Why You Should Use Analytics to Discover & Optimize Your Best Archival Content


Real-time content can certainly be valuable, but there’s a place for archival content in your marketing strategy as well.

The Web (and marketers in particular) continue to obsess over real-time. It is put on a pedestal by many who fall victim to the trap that they have to see everything new now or believe that is only way Web communities work.

Of course, this isn’t accurate. Smart professionals across industries I speak with frequently timeshift the real-time Web, for they understand, as Seth Godin calls it, the high cost of now. In many cases real-time isimportant. Conversations, breaking news, and information that provides a significant enough advantage to get sooner is worth playing at the edge to get. It’s even fun.

But by just focusing on what’s new now, many have forgotten (or in some cases never understood at all) the value of archival, authoritative, and useful content. Or “pillar content” as some call it. Today I was thinking how some may need a few reminders about the importance of high-value archival content, and why you should use analytics to find, optimize, and reproduce the best stuff from your site’s archives. After all, your data will tell you the pages on your site that consistently get the most amount of traffic are likely not the newest.

Some of the Most Popular Sites on the Web Thrive on Archives

Sites like Wikipedia, eHow, Quora, and even YouTube thrive on their archives. It’s not just that this content is found via users seeking something specific in a search engine. That’s extremely important on its own. Beyond that, when discovered, this content is frequently re-shared back into user’s streams as if it’s new, or to provide context into a conversation happening now. The point is that this content has a lot of value. However, if you’re not investing the effort to publish and optimize, you can’t tap into it.

High-Trafficked Pages = Organic Community Funnels

If you have high-trafficked archived pages which receive 5,000, 10,000, or even 50,000 organic visitors per month (all possible), a certain percentage will opt in to receive your next updates if (the pages are) optimized for that outcome. Due to the nature of this type of content, it will naturally grow an opt-in community. The next time you have something new to share, you’ll have more activated, interested users taking action. Developing high-trafficked pages on your own site is one of the smartest, yet ignored, tactics on the Web today. Most social platforms just amplify what should already be a bread-and-butter tactic in the toolbox of every marketer. Analytics will immediately give you answers what pages are generating strong top-of-funnel results – work to conduct A/B tests on these pages to see if you can get this top-of-funnel traffic to convert better.

Modern Companies Build on Their Narratives Through Archives

An extremely frustrating thing for me as a user (and blogger) is when a company removes a page I’ve linked to on their site without explanation. It happens again and again, and it’s almost always done by those that think “well if it isn’t new, it isn’t useful.” These folks are unfortunately not digital first. It makes no sense, as these brands are losing link equity and frustrating users. Plus, I have a hard time justifying linking to people who remove archives again as I think they may take it down. Digital-savvy companies don’t do this – they see their archives as high-value from an inbound traffic standpoint. They also understand the opportunity to build on those narratives by updating the page with links to new stories on the subject, highlighting them in future round-ups or otherwise reimagining that content.

Archival Content Might Not Be “Flashy” to Some, But Generates Incremental Results

Many marketing pros obsess over “flashy” ideas. I use the term in quotes as at one point many thought websites with long flash intros were cool (even though users hate them). Building up a useful and threaded archive helps your brand build incremental results across search and social (if executed properly). It allows you to bridge the past with the future and provide context for real-time, helping establish trust and leadership. Of course, this is hard work, which is why many don’t see this type of content as “flashy.” Maybe it’s not. But it creates a platform where you can generate buzz for creative ideas while also owning your category bit by bit. It’s also legitimately useful for users, which beats flashy any day!

In summary, I am not denigrating the advantage of being first with information or attempting to win the day’s attention by living at the edge of the stream. There is a ton of opportunity there, as smart communications pros like David Meerman Scott point out. There are also plenty of great uses for real-time analytics. But in tandem, work to build assets which have archival value and are a reference point for the rest of the Web long term. The Web, and your readers, will thank you for it.