What is evergreen content?
Evergreen content is that which is still interesting and relevant weeks, months or even years after its initial publish date. It doesn’t date like news, and the value is that it can deliver traffic, leads, social shares and can occupy valuable search positions for a prolonged period of time.
This is what we aim for with the majority of posts we produce a Econsultancy. Having previously experimented with more news related content, we have found that evergreen posts that deliver real value to readers are the ones that work for us.
The best examples are aligned with our audience as well as our paid content and other services.
This is a strategy which has worked well for us and has delivered growth in traffic and revenues over the last five years.
Examples of evergreen content
To show you what I mean by evergreen content, here are two examples from our blog.
The first example is a post we published about web dashboards on June 2, 2013. It did well at the time, with just over 5,000 pageviews on that day.
However, as you can see, after the initial spikes, the traffic to this post did not drop off altogether. We tweeted the post on July 1 from our main Twitter account, which created the second spike you see.
Since then, as the Google Analytics data shows, traffic to this post has been steady, with between 5,000 and 10,000 pageviews per week over the course of 12 months.
This article on Google Analytics dashboards is another such example.
It’s an article which is relevant to our audience, as well as being a useful time-saving resource. These factors have helped to give it that extra longevity.
Having achieved just over 15,000 pageviews in the first week after publishing, it has amassed more than 130,000 views over the last 12 months.
As we are targeting the kinds of digital marketing professionals, many with a keen interest in analytics, this has proved to be very valuable traffic for us. Indeed, we can see a number of transactions from visitors who arrived at this and similar content.
This to me is the essence of evergreen content. While we could have published several shorter (and more disposable) articles in the the time spent creating and compiling the Google dashboards article, the effort was rewarded over a longer term.
Evergreen content and search rankings
Evergreen content is also a great strategy for improving search rankings. A piece of news will often do well in Google while it’s topical, but will fade thereafter.
A more useful article will attract the kinds of links and engagement metrics that Google is looking for, and can perform well in the search engines over a longer period of time. It’s a virtuous circle too, as higher rankings means more visits, which leads to more links, and so on.
The two examples I’ve used here both occupy some valuable search positions. The web dashboards article is the top organic result for ‘web dashboards’ and related terms, and is as prominent as many of the paid positions.
Likewise, the analytics article is beaten only to Google’s own results. You can also see that we’ve repeated the trick with other related posts.
These are valuable search positions for us, they help to keep a flow of traffic coming into the site on these terms, and save us spending money on PPC to achieve the same positions.
What makes a piece of content evergreen?
There are a number of factors, and here are some of the most important:
Quality. It has to be interesting to read and useful for readers.
An eye on SEO. Posts should be written with search in mind, so SEO basics should be considered when producing and formatting articles. This means use of relevant keywords and phrases, tagging, and internal linking.
As a result, posts can attract plenty of recurring traffic over time.
Posts should be shareable. Writing a good posts helps, but attention to detail when writing headlines and tweeting articles can optimise the chances of posts being shared widely.
They are relevant to the site’s audience. Consider who your audience is and how a piece of content can appeal to them. Does it help them to solve a problem or find valuable information? Also, what kind of content transforms a visitor into a lead / customer?
Align content to goals. We produce reports and run training courses and events related to analytics. This means that, as the content brings in traffic from searchers interested in the topic, we can use this post to highlight this.
The headline. It has to entice people to click on the article when they see it in search results or shared on social sites. The two examples mentioned here have succinct and descriptive titles and, as evidenced by Buzzfeed et al, lists attract clicks.
It doesn’t date. Of course, the tools available to marketers and what is considered to be best practice changes, but these posts are relevant for at least a year after publishing.
The key ingredients of an evergreen content strategy
Planning. Planning is key, and content is all about your brand. Think about what topics and terms you would like to be known for and plan around that.
Align your brand to your content, and vice versa, in order to attract the right kind of audience.
Use your audience data. By using a mixture of data from on-site analytics, feedback from readers, and sentiment and sharing activity on social media, we can learn a lot about what kinds of content will become evergreen.
For example, we could see that previous posts on Google Analytics had been popular, and were well received.
If you can see that a particular topic or type of content is really engaging your audience, then you should aim to produce content that ticks these boxes.
Don’t be afraid to go niche. Evergreen content isn’t necessarily about being popular. You can target niche search queries which will deliver the right kinds of visitors to your site.
You may want to start by analysing your most valuable customer segment to see how they found your website, and to figure out what interests them. It makes sense to try to produce more evergreen content for people like this.
Using analytics, I can see what has worked well for various content marketing metrics. For example, I can see which posts assisted conversions, encouraged visitors to view related paid reports, and which led visitors to view multiple pages on the site.
Identify your top content for recurring traffic. Look for the posts that are still bringing traffic in weeks and months after they were published.
What is it about these articles? Why do they keep delivering visitors? They may rank well in search engines, 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 has no reason to demote it. You can learn a lot from understanding why these posts continue to do well. If they are working, replicate these formats in other topic areas.
Evergreen formats and ideas
There is no magic formula for producing posts with a longer shelf life, but these are some of the formats that have worked well for us.
Answer questions and deliver 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’, ‘why’ or ‘what’. Site search data is also useful, giving an insight into what people are looking for from your content.
‘How to’ posts. These can prove very popular, because they’re useful (as all good content should be), instructive and potentially timesaving. They are also great for search, as people often type into Google ‘how to…’.
Curate ideas and content. Compiling examples and resources can be very popular and saves time for readers.
Make sense of trends.
Yes, trends date, but some trends are longer-term than others. In our industry, people are keen to make sense of breaking trends and your audience will love you for it.
Evergreen content isn’t all about producing content for the sake of it, just to match content to goals etc.
Instead, it’s about ensuring that the articles you spend time producing are useful to your audience, and that the work that goes into them pays off.
If you produce some great content then it deserves an audience. So give it the best chance to succeed by making sure you get the basics right.
If your article, video or infographic gathers traffic over time, garners plenty of social shares, stays in the SERPs long term, and the engagement metrics look good, then you’ve produced something that was worthwhile.