Content lifecycles: cut flowers to annuals to perennials

How long does your content retain its original usefulness?

Looking at different websites I would say you can distinguish at least three types of content based on their longevity. Let’s liken them to plants, since the weather was still fine while I first drafted this post (no longer, alas).

Perennials in content

The cut flowers of the news

First there is basically ‘news’. What happened to whom tends to be interesting for a short while. Mind you, if you’re in a branch with a lot of beginners (or startups), you may be able to offer a single piece of content to each of them at different times as ‘news’. However this type of content, once you take it inside your home, is much like cut flowers: nice, keep them somewhere where you can enjoy them – while they last.

Annual content: change those numbers

Then there is content that will keep for a season – call them annuals. This content is in many ways like your crop of peas. They’ll keep for quite a while and produce tangible results, too, but each year they need replacing by a fresh piece of content with all the right numbers for that year because once their job is done, they wither all the way down to the ground. You’ll need to get a new crop going if you want another harvest.

Evergreen content: do you have any?

And there is the content that’s called ‘evergreen content’ because it tends to outlast the other two by at least a year. But appearances can be deceptive. Most content needs a refresh at least once every two years. That’s not evergreen content, it’s biannual content (erm… is it that time already?).

You can basically get away with leaving a considerable amount of content the way it was for well over a year. But you’ll need to update it at some point, at least by adding the latest facts. Unless…

Perennials in your content garden

Unless your content offers a lot of basic information that doesn’t involve numbers. Or anything else that might become outdated or oldfashioned.

  • That’s a hard one, because in many cases, people like a couple of numbers in a piece of content. Numbers make you feel like you’re getting your money’s (time’s) worth. “7 key tips to drive huge amounts of traffic to your website” is a title suggesting you’ll get more than the usual 3 lame suggestions you already knew which drive one man and his dog to your website.
  • A title may seem evergreen, but the content itself will need a refresh every now and then in some of its details: a bit of editing, new stats, new examples if you used an existing website. New links, if you conscientiously added one to every piece of content you read before writing your own. A whole new paragraph, if you need to show the relevance of ‘history’ to the present.

More often than not, content contains news, and the initiated may well find the tips provided to be correct, but also largely uninteresting. The main selling point is for them is whether it offers quality writing or new points of view (both is best).

Of course, you could call content ‘evergreen’ simply because it keeps visitors flocking to your website. But in that case, try to find out why it’s still useful. It might be for a reason that won’t last forever. If so, you’ll need a replacement for that piece of content – before autumn arrives and you’re left with leaves for the compost heap.

So rather than calling content evergreen when it really isn’t, I’d say there are some good candidates around for the title “perennial content“: the kind that shakes its leaves off in autumn and buds into bloom to welcome the sun in early spring.

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