Categories that perhaps you don’t even blog about anymore or content that’s replicated in different topics, different points in different posts, and inconsistencies with design and quality.
I’m describing my own sites here as I’ve looked at them over the years. We’ve done a lot of work over the last couple of years to do similar types of things as Todd. Although for us, it’s still a work in progress. I guess one of the things that I want to encourage you with a few can relate to that story is that it is a massive job to fix it, but it’s the type of thing that you need to just break down and do bit, by bit, by bit. You’re not going to do this overnight. There are parts of it that maybe you’ll do overnight like deleting old content and redirecting as Todd did, but for most of us, this is an ongoing process.
One of the things that I’ve notice amongst a lot of bloggers is that they’re spending a lot of time now updating their archives, spending as much time updating their archives as they do writing new content. Now, if you are in the early days of your blog, you probably want to spend a lot of time creating your archives, creating new content. But as soon as you hit that one, two, three-year mark of a blog, you also need to be paying regular attention to your archives. At that point, you might just want to pull back a little on how much new content you’re creating and start to pay more attention to those archives. If you were publishing five posts a week, for example, I would encourage you maybe post three new posts a week and do two old ones. Go back and update those as well.
Now, Todd gave a lot of new information very quickly there on what he did to fix his site. I just want to go through that list of things that he said again. I’ve written them down. You better find them in the transcript of today’s show in the show notes, which are at problogger.com/podcast/265, but here are the things that he listed off very quickly.
He said he rewrote his code base. There will probably be more important for those of you who maybe have changed platforms along the way but it’s some that you might want to seek the advice of a web developer or designer. He added a new theme, a new redesign. He did a new internal linking kind of setup. He went through old links and fixed some old links and really thought about how to, I guess, link and how his readers could navigate his site. He thought about a new navigation structure. This is so important for bloggers. You have a lot of categories in your archives that you maybe no longer write on any more or maybe you’ve chosen words to name those categories that aren’t really clickable. You might want to rethink your menu and navigation.
He deleted a third of his content; junkie, irrelevant, out-of-date content. This is something I know a lot of bloggers are going to be really nervous about doing because we’ve got in their minds that more is more. But as he said, quality is more. If you’ve got junky, out-of-date content, you need to either update it or you need to delete it and redirect it. That’s an important step there. Don’t just delete your old post. You want to work out how to redirect that with a 301 redirect. There’s plenty of good advice around the web on how to do that. There’s some plugins that can help you with that as well. But a 301 redirect tells Google that that post is no longer there, but you want to point anyone coming to that old page to a new page and that can help with your search engine optimization.
He rewrote, combined, and updated on the content that remained. This is probably the part that took two years. You heard him say that this whole process took two years. He would have gone through all that old content and updated it. He would have combined two post together, deleted one of them, and 301 redirected the one he deleted and overall improved the quality of the content.
This is what I’m saying a lot of bloggers spending a lot of time on there saying, “How can I write the best post ever on this topic?” that may have been written about 10 times before. How can you combine all of that information and create a new article that is the highest quality possible? This is what Google is rewarding. Then just having that one post on your site that is the go-to place, rather than having the same kind of article written and rewritten over and over again. He also did a branded image and social media policy. That’s certainly an important thing that consistency in your images and the calls to action to share is really important as well.
They’re the main things that Todd mentioned that he worked through. He also stopped creating new content at least for a year or so. He said that he has created a little bit of new content but from what I see, he’s probably spent more time on that old content. That’s because he’s been blogging since 1998 I think he said. He’s got a lot of content there and he’s able to do that for many of you.
You might want to be having one post, new post a week or maybe two new post a week to get some new stuff up there but also working on the old stuff. I would suspect, and I don’t know this for sure because he didn’t mention it that he would have been resharing that old content as he updated it. Again, once he did a complete rewrite of old content, I’m sure it would have been shared to his readers and they would have seen new content coming up because it was new to them, but in his mind, it was updated content.
Let me just re-emphasize what he said. “Quality is the new SEO.” it’s such an important thing. “It’s not about more, it’s about better.” These are Todd’s words; I’m quoting him here. He said, “Don’t be a slave to producing new content.” Now, again this really depends upon the stage of blogging that you’re at. If you’re in those first year or two, you do need to produce new content. But once you go and get past that, your site is going to suffer in terms of quality and ranking in Google if you don’t pay attention to quality as well.
I encourage you to spend some time in your archives this week. I do have a previous podcast that was recorded on a similar topic to this. It was episode 238. I told my story there about treating your archives as an asset. Talked about how your archives are depreciating over time and gave you some strategies on how to do some of what Todd talked about as well. If this is something you do want to dig into more, I do encourage you to go back to episode 238—not that long ago—and have a listen to that episode as well, it’ll give you some practical things that you can do. I wish you well in your updating of your content in your content audit.
If you got any questions for Todd or for me on this, I would love it if you would head over to our show notes today. As I mentioned at the top of this show, I think this is probably a topic we need to kind of dig even deeper into. We need to get Todd back on to do more an interview-style podcast. I haven’t asked him that yet, but if you’ve got any questions you would like me to ask Todd, I would love it if you would leave a comment on our show notes. That’s probably the best place to do it. The show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/265. I will collate those questions together and attempt to get Todd to answer them in some way or another, whether that be an interview or me. I’ll just ask him to leave some comments on that show notes as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today and the breakthrough story. We’ve got a few more in this series still to come and then we’ll get back into a more regular style of ProBlogger podcast. I hope you’re enjoying the series so far. I look forward to chatting with you next week.
How did you go with today’s episode?
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