Which would you rather create?
A — Awesome content that is super relevant right this minute and gets a ton of clicks today, but is utterly irrelevant and forgotten tomorrow. Which means you need to create equally fabulous content tomorrow. And the day after and so on.
B — Awesome content that is quite relevant for today and just as relevant in 6 months, a year or even 2 years from now. That gets clicks the entire time.
I know, tough call, right?
Except, creating content takes time and effort. So it makes sense to focus on what provides good value for a long time. Therefore let’s go with B.
Now flip the question around and look at it from the website visitor’s perspective:
You come to a website or blog. Look at what’s there and find that only the most recent post is relevant. Everything else seems dated. Old. Probably won’t consider that site very useful. Or worth coming back to.
But what if you come to a website or blog and find a recent post that’s relevant? Plus plenty of other (older) content that’s also useful. Clearly that site is helpful. Worth bookmarking and coming back to.
News sites, fashion blogs and many lifestyle blogs are all about today, right now. Posts from a year ago are so out of date and style and may even be full of broken links. Because the world moves on quickly. Which is entirely fine for sites like that, since they’re all about cranking out new content all the time.
That’s probably not the focus of your website and business.
A mix is the answer
Let’s say there are 100 blog posts on a website. Does it matter if they are evergreen or had a short, passing relevance?
100 posts that were up-to-date 3, 4, 5 years ago and now are not. That does matter.
100 posts that are timelessly relevant. That would be pretty awesome. But might feel a bit like there’s nothing that truly speaks to right now.
On the other hand, a mix of evergreen, as well as today-relevant articles makes visitors feel that the website owner both has their finger on the pulse of things right now, and understands the larger picture of the particular topic.
So visitors are more likely to trust the content and come back.
As a blogger or website owner, you’re therefore wise to create some of both kinds of content: That which is relevant for a very short time. And that which is useful for a long time.
Evergreen content is timely and timeless
We call it ‘evergreen’ because it’s like evergreen trees: green all year around. Not like those trees that are full and green in summer, but lose their leaves in autumn to be naked and dead-looking in winter.
Evergreen trees are always fresh and fragrant.
Who wouldn’t want content like that?
A ‘quickie’ approach to creating ‘evergreen’ content is to just remove all dates and timelines from it. Might even hide the publication date. Except that just makes the content feel a bit lost in space. Not anchored to anything.
Removing all dates and timelines probably will also remove any urgency in the content. If it can seemingly apply any time, why should I bother reading and applying it today? Tomorrow or next year will be just fine.
In other words, good evergreen content needs to both be timeless and timely. A seeming contradiction.
Timely means that the reader sees the value of applying what they learn and discover now. Not someday.
For instance, a blog post published in late November 2022 talking about the “3 things you must do to prepare your business for 2023” is timely and relevant when published. But once 2023 rolls around, it’s going to feel dated. Not timely. Even if the content actually is still very relevant.
Evergreen content can instead use a relative timeframe, such as “in the next 30 days”.
Timely then becomes about helping readers see that they can achieve results for themselves by applying the lessons of the content in their life or business at the time when they read the content. And that doing so will have real results in the very near future.
It’s about imparting a sense of value and urgency for the reader, whenever they read the content.
Another way to be timely is to create content where the reader will recognize themselves and their situation and see that “this is me, in the very situation I’m in right now.” Such content is now timely for that particular reader.
Timeless means that the content has application over a longer timespan. It’s not just for the day or month it was written, but will be valuable over a longer period of time. Could be a year or several years. Some types of content deal with issues and truths that don’t change even over decades and so stay relevant seemingly forever.
Almost every area of life or business has potential for content like that.
When creating content, ask yourself how long this will be relevant for. It’s okay to create content about things that change frequently. It just won’t make for good evergreen content. And we shouldn’t try to pass that content off as such.
Remember that evergreen content doesn’t just stay the same for a long time, but it’s also relevant to the present, whenever you read it. And you’ll feel that if you apply the lessons from it now, there’s a win in there for you. That’s an evergreen winner.
Evergreen is not set it and forget it
There’s no such thing as evergreen content we can create and then just push out there and expect to work forever. It will need regular updates. Because things change. The world changes. Often it’s just little things. Sometimes bigger.
So we should have a plan for reviewing material we’ve created and making revisions/updates as needed. Even take down an article or post that has become truly outdated.
That’s all part of keeping content truly evergreen.
Which is also why a lot of websites/blogs will include both a publication date and the date the article was last updated. To a visitor there’s a huge difference between seeing that an article was written in 2018 or that it was written in 2018 and updated in 2023. Guess which one will feel more relevant?
On the other hand, some bloggers and website owners try to make their content evergreen by simply not displaying a publication date. If there’s no date, the article won’t seem dated, the reasoning goes.
Except it might make people skip reading that content all together. Certainly for anything technical, I’ll look for a publication date before reading. Because a 5 year old article probably doesn’t cover the latest tools.
Evergreen and SEO
When the conversation gets to search engine optimization, a lot of focus is on creating content that ties into current trends. Because it will rank higher in the short term.
However search engines are smart. They recognize content that keeps getting views and is linked to over time. They see if content is shared and stays in demand. A site with that kind of content will be considered more trusted.
Which means that you definitely want to have evergreen content as part of your SEO strategy.
Websites should have articles or pages that provide cornerstone content. That’s content that is key to visitors understanding your business, who you are and what you offer. It builds trust so visitors can become customers.
Cornerstone content is by definition evergreen. It doesn’t change (or at least not very often). Other posts and pages link back to it. It covers the big ideas and helps visitors make sense of your website (and you).
A blogger I know has the usual usual things about himself on the About me page. But he also includes links to 5 or 6 key posts on the blog. Each one gives more insight into who he is and what he’s about. Together those articles provide a convenient, evergreen, way for new readers to quickly get familiar with his writing.
It can feel daunting to come up with evergreen topics. Here are a few ideas to get started:
What questions do you get asked a lot? Write posts/articles answering those questions. Doing so will actually save you time. Because you can now send people to an article instead of having to answer the same question again and again.
Certain how-to tutorials. These should be about processes that don’t change very often. Because nobody likes outdated how-to instructions. It follows that these articles may need to be updated when tools or procedures change. But that’s okay. We just need to plan for it.
Primers. Overviews. It’s your equivalent of a college 101 course that introduces a subject and gives a general overview. This is good for evergreen content, because the overall principles tend to stay the same even as details change.
Examples of evergreen content
Setting up your email list — I created this mini training in 2019 and it’s still relevant. The training video shows setting up the list in Mailchimp, but all the processes and principles work with any mass email service, like ConvertKit, MailerLite or AWeber.
6 ways stories help build your business — A blog post about ways stories help us build our businesses. Humans have used storytelling as a major component of communication for ages. Still applicable in business today and will be years from now as well, even as the media landscape changes.
7 for summer reading and Movies for a long, hot summer — Yes, new movies and books come out, but that doesn’t mean these lists need to change. They’re still relevant. There are many other things that can easily be turned into lists that stay relevant for a long time.
Even evergreen has a best before date
If there’s a lesson from evergreen trees in the forest, it may be this: Pines are beautiful evergreen trees. But their root systems don’t go very deep. So a big storm can knock them over while a deciduous tree nearby stands firm. Plus since the branches are full of needles all year long, when snow and ice comes in winter, branches bend and often snap. They grow fast, but don’t last forever.
Similarly, we can’t just create something, declare it evergreen and expect it to last forever. Even the best evergreen content has an expiration date. A point after which readers will feel it’s irrelevant.
Therefore it’s important to regularly review your evergreen content. By doing some careful updating and pruning, you can extend the life of the content.
With truly outdated content, there are 2 options:
- Remove it and redirect the URL to something related and current. That way human visitors don’t get confused and you help your SEO.
- Create entirely new content on the same or similar topic. Then take down the old content and redirect the old URL to the new content.
Summing it up
Evergreen content should definitely be part of your online strategy. After all, it’s about creating content once and using it in many places over a long time. That one evergreen article can generate shorter versions for social media. Or a video version. There are many ways to use content.
Just because we sent an article to our mailing list once doesn’t mean everyone read it. Or remembers it. Part of the evergreen concept is that we promote content again and again over time. Because it’s still relevant.
It takes a bit of extra focus and planning up front to create content that will be evergreen — both timely and timeless. It’s worth it tough, in the long game.
Remember that evergreen doesn’t mean forever. Regularly review your evergreen content for needed updates and remove items that are truly no longer relevant.
Having evergreen content on your website will help visitors recognize you as an expert. As someone worth coming back to. It’s part of helping visitors get to know, like and ultimately trust you. Because only once that happens can they become your customers.
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