Writing and publishing for content marketing is a lot like tending to a farm. Every plant has evolved to fill a different need, the same way blog posts, news stories and white papers all serve different functions on a brand’s website. An olive tree needs to be cultivated over generations before it’ll produce anything, but a tomato plant can spring up in a single summer. By the same token, an eBook might require a lot of research and planning, while most websites conceive, write and post multiple news articles throughout the day.
Like running a farm, content writers and marketing managers need to have the right balance of every format to reap the most rewards, which is why shelf life matters so much. Some types of content are meant to be quickly created, quickly consumed and rapidly updated, while others take longer to create but ultimately stand the test of time – and producers need to know how much time to dedicate to various projects to be effective.
While every company has its own process and timelines, this guide gives you an idea about the amount of time to spend on each type of content you produce.
Production timeline: Daily
News of any kind, whether it’s in written form or as video round-ups, has to be produced quickly and efficiently so it can share information while it’s still relevant. That’s why a good news article will go from conception to research to publication within days, or over the course of a single day if you have the resource. Taking any longer than that will reduce its accuracy and runs the risk of making the piece irrelevant by the time it goes live.
News trades its short expiration date for timeliness. An article that contains excellent breaking information and relevant analysis won’t be as useful to read a week later. That’s why they’re produced in shorter timelines and in higher volumes than other types of content. Google also uses recency as a general SEO indicator – its Freshness Algorithm assigns some weight to websites that are updated frequently.
Production timeline: Varies – days/weeks
Benefits: Traffic, thought leadership, engagement
Blog posts don’t have a set production timeline simply because blog content can be anything from timely news analysis to lists of best practices to interviews with thought leaders. But as a rule, most blog posts take the form of meatier topics and often include unique perspectives or personal opinions. Whereas news stories are meant to be ephemeral and consumed quickly, a blog post can stand the test of time.
An in-depth guide will be valuable (and shareable) for quite some time, while blog posts offer commentary on industry developments.
White paper/Case Study
Production timeline: Weeks
Benefits: Thought leadership, lead generation
A downloadable resource, like a white paper or a case study, naturally takes longer to produce than short-form content. But that’s by design, because these materials need more in-depth research and hard data to back them up. Rather than being reactions to short-term industry developments, white papers will in theory be relevant for a long time to come.
White papers need to have some last power if they’re going to generate enough interest and leads to justify their investment. Customers wouldn’t offer contact information to read any old news story from a month ago, but a case study or data-rich white paper is going to be a lot more incentivizing to prospects.
Production timeline: Weeks/Months
Benefits: Traffic, engagement
Given how much information infographics contain, they will naturally have relatively long production timelines. On top of the time it takes to collect relevant, eye-catching data for the graphic outline, designers have to conceptualize and produce custom graphics for this format to be an effective content marketing tool.
Infographics are worth the wait because they’re incredibly appealing in organic search, as well as social media. An infographic that contains recent data or timely information will get lots of shares and show up in SERPs frequently, but graphics a year or two removed can continue be valuable contributors to a brand’s online success.
Production timeline: Weeks/Months
Benefits: Lead generation, thought leadership
As far as thought leadership and lead gen are concerned, the eBook is the ultimate culmination of a brand’s content marketing strategy. This type of content is to a white paper as a white paper is to a blog post: The increases in production and shelf life are equivalent, and so are the benefits (in theory).
Companies will often produce a single eBook each year, summarizing their positions in their own industries or providing an annual resource full of in-depth research from the past 12 months. Of course, brands with extremely active content marketing strategies can produce more, but they are aware that the shelf lives of their various eBooks will often overlap.
Production timeline: Weeks/months
Benefits: Traffic, engagement, lead generation
Because a landing page or other static website copy is one of the first things users encounter after arriving via organic search, it isn’t updated daily, weekly or even monthly (unless the company is overhauling its offerings or strategy). It should remain static, both to provide consistency for traffic metrics and visitors.
Landing pages should stand the test of time because what they’re saying provides tangible value to customers. Brands only need to turn these types of content over as it becomes necessary to do so. For example, an updated product line, or a new business approach to a changing industry, should be reflected in updated website copy.
Optimizing content shelf lives for coordinating campaigns
There are a lot of similarities between content marketing and agriculture. Our infographic, The Content Cycle, looked at how the growth of a single resource can produce the seeds for many other types of content. The reason why they’re so comparable is that online resources take on a life of their own on the web. A good marketer doesn’t share a news story, infographic or eBook with customers – she cultivates the right environment for it and hopes it flourishes.
Knowing how long a piece of content is going to take from cultivation to results is essential for effectively dividing company resources. With the right mix of daily news stories, weekly videos, monthly whitepapers and yearly site copy updates, a marketing strategy can really take root and form the foundation for brand awareness for years to come.
Want to learn more about how timelines affect content marketing? Check out this resource on posting frequency.