The Case For Continually Updated Content – Revisited

continuously updated contentSometimes, you write about something and think to yourself: “holy crap, this is going to be BIG in the next year or so!”

…But then it turns out that you’re wrong.

Huh. Fair enough – it happens, I mean we can’t always be right with our predictions, eh? – but sometimes it feels almost undeservedly so…

Over a year ago, I wrote a YouMoz post called “Continually Updated Content & Extended Outreach – A Case Study,” which discussed how an evergreen – but regularly updated – piece of content can obtain more links over time and can be shared multiple times via social media more legitimately compared to most other standard content. The difference is that while regular evergreen content is always relevant (hence, why it’s evergreen), once it’s published, it never typically changes, while continually updated content is constantly being changed and added to by the author/creator.

You might have seen a few examples around and about: Moz’s Google algorithm change history, Point Blank SEO’s complete list of link building strategies or Krystian Szastok’s list of UK SEO Conferences in 2014 to name a few.

I’ve also tried to do the same over on my blog – SEOno – with a list of SEOs on Last.fm, a list of all the Ask Me Anything threads on Inbound.org (before they gave it its own category on the site) and a list of all regular SEO/digital marketing Google+ Hangouts On Air. They can be fairly time-consuming to put together (but hey, what half-decent content isn’t?) but I don’t mind adding to the lists as-and-when I come across more things to add – in fact I often encourage it.

I thought that we’d see a lot more people talking about this concept (and perhaps coining a better name for it than I did!) over the past year, as more and more people develop similar types of content for themselves and their clients. Surprisingly, I don’t think that that’s been the case. Unless I’ve been looking in all the wrong places, the only other article I know about that’s talked about it is by Dr Pete (curator of the Google Algo History), who calls it “Big Content”, which was published just before my YouMoz, back in late 2012.

Therefore I wanted to revisit the concept and give more of a compelling argument behind its benefits – this time roping in a few people who have created this type of content and asking them a few questions: Dr Pete, Jon Cooper (Point Blank SEO) and Krystian Szastok (i.e. the creators of the three examples I’ve given above).

krystian-60SEO Conferences 2014 UK Calendar and a Map

Link to content | Creator: Krystian Szastok (@krystianszastok)uk-seo-conferences-ss-500
Krystian’s post is only fairly recent, first being published on 23rd November 2013. Since then it’s had 5 updates, with more and more conferences being added to it.

“For me, continually updated content is an opportunity to gain insight into how people want to consume data – an opportunity to really try to get something right, rather than just popping stuff out there one at a time hoping one will ‘stick’.”

What’s interesting is that the content actually gained more attention/shares when it was tweeted later on, not initially (when it was first published). “It got popular a day after I think,” says Krystian. I think this is a pertinent point, given that we’ve all been victim at one time or another of sharing something that’s not driven the amount of traffic that we’d hoped, which could simply be down to sharing it at a bad time… At least with continually updated content, you have the opportunity to share it multiple times (each time there’s been an update) and potentially gain more notice at a later stage in the content’s life.

Krystian also has more plans to add more useful resources to it: “It’s a work in progress – I plan to add a downloadable PDF to it (that people can print)… heat mapping [and] separate sections for each event” – a perfect opportunity to tweet about it a couple more times, as-and-when those features are added.

jon-cooper-60Link Building Strategies – The Complete List

Link to content | Creator: Jon Cooper (@PointBlankSEO)lbs-ss-550
Even though Jon first published this epic SEO resource back in February 2012, I was surprised to learn that it’s only seen two major updates over a (nearly) two-year period (not counting “a few minor edits (i.e. broken links, typos, etc.) along the way”). What’s awesome is that Jon challenged people to find tactics and techniques that he hadn’t covered, encouraging them to get in touch if they think he’d missed anything and winning prizes in doing so.

“For the two big updates, I tweeted about it both times,” Jon told me. I was interested to know if he’d seen a spike of traffic for the post coinciding with the tweets, to which he said: “Yes, definitely. See [the Google Analytics screenshot below] for the latest update spike in traffic – as you can see, the 10th is when the update was made.”link-building-strategies-ga-edit-2

 

dr-pete-60Google Algorithm Change History

Link to content | Creator: Moz | Curator: Dr Pete (@dr_pete)moz-algo-change-ss-650
Dr Pete gave this as an example in his Big Content post, which is worth checking out. He seems to be equally surprised that big content/continually updated content/whatever-you-wanna-call-it-answers-on-a-postcard-please isn’t bigger (no pun intended) as a practice…

“It’s an exciting topic, but [people] want formulaic approaches and low-hanging fruit too often, and these projects are original and take investment and an eye toward the future.”

The content is a “Moz” creation as multiple departments were involved. The good doctor explains: “I do the research (verify events, write the blurbs, etc.). Our design team did the front-end (and the previous version), and our Inbound Engineering team (basically, a specialized dev team) did the CMS. It has a very simple CMS built around it, so it’s easy to update.”

Since Q3 of 2011, Moz’s Google Algo Change History content has been updated 58(!) times. It sounds like a lot of effort to update/maintain, but you’d be surprised:

“As of December 2013, the Algo History hit it’s 1 millionth page view of all time. Truthfully, aside from my on-going research, the actual direct investment in 2013 was minimal, and that yielded 531k pageviews (458k uniques) for the year. I believe this surpassed all of my 2013 blog posts combined. I’m a huge believer in the value of these investments.”

Given that Pete wrote 26 posts for Moz in 2013 (by my count), that’s truly phenomenal.

With each update, Pete says that he “typically [tweets] about it, as does the Community Team @Moz. We sometimes also highlight updates on Google+.” But what’s really interesting is that – unlike other examples – the pattern is different, i.e. more social shares does not (necessarily) equal more traffic, but something else does…

“It’s rare that our tweets cause a big surge, given a steady baseline of traffic, but major Google events draw people to the history for confirmation, so we tend to see spikes when people think something happened. What’s funny is that traffic will often be sustained for a while after the spike, and there tends to be steady growth.”algo-history-ga-edit

 

“[Here’s] an image of the pageviews for 2013. You’ll see a major spike after Penguin 2.0 and then a steady climb after Hummingbird for a while. It’s interesting that named updates still get all the attention, even when all data indicates that some of them are smaller than many of the unnamed updates. Google still controls the dialog, for the most part.”

What all this means

What can the above three examples tell us about continually updated content?

  • grow-editSocial sharing after updates: With a regular piece of content, we’ll share it on social media (and on Twitter especially we may share it a couple of times) but that’s it for the most part – any further social media promotion and we risk putting off our followers or – worse – being labelled spammers. The beauty of continually updated content is that you can legitimately share it repeatedly, when new updates are made. For example, if you plan on updating a piece of content every fortnight, you can tweet about it every fortnight, and it’s not excessive because you have a legitimate reason to tweet it – the fact that it’s been updated.
  • New features = more updates & shares: It’s not just limited to updating the content itself, either. If you plan to add new features and aspects to the content – such as Krystian’s post with the PDF download and heat mapping features – then you can share these updates via social media too, especially if they’re likely to be useful for people.
  • A handy, go-to resource: If it’s a resource that people are likely to come back to time and again, it’s likely to grow and grow in traffic over time. If people are aware that it’s a piece of content that will be updated all the time then they’ll remember to check it out. I can’t tell you the number of times that I myself have gone to Moz’s Algo History just to check something, as I know that if something has happened in the algo, Moz will have included it.

Do you know of any other examples of this type of content? In fact, have you created something yourself that fits into this bracket? If anyone knows of any non-SEO-related examples especially then please share them in the comments below (as I know that it’d certainly make Jon happy, hehe…)!

And lastly, a big massive thank you for Krystian, Jon and Pete for giving me their thoughts and answers. Cheers guys!

[Image credits – royal circle: Tom Magliery; growing: palo]

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