TL;DR: Longeve posts can help with search engine ranking and give your readers something a bit meatier to delve into. Study how the five stages of Vernon’s Lifecycle Theory can be applied to creating longer posts.
It can get difficult to foresee exactly what’s going to happen to your post once you hit the ‘Publish’ button.
You will definitely be able to generate at least a few social shares, more curious eyes and feedback for your content if you implement a clever social media management and guest posting strategy.
You may also earn your post a chance to become a big hit if you reach out to the right people.
But what happens after your post is no longer the popular go-to piece of the moment? What happens when the success wave declines and your “oldie but goodie” doesn’t get any additional traction because the user base became more interested in the newer stuff?
Like Every Human Product, A Blog Post Has Its Own Lifecycle
You have an idea, put it into practice, earn a following for it, enjoy your success, and then… you see engagement decline until your creation no longer sparks interest or buzz.
The post you are reading comes from my search for a guiding model that would help you, me and fellow bloggers like us, keep track of the various phases of your posts’ life, from idea to publication, promotion to success.
But the most important question this guide wants to answer is:
How can you make your posts as longeve as possible, defying the passing of time?
The model I will use here is inspired by Raymond Vernon’s product lifecycle theory, which I slightly modified to fit the case of blog posts.
What Does Vernon’s Theory Say?
Raymond Vernon, an American economist, created a theoretical model in 1966 to try to explain the phases and elements of international trade – the product lifecycle theory.
His model divides the process into more phases or stages, from initial idea (“ideation”) and introduction of a product on the market to its decline and loss of marketable value.
This is a graph of Vernon’s model:
The model works like this: an idea for a new product gets developed and introduced to the market; then we will assist to a growth of the product on the market, with a lot of demand, until it reaches a point of maturity. After maturity, the product’s value and demand will begin to decline until the product itself is considered obsolete and no longer marketable in developed countries.
As I studied this model, I realized that ideation, publication and marketing of a blog post reflect Vernon’s stages, so I recreated those stages for the specific case of blogging and I included actionable steps for each stage.
This is the blog post version of Vernon’s graph:
The good news is that you can effectively utilize Vernon’s lifecycle model to create longeve blog posts.
For each stage, I invited two expert bloggers – Christopher J. Benitez of ChristopherJanB.com and Ann Smarty of MyBlogU – to share their tips.
From Idea to Publication (Stages 1 and 2)
The Introduction stage in the original Vernon’s model involves experimentation, research, pricing and the development of an advertising budget.
For blog posts, this stage involves research to back up your idea, A/B testing to see if your idea will work, advertising budget to promote your content and even time budgeting for social media and community promotion (because time is money, right?).
Also, you have to count in writing time to get the post done, edited and published.
In other words, the first two stages are all about you – your audience analysis, your research, your brainstorms and experiments, your interviews with experts.
You will develop your great idea for a blog post that meets your audience’s needs and then you’ll draft it, and include research and expert quotes with it.
You will also ready a budget for promotion if you are going to use paid media (e.g. Facebook ads and blog advertising) or you will setup an inbound marketing plan to get your post in front of as many (targeted) eyes as possible.
Also, you want to make sure, from Stage 1, that your blog post will be able to stand against the passing of time and stay helpful even years from now.
Examples of old but still helpful blog posts:
It’s interesting to note how these old blog posts all rank on page #1 of Google for their respective keywords.
First, grab a piece of paper or your notes software and brainstorm ideas that you feel answer current and future readers’ questions and problems.
You may run a keyword search in your niche to find out which topics have been discussed over and over from the early 2000s to today – chances are they will be pressing topics even in the future.
Another idea is to harvest data from your web and social analytics software to create a list of keywords to use when brainstorming blog ideas.
Next, you will develop your winning idea based on the analysis of your audience’s behavior and their needs.
Make sure you include one or more CTAs in your draft, because your final post won’t only have to be helpful, but also convert in the long term – whether that’s a newsletter opt-in or a product for purchase that will appeal to your niche audience for the years to come and that you can continue to reap the benefits from.
You will also want to read these great guides from fellow bloggers at WHSR:
Here is how Christopher Jan Benitez does it:
Analyzing your audience’s needs involves brainstorming for a great topic, which is pretty much covered by Kristi Hines in this post. As for my favorite tactic, I go to Google Keyword Planner and search for a keyword within my topic that has a reasonably high search volume. I then search the keyword(s) on Google and analyze the content of the best-performing pages in the result. I review the content and figure out the best points they made so I can include them in my own post. I also find areas of weakness or parts in the content that were not explained properly so I can elaborate on it in the post I am writing.
Once the brainstorming process is complete, write the article using different tools (Grammarly, Hemingway, Trello, Nois.li, Pomodoro Technique) so you can produce a quality article in less time. Grammarly Premium is my favorite and it takes away the guesswork from the editing process so I focus on other things. Nois.li and Trello are great productivity tools to keep my research and outline for the content organized, as well as keeping me focused on the work at hand.
Ann Smarty also explains how she goes from brainstorming to final editing before publication:
The best way to understand what your audience wants to know is to research which questions people ask. I did a detailed article on this: How to Find Niche Questions That Can Inspire Your Writing
Basically, the steps are:
- Start with the research
- Start writing an article when [you’re] still doing your research (depending on how good you are at doing your research, you can actually write a few articles at a time while still researching)
- Edit and beautify (which also includes adding images [and] videos)
Promotion (Stage 3)
This stage in Vernon’s model corresponds to vast scale production, so that product price can go down and lead to more competition. Also, this stage involves reaching foreign markets.
For blog posts, we talk about promotion after publication. Possibly, about vast scale promotion, too – going viral means you have to make less effort to promote your post, because others will do it for you.
In this stage, observe competitors and their reactions, and seek contact with other bloggers and niches.
Your promotion goal is to acquire subscribers or convert your leads into buyers (if you are writing to sell).
You are going to help your post go viral.
Social media promotion is your first step, especially if you have a large following. Niche communities like Inbound.org and Threadwatch can also bring you substantial traffic and get your post before the eyes of an influencer.
Syndication and guest posting are the next step. In fact, you are not only looking for plus votes, likes, social shares and comments – you want community involvement. Syndication and guest posting provide exactly that.
If you have a list, involve subscribers to help spread your content – that can be in the form of a contest, a linkup party, an invitation to discuss the content on a given platform (social channel, forum, blog comments) and much more.
Christopher J. Benitez diversifies promotion strategy according to the channel:
Identify the best promotion channels that maximize your reach with your audience. Examples of different channels include social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), online communities/niche groups (LinkedIn Group, Reddit, Facebook Groups), social bookmarking (BizSugar, Inbound.org, AmplifyBlog, Klinkk), and other traffic sources (Scoop.it, Curata). Once you have determined which sites to target, develop a strategy that lets you promote on these channels seamlessly, i.e. for social media, use tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to do bulk sharing.
Ann Smarty goes in detail with her promotion process. Here is what she does:
- Share on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google Plus (making sure all tools and people mentioned in the article are tagged in each of those social media shares: I’ll generate some powerful re-shares from that tagging)
- Schedule 3-5 more tweets days and weeks ahead using different time slots and wording
- Schedule one more update for Facebook pages (using MavSocial). As a rule, I try to search tweets and shares on the weekends
- Add the project to ViralContentBuzz (with at least 100 credits and 3 categories). This is the most powerful way to generate shares and traffic!
I don’t really have time to monitor conversions (they vary from article to article). I mostly track traffic and bounce rate (maybe also time on page) numbers to somehow estimate the outcome.
Read what BuzzSumo folks found out about going viral after analyzing 100 million articles.
Conversion Peak (Stage 4)
This stage corresponds to the product’s Maturity stage in Vernon’s original lifecycle, when the product is accessible everywhere and is well-known on the market.
For the blog post, all this translates to conversion peaks – a post that converts a lot is a mature blog post, that everybody loves, and everybody finds useful and accessible. When your blog post reaches this stage, you’re generally at advantage compared to competitors and their posts on the same topic.
The Maturity stage is also when traffic reaches higher numbers than your average and provides helpful and interesting data to analyze engagement and use it as a foundation for future success.
Observe the daily traffic trend and when/where your readers started turning into subscribers or buyers. You can perform an analysis of factors that led to the peak in traffic and conversions:
- What action caused the change?
- What traffic sources brought in the most referrals and which converted the most?
- What were the winning factors of this blog post?
Combine the data from search and social analytics with those from marketing – how can you keep the peak period alive for the longest time and keep readers interested in the post?
You may want to consider the following strategies:
- Remarketing via social media and/or search ads
- Spark more discussion around your blog post (web communities, Facebook groups, etc.)
- Guest posting
- Participate in collaborative marketing and brainstorming, offering your blog post as a source (e.g. MyBlogU brainstorms and other collaboration-based platforms)
- Leverage your current relationships with other bloggers to find more ways to keep your post (and your blog overall) in front of the right audience
Indeed, Christopher J. Benitez recommends you focus on relationships and then analyze your winning factors:
Once your article gains traction from these channels, use this as an opportunity to leverage your relationships with different users. Reply to blog comments and follow and repost content from social media users who have shared and/or reacted to your post, depending on the factors you are measuring.
However, by building a relationship with each of them, you can engage them to become loyal followers of your blog and provide them value to help further your blog’s conversion metrics, whether it’s increasing your email subscribers or hiking up your sales.
Also, it would be a great idea to write guest posts on different sites that link back to your blog post. The guest posts allow you to tap the audience of a related site so you can drive more interest to your post from a relevant audience.
From here, you can also review the variables involved through the entire process. Did the writing tools you used help you achieve your goals? What social media channels drove the most traffic and engagement? By reviewing these factors using your choice of analytics tool (Google Analytics, Clicky, Crazy Egg, SumoMe Content Optimization and Heat Maps), you can determine the variables that worked to your favor so you can reuse them on your next post.
Ann Smarty explains how she combines Google Analytics, social ads and other factors to keep traffic coming:
I have set up my Google Analytics dashboard to email me daily and if I see traffic spikes, that’s when I see one of my articles is picking up. It doesn’t happen to each and every article I write and sometimes it happens to older articles too.
The first step is to analyze where the traffic is coming from. If it’s Facebook or Twitter, I buy some ads to keep that coming. If it’s StumbleUpon (this happens often due to ViralContentBuzz), I buy some SU promotion too.
I may edit an article to add some info which I think is more relevant to that particular source of traffic. I also watch comments closely (those need to be addressed quickly to keep the discussion going).
I am also using Monitority which sends me alerts using email, text and tweets whenever my site goes down.
If you haven’t had your server go down because of the traffic spike, you’ve never gone truly viral!
And that’s the major conversion hurdle: when people are coming but your site is down, so keep an eye [out for that]!
If your traffic is going up in spikes, but your sales or subscriber numbers are still low, you may want to read Jacob McMillen’s post at CrazyEgg about why this is happening and what to do about it.
Decline (Stage 5)
In Vernon’s product lifecycle, the Decline stage happens when the product becomes obsolete and is no longer marketable in developed countries.
Even blog posts are subject to obsolescence when either the content, the CTA or the context hardly attract any more conversions, readers, or traffic. This is when the post begins to be seen as outdated and no longer useful.
However, as happens with some physical products, there is still room for sales after decline phase – think of old toys and how they still find an audience among collectors and nostalgia buyers. These products can also be reintroduced in the market under different forms as a bonus or other packaging setups.
The case for blog posts is even easier to handle, as posts can be repurposed as case studies, slides or ebooks. Also, a blog post can be so evergreen that a small update will be enough to give it new life, or you can put the post in front of your readers’ eyes again at a time when it makes sense – think of Christmas home decor ideas and how your post from 2011 may still apply to this year’s Christmas.
How can you keep your post alive even though it’s no longer in its peak period?
There are many ways to ‘revive’ an old post:
- Use social media scheduling software like Jarvis, Klout or Buffer. If you run a WordPress blog, Revive Old Post is the plugin of choice
- Email all subscribers on your list with a thought-provoking message and add a link to your blog post to learn more
- Search Twitter and Quora for questions you know your post answers and add the post URL to your reply
- Write a round-up post and also include your “oldie but goodie” in the mix (and tell your readers why)
- Share the post in blog linkups and blog engagement groups (if available for your niche)
For more content recycling strategies, Jerry Low wrote this fabulous article in 2014 about recycling blog content. (Yes, a 2014 article! Sorry about the pun, it was almost unintended.)
Christopher J. Benitez encourages content repurposing and updating:
You can continue developing a guest blogging strategy that will allow you to tap your audience from different sites [to] keep your blog post out there. Another strategy is to employ content repurposing, which is a process that lets you recreate your post and convert it into different formats (video, infographics, podcast). By diversifying the content types of the same post, you can reach out to more people who process information much more effectively through video or images. Lastly, you can update your post if there are relevant changes that took place which makes your post look outdated. By editing your post to address the different changes, you can keep it relevant over time.
Ann Smarty uses social reshares, repackaging and search traffic hacks:
At this point, I’ll bump up the project at ViralContentBuzz to get some fresh shares, probably share it again. VCB is good at keeping the shares coming because there’s no limit to the live projects, so you can keep them hanging there for ages for them to keep getting new shares.
If I have time, I’ll turn to some repackaging tactic and turn that old article into a Slideshare upload or a video (Slideshare allows clickable links from inside its presentations as well as YouTube allows to link to your site from inside videos so this can bring more traffic).
I’ll look at search engine traffic and see if I need to tweak the title a bit to improve its search engine traffic.
On August 2015, IZEA ran a study to explore into the lifespan of a blog post and its long-term value in the blogosphere. The key findings of this study say that a post receives 99% of its total impressions in its first 700 days before it enters a decline phase, and that it’s important to keep this lifespan in mind if you want to maximize revenue and conversion from your blog posts.
The study also introduces an interesting lifecycle model for blog posts divided into three phases called “Shout”, “Echo” and “Reverberate” that correspond, respectively, to the first 50% of blog post impressions, 72% and then the remaining 28%.
Here is a screenshot from the report:
You can use this lifecycle model to complement the one based on Vernon’s theory as explored in this post.
Longeve Content? It Depends On Your Niche, Too
“How can I make my content as longeve as possible?”
This is indeed the question that this post and the model it introduces tried to answer.
The model itself and the actions you take in each stage do extend the lifespan of your posts indeed, but there’s more.
Ann Smarty says that “steady traffic is more a matter of luck (…) than a strategy”, which is true if you, like her, write in a niche that requires you to review software and post a lot of screenshots and case studies.
Ann shares her secrets to keeping this type of content alive and well, no matter the fact it will never be evergreen:
These sources tend to work well delivering relevant long-term traffic:
- Search engines
- Referral traffic from other popular articles (one of my links I added to an expert interview I participated in keeps bringing sign-ups three years later)
- Goodreads and Amazon (for writers)
- StumbleUpon (if it starts delivering traffic, it will keep going for years). Some say Pinterest is good at that too, but I still have to achieve that effect with Pinterest
Christopher J. Benitez, on the other hand, starts from the foundation of blogging success – the idea behind the topic and how much it corresponds to an existing demand for information. That is, no matter how short-lived or evergreen the topic might be:
I believe picking out a topic that is asked a lot of times in your market, searching for the best keyword(s) to optimize for, writing long-form content chock-full with useful information and actionable tips, and sharing them to the most appropriate online channels where your audience is at are factors I consider when developing evergreen content. Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique is a great example of taking the blueprint of evergreen content to the context of SEO.
As it happens with physical products, lifecycle analysis can help you make informed decisions about long-term blog content strategy, track a blog post’s lifespan and its attractiveness in terms of traffic and conversions – and for how long, giving you data on how your audience’s preferences and interests change over time and how your readers respond to a specific content offer in a specific time and context.
Also, having a model to follow can help you segment the topics in your niche that are more conducive of traffic and profits.