Lately I’ve been getting quite a few notifications each day about people interacting with some of my older blog content. In fancy internet parlance, this is a sign of “evergreen content”, material that’s still good long after it’s published.
That’s great, but it makes me curious how it happens. New content is easy enough to find, but clearly people also stumble across older content. But how?
WordPress stats can give some indication, but the majority of people arriving on my blog are coming from WordPress, and the stats give no further detail on that. So I’m curious – how do people find these posts?
One possibility is WordPress recommendations. Do you ever notice that in the WordPress Reader it will show you some recommended posts mixed in with the posts from blogs you’re following? WordPress says that it decides these…
“based on what you have recently liked or commented on, and by using collaborative filtering (if you and another user both liked a post, then we are more likely to recommend to posts the other user liked to you).”
There’s also the “More on WordPress.com” section that appears below the comments if you’re reading a post in the WP Reader. WordPress says this is “mostly popular content on WordPress.com that is similar to the current post.”
The WordPress algorithm
Of course WordPress isn’t going to disclose exactly what goes into those algorithms, but it does offer a few hints (text in italics is quoted from the above-linked WP page):
- The title, content, tags, and categories of posts. – Nothing too surprising here, but it’s a reminder that these things matter for your post’s visibility. I’ve always used tags, but only recently did it cross my mind that it was worth using categories as well.
- Total number of likes and comments. – This seems like a no-brainer.
- Who has liked and commented on a post. – From what I can ascertain, this isn’t about getting likes/comments from the who’s who influencer types of the blogging world. Rather, if Jane interacts with my blog and John and Jane interact with each other, WP is more likely to put one of my posts in front of John’s face because of our mutual connection to Jane.
- Total number of followers. – Size matters to WP. No surprise there.
- Who has followed a site. – I think this is also along the lines of my John & Jane example.
- How recently a post was published. – This doesn’t help me on the question of how evergreen content bubbles up to the surface.
- How often or recently a site has posted. – In a way this makes sense, because they don’t want to serve up content from a blogger who’s been radio silence for six months, but I hope they’re not penalizing bloggers who don’t publish ultra-frequently.
- The content of what you have liked and commented on. – I suppose this means that if people have been interacting with other mental health content, WP is more likely to suggest a post from my blog that consists mostly of mental health content.
- Whether posts have links, images, or videos. – I’m a little bit surprised by this one. Links, images, and videos are useful for SEO purposes, but I wouldn’t have thought WP would pay much attention for recommending posts.
How else do people find evergreen content?
I still don’t really know how people are finding my older posts. Maybe it’s tag searches or other searches in the WP Reader, as these same algorithms affect Reader search results. Interesting information, though, and it probably does give some explanation for why I get a bizarrely large proportion of new followers who seem entirely random and as far as I can tell have never even looked at my blog.
Anyway, to bring it back to evergreen posts, which I didn’t really end up talking about anyway, I say write what you want and when you want to, and keep in mind that these WordPress algorithms may be just as buggy as all the other weird stuff that goes wrong with WordPress on a somewhat regular basis.