The Problem With ‘Content Decay’… (It’s Not What You Think)

The Problem With ‘Content Decay’… (It’s Not What You Think)

Understanding Content Decay and Its Impact on SEO

Content Decay is a relatively new term in the SEO world, causing confusion even among Google experts like John Mueller and Lizzi Sassman. Despite sounding novel, it simply renames an old issue: the natural decline in user interest and search traffic over time. This phenomenon, often mistaken for a deterioration in content quality, affects both evergreen and trending content. Businesses need to recognise and address these changes to maintain optimal SEO performance.

Googlers’ Take on Content Decay

In a recent episode of the Google Search Off the Record podcast, Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discussed Content Decay. Sassman mentioned she had never heard of the term, prompting her to investigate further. Similarly, Mueller found the term unfamiliar and had to deduce its meaning.

The phrase “Content Decay” might suggest content quality degradation, but it actually refers to a gradual decline in search traffic and user engagement. This decline is typically due to shifts in user interest rather than the content’s inherent quality.


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The Importance of Evergreen and Trending Content

Balancing evergreen and trending content is vital for sustained visibility and engagement from an SEO perspective:

Evergreen Content

  • Definition: Evergreen content remains relevant and valuable over a long period, such as how-to guides, educational articles, and comprehensive resources.
  • SEO Benefits: It consistently attracts traffic, builds authority, and ranks well for broad, enduring keywords.
  • Example: A detailed guide on SEO best practices can continue to drive traffic and backlinks for years.

Trending Content

  • Definition: Trending content capitalizes on current events, popular topics, or emerging trends, offering timely and relevant information.
  • SEO Benefits: It can generate spikes in traffic and social shares, enhancing visibility during peak interest periods.
  • Example: An article on the latest Google algorithm update can attract significant attention and engagement shortly after the update is announced.

How Does User Interest Dwindle?

Several factors contribute to dwindling user interest, affecting both evergreen and trending content:

  1. Perception Shifts: Public opinion and interest in a topic can change over time.
  2. Seasonality: Interest in certain topics can fluctuate based on the time of year.
  3. Technological Disruptions: Innovations can render existing content obsolete, as seen with the decline in searches for digital cameras following the rise of smartphone cameras.
  4. Language Evolution: Changes in how people search for information can impact keyword relevance.
  5. Topic Popularity: Interest in specific subjects can naturally wane as trends evolve.

Diagnosing Traffic Decline

When analyzing a drop in traffic, it’s vital to consider various potential causes beyond just the content itself. These include:

  • User Interest: A natural decline in interest for the topic.
  • Search Engine Changes: Updates to search engine algorithms or new features (e.g., rich snippets, “People Also Ask” boxes) can impact traffic.
  • Personalized Search: Search results tailored to individual users can affect overall visibility.
  • Increased Competition: New or improved content from competitors can lead to a drop in traffic.

Strategies for Managing Content Decay

To combat the effects of content decay and maintain SEO effectiveness, businesses should:

  1. Regularly Update Content: Refresh outdated information to keep content relevant.
  2. Repurpose Old Content: Transform evergreen pieces into new formats (e.g., infographics, videos) to reach broader audiences.
  3. Monitor Trends: Stay informed about industry trends and user behavior to adapt content strategies promptly.
  4. Leverage Both Content Types: Balance evergreen content for sustained traffic and trending content for short-term boosts.

Google’s March Core Update 2024

The March Core Update in 2024 by Google emphasized the importance of high-quality, relevant, and engaging content. This update focused on refining how Google’s algorithm evaluates content, placing greater emphasis on user experience and content relevance. To align with this update, businesses should:

  • Focus on User Intent: Ensure that content meets the needs and expectations of the target audience.
  • Enhance Engagement: Create compelling content that encourages user interaction and engagement.
  • Maintain Relevance: Regularly update content to reflect current trends and information.

The Myth of “Content is King”

While content plays a crucial role in SEO, it shouldn’t be the sole focus. Effective SEO involves a holistic approach, including technical optimization, user experience, backlinks, and more. High-quality content is essential, but it works best when combined with other SEO strategies.

Content Decay, despite its misleading name, underscores the necessity of continuously adapting content strategies to maintain user interest and search engine visibility. By leveraging a mix of evergreen and trending content, businesses can ensure they remain relevant and effectively engage their audience over time. Additionally, aligning with updates like Google’s March Core Update 2024 and understanding that content is just one part of a broader SEO strategy can help businesses achieve sustainable SEO success.


What does “content decay” mean in the context of SEO? Content decay refers to the gradual decline in search traffic and user engagement with content over time. This can result from outdated information, shifts in user interests, or changes in search engine algorithms.

Should all outdated content be removed from a website? Not necessarily. Some outdated content holds historical value or context for the evolution of a brand or industry. Evaluate the content’s relevance and potential for updating before deciding to remove it.

What are the best practices to avoid user confusion with outdated content?

  • Clearly indicate publication and update dates.
  • Provide context for outdated references.
  • Use redirects to guide users to current information.

How can businesses balance evergreen and trending content? Maintain a core of evergreen content for long-term traffic while creating timely, trending content to capture current interest and drive short-term engagement.

Why is it important to update evergreen content? Regular updates ensure the content remains accurate and relevant, which helps maintain search engine rankings and user trust.

What are the risks of relying solely on trending content? Trending content can lead to traffic spikes but may not provide sustained engagement. Sole reliance can result in fluctuating visibility and inconsistent user interest.

How can monitoring trends improve content strategy? Staying informed about industry trends and changes in user behaviour allows businesses to adapt their content strategies, ensuring they remain relevant and competitive in search rankings.

The Comprehensive Nature of SEO

Content Creation and Marketing

It’s been said a million times before – but when it comes to SEO, content is truly is king. High-quality, engaging content not only attracts users but also retains them, significantly contributing to your site’s relevance and authority. Through in-depth articles, insightful blog posts, and informative guides, content marketing becomes a pivotal strategy in boosting your SEO.

Keyword research acts as the foundation, guiding the creation process to ensure content is both relevant to your audience’s interests and search queries.

  • HubSpot: A leader in inbound marketing, HubSpot excels in creating comprehensive content that addresses the needs and questions of its audience, resulting in high organic search visibility.
  • Moz: Known for its SEO tools, Moz also provides extensive resources and guides on SEO and content marketing, which helps in building its authority in the SEO space.
  • Buffer: By sharing valuable content on social media marketing, Buffer has significantly increased its online presence and search rankings.
  • Neil Patel: Through detailed blogs and guides on digital marketing, Neil Patel has become a go-to resource, improving his site’s SEO.


Social Media’s Impact on SEO

While social media does not directly influence SEO rankings, the engagement and traffic generated from well-executed social media campaigns can indirectly benefit your SEO efforts. Social signals, such as likes, shares, and comments, can enhance your content’s visibility, driving more organic traffic to your website.

  • GoPro: By leveraging user-generated content on social media, GoPro has significantly increased its brand visibility and website traffic.
  • Airbnb: Airbnb’s social media strategy, focusing on sharing captivating customer stories, has helped in enhancing its online presence and search engine rankings.
  • Nike: Through strategic social media campaigns, Nike engages its audience, driving substantial traffic back to its site, indirectly benefiting its SEO.
  • Starbucks: Starbucks uses social media to create buzz around its products, leading to increased search demand and improved SEO outcomes.


The Role of Video in SEO

Video content has emerged as a powerful tool for improving SEO by increasing dwell time and user engagement. Videos that are informative, entertaining, or tutorial-based can keep visitors on your site longer, which is a positive signal to search engines.

  • Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches: This campaign not only went viral on social media but also significantly increased Dove’s website traffic and improved its SEO.
  • Blendtec’s “Will it Blend?”: By creating entertaining videos of blending various items, Blendtec not only boosted its brand awareness but also its search rankings.
  • BuzzFeed Tasty: With engaging and shareable cooking videos, BuzzFeed Tasty has driven substantial traffic to its website, positively affecting its SEO.
  • TED Talks: Offering insightful and thought-provoking videos, TED Talks attract a large audience, increasing website engagement and SEO performance.


Advanced SEO Strategies

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

Optimising for conversions goes hand in hand with SEO. Improving user experience and website usability can lead to better conversion rates, which in turn, supports SEO goals by signalling to search engines that your site is valuable to users.

  • Amazon: Known for continuously optimising its site for better user experience, Amazon has seen significant improvements in both conversions and SEO.
  • Booking.com: By A/B testing various elements of its website, Booking.com has effectively increased its conversion rates and organic search presence.
  • Shopify: Shopify offers a seamless user experience for online store owners, which has contributed to its high conversion rates and strong SEO performance.
  • Crazy Egg: Specialising in CRO, Crazy Egg uses heatmaps and visitor insights to optimise websites, enhancing both conversions and SEO.


Enhancing Website Engagement

Enhancing website engagement involves improving the overall user experience through better navigation, faster load times, and interactive elements. Sites that provide a positive user experience are more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

  • Wikipedia: With its simple navigation and comprehensive content, Wikipedia ensures high user engagement, contributing to its top-ranking positions.
  • Etsy: Etsy’s user-friendly interface and personalised shopping experiences have made it a favourite among users, positively impacting its SEO.
  • Canva: Canva’s interactive design platform keeps users engaged, leading to longer session times and better SEO outcomes.
  • Spotify: By offering personalised music recommendations, Spotify ensures high engagement levels, which is beneficial for its SEO.


Technical SEO and Site Health

A healthy website is the backbone of effective SEO. Technical SEO focuses on improving site speed, ensuring mobile-friendliness, and securing user data, among other factors, to enhance search engine visibility.

  • Google: As the pioneer of fast-loading AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Google sets the standard for site speed and mobile optimisation, directly impacting its search rankings.
  • Etsy: Again, Etsy shines by optimising its mobile user experience, ensuring its pages are responsive and load quickly on all devices.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest’s focus on secure browsing and fast loading times for its image-heavy site has helped maintain its strong SEO rankings.
  • BBC: The BBC website is optimised for quick loading times and easy navigation, even during high traffic periods, contributing to its SEO success.


Integration and Collaboration Across Departments

SEO success requires the integration of efforts across various departments, from marketing to IT, to ensure that all aspects of the company’s online presence are aligned with SEO goals. Collaborative efforts ensure that SEO strategies are implemented effectively, maximising the impact on search rankings.


Monitoring, Analytics, and Continuous Improvement

Using analytics to track SEO performance is crucial for identifying strengths and weaknesses in your strategy. Tools such as Google Analytics, SEMrush, and Ahrefs provide valuable insights into traffic patterns, keyword performance, and competitor analysis, enabling continuous improvement of your SEO efforts.

This detailed look at how SEO integrates with various disciplines illustrates that successful SEO is not just about optimising for keywords but involves a holistic approach that encompasses content marketing, social media, technical improvements, and continuous analytics.

By understanding and implementing these strategies, you can significantly enhance your online presence and search engine rankings.