What is the half-life of good online content?

Everyone enjoys writing and reading good content but in the world of online, it carries extra benefits. After all, every SEO specialist worth their salt insists that copy is king and that every site needs great copy and fresh content. The almighty Google itself has proclaimed that fresh, relevant copy is like catnip for the king of the search jungle. But how long does copy remain fresh?

In scientific circles, there is a concept known as a “half-life”. The half-life of a substance according to Wikipedia is:

The period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms (radioactive decay), but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.

The theory I am postulating here is that content does not necessarily have to have a half-life with a serious rate of decay. Looking at some of the most popular articles over the year from contributors at Memeburn we can draw some interesting conclusions.

There are a number of things that good copy needs to ensure that it remains fresh for long:

  1. A subject which is well searched within the search engines
    Managing Editor Michelle Atagana’s, interview with WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg is an example of just such an article.

    When searching “wordpress founder” in Google, this article comes up above all other results. This result goes a long way to explain why this article has garnered 209 020 views in just three months.

    The topic of WordPress is always going to be a powerful one to write about in the online world as it is one of the biggest and more well used content management systems for websites available today.

  2. Cover your bases and ensure you know what you are talking about
    Google and other search engines cannot tell if you are talking a load of codswallop or not. You as the author need to give them some reference points so that they can learn to trust you. Graeme Lipschitz does this particularly well in his articles by constantly linking to domains with authority on the topic which he is discussing. His October article on iOS 5’s iMessage and BBM constantly linked back to other articles discussing similar content. The sites linked to included:

  3. The 317 324 views to this article can be attributed to the excellent level of content in the story as well as the way in which the article references websites of authority on the subject.

  4. Write for your audience
    Don’t write your content to be too mainstream. Yes, this will cause your article to have less viewers if your niche is truly quite small, but the upshot of this is that you will be eternally relevant to your audience who is in your niche. The last thing you want to do is become too vague and colloquial for your traditional audience if they are expecting high quality, in-depth and relevant copy.

    Andrew Lynch achieved this balance with his article on web frameworks. His use of technical jargon and in-depth analysis as to why some of the frameworks were better than others meant that the 142 793 times that his article was viewed was by those who were highly interested in what he was saying and were looking for an article that understood their need and they could use it to frame a decision.

  5. Share it
    If you have got the first three points right, then ensure that you get your article out there. Don’t just rely on search and the popularity of the platform on which your article was written to advertise it. Use your own social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, your website) to get the word out there within the niche to which your article applies.

    Getting these basic steps right will ensure that your content will remain fresher for longer. One of the most important factors in the longevity of your content is not all that closely related to the actual written content. It is what people do when they are on the page where your copy is housed. The more your content is shared, commented on, liked or asked for more information on the better it will do.

    This is down to Google’s view on the user experience as a paramount factor in the ranking of content. If visitors continue to interact with your content, it will remain forever young.



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