Want content that never goes stale? That your audience loves and shares? Content that brings in lots of traffic and business? Come on… who doesn’t want that kind of content? And while it seems like hitting all those criteria is the holy grail of content creation, there actually are a few tricks to make it a reality.
What is “evergreen content?”
Don’t worry, this hasn’t become a gardening site. Evergreen content is content that’s always relevant. It’s content that’s useful year round, and hopefully for at least a couple of years after you’ve published it.
How can you tell if you’ve got evergreen content? Could you queue up social media updates for that content, then post them anytime, any month, for the next two, three, even five years? Then you’ve got evergreen content. That content is never going to go out of style.
The opposite of evergreen content is seasonal or news-related content. Something tied to a trend or a recent event like Game of Thrones or the French Open. Those “newsy” pieces are fun. They can get lots of shares and engagement. But what about three years from now? If it’s 2018 and someone reads a title that makes a sly joke about the last Game of Thrones episode, the reader will probably think “Huh?”
Here are some examples of evergreen content:
How to Write an Irresistible Headline
Publishers and writers have been trying to write better headlines for decades. And decades from now, whether we’re sending snail mail or thinkmail, we’ll still be trying to write better headlines.
10 Things My Mother Told Me About Parenting
Parenting is a perpetual topic of interest. People have probably been fretting over their parenting skills all the way back to when we used sticks and stones for tools.
How to Find Peace in a Crazy World
Personal development topics are often evergreen. So is most content related to religion or psychology. At the risk of making a bad pun, gardening is usually an evergreen topic. So are housekeeping and many hobbies.
Here are some examples of not so evergreen content:
What Caitlyn Jenner Can Teach Us About Branding
Despite how sensational a story may seem now, within a few months most people won’t remember it. Even major celebrities’ dramas are quickly forgotten.
How to Get More Instagram Shares
Technology changes fast. The specific instructions you use now to complete a task will probably change before the year is out.
10 Ways to Make Saint Patrick’s Day Greener
Saint Patrick’s Day and all other holidays only come around once a year. The rest of the time, few people will be interested in them.
How evergreen content fits into your content marketing strategy
Evergreen content should make up the anchor content of your site – the core content assets of your business.
Because evergreen content tends to last, most publishers decide to invest in it. Your company’s evergreen content should reflect that investment. It should be detailed, well-researched, well-planned and well-executed.
That usually means it is expensive. But it’s worth the investment. If you can splurge on making even one type of content first-class quality, evergreen content would be a good choice.
Evergreen content is ideal inbound content
The best evergreen content attracts search engine traffic. In fact, it’s typically designed to attract inbound links and to be optimized for search engines. Some people refer to high-quality, anchor content like this as “link bait”. It’s built to be a resource worth linking to. If you had newsy content, you might get a big splash of shares at first, but probably not much action from the search engines after that.
As soon as we bring search engines into this, we’ve got some constraints on what topics we’re going to cover. Before we ever write one word of content or create one image, we’ve got to pick a few good keywords. Then we’ll need to optimize our evergreen content around those keywords.
Hopefully you’ll optimize for long tail keywords. That improves the odds of your content getting ranked. If you choose your long tail keywords right, you’ll also be targeting a keyword that’s used further along in the buying cycle than a more general keyword. That means your conversion rates should go up.
This brings up tying your content topics to pre-defined business goals. You are doing that, right? Your content needs to deliver on business goals like building your email list, or getting more demonstrations scheduled, or more webinar registrations. Usually just getting more traffic is not enough.
Let’s recap before we go too much further. So far, here’s what we want from this evergreen content. It needs to:
- Be on a topic that will still be interesting to our audience 2-5 years from now.
- Be optimized for search engine traffic (and we need to have a realistic shot at getting ranked).
- Deliver on business goals.
What’s left? Oh yes – it needs to be designed and executed so our audience will love it.
How to create content your audience loves
Over the last few months we’ve talked about a number of different tactics to find out what your audience craves.
- There are surveys.
- There’s checking analytics data.
- There’s doing competitive research.
- There’s checking Amazon and other retailer’s product reviews.
- There’s setting up a “listening station” on social media.
- There’s checking blog post comments on niche sites.
- There’s doing a content audit to see which pieces of your content are delivering the most results.
Those are all viable ways to find out what your audience is interested in. Your evergreen topics are in there among that general pool of potential topics. But you’ll need to do some filtering to surface the best evergreen topics.
Remember, we want content that
- Will be relevant 2-3 years (even 5 years) from now.
- Will get good search engine traffic and linking building opportunities
- Can be leveraged to meet business goals.
- Is something our audience is actively interested in.
Not all the potential topics you uncover are going to meet all those criteria. And some of the topics that do meet that criteria will meet it better or worse than others. So how can you sort all those topics and all those criteria out?
You can build a little table of topics and their criteria. If you keep things simple and rank the criteria from one to five (one being worst and five being best) you’ll start to see your ideal evergreen content topics emerge. This is not the only way to come up with evergreen content ideas, of course. But it can help with the decision making.
Here’s an example for a dog-training site:
*1 is worst, 5 is best.
** For search traffic, you’ll need to decide how much competition you’re willing to go up against. If you’re a tiny marketing department with very limited resources, you may need to go after keywords that have barely any competition. If you’re got a large marketing department, you might have a shot at some more competitive terms.
What to do with your evergreen content topics?
What you may find after all that research is that you basically want to create a course. This is an approach many of the most successful marketers have taken. Many companies and solo professionals choose this route, too, as do affiliates and bloggers.
There’s a lot of reasons why courses work so well. One is because as you educate your audience, you shape how they view your niche. That makes them more receptive to your ideas about your niche, and thus more likely to agree with any conclusions you draw. It also makes them easier to sell to, because you’ll have built up a lot of trust by “educating” them. You’ll also have leveraged the principle of reciprocity, which basically means that by giving them all that great free content, they’ll feel just a wee bit like they owe you. That also makes them easier to sell to.
Courses are also good as a content structure (and strategy) because you can have them branch off to more advanced topics. You also get a chance to show your expertise – another valuable benefit.
If you were just creating a bunch of funny videos, for instance, instead of creating a course, you would be entertaining people, and maybe getting a lot of engagement. But you wouldn’t be showing people why they need your product and what they could be doing with it. That’s why courses are better than, say, funny videos or cartoons, though those can have their place for some comic relief, too.
Even evergreen content will need to be updated
One last tip about evergreen content: It needs to be updated. Update your content at least once a year. And please don’t try to cheat and just leave the date off your content. That’s worse than just having a date that’s a year old. Content without dates on it is immediately under suspicion. So please leave the dates on your content.
The whole exercise of content marketing is to get our audiences to know us and like us and trust us. Don’t build all that expensive content only to undermine people’s trust in it. You want to be building content and trust for the long-term.
Have any thoughts, ideas, or your own experiences with creating evergreen content? Share with us in the comments below what you think!