Why Your Blog Archives are (mostly) Useless

This article was written a few months ago on seohotline.com – I thought the discussion on ‘wasted’ wealth in blog archives was relevant here, so I’ve reposted it. Read, bookmark and tell me what you think.

90% Content is packaged for short-term gratification, not long-term value (for the reader).

The post you are reading will (hopefully) spark some ideas in your head – against or for the arguments I’m putting forward here. It will (ok, wishful thinking mode here) start a discussion here in the comments and possibly around the blogging community. If I’m lucky, this post may even be read by people in a week’s time.

But what about after a week? Most posts (insert incredibly authentic-looking statistic here) are forgotten in a week – the high churn-over of content means that we don’t get the time to stop and let the ideas sink in for long enough that they have a positive impact (even though that’s just the first step and not enough to create real value from content).

One of the challenges we face online – parallel to our insane habit of NOT writing timeless content – is that most of the time, our work is forgotten, dead and buried 7 days after its written.

How can you make your content persistent (if that makes sense)? It’s not merely a question of writing linkbait and getting on people’s bookmarks and getting links. Sooner or later, most information is forgotten and it’s left to search engines to unearth them.

If what you are publishing is valuable information, that’s a terrible waste.

I don’t have the heart to trawl through the archives of some of the top SEO bloggers around, but the sheer value in those archives is amazing, and the fact that most of that content is forgotten is diabolical.

I’m aware that this has probably been discussed before, but in my point of view the only way to solve this problem is by developing alternate content delivery channels that bypass the linear context of blogs and news and the daily RSS grind and deliver usable information to readers whenever they need it (without making them resort to search engines, which can be hit and miss in these cases).

There are several approaches that can be used – ‘blog series’ are one, compiling reports on topics (by aggregating posts on relevant subjects) is another.

But the bottom line is this:

Most content delivers far more value to the publisher than to the reader(s).

Fresh and popular content (flagship or link bait, take your pick), with the right distribution, brings a lot of gifts for the publisher – RSS subscribers, newsletter signups, ebook downloads, new readers, links, recognition, etc. Search engine rankings bring in long-term traffic and ad clicks.

But what does this content deliver to the reader?

In most cases, nothing.

The reason I get so frustrated when I read Chris G’s excellent post on blog branding is that I have 3 options for that post, and none of them do me any good:

1) I can hire Chris on that basis and help me with my blogging project (I cant afford him)

2) I can set aside time to brainstorm about ways I can build my blog’s brand and setup a framework that can avoid these mistakes that Chris talks about

3) I can bookmark the post (maybe comment on it and say something witty) and return to it later

The first time I read it, I was in a hurry, tried to do #2 but couldn’t figure out what to do first, so I stuck it in #3 and moved on.

Well, I did return to it today and was struck by the same frustration of not having the time right now for #2 (yes, I know Chris, I’ve read this) because it’s a big lump of a project, there’s little segmenting or any help provided in explaining how I can do one thing at a time and make it work for me.

If you’ve read Getting Things Done you’ll probably have some advice for me on how to tackle this situation (of breaking down a complex project into simpler tasks, figuring out what the next immediate action is and to go and do that). But this isn’t about me.

It’s about the IT manager sitting in (insert politically-correct nation of your choice here) reading your post and scratching his head, wondering how the hell is he going to make this work.

People want – NEED – simple steps. That’s why how-to guides, when they are properly done, work so well.

If this sounds like link bait to you, you’re there, but not completely, because link bait is just a step in content’s evolution. It solves some problems (providing easy to follow advice) but misses out on content delivery and the problem of making such content persistent.

In fact, this situation is harming publishers as well.

Content monetization, in it’s current form, is under-cooked.

There was this post doing the rounds earlier this week about ‘prolific bloggers’ and how there were bloggers who had written more than 1000 posts on their blogs.

Impressive milestone (although I think 5000 posts is a more accurate milestone if you want to judge things like these), but it got me thinking about how under-utilized and under-monetized those hundreds and hundreds of posts were.

Yes, Darren Rowse gets plenty of traffic to his archives, through search engines and blog referrals.

But monetizing your archives through ads and affiliate deals is like taking pennies for locking the golden goose in your attic and forgetting about it.

Content – as it is used right now – is just a means to deliver targeted ads and make affiliate sales. There is little being done to reclaim the enormous value lying in the archives of thousands and thousands of blogs.

A blog post must satisfy several conditions to deserve being read in the first place. It must be relevant to my needs, immediately actionable, easy to follow and genuinely useful.

And even then, it will be forgotten in a week and the author is left relying on periodic mentions, search engine traffic, referrals and bookmarks to get more eyeballs to that blog post. When you have over 1000 posts in your archives, you are bound to leave this phase on autopilot.

7 thoughts on “Why Your Blog Archives are (mostly) Useless

  1. I only partly agree that the lifetime of posts is that short. I think it largly depends on the topic you write about and of course on the quality. A blogger who tries to keep up with news and reports them is less likely to write longterm useful content.
    But if you write a good tutorial about CSS, for example, it’s success can last for months or even years though CSS undergoes changes from one version to the next. Nonetheless people will go one bookmarking and linking the tutorial, if it is helpful.
    From my experience I can tell, that good content constantly brings in good traffic.

  2. Ahmed,
    Usually, if a post is *really* good, I take one thing from it, make it a habit, and forget about it. Good information either turns into a habit, or is forgotten completely, but rarely do humans keep information in persistent memory.

    That’s one useful/practical thing I learned in college;-) Either something becomes a habit or it is forgotten. Even our best memories only continue to be memories because we get in the habit of recalling them.

    I think an article entitled “Writing Habit Forming Posts” might be in order? 😉

  3. It’s a very interesting article. After reading it, I was in a “downer mood” though. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I have the feeling that probably some of the best written content in the history is simply and unfortunately lost in the cyberspace because it’s author is not “wise” enough to bow in front the of the new God, Holy Google. I think , and I speak for myself, now I am gonna be more focusing on short articles and daily updates to satisfy “GooGoobots” but I will spend more time interacting in a human way and forget about the money possibilities. I strongly believe that we will soon reach a phase of ” “fcuk” google ads” and we WILL have to really think of people reading our content as valuable human beings .

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