By “different types”, I am not talking about formats, such as those described in this post by Chris Lake. I’m referring to four basic categories into which you can group your content.
In this article I will explain the analysis that led to the results you will see here.
Studying the traffic to every blog post of one website, I categorised each blog post as one of four types:
- Topical: including news as well as blog articles based on timely events that were in the news.
- Promotional: any blog posts directly promoting the business, but also blog posts extolling the virtues of the services offered by the publisher.
- Instructional: posts that tell you how to do something, or giving step by step instructions.
- Knowledge: posts that may be educational but without providing instructional advice.
Diligent publishing over time creates momentum
Before I delve into the nitty gritty of the analysis, here’s a graph showing the momentum of traffic to the blog. This shows traffic each month for 24 months.
What this graph shows is the rising traffic over time as more posts are published on the site. As you can see, in the last six months, more traffic landed on older posts than on freshly published ones.
In order to explain this data more, let’s look at how the numbers were gathered.
The analysis of 422 blog posts
In order to carry out this research, I studied the traffic to 422 blog posts on the Red Rocket Media website. I was looking for the answer to two things:
- Which types of blog post achieve the best long-term traffic results?
- What proportion of traffic in any given month goes to older content on the blog?
Using Google Analytics, I looked up every landing page URL within the blog. I then exported visit stats for each individual month, for each blog post.
I also recorded the month in which each blog post was published. This gave me a table that showed, for each month, per blog post, how many visits that blog post received, only where it was a landing page. These graphs do not show total page views, only entries where the blog post is a landing page.
In the graph, ‘visits on new posts in month of publishing’ includes only landing page visits to blog posts that were published in that same month.
Generally, for the first year, the trend shows that most entries to the blog land on new posts. Once those posts age, they attract less entrances. However, in the second year, this changed. Older posts were attracting far more visits than newer ones, in aggregate.
Evergreen content performs better for the long term, but it is the type of evergreen content that makes it interesting.
Topical posts have a short shelf life
As you might imagine, posts that have a time-sensitive nature are less likely to attract entrances to the site over the long term.
The graph below shows only those posts classed as topical.
The number of topical posts published is rising steeply. By their nature, they gain instant traction on social media as they are promoted and shared.
There is a trend here showing that, over time, more entrances come into the site from the historic posts, but that is also because the volume is constantly rising, so there is more content attracting traffic.
The telling information here, though, is the months with big spikes. In these months, one or two blog posts received a lot of social shares and drew larger numbers of visitors, but these gains were not carried into subsequent months.
Promotional posts show a similar pattern
As you might expect, promotional posts show a similar pattern. February, April and June 2013 had successful posts which did retain some of their momentum in the second months.
Examples of posts in this category have titles like ‘Why journalists are key to content marketing success’.
These types of posts do attract engagement, and they do attract entrance traffic once they are not fresh, but nowhere near as much as the other two types of post detailed below.
Knowledge posts show more momentum
Compare this graph with the Topical graph. Both have a steep rise in the frequency of posts, but in this one the historic posts are stronger much earlier in the momentum cycle.
An example of a post in this category would be ‘How Google+ Extended Circles work’.
Instructions win hands down
The instructional posts are the strongest of the lot. People tend to search the internet for solutions – trying to find out how to do things – so it’s not surprising that Google tends to like showing solution-based, instructive content.
Look at the amazing difference in the graph. Very early in the cycle of publishing, posts more than a month old were attracting people into the site. In the last half of year two, most of the traffic to the site was coming from historic blog posts – some of the top traffic generators on the site are more than a year old.
Popular posts such as ‘How to hide your Google+ Circles’ have repeatedly attracted traffic, not least because Google clearly seems to think they perfectly answer questions regularly asked by many people.
Does this mean everyone should start publishing ‘How to’ articles and nothing else? Absolutely not.
If we all did that, these graphs would change because search engines would start ranking things differently again, to cope with all the spam that would ensue.
Your content strategy should contain a mixture of post types. Topicality and time-sensitive newsjacking can help attract short term traffic, instructional evergreen articles will help people find answers over the longer term.
Promotional posts and knowledge posts can be evergreen too and they serve a different purpose.