Digital publishers: you can improve your website earnings by fixing technical errors in your site and by improving your existing content. Add in the right advertising revenue source for good earnings, and you can turn your publication into a recurring revenue machine.
Because if you’re like many websites, you may get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your pages. This is especially the case on older or larger sites. Newer content tends to bury older content and make the older pages harder to reach. Also, links and images break. Over time those pages bring less and less value.
But the solution is not necessarily to cut out the old content! Older content has value. Instead, fix the problems and improve your content. And find ways to bring older content out into the light.
Below we outline some of the steps we took to do just that. It’s a work in progress and we still have a lot to do. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Understanding Your Earnings: 80/20 Rule
We use Ezoic as an ad revenue partner. But there’s a hidden gem in Ezoic — it’s the Ezoic Big Data Analytics. For the first time ever, we have data that tells us exactly how much we earn on a page by page basis. Before, the only data we had was a big amorphous blob.
We couldn’t tell which parts of the site or which pages the revenue was coming from. Now with Ezoic we can. And what we learned was eye popping. We learned that our site was a perfect example of the 80/20 rule. We get 80% of our revenue from fewer than 20% of our pages.
All we could think of, was what an OPPORTUNITY!
If we were earning from 20% of our pages, what if we doubled that? Then we could almost double our revenue. And it caused me to think about our site much differently.
You see, we’d always been in the mode of creating new content. But seeing what was actually making the bulk of the revenue, we realized it was mostly seasoned pages that had stood the test of time. And so we started to look at our existing older content as the basis for a recurring revenue model.
That’s the holy grail of business models — where you earn multiple times from doing something once.
And we thought, that’s how we need to be thinking about the site and its growth. What if we did not have to generate as much new content? What if we focused more on our existing content and got it to contribute toward a recurring revenue stream?
The Process to Increase Website Revenue
We decided to use an SEO audit tool to diagnose issues and identify which pages need fixes. We felt this would give us an outline of what to fix. Then we branched out from there to create improvements.
FIRST: Find and fix technical issues. Fix broken links and other broken stuff.
SECOND: Dig deep to identify pages to improve.
THIRD: Evaluate and improve site architecture. Things like navigation and categories and interlinking pages.
FOURTH. Implement design tweaks. Not a full redesign. But tweaks of the existing design, layout and so on.
STEP ONE: TECHNICAL
You may have broken links, broken images, broken video embeds.
If you are on WordPress like we are, an all too common problem with older sites is plugins that don’t always play well together or something goes haywire.
This can result in broken pages that won’t load or can’t be crawled by search engine spiders. Sometimes you don’t know pages are broken because it might be buried back on pages that are 8 or 10 years old.
The most serious issues and the ones you MUST fix are the ones that break your pages, won’t let them load fully or which inadvertently prevent search engines from spidering and indexing them.
There’s no point in working on anything else — content or navigation etc. — if you don’t fix the most serious errors.
When we ran our first audit using SEMRush, it showed thousands of “errors.” So where do you start?
Well the beauty of any of these audit software tools is that they identify exactly what issues there are — and exactly which pages they are on.
Break it Down into Chunks
Start somewhere. Pick one type of error and treat all as a “bucket”. Fix everything in that bucket so you can rack up a sense of accomplishment. Move on to the next bucket or chunk.
You can use project management tools if you like, but we found that Google Sheets and Docs were just fine for us.
It’s crucial to get into a regular routine with a cleanup project. If you set it off to the side and say “we’ll address that when we have time” you never have time.
Create a Routine
We schedule an audit to run every Saturday. You can run these audits as many times as you want or your plan allows, and you can schedule them automatically.
We run one each week. Then we review the results. Then we assign out improvement projects to various team members to finish by the end of the week. Then we rinse and repeat.
In this way we are able to do a certain amount every week, and fit in a huge improvement project into our business without disrupting other activities too much or incurring added expense.
Technical Lessons and Best Practices to Increase Website Revenue
Create team time. We had determined up front that we did not want to increase headcount or expenses from this project. So we needed to do this project in-house.
In order for our team to work on this we had to make time in their day. So we reduced our new content publishing schedule in order to find the time.
Learn to say no. We had to say no to labor intensive deals. We prefer putting that time into improving the site, so we can earn on a recurring basis from the content.
Educate yourself and your team. We recommend online courses at SEMRush Academy and Yoast Academy. SEMRush Academy has a great course on Technical SEO. Yoast Academy has great courses on beginner SEO and on Site Structure.
Make use of tools. In most smaller publications you will get farther much faster if you equip your non-technical team with some tools to make improvements.
Our editorial team relies on some custom tools and WordPress plugins to track a lot of the content work we’re doing right now. Having these tracking tools takes a lot of the mystery out of some things.
You have to work with human nature, not against it. That means, everyone needs to be engaged in a big improvement project like this. Because some of the work can be mind numbingly boring.
Some of the tools we use to create content and improve the site include:
- Yoast SEO plugin
- Broken Link Checker
- Editorial Calendar
- Zoho Creator
- Ezoic Speedtest
- Web Page Test
- Pre-publish Checklist
STEP TWO: CONTENT
Content pruning is a trendy topic in some circles. You’ll read lots of articles that say “get rid of all that old content — it’s rot.”
We are here to tell you, do NOT, under any circumstances mass delete big swaths of content. You will regret it.
We did not see the goal here as about cutting content. We see it as improving your site — making it the best it can be. If you are too aggressive, and delete old content, you can end up deleting some of what gives your site its authority and money making ability.
In informational sites and publications, those old pages actually make up your site authority:
- Traffic: Older informational sites tend to get small numbers of visits on a lot of pages. Collectively they add up.
- Internal links: Those pages may be linking internally to other pages, adding weight to better pages. You wouldn’t believe the power of internal linking on an older site.
- Social signals: Those old pages may have social signals pointing to them – likes, shares, tweets. Also comments on the page.
- Backlinks: They may have backlinks to them from other sites.
- Search rank: They may rank in search engines — for something.
Improve it. The best option is to try to improve content.
Rewrite it or Consolidate it. If so, redirect the old URL to the new piece. If you redirect it, it can pass a lot of its existing weight to a new page, provided you mark it with a 301 header code. 301 means “permanently moved” in search engine speak.
Delete it, as a last resort. If you delete it, mark it with a 410 header, which means the page is permanently gone. The 410 code tells the world and search engines, and your team, that you meant to get rid of that page forever.
Train your content team on these things and give them tools to manage redirect header codes directly. We use the Yoast SEO Plugin. It has a neat Redirects features — so our content team can actually add these redirects right from the WordPress dashboard. If you don’t use WordPress, sometimes your hosting company makes it easy to add redirect codes.
The majority of older pages should be put in the “let’s improve it” bucket if possible. But if you have a lot of pages, then you have to prioritize those.
The ones to work on first are those that are getting some traffic today, are in the Google index and rank for something today. Look for opportunities where your ranking is position 11 to 30, and there’s enough search volume. You have the potential to improve and get meaningful additional traffic.
So where do you get this rankings data? You’ll need a report from one of these SEO tools that tracks rankings. SEMRush can provides rankings information on your existing pages. Then sort through the data for likely possibilities.
Don’t discount your own judgment of what you think could be MORE valuable to readers if you improved it.
If you remember some great pieces you’ve written, or have some popular pages that may be declining in traffic, but had gotten a good reception initially, such as lots of comments or social shares, they may also be ones to target and dust off. Improve and start sharing on social media or in your newsletter again. And cross link to them.
A Case Study
We want to give you a little case study of how improving an old page can make a difference to your site. Case in point: an 8-year old page. Traffic had been gradually declining. It was buried so deep on our site that we were mostly getting organic search traffic to it. The page looked terrible and had broken stuff on it. But it was an evergreen topic with a lot of great information.
Before we updated it in Dec of 2018, it had 79 visits for the month. In early January of 2019, we updated and improved it. Almost immediately, within a few days, we saw results. In February of 2019, after being improved, it got 1075 visits – an increase of over 1000 visits. And it’s still increasing.
Let’s do some quick math to see the revenue possibilities.
Imagine if you could improve 100 pages in your site, and get 1000 MORE visits per month, on average, out of each of those. That’s 100,000 more visits. Per month!
Next, multiply that by your estimated earnings from those extra visits. If you are with Ezoic you have the data. It’s your average earnings per thousand visits (EPMV ) number. Let’s assume it’s $13. Multiply that by the extra visits, then divide by 1000, because it’s per thousand. That’s $1300 more a month. Just from your existing pages.
Now multiply that by 12, and you have your annual earnings from improving those 100 old pages. $15,600.
We’re not saying 1000 visits per page improvement is what you can expect. We’re just giving you a back of the envelope method to think about how improving pages can lead directly to revenue. And how it contributes to that recurring revenue model.
Back to our example, we spent about 3 hours on it. So it does take some time. But 3 hours to get 1,000 visits or more per month potentially for years to come? It’s worth it.
STEP THREE: ARCHITECTURE
Fix what’s broken first. So you do not simply obscure errors. Or compound them. So that’s why we didn’t even get into site structure until we were deep into fixing technical issues and content.
Think number of clicks. How many clicks does it take to reach key pages in your site? Too many clicks and your content becomes invisible. This is a big problem in older sites.
Leverage internal linking. One of the biggest assets of an older bigger site is … lots of opportunities for internal linking. What happens in older sites is that you tend to link to the same pages over and over. Your strong pages get stronger, but your weak pages get weaker. Keep a list of what you want to be sure to link to.
Understand consequences. Make structure changes sparingly. You’ve heard “measure twice, cut once.” Well, with structure, it’s “Analyze twice, change once” We used to change things without thinking them through. We might pull a category off of the navigation, without realizing that we were in effect orphaning or burying the content in that category too deep in our site. It would never be found.
STEP FOUR: DESIGN
Complete re-designs are a bad move for many sites. They disrupt your site, eat up a ton of time, and can cause unintended problems if you change navigation, URL structure and so on.
So go for tweaks to your existing design.
Focus on user experience. Some relatively small things can help a lot. Like changing fonts and lazy loading images.
Test your page speed. There are a lot of tools out there. Two that we’ve found value in are Webpagetest.org, and the new Ezoic sitespeed test. Both in different ways give you an idea of what to do to improve page speed.
For those who want an easy way to test the impact of site layouts, try the Ezoic layout tester. It’s not an ad tester — it’s something different that keeps the basic structure of your site, but moves some elements around on the page. It’s for WordPress sites. It might be worth checking out. I know some other publishers who are using it, and getting value from it.
This project is still a work in progress.
But the lesson that we hope you take away is: yes, you can improve your site by improving old content. And it can help position your site to increase recurring revenues from the same content, and get you closer to that recurring revenue generating machine.
- How to Improve Search Ranking for Old Content
- Don’t Delete Old Articles on Your Website, Re-purpose Them
- Earn More Google Ad Revenue from Existing Content
- How to Create the Perfect Internal Linking Structure for SEO
- Ultimate Guide to Site Structure
- Increase Your Content Ranking in Search Results