Mediavine Content Upgrade Challenge | Part 2: Optimizing Your Posts

Welcome, welcome to our second installment of the Mediavine Content Upgrade Challenge!

I’m taking a quick break from answering emails to give you guys a bit of a walk-through on specific things to look for when you are doing a self-audit and want to make your content work its very hardest for you.

If you’re new to the Content Upgrade Challenge, start with Part 1!

October 2020 Update: We revamped the Content Upgrade Challenge with an updated workbook and all-new recommendations to help you make the most of your content. Here’s everything we added.

pinterest pin quarterly content upgrade challenge

What Posts Should You Focus On?

The best way to get the most return on your time investment is to make some educated guesses about which posts are probably going to start trending for you soon.

Do you have holiday content on your site?
A pumpkin craft that goes nuts around Halloween?
The BEST Holiday Cocktail?

The best predictor of future traffic is… past traffic, so the first place I start is in my Google Analytics.

Our first post in this series gives you a walkthrough of generating a list of posts for our awesome worksheets. I highly suggest checking it out!

1. Know What You’re Looking For


Finding your popular content in Google Analytics is super simple, and can be accomplished in just a couple of clicks. You already have generated your list of posts to work on during the last phase of the Challenge.

The short version is that you want to focus on your popular content from the last Q4 (or whatever quarter you are focusing on). If you don’t have time to devote to the FULLLLLL audit and tracking, just go change your date range in your Google Analytics to October 1 – December 31 of last year, and start at the top of the list and work your way down.

The other way is much more comprehensive, but I don’t want to let a lack of available time stop you from doing some really valuable optimizations in the time you DO have.

Pro Tips To Really Boost Your Returns:

While you are optimizing these posts and looking them over, schedule social shares and pins and update the links on them to point to newer posts that are relevant. It is a good way to give some SEO link-love to your newer content!

Hands typing on a laptop computer.

What’s The Magic Formula?

There isn’t any magic involved (I wish!), but there are definitely some commonalities between the sites on our platform that are reaping the most rewards on their content. Those are:

  1. LONG content | 300 words is okay as a BARE minimum, but 1000 is WAY better. Shoot for a word count somewhere in the middle, and it is okay to update in small chunks!
  2. SHORT paragraphs | Well-optimized content will be broken up into short, web-friendly paragraphs of 1-2 sentences. This also improves readability and leads to people actually absorbing more of what you are saying. Internet readers are scanners, and they only tend to scan the first few words of a paragraph before moving onto the next. TL;DR them with all of the useful or potentially useful information you possibly can, and you’ll reap the rewards in additional revenue.
  3. BIG, BEAUTIFUL IMAGES! | Multiple images that are mostly portrait oriented, and are high quality. More images mean more content! (But please for the love of all things good and awesome make sure they are optimized to the hilt!)
  4. Most Valuable Content At The END | Make sure you are including your Most Valuable Content at the end of the post to keep people scrolling and scrolling for the most return on every set of eyes on your site.
  5. Video, video, video | If you have video content to add, DO IT! There are tools that make it super easy to make a video out of text and photos (we love Animoto and Jumprope), and they are great for both SEO and advertisers. This is a big one for income that you don’t want to miss out on! There’s a brand new worksheet (new in 2020) in the workbook that’s a video checklist to use when you upload a new video.
Two women blogging together.

2. Small Changes = Big Difference

TIME INVESTMENT = 10 Minutes Per Post

Let’s get down to business! Now that you know just what you are looking for, open up 2-3 posts that you are going to start working on and get busy!

Take 10 minutes per post. Set a timer if you have to and you tend to go into the deep end on old content. 10 minutes is more than enough time to do some quick optimizations to a post!

Action Items to BOOST Revenue

Add hard returns and make your paragraphs shorter!

This is especially important on mobile! Paragraphs that look reasonable on desktop will oftentimes look like a dreaded “wall-o-text” when you switch to your mobile view. Make sure to check on mobile for ad placements and content formatting issues because for the vast majority of bloggers, that is where almost all of your traffic is hitting.

Pro Tip: Check Your MOBILE SITE (it is a mobile-first world, ya’ll!)

Use the Chrome Mobile Emulator to see what your site looks like on mobile, all from the comfort of your laptop. Don’t switch devices when you don’t have to. Here’s a quick video showing you how to open that up. 

These examples below are just a few so you have a visual of what is ideal. The most important thing is NOT to have all the super short paragraphs, but it is to make sure you are giving your readers the best experience. So don’t break up a paragraph in a place where it would be confusing.


An example of a blog post with too paragraphs that are too long.

Even LONGER on mobile! Nope nope nope!

An example of the same post, but on mobile view.

Edit your post and throw in some hard returns. If you have any updated images of the dish, this is a good time to add those too and any updated (or re-sized for current best practices) Pinterest images in there as well.

Soon, your post will go from the above to this:

The copy from the original blog post, now split up into 2-3 sentences per paragraph.
The same edited post, now on mobile view - and much more readable.

Once you add some more images in there too you’ll really be banking. Speaking of images…

Add More Images

If your post doesn’t have at least 3-4 images in it, time to add some in! Check out this post from our CEO Eric Hochberger on the ideal number of images for a blog post. If you don’t have any unused images for that particular post, try making a collage image, linking to some related posts and adding an image from those, or add “re-shoot XYZ post” to your TO DO list.

Do You Have A Printable Instruction on the Page?

Do you make things? Do you teach people something? The possibilities are endless.

Our Recipe Card ad unit has always been one of our top performing desktop ad units, because it is an ad close to where users take an action on your page.

In 2018, we officially launched Create by Mediavine®, the card that marks up your content for schema and opens up that ad unit beyond the recipe-writing crew to all of the world’s bloggers who run “How-To” content, so they can take advantage of this unit as well. If you think a printable instruction card would be beneficial to your readers, I highly recommend running one, and now there’s a card to do it.

Mediavine publishers will be able to automatically run our high-performing Recipe Card Ad Unit (that one might need a new name now!) and improve their user experience as well. The ad viewability that comes from those units is among the highest of the ads you can run which advertisers love and helps you earn more in the long run.

The List feature is great for round-ups too. It makes creating a round-up post of both yours and your friend’s content a breeze, meaning more posts to earn from without too much extra work. Win-win, right? We’ve loved seeing how our publishers have used Create so be sure to check out our list of Creative Ways to Use Create!

A woman vlogging on a white leather couch. A laptop sits beside her.

VIDEO. Got it?

We are always joking (but not really) that it’s the decade of video, and video ads are some of the highest paying available. It is best to have a unique video for each post. If that isn’t something you are doing yet, start small! Anyone with a smartphone can produce amazing video.

Next time you are making or building or creating your content, shoot some video clips! You can use those in conjunction with your images and have really slick, unique videos without making it a WHOLE PRODUCTION or outputting a ton of money on custom video creation.

Make your video helpful for your readers, explain a difficult part of the post, or otherwise add additional value to your content. That’ll ensure it is sharable and engaging and will really maximize your performance.

If you *can* invest in custom video content — DO IT. If you can’t, don’t let that stop you from getting in on some of the benefits of running video and pre-roll video ads. Starting with your most popular content will get you the fastest return on your video investment. Check out all of Mediavine’s video capabilities.

We recommend at least running a featured video, and you will also want to make sure your videos are set to autoplay. If you can add a few videos, then you can take advantage of our Up Next Playlist feature. 

As far as settings go, make sure you check your video placement on mobile (top right is ideal) and make sure you have autoplay turned on for all devices so your videos can earn really well!

The ideal video length is 45 – 90 seconds. Always make sure you add lots of descriptive keywords in the video’s settings — these are only for advertisers and make a huge difference in what ads they target. 

Check for ad placements!

Don’t skip any steps here. Don’t do it. Follow exactly:

1. Use the browser Google Chrome. Open an INCOGNITO window. (File > New Incognito Window)

2. Paste in your blog post URL that you’re checking.

3. Add this code to the END of the URL in the incognito browser window’s address bar: 


4. Hit “Return” on your keyboard.

Using the ?test=houseads code at the end of your URL ensures that ALLLLL available ad placements load, regardless of the auction, fill rate, time of year or any other factors. This means you might get some placeholder units that are grey, but that’s normal.

Note: If you are not seeing your above-the-fold sidebar ad, it could be because you are running our Optimize Ads for Desktop Pagespeed feature, which we recommend running because of the benefit to your pagespeed and SEO, even though enabling it may have an impact on revenue at first. Likewise for our Optimize Ads for Mobile Pagespeed feature, which we also recommend running!

Now, just scroll slowly through your post and count your IN-CONTENT ads. That means just the ads that load in the post body. If you are going for TEAL (meaning highly optimized posts), you should shoot for ≥4 In-Content Ads on desktop and ≥8 on mobile.

A mobile phone opened to the Google search bar home page.

Action Items for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Give the post a good once-over to ensure that you are using SEO best practices. Check the following:

  • Is the keyword present in the post title?
  • Did you use the keyword in the first sentence?
  • Have you included the keyword + variations in alt titles and image descriptions?
  • Have you internally linked around to your own site content at least twice?
  • Have you externally linked out to another site?
  • Are you linking on the anchor text?
  • Have you answered some questions in the post?
  • Did you use a numbered list or a bulleted list?
  • Have you linked to this post in all of your other relevant or related content?
  • Are sponsored and affiliate links nofollow?

*NOTE: When we say linking on the anchor text, we mean linking on relevant words, usually the keywords that the site to which you’re linking is trying to rank for. So, if you’re linking to your friend’s ‘Berlin travel guide’ post, link on those words — and NOT on “click here” or the website’s name! If you’re linking internally, link on the keyword you’re trying to rank for. External links and internal links shouldn’t be linking on the same keywords. (So if you’re writing a Berlin travel guide, maybe link to your friend’s Munich travel guide instead as a suggested side trip.)

Want more SEO tips?

I’ve put together an Ultimate SEO Checklist and we got you covered with these round-ups of SEO resources and pagespeed resources!

Plus, Mediavine’s very own CEO Eric Hochberger has a regular blog post series called SEO Like A CEO, where he shares all of the SEO knowledge he’s learned during more than 15 years of content creation.

Other stuff 

You may wish to use this time to add affiliate links or a newsletter sign-up to your post. This optimization challenge is for Y-O-U so if you have other to-dos you need to get done, do them now! Make it yours.

STEP 3 | Just Keep Swimming

TIME INVESTMENT = 20-30 Minutes per day

Keep up the good work! If you work on optimizing just 2-3 posts a day, you can get through quite a few really quickly. The investment will be worth it! These types of changes ensure that your content is ready for all of that awesome and HIGHLY valuable Q4 traffic it is about to receive, and get you into a great position to be busy supporting that content instead of trying to play catch-up and optimize as things are trending.

Keep working on ensuring all the awesome NEW content you are creating and publishing is written and published with these best practices in mind, and soon you’ll have an entire site full of well-optimized content, and you’ll be confident your site is earning the most it possibly can.

A mobile blog reader.

I’m done with Part 2. Where to next?

Our final post in this series is about sharing your work and tracking your growth throughout the challenge, so head to Part 3 next!

Tell me about the worksheets!

In our last post, we shared our worksheets with you. There are two sets that are virtually the same, but one is in Google Sheets and the other is a fillable PDF download.

For this part of the challenge, you’ll want to focus on the Ad Income Audit and the Individual Post Audit, but if you feel like jumping ahead to the social media worksheets, go for it!

Is there a Facebook Group?

Yes! We have a Facebook group for any publisher who wishes to participate in the Mediavine Content Upgrade Challenge, so check it out if you want some support as you work through it.

We also have some Facebook Lives about the challenge that we did in that group, so don’t hesitate to check the archives.

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