If Content is King, Frequency is Queen
“Content is King” - the cornerstone cliché that online practitioners simply cannot shake off.
Filling your pages with video, images, user reviews and tweaking content for long-tail representation? Content is King. Loading keyterms into an article cannon and blasting a mess of incomprehensible blogs, comments and other link-infused trash onto the internet? Content is King. Writing a post entitled “Content isn’t King” to evoke a reaction, drive traffic and establish yourself as an opinionated thought leader? Sneaky, and proving the point that Content is King.
While this woolly phrase can be wheeled out to justify just about any online marketing tactic, we all know that beside every great man stands a great woman and content alone doth not an online strategy make.
King Arthur has pulled the content shaped sword from the stone; now our epic quest begins to find his Guinevere.
In the first of our "If Content is King..." series, we'll see how Frequency sizes up as Arthur's loyal right-hand woman.
Quality vs. quantity
The need for quality onsite content doesn’t really need to be restated. Getting a site to rank when it has a sliver of useful content is a thankless task, and since early 2011 (when design teams and SEOs began to finally talk to each other and find a middle ground) most modern sites will be adorned with succinct and unique snippets of text that add value for both the reader and the spider.
Time to jump into a hammock, pour yourself a cool beverage and congratulate yourself on making the web a better place? Think again.
Look who came crawling back
No website is ever complete, especially in the eyes of Google. Frequently adding and sustaining a stream of content within your core site, news pages and blogs, means search engines will keep a closer eye on your corner of the web. When changes are expected, your site is seen as a more dynamic and valuable resource.
Does this mean that increased content frequency automatically means higher rankings? Not precisely; being crawled more regularly doesn’t entitle you to ranking improvements, however:
- When you have breaking news to divulge, you’ll be seen as a valuable source of information and appear high up the results pages;
- You’ll earn a greater ‘crawl’ budget, meaning the Googlebot delves deeper into your site, assuming your indexing and site map is set up for this to happen;
- Your long-tail content will be picked up and given prominence, potentially over your competitors’ less frequently updated single keyterm pages.
What’s the frequency, readers?
Of course, blogs shouldn’t just be written for the bots. You want actual people to discover and react to what you have to say, and good content delivered frequently is the key to building rapport with your audience and driving repeat customer traffic.
‘Frequently’ in this instance doesn’t mean constantly, habitually or repetitively, it hints more towards a vague ‘recurring at short intervals’ definition. Establishing the appropriate ‘short interval’ for your readership is the content creator’s proverbial piece of string. Assessing this is possibly the most challenging task for any website owner, commercial or otherwise.
It is very easy to over-saturate a blog, not least because posting quality posts multiple times a day is difficult without dedicated members of staff and an infinite inspiration pool. There are of course blogs and news outlets that exist entirely for this purpose, but churning content out in this fashion through a business website will make you appear over-enthusiastic at best; at worst, you’ll inundate your audience with posts they wouldn’t find useful even if they had time to read them.
Posting twice a week seems to promote growth and return visits in most cases, but this is an area where you’ll need to find your own equilibrium. You work day in, day out on your business and are likely to have a warped view of how much interest people pay to you, so put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Think about your own reaction when you receive updates from the sites and services you subscribe to – those who you ignore or unsubscribe from have their content frequency wrong.
“If you need to take three weeks to do some research, and that research results in a really good blog post , those pieces of content often attract a lot more attention than follow on blog posts.” Matt Cutts, Google
Scheduling, Assessing, Optimising
One of the major differences between human visitors and the Googlebot is that most humans sleep and tend to engage in other activities that aren’t the endless acquisition of URLs. Your content updates need to hit when people are going to read them. At the same time, it’s rarely easy to find the time to create every post on the day it’s needed. How you plan your content to go out requires lengthy (but simple) investigation.
Creating posts in bulk and scheduling them for future publication gives you breathing space. Start out assuming that your content is going to be read on a certain day at a certain time – if you’re reviewing gadgets your traffic will probably arrive during the evening, if you’re providing inspiration for holidays expect it to be during weekday lunchtimes – and observe traffic variations via your CMS analytics tools.
Be prepared to experiment (within sensible boundaries) with frequency, posting date and time over a few months, and track the effect on subscription rates, social media activity, downloads, enquiries, sales and any other trackable business goals to assess the overall effect.
Establishing a frequent content update schedule on your site is less important than simply having quality content, but it’s a significant component of what constitutes a ‘quality’ resource. Google will be more interested in your site, on the basis that your audience will be too.