Why Old Content is the King of Content Marketing

Older ManYou don’t need more content. You need old content. I know, that’s not what you usually hear, so stick with me.

Old content is the real king of content marketing. It’s why established publishers still have a huge advantage. It is why new successful publications like Huffington Post or Copyblogger really aren’t all that new.

Better content isn’t enough when your competitors have good old content.

Old content is the reason content marketing takes so much time, in months or years of calendar time, not in hours of effort, to reach its potential. And it is why you need to start now, before all of your competitors get their old content established.

How big of a difference does old content make? Let’s look at it two different ways.

1. Search Results

Below are organic search results for three B2B marketing oriented searches.

Buying B2B Email Lists Search Results
buying b2b email lists search results

B2B Advertising Search Results
b2b advertising search results

B2B Marketing Strategy Search Results
b2b marketing strategies google search

Here’s how the 29 first page results break down:

  • Only 6 are current pages (content from within about the last month or fixed pages for this year, such as current award pages)
  • 8 are between 1 month and 1 year old.
  • 15 of the first page search results are for pages that are more than a year old!

More than half of the search results were for content that is more than a month old, and less than 25% was for current content!

Age was determined using a variety of factors for pages that were not dated, including the content of the page itself, for instance pages referring to the beta launch of Google+ would have been labeled old, and the age of the domain for home pages or product pages. There are likely some pages that have been updated, such as homepages or product pages, within the last year that would be labeled old in this analysis, however most of them likely existed before and have simply been refreshed.

2. Increased Site Traffic

Not only does old content continue to capture search traffic, the library of content you have created over the years will become a key driver of traffic and growth. This is the real reason why it takes calendar time for your inbound or content marketing program to deliver on its full potential.

Below is a chart showing the growth in traffic for this blog (B2B Digital Marketing, in case you are reading this elsewhere). The chart shows monthly page views, split between new and old content.

Old Content Traffic Growth

In 20 months, monthly pageviews on new content increased by 130%. In contrast, monthly pageviews on old content increased nearly 10x!

For 8 of the last 9 months, old content represented more than twice as many pageviews as new content. And it started at a fraction of current content pageviews 20 months ago. (The blog was already 8 months old, there was plenty of modestly older content available then.)

Even though the number of monthly posts has dropped, and with that, the monthly work that goes into publishing, traffic continues to steadily increase. This is the advantage of older content, in action.

A Cautionary Note

Does this mean quality doesn’t matter? Promotion doesn’t matter? Design doesn’t matter? Video doesn’t matter? Of course it still matters!

Everyone can, and will, follow the content marketing advice of the day. But old content is the one thing you cannot just create. It doesn’t matter how impatient you are, it takes time for your content to age.

Your Turn

Do you put enough value on old content and the advantage it provides? Share your opinion on the value of old content in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: moodboardphotography via Flickr cc

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Comments

  1. Mindaugas Jancis says

    Although the idea is very interesting, I don’t see any valid arguments that OLD content is the key to high rankings. You even can’t say there’s a correlation here because 14/30 pages are less then 1 year old and 16/30 are more than 1 year old.
    The method for determining OLD website is also faulty since the age of domain is not the same as the age of the content itself. So if the page has been updated within this year, it should be labeled as new. To my mind, 90% of the TOP10 search results pages have been updated during last year, so this would mean that NEW content is the key to high rankings.
    The domain age has some impact for SEO but it is nothing compared to the backlings good websites accumulate over the time. Yet again this has nothing to do with the content itself being OLD.
    I must also present an actual trend that has been spotted by SEO specialists recently. After latest Google Search engine updates, fresh content easily wins over old content with a lot of backlinks. If OLD content was the king, there would be NO fresh content (up to 1 month old) on first page at all. And now many SEO pros are getting frustrated that after months of hard link-building somebody puts a video on YouTube and it propels you to the TOP10. And Matt Cutts is yet to talk about this.

    • says

      Thanks for commenting and apologies for the slow response.

      I’ll try to clarify a couple points:
      1) I consider content to be older after just a couple months, not a year. By that judge, most of the content listed on the first page of search results is “old” and the more long-tail terms you use, the more older content tends to be included.
      2) This isn’t just about SEO. As you can see in the chart, older content is a key growth driver. It is found through search, social media, even people searching on the site. The library of content that is developed over time is valuable to your business.
      3) The key point here is to get started creating content. The advantage of a large established library of high value, evergreen content gives you a sizable advantage. You can do everything else even if you start five years from now, but if you wait, you lose the advantage of the content you develop over that time and the lessons you learn during that time.

      Thanks again for the comment specific on the SEO upsides of newer content as well, it is clearly a clarification that needed to be added.

Trackbacks

  1. […] You don't need more content. You need old content. I know, that's not what you usually hear, so stick with me and we will look at some numbers to see why it is so important.Condensed…Old content is the reason content marketing takes so much time, in months or years of calendar time, not in hours of effort, to reach its potential. And it is why you need to start now, before all of your competitors get their old content established.How big of a difference does old content make? Let’s look at it two different ways. 1. Search ResultsHere’s how the 29 first page results break down [of three B2B marketing oriented searches]:Only 6 are current pages (content from within about the last month or fixed pages for this year, such as current award pages)8 are between 1 month and 1 year old.15 of the first page search results are for pages that are more than a year old!More than half of the search results were for content that is more than a month old, and less than 25% was for current content! 2. Increased Site TrafficNot only does old content continue to capture search traffic, the library of content you have created over the years will become a key driver of traffic and growth. This is the real reason why it takes calendar time for your inbound or content marketing program to deliver on its full potential. [SEE CHART] In 20 months, monthly pageviews on new content increased by 130%. In contrast, monthly pageviews on old content increased nearly 10x!  […]

  2. […] You don't need more content. You need old content. I know, that's not what you usually hear, so stick with me and we will look at some numbers to see why it is so important. Condensed… Old content is the reason content marketing takes so much time, in months or years of calendar time, not in hours of effort, to reach its potential. And it is why you need to start now, before all of your competitors get their old content established.How big of a difference does old content make? Let’s look at it two different ways. 1. Search ResultsHere’s how the 29 first page results break down [of three B2B marketing oriented searches]:Only 6 are current pages (content from within about the last month or fixed pages for this year, such as current award pages)8 are between 1 month and 1 year old.15 of the first page search results are for pages that are more than a year old!More than half of the search results were for content that is more than a month old, and less than 25% was for current content! 2. Increased Site TrafficNot only does old content continue to capture search traffic, the library of content you have created over the years will become a key driver of traffic and growth. This is the real reason why it takes calendar time for your inbound or content marketing program to deliver on its full potential. [SEE CHART] In 20 months, monthly pageviews on new content increased by 130%. In contrast, monthly pageviews on old content increased nearly 10x!  […]

  3. […] You don't need more content. You need old content. I know, that's not what you usually hear, so stick with me and we will look at some numbers to see why it is so important. Condensed… Old content is the reason content marketing takes so much time, in months or years of calendar time, not in hours of effort, to reach its potential. And it is why you need to start now, before all of your competitors get their old content established.How big of a difference does old content make? Let’s look at it two different ways.  […]

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