Keepin’ It Fresh: Evergreen Content in 2021 (w/ FAQ)
Originally posted July 25, 2019. Updated July 9, 2021.
Think of your favorite park in your hometown or those pancakes you always order at your local brunch spot. Somethings never change—or they change just a tad bit each year. Maybe last year you had a thing for adding sliced bananas to those pancakes, but this year you’re all about blueberries. In SEO, evergreen content is the equivalent of your friendly, neighborhood flapjack. It changes a little year to year, but is nonetheless, a cornerstone of your breakfast regime or in this case, content strategy.
What is evergreen content?
Okay, so evergreen content isn’t actually a fluffy morning time confection. What evergreen content actually is sustainable, lasting content that covers topics that are not subject to obsolescence and that stays “fresh” for readers. Evergreen content remains relevant long after its publication date and continually provides useful and helpful information to users.
For example, Bon Appétit’s post on “10 Pancake Common Mistakes” contains information on best practices for making the perfect pancakes including using high-quality ingredients, how to mix your batter, when to flip the pancakes, and more. Unless there is a major revolution in how to make a plain old pancake, this content remains relevant to users indefinitely.
However, content covering the latest food trends (think “keto pancakes” or “almond flour pancakes”) or some exciting technology that flips your pancakes for you (Shark Tank, I’m looking at you) would not be considered evergreen as it is subject to obsolescence within months.
Why is evergreen content important?
Evergreen content is important as it continuously builds on your authority as an expert and innovator in the industry, while simultaneously earning and building the trust of consumers. It is also the cornerstone of Topical Depth Optimization. Evergreen content provides long-term value in the form of search traffic, referral traffic, conversion rates, and brand visibility. Well-written, high-quality evergreen content earns backlinks from other websites, educates new consumers and users, and if optimized properly for SEO, captures target keywords and boosts search traffic.
Keep in mind, that producing temporal content, or content with an expiration date (like our Shark Tank-worthy pancake tech), is just as important as producing evergreen content. The two complement one another: temporal content capitalizes on current industry trends and news, and links to evergreen content, while evergreen content is updated periodically to showcase new products or industry insights.
What we often see hindering posts from attaining evergreen status is a lack of depth and routine updates of content, links, etc., as well as an absence of on-page SEO. Here, we’ve outlined the steps to creating evergreen content that keeps users hungry for more.
How to create evergreen content
As with any approach to content strategy, start with your existing content. Some places where you may be able to find evergreen content that you didn’t know was evergreen content, or that is “almost” evergreen include “how-to” guides, tutorials, and product reviews. Take the following steps to either revisit existing content or plan and develop your next series of evergreen content:
1. Choose timeless topics that have variable content.
Choose a topic that is always relevant (i.e. “Top 5 Brunch Spots in Seattle”, but that has content that you can update annually (i.e. links to new restaurants, new menu items, etc.). Creating great evergreen content takes practice and experimentation. However, there are two fundamental questions to ask before creating evergreen content: (1) does this solve a real user problem, and (2) will this topic be relevant in one year?
Develop an understanding of what concepts in your industry consumers or users often find confusing. If available, leverage the conversations your customer support team has, as well as the comments and emails they receive. Look at competitor websites and social media comment sections for gaps in the market that no one is addressing.
2. Conduct keyword research.
After developing a list of potential topics or revisiting existing topics on your site, conduct keyword research to gauge if there is demand in the market for those topics. Here are some of our favorite tools for keyword research and search engine results page (SERP) analysis. Evaluate if the search volume is significant enough that the return in traffic and potential leads is worth the amount of effort to either optimize existing content or to create new content. Examine the keyword difficulty and whether or not you can compete with sites that are ranking well for those keywords. If you find that the topics selected from the previous step are already covered by competitors, consider long-tail keywords that do not have as much competition but that are still relevant in your industry. Also consider addressing common questions or problems from a unique angle.
3. Introduce original research.
One way to ensure that your evergreen content has a unique angle and provides value that competitors are lacking is to use original research or statistics. Using original research makes content citable and therefore more likely to gain backlinks. It also further establishes your identity as a thought leader in the industry. Be mindful of any sensitive information that must remain internal.
4. Write for people, not computers.
Make sure evergreen content retains your brand voice while creating an engaging story for readers. Avoid overly technical language that may confuse beginners—remember, the goal is to solve a problem, not exacerbate it. Keeping content basic, when possible, is also optimal, as advanced techniques are more likely to change over time. Use images to add visual interest to content and to break up large chunks of text.
5. Optimize for search.
With the content complete, it is time to make the finishing SEO touches. Check for natural-sounding mentions of the target keywords and related keywords, and a friendly URL, title tags, meta descriptions, and image alt tags that all use the target keywords. Add inbound links to related content as well as outbound links that can serve as additional resources for users.
6. Update content.
Ideally, evergreen content is refreshed every six months. However, this may vary due to your business model. Regardless of how often content is updated, here are a few key items to ensure that your evergreen content stays relevant to users and search engines after every refresh (assuming your site is hosted on WordPress):
- Update the publishing time and date.
- Login to WordPress
- Enter the page editor for the updated page
- Click ‘Edit’ in the publish frame on the right-side of the page
- Change the publishing date
- Click ‘Update’
- Add links to new content and check for broken links.
- Rewrite any outdated paragraphs and update content where necessary (i.e. new images, products, prices, etc.).
- Update page title and metadata such as headers, title tags, and meta descriptions to include newly relevant keywords and reference the current year.
- Change any CTAs on the page to align with existing conversion offers and goals.
- Refrain from changing the URL.
- Resubmit to Google for indexing.
- Promote the post like any other new post (see next section for details).
7. Annotate changes in Google Analytics.
Anytime changes are made to any piece of existing content or new content is added to your website, make an annotation in Google Analytics. This helps your team understand the impact of your optimizations.
Promoting evergreen content
Whether posting a piece of evergreen content for the first time or refreshing it and posting it for the tenth time, it is important to make sure the target audience knows the content exists, is updated, and how to access it.
- Share evergreen content on social media with organic and paid posts. Add social sharing buttons to make sharing easy.
- Reference evergreen content when guest posting on other websites. Find opportunities to create external links and to syndicate content.
- Highlight the content on your main website (if posting to a blog on a subdomain). Consider adding a temporary banner to the homepage or internal links in other areas of the website.
- Send an e-mail to subscribers. Make sure to highlight any updates (i.e. “New for 2021”) so subscribers do not think that they are seeing the same content repeatedly.
Evergreen content is crucial to a strong, well-rounded content strategy. While getting started with your first batch of posts can be challenging and time-consuming, the long-term value is undeniably sweet.
Evergreen content FAQ
Can I update the URL for evergreen content every year?
When it comes to updating your evergreen content URLs, we typically advise against it — but not for the reason you’d think.
Many marketers fear that changing their URLs could undo all their SEO work, effectively setting them all the way back to square one. Any backlinks their content had earned would be rendered invalid, and all the authority and site traffic they’d accrued would be thrown out the window.
And for a long time, that was true! But these days, Google is a lot better at understanding what you’re doing and passing on link equity to new pages, as long as you do it correctly, through 301 redirects.
So then why don’t we change URLs all the time? The answer is simple: We want to avoid that gap in time between Google recrawling the old page and indexing the new page.
Example: If i’m redirecting /url-1 to /url-2 because I want to change the URL for my content, I need to wait for Google to recrawl /url-1 and understand that /url-2 isn’t a brand new page with 0 search equity, but rather an old page with a new URL. This takes time, and most marketers simply don’t want to wait around for that long.
Whether you decide to go that route is up to you. Just make sure that, if you are changing URLs, you do it through 301 redirects. You should never change a URL by completely erasing the former link.
Why is it called “evergreen” content?
The term “evergreen” refers to evergreen trees, which we know all about here in Seattle.
Evergreens are a coniferous tree that doesn’t lose its leaves in the fall, meaning it stays green year round. As such, these trees are sometimes looked at as a symbol of eternal life. Evergreen content is the same way — it doesn’t change or become outdated with the seasons, so it stays relevant in perpetuity.
Like evergreen trees, which can live to be over 500 years old, this type of content should have the legs to stick around for years to come. That means it should be continually updated based on any changes/updates/discoveries/etc. to the topic at hand.
It’s important to remember that evergreen content isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic. Rather, you should set it and maybe check on it every few months if it’s a page that continually generates value for your site.
What isn’t evergreen content?
To get a better idea of what evergreen content is, we should have a thorough understanding of what it isn’t.
By definition, evergreen content is the opposite of “temporal content” — this includes things like news articles, posts about seasonal trends, and time-sensitive reports and statistics. In most cases, this type of content will age like milk instead of wine, and offer way less return on investment than their evergreen counterparts.
Remember that evergreen content is timeless, and should be just as relevant 5-10 years from now as it is today. This is the kind of content you should be aiming to deliver to your audience. However, we should note that having temporal content isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, in most cases, it’s good to have a mix of temporal content and evergreen content on your site!