Update Articles for Content and Links

It’s easy to get frustrated with Google. It’s hard to keep up with what is currently acceptable to the Webmaster Guidelines let alone try to remember the name of the cute animal that is currently devouring the SERPs. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother and want to crawl back into a hole somewhere and become a web developer.

Then I remember why: I like being creative. I love finding new solutions. I enjoy trying new things. What’s fun about doing SEO is that something is always changing and there’s always something new to learn.

After I left a recent pity-party I took a look at my clients and asked myself, “so what are you going to do now?” Clearly Google can’t hold it against me if I put good content on my websites- that’s what they recommend, anyway. So what makes good content? Timely information that people want to know. Okay, cool, I can do that. The problem is- even if I have the best, coolest content on my site it doesn’t really matter if no one can see it. That means I have to build some links to it. But Google says I can’t build links (or, at least, it feels that way sometimes).

Then I realized something — good content and links don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Good content is inherently about links. If I build my content in a creative way, I can set myself up to get links. This all sounds good in theory- here’s one way I go about it.

1. Find out what people are really asking about your product or service.

There are a couple good ways to find this kind of information:

  1. Lead form submissions
  2. Listen in to recorded phone calls
  3. Ask your sales team
  4. Ask your PR department
  5. Filter the few keywords provided through Google Analytics by who|what|where|when|why|how (this is a regular expression that will only show queries with interrogatives)

Of course, not every company has a sales team or PR department. Also not every client will give you access to their leads or phone calls. If you don’t have anywhere else to go- or you’ve exhausted your internal resources- try looking on Q and A sites like QuoraYahoo! Answers (yes, there’s more than just spam there), Askville (Amazon’s equivalent of Yahoo! Answers) or even Topsy (a great social media aggregator that can help you identify some experts in your field who might be able to offer some great questions as well).

Once you’ve identified a couple of questions you can pause here to write something on your website that answers a question. If this is all you do it would provide some value to your site: good content that addresses a question that people are really asking. If you’re lucky, you might even get some organic links as people refer to your answer. If I were you, however, I wouldn’t stop there. I’d take a step deeper…

2. Find out-dated articles about your topics.

Look in some leading industry blogs and see when the last time someone answered questions about your topics. Even better: use Google. Do a search for your topic on Google (or even better Google’s Blogsearch) and select a date from a year ago to only show older articles.

  1. Click “Search Tools” right under the search bar on your query.
  2. From the “Any Time” drop-down click “Custom range…”
  3. Skip the “From” box and enter a date that’s a year old into the “To” box. This will show you all results older than the date you gave Google.

SERP with publish date dropdown menu

I’ve written a content updating worksheet that will show you these opportunities in a Google Doc spreadsheet, if you don’t want to have to bother and change your SERPs.

With these opportunities you could pause here, again, to write some new content for your website — answering questions with updated information. If you did that you’d at least be a helpful repository of up-to-date information. That content, like the content you might have previously written, could also prove to be link worthy and attract some good, healthy organic links. If I were you, however, I wouldn’t stop there. You’ve already made it this far, why not take this a step further and…

3. Pitch to websites with out-dated content

I know, I know, “Guest blogging is dead.” I think you’re misunderstanding me here. I’m not suggesting you continue the “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” practice of, “I’ll give you content if you give me a link.” This is connecting with someone who has out-of-date content on their website and offering to help.

You might be able to help just by pointing out that their content is out-dated, pointing to the content you’ve written on your website as a more up-to-date resource. Perhaps they will update their article and link to your website as a resource. You might be able to help provide some updated insights in an article on their website. The point is: don’t just put this good stuff on your website. Promote it to people who have already shown an interest in your topic.

If you’ve created some content on your site using these steps, even if the people to whom you pitch this content nofollow, obfuscate, and completely disable any link that points back to your website, at least you’ll be engaging your potential customers with helpful and recent content that addresses questions they’re really asking.

Links are a whole lot harder to get than they used to be but don’t attend the pity-party. With a little creative thinking we can continue to help our websites connect with the customers looking for their products and services- which is what SEO is all about.