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Do You Remember ‘The Long Tail’? …Turns Out There’s A Sting In It!

I’d like to ask my readers a marketing-related question that’s been bugging me for weeks.  I’m asking you this question because you’re the only ones on Earth who can answer it:

“Why did the visitation stats on this website go up

after I stopped making regular updates?”


This small, humble, horribly-neglected little blog consistently received more visits over 24 solid months of NO UPDATES WHATSOEVER, than it ever got back when I was updating regularly.

Dont believe me? Then you can check for yourself. Directly below is a clickable screen-shot of the web visitation numbers for this website, as recorded by Google Analytics over the last five years.

Some sensitive information has been blurred out, but the rest of the page is completely unaltered. Click on the image and see the graphs for yourself… Visitation stats 2011 to 2015 Visitation stats 2011 to 2015


Before you ask – there were no other marketing efforts made to promote this blog in the interim – or certainly nothing specifically geared to that aim.

No doubt some of the increase could be contributed to other marketing efforts in my local market of Perth, some would come from organic Google search, some would come from poorly structured search results in foreign territories and so on. (NB: Not many visits from web-bots surprisingly, I already checked that… and no – my own visitation stats are not included in these figures, I’ve excluded my own IP addresses by default since I first started this site, and the settings haven’t changed. Besides which, who want’s to sit around visiting their own blog website THAT many times a day over a five year period?)

As you’d expect, with a complete absence of website updates, my bounce rates (IE: the number of times readers would visit my site, then leave without clicking on anything) were pretty high… but not as high as one would expect – and over 90% of the visitors over that period were new ones, as you can clearly see, which also follows conventional wisdom.

But what really gets me is the return visit rate. This rate was 8% when averaged out over the entire period in question… but my return readership figures are heavily skewed towards the last two years.

Not only did I maintain a constant rate of repeat readership  from numerous individuals over that entire period of no updates,… but over the last two years, my blog’s return and repeat readership rates have very slowly and steadily increased.


My blog is tiny, the content is all over three years old, and there is no real reason for anyone to return once they’d read it all… but still my repeat readership increased, and my pages-per-visit numbers also increased at the same rate… most of it was from my key home-market of Perth… and to cap it all off, the majority of those repeat readers were NOT my current clients. (…yes, I asked them, and they’re innocent.)

As many content marketers will tell you – this is not really supposed to happen… ever! The whole idea is somewhat nutty!

To some people, it appears my previous blog posts about marketing, are more like a favorite book – something worth returning to repeatedly, in order to read it through over and over again… and also something worth telling your friends about.

This is both very flattering, and highly confusing.

The cliche-laden conventional wisdoms about content marketing, run something along the lines of:

“…when you’re living in a 24/7 digital age, marketing content ages like fish! If you’re not making regular updates, and creating new value for readers via a stream of fresh, rewarding content – then you’re not going to keep your audience engaged. You will end up with ZERO chance of holding their attention, their loyalty, or their hard-earned money in your sweaty little fist. “Publish, or die (…and then publish that you died)!” is still the first and golden rule of branded content. Tweet, post, update, comment, rinse and repeat ad nauseam”.

If I was to be brutally honest… (and I usually am, even when it hurts me personally)  – if you had asked ME the same question three years ago, I would have sprouted exactly the same content-marketing wisdoms, just minus all the cliches.

Well conventional wisdom… and me personally … were utterly wrong in this instance.

When it comes to this blog at least, many of the content-led wisdoms I had bought into, are horse-shit (… it feels bloody wonderful being reminded of that, as well as stating it frankly – I get a quiet thrill out of those times I can shoot down conventional wisdom, and tell some stubborn, egotistical, and terminally-stupid Emperor that he’s walking around naked! …even if the Emperor in question happens to be me. 🙂

Part of the reason I stopped writing this blog because I wasn’t getting the return I wanted – it wasn’t generating the leads or larger business audience I was looking for. Turns out, I was simply not looking for long enough.

But that’s the problem when you’ve got marketing data on tap, isn’t it? You don’t need to back your gut or give things time to develop – because the supposed answers are right there – staring you in the face… and who needs professional instincts that were honed over decades, when you’ve got a sea of supposedly hard-data that’s just five seconds old, right?

The standard Long-Tail theory of content distribution consumption states that your audience tapers-off as your content or product ages… but it never truly disappears completely.

Sometimes however, clearly that tail can thicken as it ages, not taper. Your audience can grow with time, not shrink – and sometimes great content is worth revisiting, even if you know how that particular story ends.

Most Hollywood movies follow the traditional long-tail consumption / revenue pattern as they age, with their financial returns and audience diminishing over time. It’s become such a predictable pattern of ROI that as marketers, we tend to think all our content will age like this.

But consider – there’s also movies like The Princess Bride – which had very modest returns when first released, yet it is still steadily pulling in over $1,000,000 in DVD sales a year, well over 20 years after its first slightly-underwhelming theatrical release.

This is the kind of content we should all be aiming for as marketers – stuff that’s worth reading over and over, and that will build our audience as it ages.

I considered quoting my all-time favorite Sicilian movie-midget at this point – and call this whole notion “Inconceivable!” 

But I think I’ll quote the six-fingered baddie Count Rugen instead… and simply say: “…How Delightful!”

Have fun storming the castle folks. 😉