There are few things more aggravating than going to Google, searching for a topic, and finding all the top results to be articles from 2012 (except on the off chance that's actually what you were looking for).
This is particularly frustrating for a copywriter in digital marketing -- if I'm looking for a resource on social media, content trends, Facebook's latest shenanigans, etc., anything from 2012 might as well be tucked away in a catacomb somewhere.
But it doesn't have to be that way. At least, I don't think it does.
Some blog posts have a short shelf life.
And you know this the moment you decide to write them. Weighing in on something topical like, "Who Will Win the 2014 World Cup" will only be relevant during an extremely specific window of time.
On the other hand, some topics are what SEOs call "evergreen", meaning, they're nearly always relevant. An article like, "How Do They Determine the Odds for World Cup Teams?" tackles a question people will surely be asking again in 2018, and again in 2022.
Here's some food for thought.
What if we didn't consider those evergreen posts a final product once we published? What if we brought readers into the feedback process in order to create an even stronger resource for future readers and searchers?
You see it happen all the time on popular blogs. The author will write a post, and someone in the comments section will take issue with a particular argument, or bring an illuminating point of view to the table, or discredit a certain fact or statistic. The author will usually fix any egregious errors -- that's the easy part -- but when presented with a different point of view, they'll often continue the dialogue in the comments (or just ignore it altogether).
What if we not only embraced the dialogue that arises from conflicting perspectives, but also used this kind of feedback to make our work stronger?
A famous screenwriter once said that writing a great screenplay takes 20 man/years of work. Meaning, one man can write a great screenplay in 20 years, or 20 men could write it in one year. But the point is that the feedback that fuels the drafting and redrafting process is a CRITICAL part of all great writing. And the enormity of that process is vastly underestimated by most people.
But with blog posts, we assume our work needs to be fast. Which it does.
But fast doesn't mean final.
So, in other words, what if we turned the greatest constraint of blogging into its biggest strength?
What if you published relatively quickly in order to tap into cultural ebbs and flows, but used opposing or tangential points of view to strengthen the material? What if you addressed that dissenting comment directly in the post, via an edit?
I think it'd make the piece even more valuable to the next wave of users who stumbled upon it, whether that's weeks later, or years.
The downside to this hypothesis?
It could get overwhelming if you're a prolific blogger, keeping up with hundreds and hundreds of published posts. Keeping them all relevant and up to date. Constantly editing, reworking, and addressing new points of view.
It might be helpful to categorize posts, taking note of which ones have potential as long term resources, and which ones don't.
You could zero in on pieces of "tentpole content" to monitor and strengthen over time as you gather more feedback and as the conversation around your topic naturally evolves.
When the facts change, or new information is brought to light, many bloggers just write a new post. Which effectively renders any previous post about the material obsolete.
Of course, digital content has a built in shelf life, anyway. I doubt you'll find many articles from 2006 hovering near the top of the search engine results.
But I do think that if we change the way we think about blog posts, and start thinking of them as iterative artifacts, we can extend their life span. And turn them into incredible resources that only grow stronger as they age.
Just a thought.