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Optimizing Content: Addressing Editorial Debt and Enhancing Audience Engagement

6 min read

Most companies have a history of content created for different strategies. This could be due to shifting staff, changes in the company direction or the product, market shifts, etc.

One constant is that you need to prioritize your audience — their challenges, their priorities, and their research needs. But how do you keep your content fresh as your customer evolves too?

In this discussion on how to safely and strategically clean up your content with Zoe Hawkins, Principal Content Manager at Sumo Logic, and Jeff Coyle, Co-founder and CSO of MarketMuse, they offer insight into:

  • The danger of ignoring bad content
  • How to identify what to optimize, deprecate, or consolidate
  • Catering to new ways your audience researches


This session focuses on the significance of updating and optimizing content. In the fireside chat with Zoe Hawkins, the Content Principal from Sumo Logic and MarketMuse co-founder Jeff Coyle, both stress the importance of content relevance and timeliness, and the role of content optimization in maintaining a website’s authority and relevance.

Interesting Insights

  • Content optimization is crucial in maintaining a website’s authority and relevance.
  • It is important to assess whether a content item should be updated or optimized based on its relevance, timeliness, and the value it provides to the audience.
  • Content that doesn’t rank or drive traffic but contributes to building topic authority should not be deleted.
  • Orphan pages with no internal or external links and no ranking keywords can be safely deprecated.
  • Updating old content and reusing the same URL can be beneficial, especially if the URL already has some SEO traction.
  • Using topic clusters for content optimization can be effective.
  • It’s important to update content based on skill development, knowledge development, information development, and progression.


Content Optimization: Assessing When and What to Update

In the realm of content optimization, understanding when and how to refresh content is crucial. Jeff and Zoe emphasize the importance of updating content to maintain its relevance and effectiveness. They also highlight the necessity of evaluating content regularly to determine what needs updating and the extent of the changes required.

Zoe notes that she has become “much more willing to burn everything to the ground.” She highlights the shift in content creation and optimization practices, suggesting that it’s often beneficial to deprecate outdated content and create entirely new pieces. “I am much more open to burning down the library,” she declares.

Jeff shares her perspective on the importance of revisiting old content: “Don’t walk by. Don’t walk by. That paragraph cleaning up your editorial debt means you see a bad paragraph. Maybe you’re not fixing it right now, but flag it. Don’t just let it be out there and be garbage.” He urges content creators to be proactive in addressing any issues they identify in their content.

Orphan Pages and Their Role in Content Strategy

Both Zoe and Jeff touch on the concept of “orphan pages” – web pages with no internal or external links pointing to them. They emphasize the importance of identifying and addressing these orphan pages in a content strategy, either by improving and integrating them or by deprecating them if they offer no value.

Zoe explains that if a page is an orphan and offers no value, it’s a prime candidate for removal. “Orphan pages that are hanging out there that nothing is linking to. It’s not linking to anything and it’s not ranking and it’s really not of any interest. Like, the topic doesn’t necessarily resonate. And so those are easily ones that can be cut,” she says.

However, if an orphan page does have some value, Jeff advocates for finding a place for it within the site’s information architecture. “Finding places for you got to watch those expressions with that term, but you got to find a place for those page types,” he says.

Preparing for Content Updates

Jeff and Zoe debate the importance of preparing for future content updates. They advise content creators to consider potential updates while initially creating content and to document the reasons for any future updates.

Zoe suggests focusing on specific themes or ideas for a certain period, and then determining what existing content needs to be updated, what new content needs to be created, and what could be combined to create more valuable pieces. “I think once you have the sort of always on terms that you need, then it becomes like, okay, what are some of these other topics that are super relevant for us right now in the market in the current context of the business?”

Jeff echoes this sentiment, recommending that content creators should “document why you’ll update it in the future” before publishing a piece of content. This allows for a more strategic approach to content updates and can help ensure that updates truly add value to the content, rather than just changing the date.

Key Quotes

Here are some interesting quotes pulled from the conversation between Jeff and Zoe.

  • “I am much more willing to burn everything to the ground. I think previously it was kind of like, content is king, we need as much of it as we can, everything gets optimized. And now I’m much more open to like, oh no, this can be deprecated.” — Zoe Hawkins
  • “I think also sometimes I’ll look at them, maybe they have one internal link, one in one. It also depends. Sometimes I find, and this is always terrifying to find, but you’ll find like a cluster that have one or two internal links from like eight years ago or five years ago, and you’re like, where is this? What is happening here?” — Zoe Hawkins
  • “I think once you have the sort of always on terms that you need, then it becomes like, okay, what are some of these other topics that are super relevant for us right now in the market in the current context of the business?” — Zoe Hawkins
  • “I think it really has depended on where I’ve worked and how big my team resources and all of the rest and how much editorial debt there is.” — Zoe Hawkins
  • “Don’t walk by. If the shelf isn’t aligned right, it is your job.” — Jeff Coyle

Featured Guest

Zoe Hawkins

Principal Content Manager, Sumologic

LinkedIn X (formerly Twitter)

A former video game and tech journalist turned content marketer, Zoe has 10+ years of experience with content that informs, engages, and delights the target audience.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.