Decoding the Life Expectancy of Your Website Content

Decoding the Life Expectancy of Your Website Content

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.
life expectancy of web content

What is the Average Life Expectancy of Your Website Content?

As far as social media goes, content shelf-life is rather short.
content shelf life
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.

lifespan of online articles
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:
inception date
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.
rate of change
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.
seo success factors
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.
freshness vs stale page image
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.
rank jump from link building
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.”

If you want to give yourself a chance in the long-term game, focus on creating epic content above all else.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Extend the life expectancy of your online content in three simple tips from @ExpWriters!” quote=”Extend the life expectancy of your online content in three simple tips from @ExpWriters!”]

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!
yoda cta

How to Create A Strategy for Deploying Content to Improve Your Site's Ranking & Visibility

How to Create A Strategy for Deploying Content to Improve Your Site’s Ranking & Visibility

Annie is a Content Manager at Express Writers.
Developing a content strategy can easily seem like it can be a futile exercise.
Many people don’t have a clue about where to start when it comes to putting together a detailed plan for what their content should do and what sort of demographic it should be aimed at.
The truth of the matter is that overthinking content marketing can be dangerous.
Instead of focusing on the minor details, what you should be aiming for is to see the big picture.
It’s only through that you will actually be able to experience the true power of content marketing the way it was meant to be used.

The Blank Slate Theory & Your Content Strategy

As artist Joe Madureira says, a blank slate is as exciting as it is daunting. What we propose to do through a blank slate comparison is to see how a company starting from no website or content marketing strategy can utilize the tools of developing a content strategy to be successful. In this fictionalized case study we will be utilizing a two-phase plan for the creation of a detailed content strategy that can be used to improve a website’s ranking and visibility.

Methodology Behind Our Experiment

Utilizing a free tool like Google Analytics allows us to easily track the key performance indicators (KPI’s) that we’re interested in. Indicators such as number of visitors and unique visitors over time allow us to gauge the success of our content marketing strategy. If we want to be more specific we can set up funnels in Google Analytics in order to track clicks from what content leads to which page to determine the most popular content for attracting users. The numbers from Google Analytics will be our guide to how well our content strategy is doing, just like in real life.

Time to start working on that content strategy, if you haven't already!

Time to start working on that content strategy, if you haven’t already!

Content Strategy Phase One: The Basics

There are a handful of things that a basic content strategy should have in place as a jumping off point. These form the framework for your future content production and also aids in your SEO compatibility and your search rank score. These things are the very basics but even though they seem to be unnecessary at the start, they are a powerful means of attracting traffic and formulating leads. The basic start for a website’s content strategy comes from incorporating these key elements:
1. META tags: META tags aid in helping to describe a page’s content to a search engine. Including META tags in your site setup ensures that you are able to include the most important elements that you would expect to get your page noticed. The more relevant information you include in your META data the better your search relevancy will be. This translates into increased traffic from search engines, as relevancy is extremely important to users. No one wants to click a page and end up somewhere they didn’t expect to be.
2. Keywords: These are words that describe the content on your page and allow a user to be aware of what the site they are visiting is about. Used in combination with META description tags, your keywords form the backbone of your content strategy in the realm of SEO. You don’t want too much of your keywords cluttering up your page since search engines are usually wary of too high a keyword density. Ideally, your keyword density should lie between 3% and 5% for any particular keyword set.
3. Product Descriptions: These give your site the look and feel of a professional company and also gives Google something to reference. Your product descriptions should also have keywords considered and should conform to the limit of 3% to 5% as well. Keeping this figure is enough to satisfy the search engine that you’re not keyword stuffing just to make your content more popular. The descriptions should be meaningful as far as possible and written for the user. It’s a true test of balancing your content writing in order to appeal to both search engine robots and the average user.
4. Basic Content: Basic content gives your site a barebones for further development of content as time goes by. Through your basic content you are trying to attract users and at the same time get them to do something. Whether it’s subscribing to an email list or clicking over to a product page, your basic content should be original and should appeal to the customer. It should bring value to the customer’s life in some way. That is the hallmark of good content.

Content Strategy Phase Two: Advanced Operations

After setting up the initial barebones on the blank slate website, we can now proceed to monitor it for a period of time to see how it evolves and develops in terms of traffic. This sets a benchmark from where we can go on to the advanced part of the exploration and the key motivator for developing a content strategy.
Does content really make a difference in generating leads and increasing visits? Let’s find out by utilizing the major vehicles of content marketing:
1. Blogs: Blogging has long been accepted as one of the ways to generate traffic and to keep your website fresh to attract new visitors. Search engines enjoy blogs because they tend to deal with a particular niche and once the search engine determines the niche the blog is in it’s easy to direct relevant traffic to the site. Blogs allow for a company or website to focus on creating high-quality content that appeals to their target demographic. Through this content the company can generate new leads or conversions, or develop customer loyalty by focusing on providing useful content to their users. Blogs need to be updated regularly in order to remain relevant. Updating too much can cause useful information to be lost. There’s a fine balance to walk here, but doing it well is worth the effort.
2. Social Media: The newest way for websites to interact with customers directly and to generate leads is through content marketing on social media. The use of memetics and other content that attracts users to like or share allows a company to spread the word far and wide and to get a much more diverse outreach than with simple SEO marketing. The virality of social media content is what makes it attractive as a medium for content marketing. All it takes is the right combination of images, words and emotions to make a piece of content that could theoretically reach hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. Websites such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter have made it even easier for content marketers to share great content with their followers.

Expected Results

As is expected with a fledgling content strategy, it would take some time for the users to reach a trickle. Ideally, we would run this blank slate website against another website that has nothing on it as a control to see the difference in traffic between that control site and our site over a period of a few months. Because of our SEO work (META tags and content descriptions etc.) we expect to see a decent amount of traffic at the end of the first six-month period. At the end of this initial setup period we can then average the amount of visitors daily and keep that score as the benchmark against which our second phase can be tested.
Introducing the second phase allows us to see how much better content marketing is compared to a site that operates without it (presented by the data from our six-month phase-one trial). Because of the nature of content strategies and the methodology used, it can take a couple months before noticeable changes start happening.
This would be the case if and only if the chosen method of content marketing is done as intended (blogs updated on time, social media accounts focusing on a target demographic etc.). Over the next six months the performance of the site would increase quite a lot based on the use of content marketing.


If performed properly and under the best of conditions, this experiment would prove decisively if content marketing is truly beneficial to a company or brand.
Real-life case studies are readily available where brands tout the awesome capability of content marketing to drive traffic and generate leads (GE Reports immediately comes to mind). However, the real world is rarely as cut and dried as test situations.
Many times when companies undertake a content strategy, they try to minimize the cost and maximize the impact.
Although this strategy is admirable, there are some things you shouldn’t cut corners with. Updating regularly is one of them. Generating high quality content is another. The best way to ensure that your content is of the highest standard is to invest in a professional content production team to develop content for you on a regular basis. A content strategy has the potential to do great things for your traffic, it just has to be implemented properly.