Content moves at a breakneck pace — there are about 41.7 million WordPress posts published each month (and WordPress only accounts for about 22% of CMS usage). This high speed evolution can make content marketing seem not only intimidating, but also...futile. After all, what’s the point in creating something that’s only going to attract a short burst of readers, then quickly grow irrelevant?
Fortunately, not all content is so ephemeral—evergreen content can still be relevant and attract readers years after it’s published, which I personally find comforting. You don’t have to create something that’s on-trend, newsworthy, or immediately popular. Instead, it can be useful, relevant, and sustainable.
Evergreen content like this has a more subtle approach than content that’s meant to be spread and shared quickly. Since it’s more sustainable and timeless, evergreen pieces can build the foundation of your content strategy, while growing your customer base and business.
What is evergreen content?
The defining characteristic of evergreen content is timelessness. Other types of content are generally timely (i.e. relevant to a current event) or time-sensitive (i.e. only relevant for a certain period of time). Readers should find timeless content useful the day it’s launched, as well as 6, 10, 18 months down the road.
The goal behind timely content is to capture a lot of eyes very quickly, which results in a spike of readers that quickly dwindles. For example, one of our promotions specialists wrote this blog post on how businesses can successfully pull off an April Fool’s prank. Like you would expect, this post had a few readers through March and hit its peak number of readers right around April 1. Then, the number of readers quickly fell as April Fool’s Day became irrelevent.
This type of content should certainly represent a large part of your content strategy, because readers want to see topics that are relevant and timely. Timely content also gives you a chance to get in front of readers who are searching for content related to current events. For example, the blog post above was a great way to get in front of people who were searching for April Fool’s Day related content.
Evergreen content, on the other hand, is a much longer play. The goal here is to provide a sustainable, definitive resource to readers. So while evergreen pieces will likely see an initial spike, they will gradually build readers over time. You can see this playing out in the example below, which shows readers who visited our evergreen mobile SEO guide.
Why you should invest in evergreen content
There are plenty of ways in which evergreen content can help your search results, and those are the reasons most often given for why you should create evergreen content. But, there are also very tangible and customer-centric reasons why you should invest in evergreen pieces, which will ultimately impact your business’ bottom line.
- Customer loyalty/trust
You should aim to make evergreen content definitive. Your customers and readers should have no need to look elsewhere for information on your topic. When your customers realize that you provide rich, valuable information, they’ll trust you with their business. One study found that more than half of respondents are willing to buy another product from a company that provides them with custom media. Additionally, 6 in 10 say that after reading a custom publication, they feel like they know more and feel better about the company.
When you provide your customers with valuable information, you prove that you understand their needs and want to make their lives easier, which makes them more likely to trust you, buy from you, and return later.
- Lead generation
Since the majority of consumers are more willing to buy from a brand that provides them with a meaningful content experience, your evergreen content will continue to generate leads for months, even years, after it’s published; it continues to work for you by exposing your brand to new customers and providing them with resources. For instance, this guide to Excel that we created led to 9 people signing up for our online learning platform, DistilledU, in the last year. That’s pretty incredible considering this guide was published in 2011 (and, to be honest, definitely needs a design update).
- Brand authority
Creating definitive, valuable content positions your brand as an industry thought leader. Other brands and experts in your industry will become more aware of your brand, which leads to everything from more sales to industry speaking gigs (which also raise brand awareness).
Buffer is an excellent example of a company using evergreen content to build brand authority. When Buffer was first started, the cofounders were having trouble with brand awareness, so COO Leo Widrich wrote over 800 guest posts, many of them evergreen pieces (you can see an example here), to get Buffer’s name in front of people in the social media space. Using evergreen content like this certainly increased Buffer’s authority in their industry, and it also landed them their first 100,000 customers.
Tips for writing evergreen content
Knowing that evergreen content builds your business is one thing, but actually tackling the blank page in front of you is quite another. Narrowing down your topic and outlining your expectations will help you get started.
Figure out what your audience wants
If you’re going to spend the time, money, and resources on developing a really excellent piece of content, you want to make sure you cover a topic your readers are interested in. You don’t have to do anything super in-depth or complicated in order to gauge which topics your audience wants to hear more about, but make sure you at least sense-check your ideas:
Ask for reader feedback in blog articles/blog comments and through your social media platforms
Go into your site’s analytics and see which content pieces are most popular. Can those topics be expanded on?
Ask your customer service or sales department which questions they get asked most often
Check out other evergreen content in your industry
Do a little research
Once you get an idea of which topics your audience might be interested in, do a quick search to figure out how you can take a unique/new angle on that topic:
Review what’s already been said: Delve into what industry experts say on this topic—this will give you an idea of what’s already out there, as well as provide you with research you can use later.
Identify gaps: Identify what hasn’t been said. Your readers don’t want repetitive information, they want something different and unique.
Note: you don’t have to come up with something new and completely profound, you can easily take a different angle on a well-covered topic. For instance, in my own research I found that many marketers recommend conducting customer interviews, but I didn’t find a lot of information on how to actually do that, so I wrote something covering that angle—I didn’t come up with a completely new idea, I just added a new angle to an existing topic.
Ultimately, your ideal content will address gaps in existing content, your audience’s interests, and your interests as a business.
Narrow your topic down
Usually evergreen content covers a narrow, specific topic, which allows you to get deeply detailed. But while evergreen content has to be narrow, you don’t necessarily have to be micro-focused. Don’t narrow your topic down so far that you don’t have enough to write about.
Create something comprehensive
One of the defining characteristics of evergreen content is that it’s definitive, comprehensive, and exhaustive. After reading an evergreen piece, readers should have no need to look elsewhere for more information. Knowing that your content needs to be definitive can also help you determine how far you should narrow down your topic—if you choose something too broad, then you’re going to be writing a lot to ensure it’s comprehensive.
Create something timeless
As we’ve already talked about, evergreen content is timeless. It should be relevant the day it’s published as well as 12 months down the road. Remember that you can (and should) update your evergreen content periodically, but if your subject will require frequent updates to stay relevant, it’s likely not an evergreen topic.
Tips for amplifying your content
Evergreen content is a big investment, and the last thing you want it to do is flop. There are several ways you can promote your content—you don’t necessarily have to run a full-scale promotions campaign, but a little leverage can go a long way in getting your content in front of more readers.
- Syndication and guest posting
Guest posting can be a great way to raise awareness around your brand and content. In order to save on time, you can submit sections of your content to sites that will syndicate it.
Once you’ve pitched all relevant sites that syndicate content, then you can start creating high quality guest posts to promote your work. You don’t want your guest posts to be super promotional; you want them to be high quality, valuable pieces—just like your evergreen content.
- Paid promotion
Paying for a promoted Tweet or Facebook post is a fantastic way to get in front of new readers who might not have found your content otherwise. We recently tried using paid social promotion for this piece of evergreen content; we didn’t spend a ton of time or money on it, but our efforts sent almost 3,000 new visitors to the content. Paid promotion might not be right for every piece of content, but it can be well worth it.
- Ego bait
Using ego bait in your content is useful for two things: 1) lending your content credibility, and 2) getting industry influencers to share your content. In order to bolster the authority of your content, ask well-known industry experts to contribute to your piece; this is a great time to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to the most influential people in your space. Then, once your piece is live, share it with the experts you asked to contribute and let them know that any social shares are greatly appreciated.
We tried this strategy in our guide to content creation. We interviewed six experts active in our industry (one for each chapter). Not only did they (and some of the brands they work for) tweet the guide out, but our outreach established relationships with these experts.
- Feature it on your website
Don’t let your evergreen content get buried under the rest of your content. You want it to stand out so readers and new visitors to your website can see it quickly. There are a few ways to do this:
Kapost features one evergreen piece of content at a time, right at the top of the fold.
Quicksprout, on the other hand, feature all of their evergreen guides on the right hand sidebar.
- Break it apart
Because evergreen content is so rich and detailed, you can easily break it apart and build other content in different formats. You can create Slideshares, interactive visualizations, video tutorials (think whiteboard Friday), etc. by using and repurposing your content.
We did this with a report we published on the future of TV; the report is 17 pages long, which is perfect for super-interested readers, but the average reader isn’t going to wade through this much. That’s why we condensed the content and created a Slideshare, which got over 14,500 views.
- Update it
Evergreen content should be as timeless as you can make it, but it will need updating from time to time. If you change out your old examples for fresh ones and update any outdated details, readers will continue to find your content relevant.
Content marketing spend is projected to grow at a rate of 10.2% per year, which means opportunities are increasing, but it also means the market is becoming more crowded and more competitive. Using evergreen content as part of your content strategy allows you to create content that will sink in and last in such a quick moving market. In the end, evergreen content can help you grow your business by establishing customer loyalty and trust, growing your brand authority, and contributing to lead generation.
So what about you? Got any advice on creating evergreen content? Feel free to get stuck into adding comments below.