Over the last ten years, new content types have arisen and lots of great tools have sprung up for creating and marketing content. Video is now ubiquitous, Slideshare has become a prominent resource, ebooks are easy to create, and there’s a plethora of tools and sites with which to share the fruits of a digital author’s hard work.
We have more ways than ever to create content with real Youtility, as Jay Baer calls it. The kind of win-win marketing content that provides real value to readers, and promotes you and your business at the same time. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the static nature of the content we create. We create it, distribute it, and rarely touch it again.
Similarly, our content is like a one-night stand for our customers. As far as your average reader is concerned, “I came. I read. I left.” (If we’re very lucky, there’s also “I shared” or “I commented” and maybe, just maybe, “I subscribed to the blog.”)
As marketers, we want our content to have the longest shelf-life possible. For readers, a trusted author’s post is even more useful if the author is updating it with the latest information. That’s why I think we’re on the verge of seeing a change in content, one that introduces the idea of “living content”.
The concept of the living document has been around for a while in the business world. You or your team create a document—say one that provides instructions for key processes or gathers competitor information. You decide it will be a living document, meaning you’ll continuously update it so that it is always a good source of the latest information. (Or, nowadays, maybe you even create a wiki instead of a document.)
Living content on the web is the equivalent. The idea is to keep your blog post or e-content updated so that it continues to be the reliable resource for others. By being that resource, you can turn your post from a one-night stand into your reader’s regular partner.
Let’s picture a world of living content:
You write a blog post about the top 10 WordPress plugins for SEO. You take the time to find and review these plugins for your readers, and you publish your post. In the world of static content, you’re done.
In the world of living content, you update that post every three months or so, with revised ratings, covering new plugins, and updating information about the ones already on your list. Readers of the original post subscribe to the post itself, and get a notification every three months when you update it. Because the article is refreshed, it gets new notice from the search engines every three months as well, stays high in the rankings, and draws in new readers.
It can take significant work on your part to keep updating your content, which is why I expect we’ll see more and more tools evolve to help. However, there is one method you can use with relative ease right now to turn articles from static content into living content. If you can’t commit to updating your post regularly, you can turn it into living content by adding value through a curation tool that lets you embed content.
Note that I’m not suggesting an aggregation tool. Until they get a lot more sophisticated and allow you to fine-tune the parameters, aggregation tools just add more noise and erode your users’ trust in you as the curator.
Instead you can use tools such as List.ly, Clipsi (full disclosure: I have a stake in Vizit, creators of Clipsi), Pinterest, Scoop.it, Storify, and the like to curate and embed content into your post. For instance, here’s an example of how John Jantsch used List.ly to curate SEO tools for small businesses.
If you want to get the most from your living content or these tools, I recommend you:
- Let users follow your living content. If you plan to regularly update your article, provide a way for people to subscribe or follow just that article. If you use a curation tool and embed it, make sure users can follow the embedded list, board, or story. Preferably, followers should be notified automatically when you update the curated content or your article, drawing them back.
- Include share options. Obviously, your site and any tool you use should allow others to share your living content easily.
- Have a plan and a schedule for updates. It’s only living content if you actually update it. So, put it on your schedule to regularly update the piece or curate it using your tool. If you’ve written a killer post that will benefit from an update (like a top x post), put it on your work calendar to update the content every few months.
- Make sure you’ve considered SEO. Use the usual tactics to get all the SEO benefits of living content, and make sure the engines can find it. If you’re using a curation tool, make sure it has good SEO built-in.
- Consider allowing users to help you. Some curation tools (like List.ly) let others suggest content and allow you to act as a moderator. That means other people can help you to keep your content alive, taking some of the burden off of you and turning your post into a mini-community. Barring that, you can invite people to use the comments on your blog to make suggestions.
And to turn this post into a piece of living content, here’s a Clipsi board with information about tools and techniques you can use to create living content, as well information about the SEO benefits of keeping content fresh. I’ll update the board from time to time. Follow it to be notified. And if you know of any great tools or techniques, send us a link so we can add info to the board.