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Evergreen content can drive plenty of the right kind of traffic to your website over the long term. It is one of the best returns on your investment into content, as it is a gift that keeps on giving, and should be a key part of your content strategy.

In this article I’m going to try to outline the strategic value of evergreen content, to help you understand exactly what makes something long-lasting, and I shall provide a few pointers on what works (and what doesn’t).

First, let's answer the question. What is evergreen content? Simply put, it is the kind of content that does not grow old quickly. Think about how to guides, and other reference material. Evergreen content is often useful, and it doesn't need to be updated too often. 

Let's start by looking at an example...

AN EXAMPLE

Here's an article featuring 14 examples of scrolling websites, which I put together more than a year ago. By my reckoning, this makes it 'evergreen'. No leaves have fallen off, and it continues to deliver the goods, as you can see from the stats:

I find it slightly staggering that a post on the relatively niche topic of scrolling websites delivers more than 15,000 page impressions a month, but there it is. Perhaps this is the reason why:

This is a classic compendium post, which also has an educational element to it ('that tell a story'). A sweet spot, as far as evergreen content goes, given that it ticks two boxes. I don't remember precisely, but that probably took me no more than two hours to research and assemble. That one post generates four figures worth of monthly ad revenue alone for us, which represents a rather good return on investment.

So, what is the key to producing strong, evergreen content? Here are 15 tips... and no doubt there are others that you might want to suggest / check out in the comments area below.

PLANNING

1. Find your sweet spot

Remember that content is all about your brand. Given that your evergreen content is likely to rank well, if you do the right things, the key question to ask yourself is 'what do you want to be known for?’. Align your brand to your content, and vice versa, in order to attract the right kind of audience. 

2. Mine the gaps

A little research can pay serious dividends. Spot trends as early as possible and try to catch the wave before it breaks. Google Trends is a useful tool in this respect... note the rapid growth in these two hyped-up buzzphrases:

 

 

3. Create fresh, timeless content

Evergreen content should feel fresh, regardless of when it was written. The active voice helps, and be sure to set the quality bar nice and high. Think ahead, and avoid anything that will sound old hat in a few years. You may need to update your content. Let's take a dictionary as an example, given that a dictionary is probably the best example of evergreen content that I can think of. Words evolve - some may say 'devolve' - over time, and meanings change. Dictionaries are updated for this reason. 

4. Go niche

‘Evergreen’ isn’t a synonym for ‘popular’. Be prepared to target very specific search queries. You may want to start by analysing your most valuable customer segment, to see how they found your website, and to figure out what makes them tick. It would make sense to try to produce more evergreen content for people like this.  

5. Identify your top posts for recurring traffic

What is it about these articles? Why do they keep delivering visitors? They may live at the top of Google, but why? Normally it is because they are well-written, and have earned plenty of links and social shares. Content like this is there on merit, and if the clickthrough rate is good then Google will have no reason to demote it. You can learn a lot from understanding why these posts continue to do well. Replicate these formats in other topic areas.

TIPS

6. Beware dates!

Adding a date can immediately render your content ‘old’. Timestamps in headers cannot be avoided, so let’s not worry about those, but it is worth swerving on phrases such as ‘The Olympics took place in London last summer’, when writing articles. News obviously grows old very quickly, as does news analysis / news-based opinion pieces. Events are date-specific too. Stats and trends can grow old quickly too, though there are exceptions to the rule.

7. Embrace dates!

Some content is evergreen precisely because of seasonality factors. Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day. Traditional / religious holidays. These things loop around year after year, and seasonal search spikes can deliver big traffic. As such, creating evergreen content for these events is a good idea (ideas / tips / how to guides, etc).

8. Work the emotions

Emotions elicit a response from people, and it is vital to make people feel something when you are creating content. Make them appreciate your help. Shock them. Give them a belly laugh. Be a contrarian. Take a look at Unruly Media's 12 video sharing triggers, to understand the power of various types of emotions.

9. Add plenty of internal links

Be sure to push Googlebot towards your evergreen content by linking to it via other articles, and promoting it elsewhere on your site (and beyond). Similarly, you should use plenty of internal links in your evergreen articles, to make the most of these visitors (and help push these pages further up the Google ladder). 

10. Make the most of other content platforms

You can extract more value out of your evergreen articles by spinning out slideshows and videos, and distributing them on the likes of Slideshare and YouTube. People use these platforms to unearth the good stuff, and the cream tends to rise. Smart content marketing folk will use them to extend reach, claiming more share of search in the process.

FORMATS

11. Answer questions and deliver real value

Most obviously this means creating content that is genuinely helpful. This could mean educational content, as people often search for answers to specific questions on Google. Find relevant questions and provide some answers by creating the right kind of articles (and other forms of evergreen content), which may become long-standing and well-ranked reference resources. You can use Google's suggested queries for ideas, by prefixing a query about your key topics with 'how' or 'why' or 'what'.  

12. Make sense of trends

This one is a slight curveball, as trends date, but some trends are longer-term than others. Spot and make sense of breaking trends and your audience will love you for it. Content that helps people to understand nascent trends is well valued, and social sharing can go through the roof. My scrolling websites post is a good example of this.  

13. Learn to love lists

People seem to sneer at lists, but authors know better than to hate the list format. A crappy list is a crappy article. A strong list is a strong, shareable article. Readers love lists as they are easy to skim read, to digest, and normally do what they say on the tin. Lists accounted for a large proportion of Econsultancy's top posts published in 2012.

14. Become a curator

Many of my evergreen posts are essentially compendium posts. I tend to collect examples as I see them, and will often share a few of them on Twitter (as a note to self, as much as anything). Then, at some point in the future, I will run an advanced search on Topsy to find them all. If I have four or five examples I’ll hunt for some more, aggregate them, and quickly bash out a blog post. Readers really seem to appreciate curators these days.

15. Learn how to transform news stories

News articles are easily replicated, and tend to be very samey, but a news story can provide you with a nice jumping off point. Figure out how to spin news stories into something more long lasting, more unique, and more useful, such as a 'how to' guide. 

What else works? Please leave a comment below to let me know what I've missed! 

Chris Lake

Published 22 May, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Elliot Jones

Good advice... I'd add one to the list myself... don't waffle / remain concise. Just because you're trying to make it timeless, it doesn't need to be war and peace. I often find the docs I reference again and again have the bitesize info I need in manageable chunks.

Great info though Chris!

over 3 years ago

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

using data can also be effective as long as you can update the content when new relevant data comes along. After time the page should become a mixture of a compendium and historically linked page for reference time and again.
http://www.gibedigital.com/blog/apps-vs-mobile-sites-which-best-your-retail-business is an example of this at work.

over 3 years ago

Tim Aldiss

Tim Aldiss, Consultant/Director at ThinkSearch

Chris what you missed is that your scrolling websites post was just a year ahead of it's time and of course penned by an influencer! ;)

This is where the topic is today (NY Times) http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/21/snow-fail-the-new-york-times-and-its-misunderstanding-of-copyright/

Seriously though I guess that's part of he point right... write for now and the future. Great post. Thanks for steering content in the right direction!

over 3 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

Hi Chris,

Great article!

One thing I would add is that the date issue is an interesting one and relevant to certain content types. We realised some time ago that date had a significant impact on bounce rate, but that this could be countered in a couple of ways (couple more tips for you..):

- showing clearly recent (date visible), semantically related content front and centre, within the article (not in the right bar) will significantly increase click-through
- signposting content as a think piece (as opposed to news / post) by using different content type layout, and removing date if appropriate, will increase engagement with that piece.

as a sub point to that, where engagement is high on evergreen content the bottom of the article becomes a place of potentially high click-through rate if you again show contextual relationships (or other content CTAs) - people are at there most engaged when they have read something interesting.

great stuff, thanks.

angus

over 3 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Elliot - Absolutely. There's a balance to strike: you have to provide enough value for something to be genuinely useful, but bang on about things forever and people lose interest. TL;DR syndrome!

@Tim - It's a bit like buying shares. Everyone wants to buy at the bottom and watch the graph curve northwards. But the reality is that the average punter normally needs to see a bit of northwards graph before buying. I think it's a bit like that with trends. Plenty of people had written about scrolling websites before me! But, the topic was still taking off. I should probably finish off that post about big data...

@Angus - Thanks, and great points. I lose trust in posts that do not show a visible timestamp, either in the header or footer of a blog post. Makes me think: "When was this published?" Your point about the footer of an article is spot on. It's one of the most valuable places on the page for content sites. We need a 'related posts' unit there. It's also prime real estate for savvy advertisers.

over 3 years ago

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