Last week I was very busy completing a few 360° SEO Audits for two plastic surgeons, and one of them asked a very good question. After I recommended content creation on a weekly basis (about three times a week), he asked: “That's a lot of content, can I add it all to the same web page?”
In essence, what the client was asking is if it's possible to add to existing content instead of creating three new pieces each week.
Here's what I said.
Creating Doesn't Mean “From Scratch”
To clarify, when I suggested creating three new content assets each week as a best practice, it was a recommendation and not an obligation. Moreover, an asset doesn't always have to be a blog post or textual content. It can be a long-form video, an infographic, a podcast episode, etc.
With every long-form video or audio you produce, including those of which you were a part (such as an interview or a podcast on which you were a guest), you can add it to your blog as an embed.
(If they turned off the ability to embed the recording, or if the recording is hidden or walled in some way, you might want to ask permission first.)
But don’t just add the recordings. Transcribe them, polish up the transcripts, add them to the page, and insert internal links to other content in your blog as you would normally do with other content.
A transcript creates additional content you can use as captions for your videos or for creating additional standalone content pieces. I personally use a tool called Otter (relatively cheap). You can also use Descript or Screechpad.
Secondly, “new” content creation doesn’t have to be new content.
It can be a refresh of an existing piece of content. You take an older piece and rewrite it, expand it, update it (e.g., add or update any references, statistics, citations, and supporting images), and add new internal links to existing content (particularly if you have new posts since its original publication).
Finally, redate the piece to the current date so that it brings it back to the top of your blog index and signals Google that your content is updated.
Add New? Or Expand The Old?
Now, as far as the question about whether it's best to add to existing content or create new ones, the answer is that it depend from an SEO perspective.
If it’s the same topic and it makes sense to the reader and improves the user experience, that’s acceptable and even recommended. You are, to a degree, doing the “refresh” that I indicated earlier.
But if they’re widely diverse subtopics, I don’t recommend it — unless you are creating a pillar page and making it as comprehensive as possible.
If the search intent for a subtopic is different from the intent for the main topic, then you risk cannibalizing your content. (Although, that might change with the upcoming passages ranking algorithm.)
With the hub-and-spoke content model, the spokes are pieces of content that help to support the main pillar content, creating a topical cluster. If subtopics are too different, you’re likely confusing the reader (and Google), and you might be diluting the other subtopics on the same page.
The question to ask is, is the topic for the additional content a subtopic of a main/parent topic? If so, you can add it to the main piece. If it can stand on its own (the subtopic can be its own topic), or if it can have more than one search intent, then it might be better off as a separate piece.
Search Intent is The Key
Remember, there are four types of search intents: 1) informational, 2) investigational, 3) transactional, and 4) navigational.
Navigational intent is when people are looking for you, your business, or your website. For the sake of this example, I'll refer to the first three as your aim is to build content that drives people to the site who may not know you.
For example, take “facelift surgery” as a topic. The search intent is likely informational. (I could have used the term “facelift” by itself, but it's a little misleading. “Facelift” is often used in a non-surgical context, such as “giving your website a facelift.” So let's say “facelift surgery.”)
People who search using this term likely want more information about facelift surgery. Any subtopic that falls under both the same topic and search intent can be added to the same page, like “how long does a facelift take to heal?”
However, if someone searches for “top facelift surgeon near me” or “best facelift surgery [city],” that’s investigational search intent. The person is now past the information stage and they’re thinking about having it done.
Since the intent is different, adding a piece around that subtopic to the main page would be confusing and possibly counterproductive. It may better to write a separate piece, either about an award or survey where you were voted as the best, or about tips on how to find the best surgeon for one's situation.
What Other Expert SEOs Say
I believe this is the best approach. To be sure, I conferred with other SEO experts for their input. I'm a member of an SEO mastermind community called Traffic Think Tank, which is frequented by some of the world's top SEOs, including SEO directors from companies like Shopify, HubSpot, LendingTree, Moz, and others.
Their thinking seems to be in alignment with mine.
Even some SEOs on Twitter responded, and this is what they said:
As they said, cannibalization is less of an issue if the two or more pieces, vying for the same keyword, target different search intents.
And then, Britney Muller, someone I've been following for a long time who is a senior SEO data scientist and worked at Moz, added this:
Finally, one thing to keep in mind.
Is Long Content a Ranking Factor?
There’s a lot of debate about content length with SEO. Some say longer pieces rank better. But Google has expressly stated that word count is not a ranking factor. Any benefits are typically correlational and not causal, because long-form content will likely increase the incidence of keywords, tags, links, etc.
Not only that, but also long-form content tends to offer “more substantial, comprehensive, and complete information on the topic,” which is what Google looks for according to its Quality Raters Guidelines.
So from a user experience perspective, the argument can be made that sticking with existing content can provide more comprehensiveness to the article.
I also surmise that the upcoming passages ranking, where parts of a page (such as subtopics) will rank differently than the page itself, is going to make it easier for a long-form piece of content to serve multiple intents.
We will have to wait and see.
For now, the point remains: when it comes to content creation, it is always better to provide comprehensive information on a topic — whether it's in one long piece or it's in multiple pieces that are properly interlinked to indicate a relationship (i.e., a topical cluster).
Either way, more content, and better content, will always serve you well.