Most web content is barely alive, even when it is first written. It is pumped out by content mills, optimized and uploaded. This kind of bulk content is often referred to as backfill content. I prefer the term “landfill content.” Dead and rotting from day one.
In sharp contrast, living content is quality content. It is shared quickly through social media—because it is worth sharing—and takes root across the web. Better still, true living content is updated and added to on a regular basis.
Let’s look at the attributes of these two types of web content.
Defining landfill content
Landfill content is written primarily for the search engines. Working from a list of strong keywords or phrases, marketers aim to create a new page of content optimized for each phrase.
The purpose of this content is to please or mislead the search engines, and achieve a page-one position in the search results.
The focus is on volume, and not on quality.
This kind of content can achieve its purpose very well, particularly if the strategy is employed by an authority domain. The site’s historical authority lifts the landfill content pages higher in the search results.
But there is one huge downside to this approach. It’s a customer killer, and a brand killer.
When a visitor’s first experience of your website is through one of these low-quality pages, they get a very poor first impression of your site, company or organization. They won’t become customers, they won’t return to your site, and they certainly won’t share the page through Facebook or Twitter.
That’s the fundamental problem here. Bulk content is written to impress the search engines, and not your visitors.
And, as you know, only people buy. The Googlebot will never become a customer.
Defining living content
The first thing to say about living content is that it is written for readers, and it is written well.
Beyond that, it falls into a couple of different categories.
Category one is content which is fresh.
It’s about what’s happening this week, today, this hour… right now.
You have only to look at the growth of Facebook and Twitter to recognize that people love to know what’s happening now, and now, and now.
Certainly, evergreen content has its place on most websites. As an example, a search for “how to descale my coffee maker” can lead to a page that doesn’t change much over the years, if at all. The answer to the question will probably always remain the same.
But marketers and editors should be aware that fresh content is immensely popular, and sharable. And this doesn’t mean simply adding a Twitter feed to your old pages. It means creating fresh, new and timely pages which address people’s desire to find out what’s happening, and what’s new.
If your content isn’t fresh, and living, why would people want to tweet about it? Spend some time on Twitter and Facebook and you’ll see that old content gets very little exposure.
Google also recognizes people’s desire for fresh content. Its query deserves freshness algorithm lifts fresh and trending pages in the search results.
Category two is content which is regularly updated.
Let’s go back to the search for “how to descale my coffee maker.” A page answering that question could remain the same indefinitely. But it could also be updated. A video could be added. New tips could be added for different types of coffee makers.
In this sense, living content means that no content page needs to remain static. New information can always be added.
Perhaps the best example of living content is Wikipedia. While traditionally, with print encyclopedias, the information was printed and permanent, Wikipedia entries are constantly being updated.
With living content you have a reason to create fresh links to old pages, as and when they are updated. You can tweet about them, and add links to Facebook.
In short, when a page is no longer fixed and static, it becomes fresh again—and worth talking about and worth sharing.
It’s never too late to bring content back to life
People like fresh content, new content and living content. They seek it out every day, through their computers and their smart phones.
If you want people to come back to your site more frequently, and feel more inclined to share what they read, you need to move away from the landfill content model, and move towards creating more and more living content.
It’s what your readers want. And if they can’t get it from you, they will find it elsewhere.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.