Evergreen content – how to write articles that last

We talk a lot about content at Vertical Leap – you probably noticed. The internet is a rather greedy beast that needs to be fed constantly. Any content marketing specialists will tell you that, in order to attain and maintain visibility on Google, Bing or social networks, you need to keep producing new content.

That assumption is not always correct because there is more to it than just volume.

Regular and frequent content helps domain authority

You know the saying about today’s news being tomorrow’s fish and chip paper? That truism also applies to the majority of internet content. Your status posts on Facebook and Twitter will be forgotten in a few days, the news you publish on your website may get interest while it’s news, but that interest will wane.

The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph etc – any daily newspaper – trades on brand reputation. People buy The Guardian to read a collection of stories, not just one story. They could choose any newspaper to get a similar collection of stories, but they choose their favourite brand.

What makes that brand a recognisable and popular one? It’s a big and varied mixture of timely and popular content, lots of it, delivered every day along with columns, opinion pieces and features. Most news stories don’t live beyond a couple of days, so it’s not one specific news story that makes or breaks a brand. Frequency and regularity creates a newspaper brand.

That’s why, as content marketing professionals, we often advise you to keep producing content, all the time. The more you produce, the more your brand builds a reputation for producing content.

This would be great if you are trying to be regarded as an authority for news and information about a specific subject area, but there are other types of content that can benefit your business over the long term.

How evergreen content gives you longer-lasting traffic

Let’s compare a couple of graphs from Google Analytics. The first one is a graph for a nine month period for a news story that we published on our website.

Evergreen content traffic graphs

The second graph shows the traffic for a blog post we published more than a year before the graph was saved. You can see that it continues to attract traffic and that, in recent months, that traffic shows a rise.

Why is evergreen content valuable?

The story in the graph above is pulling in around four page views per day. Not an exciting number, I agree, but, as the website grows, this could improve. The important thing is that this is steady traffic. Here are some benefits:

  • Most of the traffic to the article is coming from Google searches. This steady click-through ratio from Google sends good signals to Google that the article is still useful to users. Therefore, Google will continue to rank the article in search results.
  • Being able to view traffic to an article over time enables you to get a better understanding of what your visitors are interested in. How did they arrive on the page? How long did they stay? What else did they do afterwards?
  • If an evergreen article is generating traffic constantly, this is a signal that you could provide more of the same or perhaps even a service or product that you are not currently offering.

How to create evergreen content for consistent traffic

There’s no absolute formula for creating successful evergreen content, but here are some rules to follow, along with some observations based on my own experience.

  • People want to know how to do things – writing articles about how to do things, and remembering to include “how to” in your headlines. You can’t do this every time though, so think about other things people might search for.
  • Write about what people are looking for. Customers might be looking for information about how to change a fan belt on a washing machine, replacing a DVD drive in a PC or choosing colours for wedding suits.
  • Think about longevity. Will the information in your article go out of date? Have you written it in a way that means it will feel old when read in six months’ time?
  • Think about length. Have you ever searched Google for tips on something and seen a list of articles offering ‘five tips about…’ or ‘ten tips on…’? Check out the competition and offer more. Users may be more likely to click on the search result offering the most tips.
  • Don’t skimp on words. If you are truly trying to provide usefel, informative, timeless content, don’t under deliver on your promise.
  • Be an authoritative author – Google uses expertise, authority and trust as a ranking signal.
  • Use images – a lot of your traffic may come from people searching on Google Images.
  • Use additional references – quote from other experts, link to their articles and promote a wide range of information in your articles. The fuller your information is, the more you are a useful reference. Google likes useful references – much more than it likes articles just thrown together for the sake of it.

And this is the most important bit

You probably know about the importance of backlinks – you know, other websites linking to yours. If you have a popular article that people link to, you are sending good signals to search engines that the article is worth promoting.

However, recency is a key factor. Let’s say you write an article today and ten or even twenty bloggers link to your article, that’s great. Google and Bing will perhaps give your article a good ranking because it is fresh and it is clearly popular. Over time, that ranking will erode, as the article ages and as the search engines see no new links pointing to it.

If your article is a timeless source of extremely useful information – a reference point for others – it will continue to attract new links as more and more websites link to it. Wikipedia benefits from this because it is an information resource. If you can produce information of that calibre, such that people never tire of referring to your article, you have cracked it.

In summary, frequency versus longevity

The best mix of content you could produce would be a frequent and regular stream of truly evergreen content. In reality, a mixture of news and evergreen is a good combination. Understand, though, what you are trying to get from both.

Steve Masters profile picture
Steve Masters

Steve (RIP) was Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing.

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