One key strategy in managing the costs (and stresses) of content marketing is making it scalable. One thoughtful white paper can become a series of blog posts, a webinar, a video, an infographic, an interactive quiz, or anything else you can think of. With a slow-burn schedule of rolling release dates and a full set of social actions around each piece, you can get a lot of value for the original research and writing investment.
Another way to scale your efforts is to create “evergreen” content. Evergreen content doesn’t get dated over time, but remains relevant to an issue or topic for the longer term. Which means that you take the time and trouble to create it once, and it continues to draw traffic over a long period of time. As Kevan Lee pointed out on Buffer, talking about blog posts, “As long as the post can be linked to and gain traffic long after it is originally published, it qualifies as evergreen.”
The Oreo effect
Most content marketers work hard to stay timely. We review trends, we interview thought leaders, we jack news items (see “Oreo: You Can Still Dunk in the Dark”) or celebrity gossip when we can; we like to announce new products or partners, break fresh ideas and create conversation. We can get buzz this way, and draw attention to our brand. All good.
The problem with hot fresh breaking-news buzz is that it gets dated pretty quickly. What worked for you yesterday morning may have gotten tired or saturated by yesterday afternoon, and by today it’s stale. You have to come up with something else and do the work all over again. It’s taxing. And it’s expensive, in terms of time and talent.
Evergreen content, in contrast, may cost more to produce in the beginning, but you can amortize the costs over a much longer period, making it a great value. And it serves a different purpose.
Beyond awareness, to interest and exploration
Fresh timely content helps create awareness and interest and works to generate new leads; evergreen content helps position your company as a solid, knowledgeable player, which in turn helps prospects ease into the funnel with growing comfort and confidence in your capabilities. You need both.
Creating awareness is excellent; you want to be top-of-mind when someone gets interested and decides it’s time to consider purchasing a product or service in your category. Once that light goes off, people move into the exploration stage and begin the research to learn more about what’s available (first) and which vendors to consider (second).
Content marketing is your best friend and staunch ally here. The content on your website (pages, papers, eBooks, videos, blog posts, and so on) helps visitors understand who you are and what you do, and displays the character of your company. The visitor is looking for fit between their interests or needs and what you offer; they’re also interested in your level of expertise and professionalism, and how you perceive them.
Evergreen content should meet those needs, by addressing topics of perpetual interest to new buyers in a way that conveys your authority and confidence, and your strong desire to help people solve problems.
Examples of evergreen content
Evergreen content is informational, and should stay consistently relevant for a relatively long period of time – months or years, depending on the volatility of your industry. When it genuinely meets the needs of prospects (and is properly optimized), it’s probably going to be search engine friendly, helping you with consistent engagement and page ranking.
Typical examples of evergreen content include:
- Papers and books: Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. It still sells well in the 21st century because it addresses perpetual problems in a basic, useful way.
- How-to articles: Papers, articles and blog posts that tell people how to accomplish a task will remain consistently evergreen. Think “10 Steps to….”
- “About Us” pages: These pages give insight into your company and its background while at the same time providing a place to shape your business personality.
- Historical material: Articles discussing the history of your company or the development of your field are always going to be relevant.
- Video: If you can include video on your website, you’re more likely to capture the interest of both casual browsers and current customers. Video tours of your company, how-to videos, or historical videos are good candidates.
- Infographics and other visuals: Explanatory graphics or visual step-by-step directions will be appealing over the long term. These serve both prospects want to understand more about your company’s approach to a problem and existing customers who expand their efforts and discover a need for that type of information.
What’s Not Evergreen?
Any content including particular dates or a schedule is likely not evergreen. Examples:
- Event announcements
- Press releases about company news such as awards, big deals, new partnerships, personnel changes, or other one-time occurrences or temporary changes
- Yearly trend forecasts
- Seasonal or holiday-related content
- Content tied to news
- Sales or limited offers such as introductory offers
Creating Evergreen Content
As you plan the creation of your evergreen content, remember that it must be interesting, relevant, and timeless. It should appeal to your customers and potential customers now and in the future
- Choose relevant, useful topics. Produce content that’s useful and interesting for your unique target audience, and write it in clear, simple prose with lots of bullets and white space. Make it a narrow focus, and aim for creating a piece that’s the most definitive on this topic.
- Optimize. Use you keyword/phrase well, with plenty of synonyms. Make sure the metadata is scrupulously accurate. If it’s a video, add a transcript so the search engines have something to search. Simon Penson of Search Engine Watch gives tips on how to optimize longer content (2,000+ words) for SEO.)
Pay attention to your use of words. Stay away from putting dates in anyplace they aren’t needed (do use the publication date of research you quote), and refrain from phrases such as “last May” (two years from now, it won’t be “last May” anymore).
- Keep your audience in mind. Relatively basic content will serve you well, as successive waves of new prospects researching your niche will be at the beginning of their search.
- Present the content properly. Some types of content will work better in different formats. Think about videos, infographics, and interactive content such as quizzes. Shorter informational pieces might work best as a blog post. An information-packed how-to article could easily deserve permanent space on your website. A lengthy and detailed topic might support creation of an eBook or white paper.
(A note about those short blog posts: Search engines seem to be appreciating longer content, even up to 2,000 words, so “short” is relative. You piece should be as long as it needs to be to deliver the goods; no longer, no shorter.)
- Include multiple links: Include several links within your evergreen piece. These links should connect back to other blog posts, relevant sections of your website, or to article collections or resource sections. These internal links serve the reader who’s gotten interested and wants to know more – and you definitely do want them to stay with you for further exploration. Plus, internal links such as these improve your search engine rankings.
- Review for updates. If a piece of evergreen content is performing well, check on it once in a while to see if it needs to be refreshed.
- Promote your evergreen content. Link to it from blog posts on related content, build a social campaign around it, or offer it on a third-party or syndication website.
One of my favorite examples of evergreen content is a post on this very blog. Kaila Strong, an SEO expert with Vertical Measures, wrote a guest post for us called “5 Reasons Why Exact Match Anchor Text is Bad” which we published on July 31, 2013. From that time until now, this post has been our most-read post every month, outscoring its nearest competitor by two-to-one. If you Google the long-tail keyword “exact match anchor text” you’ll find this post at the #2 position on the search engine results page.
And if you’re looking for information about anchor text, this definitive page about exact match anchor text links to a basic page on link building as well as to a post on 10 ways to vary anchor text, to round out the picture.
Your evergreen content may not be the most-read on any given day, but it will perform consistently over time, scaling your content marketing efforts and enhancing your SEO effects. What’s your experience? Do you have pieces of content that perform for you day after day, month after month … year after year?