You spend hours, sometimes even days or weeks, creating engaging content that your audience will love.
You post it to your preferred social media platforms and are slowly but surely generating some user engagement.
But then it stops. No more shares, likes, pins, backlinks…nothing.
Since you’ve optimized your content for SEO, your focus now shifts to working towards getting to the first page of the rankings.
But how long does this take? And does there come a point where your content is no longer relevant to search engines or your audience?
Put simply; what is the lifespan of the content you create?
Let’s dive in and find out.
What is the Average Life Expectancy of Your Website Content?
As far as social media goes, content shelf-life is rather short.
But this isn’t that surprising. After all, MarketingProfs estimates that there are over 2 million blog posts written and published every day.
A large portion of those blog posts are then featured on social media platforms, which is why it’s just not possible for content to last long there.
Check out these content lifespan stats from Boost the News…
- For a majority of these blog posts, about 74% of them, website traffic related to the post peaks on the day it is published.
- Within one week, traffic drops drastically by an average of 90%.
- And after one month, the average traffic to the content is a mere 1.7% of the peak total.
Yikes! The life expectancy of your website content is looking rather dire.
So, based on social media engagement and initial website traffic, we’re looking at a content life span between three hours and one week.
That’s pretty disappointing. Especially after you spent about the same amount of time creating the content.
But fortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Search engines provide the ultimate opportunity to extend the life of your content.
And it’s where the majority of your focus should lie.
The 4 Major Factors That Determine the Lifespan of Your Content
Google makes changes to their algorithm at a rate of about 500-600 times per year.
Many of these changes are subtle and go unnoticed. But that wasn’t the case when they introduced their new web indexing system, Caffeine, in June of 2010.
The goal of the new indexing system was to provide 50% fresher results for web searches.
What that meant for website owners was that, in order for their content to stay relevant and featured in search rankings long-term, they needed to take certain actions to make that happen.
And while this ranking modification happened way back in 2010, Google continues to improve their indexing to value fresh content above all else.
But what exactly is ‘fresh content’? And what can you do to make sure your content remains fresh?
Let’s take a look at the four most important factors.
1. The Strength of the Content
In any evaluation of the life expectancy of content, we’d be silly not to mention the importance of the actual strength of the content.
It’s easy to judge the life expectancy of bad content. Maybe, if your headline is good enough and you share it on social media, it’ll last a few hours or even days.
But is that what you’re really going for?
Without great content, there are no backlinks. There is no engagement.
There is nothing but a few hours of curious people clicking the link to your article and promptly leaving your website as they realize that you aren’t delivering what your headline promises.
So, before anything else, you need to put in the work to create amazing, SEO optimized content.
2. Inception Date
Like a lot of things with Google’s algorithms and ranking methods, the influence of the inception date is difficult to measure.
What we do know, however, is that there can be two different types of inception scores.
Justin Briggs, of Briggsby SEO, lays it out like this:
Once the search engines have defined an inception date, it becomes a part of the Freshness Score of the content.
Briggs simplified how this works through this graph:
As you can see, search results initially lean towards the content with the most recent inception date. This is especially true when you’re dealing with queries that are date sensitive (ex. sports scores, data, statistics, etc.).
But, after a certain amount of time has passed, the influence of the inception date is no longer as valuable.
And, at this point, the factors that follow begin to take precedent.
3. Updates to Core Content
As would be expected, regularly updated content receives a higher Freshness Score than content that’s never updated.
But the amount and type of change also directly impacts how much the score changes.
In Google’s 2011 US Patent application on Document Scoring, they mention:
“In order to not update every link’s freshness from a minor edit of a tiny unrelated part of a document, each updated document may be tested for significant changes (e.g., changes to a large portion of the document or changes to many different portions of the document) and a link’s freshness may be updated (or not updated) accordingly.”
As an example, let’s say you put together a blog post in 2014 titled ‘The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Ads’.
If you were to go in today and simply change the link along with the date and time tags, Google would almost certainly ignore the change.
If, however, you were to go in and update the content based on modern day best practices for Facebook Ads, you’d be much more likely to have your Freshness Score positively affected.
And this all makes sense. After all, Google didn’t become the biggest search engine in the world by accident.
They did it by ensuring that user search queries were consistently answered with the best possible results. The only way to do that is to provide updated, relevant results.
At the end of the day, if you want to extend the life of your content, it’s crucial that you update as much as is necessary to ensure that the post reflects what is relevant now.
4. Rate of Link Growth
After analyzing over 1 million Google search results, Backlinko founder Brian Dean concluded:
“Backlinks remain an extremely important ranking factor. We found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.”
That means, out of all the factors that go into SEO success, backlinks are more important than any of them.
Remember, Google is trying to deliver relevant, updated search results to users.
If they’re finding that your page is continually seeing an increase in its link growth rate, that signals to them that your content is still relevant.
But this goes both ways. As Google’s 2011 patent application for document scoring also states:
“…a downward trend in the number or rate of new links (e.g., based on a comparison or rate of new links in a recent time period versus an older time period) over time could signal to search engine 125 that a document is stale, in which case search engine 125 may decrease the document’s score.”
Once again, this makes sense. More backlinks cause your Freshness Score to increase while receiving less cause it to decrease and become stale over time.
It’s also important to note, however, that the Freshness Score of the site you’re receiving links from plays a major role in how much of an impact backlinks have on ranking.
So going out and utilizing black hat SEO techniques to gain backlinks from any and every site possible isn’t going to extend the life of your content. In fact, it may do more harm than good.
If you want to do it the right way, your first focus should be on updating your content to become more relevant to modern times.
From there, you can utilize white hat SEO techniques to earn backlinks that positively impact the long term ranking of your content.
Keep in mind, as Moz contributor Kristina Kledzik points out, that the effect of link building takes time to make a significant impact in rankings.
As you can see from this graph, Kledzik found that it takes about 10 weeks, on average, to see a one rank jump.
What can be gathered from all of this information is that link building is a long term strategy that, when done correctly, can increase the ranking of your content over time.
And by focusing on generating backlinks from sites with a high Domain Authority, you can speed up the process of increasing your search rankings through this strategy.
The Conclusion: What Really is the Life Expectancy of Your Website Content?
As much as you don’t want to hear this, the only real answer to give here is…it depends.
It would be virtually impossible to crawl through the billions, probably even trillions, of blog posts that have been posted on the web and come up with a concrete answer.
And even if it was possible, the range in the life of different pieces of content would be so great that knowing the average would be irrelevant.
What we can do, however, is tell you what you can do to ensure that your content lasts as long as possible.
The 3 Steps to Extending the Life of Your Content
If you want to give your content a shot at lasting for years instead of hours or days, following these three steps will help.
Step #1 – Create Amazing, SEO Content
As we’ve already mentioned, this step is absolutely vital if you want your content to achieve a lengthy life in search rankings.
Search engines like Google have been working diligently for years to continue to ensure that quality, fresh content is the most important factor in their rankings.
And, as SEO specialist Sujan Patel says, you simply can’t outsmart Google. He goes on to mention:
“Google hires some of the top scientists, engineers, and PhDs in the world every year. The odds of some ‘sneaky trick’ you’ve found on an SEO blog outsmarting this brain trust aren’t very good.”
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Step #2 – Update Core Content as Often as Necessary
We’ve already touched on the necessity of updating core content to ensure that you maximize its Freshness Score.
But spending your time updating every single post isn’t very efficient. Instead, as Joe Fylan of Elegant Themes suggests, you should:
“Prioritize posts that receive a lot of traffic, are seasonally-relevant, or that have received a lot of shares in the past.”
As far as what to update, Fylan mentions that you should:
“Bring the information up to date, add more content, add nicer images, improve your SEO, and include internal links to newer content.”
Step #3 – Work to Continually Build Quality Backlinks
When you’ve identified the posts that you plan on updating, be sure that you also focus your efforts on continually building quality backlinks to that content.
As we’ve mentioned, content that receives several backlinks early on but starts to taper off as time goes on can, in the eyes of Google, be seen as stale content.
Nathan Gotch, of Gotch SEO, put together a tremendous guide on how to build backlinks in 2017 that can help you accomplish this task consistently.
The Final Word on Decoding the Life Expectancy of Your Website Content
As much as I’d love to give you an exact answer about the life expectancy of your website content and how long you can expect your content to last, it just isn’t possible.
If you’re able to follow the steps outlined above, however, you’ll give your content the best shot at achieving a lifespan that’s several years long.
For help with creating epic content that readers and search engines will love, give our experienced team a shout. We look forward to hearing from you!