Blog Content Lifecycle: Immediate vs. Increasing Dividends
|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
If that is the tale of your site's content, you need to rethink the content that you're writing, re-evaluate your content's lifespan, and revisit your content marketing strategy as a whole.
Your content has a life the moment you publish it; how long will it live?
All content has a life span, but when you publish content, how often do you think about its longevity? Some content might have a "hit" value of an hour or a day (such as a photo you shared), some content might be popular for a few weeks or months (a review on a popular new cell phone), and some content might live on and for months or even years. With each type of content you'd see different traffic patterns: the jolt/drop, the downward slope, and the piddling along. Along the way there might be spikes or movement based on external factors (such as shares/links or search engines), but thinking about the type of content that you're publishing and your target audience will often give you a good idea about how the content's traffic/interest will progress.
Building value through short-term and long-term content, short-form and long-form content
We often talk about short-form and long-form content; what you're reading right now is long-form content, and content found on Google+, Twitter and Facebook is most likely short-form content.
Short-form content often lives in the moment and is generally more transient: it live in a stream, is quickly and easily consumed, and generally has a high rate of minor actions (likes, +1s, shares, etc.). It also almost always lives under the brand umbrella of someone else's brand other than your own, living on the platform of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
Long-form content is content that often delves deeper into a subject, requiring more than 10-15 seconds to read, and involves a larger commitment from the consumer. It often resides under your own branding, or on a brand umbrella that is not a social media hub.
The reason why we recommend mixing your media creation with both short-term/long-term, short-form and long-form, is that you're able to appeal to people and keep people engaged at different levels at different times. If you were known for always putting out long-term, long-form content people would forever be bookmarking your content, but perhaps putting off reading it until they could sit down for 15 minutes uninterrupted with a cup of coffee. That type of commitment doesn't always happen, and is hard to achieve, so keeping users interested in you and consuming your content through a mixture of quick bites and long meals keeps them engaging at different levels.
As mentioned, Google+ is a good example of short-term, short-form content. Users view the content in a stream, and generally the longevity of your content is based mostly around your audience and how often they check their streams for updates. If you post multiple times a day and a large percentage of your audience only visits Google+ a few times a week, chances are your audience will be missing most of your content. (read more about our strategies for using Google+ and Blogger together as a potential bridge between long-form and short-form content)
Your archives and alternative long-term traffic patterns
Earlier we talked about the common traffic patterns of content: the jolt/drop, the downward slope, and the piddling along.
While the most common, those are not the only traffic patterns that your content can take during its life cycle. Some examples from our own blog include:
|A once-busy post that slowly trailed off,|
then resurfaced (through Google+ activity)
(July 2009 - August 2013)
|Steady as You Go|
|After initial popularity, continues to yield steady traffic|
2 years later through referrals and search
(July 2011 - August 2013)
|A blog post that never caught on, but because of|
search traffic is now yielding some large traffic
(July 2009 - August 2013)
|Published without any fanfare, this post continues to|
gain in the SERP with a steady increase in traffic
(May 2013 - August 2013)
|Courtesy of +Stephan Hovnanian a blog post |
that landed big and keeps finding renewed interest
The last example, the Zombie, is a great example of content that could have been short-lived. It made a big momentary splash like short-form content would, but instead, it keeps finding renewed interest. If you add up each of those smaller spikes it's quite possible that they'd equal the amount of traffic garnered through that big initial spike.
Immediate returns vs. Increasing dividends
While some media people write content seeking "the big score" in the form of content going viral, going viral isn't the only way to have your content reach that same huge number of eyeballs as we've demonstrated in the charts above (taken from actual content traffic patterns from our site). While hitting that huge initial traffic can be seen as a sign of success, having content that continues to bring in steady, or steadily growing traffic often makes for a better long-term strategy as you're not continually trying to "hit it big" and hope your content gets that viral return. At the same time, relying on a very large audience that gives you a large immediate return through a social media channel puts you in the situation of having to continually put out content that will garner responses from that one social media channel, and your traffic will likely dry up if you go on a posting hiatus.
Instead, combining quality long-form, long-term content with immediate, short-form content creates a comprehensive strategy balancing lots of continued interest with long-term investment interest.
So when you're planning out your editorial calendar, or trying to garner the most traffic to your site, consider long-term objectives as well as short-term objectives. Spend time creating the long-form content, as well as sharing short-form content and engaging your audience. Consider your audience and give them a well-rounded diet.
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