How To Create a Content Strategy: The Importance of Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is vital to help you win the battle of search. Seasonal and topical ‘event driven’ content is great and should be used as part of your content strategy mix, but often you will see an initial traffic spike, then this will die away.
The benefit of evergreen content is that you can end up with a consistent stream of organic traffic that can grow over time. It’s broadly ‘free’ and saves you money that you would have to spend on other channels.
BUT you have to accept that creating the content now doesn’t guarantee instant traffic. This is why you need to be planning and implementing it right now, in order to see the returns in 12 months’ time (and beyond). Think of evergreen content as your ‘long game’.
This article will show you the results of our study, which clearly shows the benefits evergreen content has had on five websites from completely different industries.
And we will also tell you how you can plan what evergreen content you should be starting to produce now.
What is ‘evergreen content’?
Before we dive into the data, it’s worth confirming exactly what evergreen content is. Despite being a bit of a buzzword when first created, it’s actually stuck around and we use it lots at Fresh Egg as it seems to be the simplest phrase to use.
Evergreen content is defined as being content on your website that has no ‘best before date’. It’s content that someone could read now or in five years and still be relevant.
A caveat to this is that potentially all content can get a bit stale after a while, therefore one good practice is to check on your top performing evergreen content regularly and update it with some fresh learning, extra resources or information etc.
What are the types of evergreen content?
There are several key types of content that are commonly accepted a being ‘evergreen’, including:
- ‘How to’ guides
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Lists of resources
- Definitions (for specific industries or topics)
This content is usually located within specific ‘resource’ or ‘guides’ sections on a website – you would not ordinarily put this on your blog.
Our study – the effect of evergreen content on organic performance
How do we know that evergreen content isn’t the ‘instant remedy’? Well we have the data to show us…
For this study, I selected five client websites from a variety of different industries. Using Google Analytics, I wanted to investigate what happened when evergreen content was created and added to these sites.
All of the data below is just for organic as a channel, as we know that attracting traffic from Google (and other search engines) is usually the key reason for adding evergreen content to a site (although it is often important for users who may well have arrived via other channels).
I’ve just used traffic here as a KPI (with ‘Sessions’ as the metric), but it’s worth noting we’ve also seen these results reflected in the organic visibility of these websites as well – adding this content has increased search impressions for the related topics (hence the increased traffic we are seeing here).
As well as being sector sepecific, some of the content is designed for different stages of the customer experience journey – awareness, consideration, conversion.
All of the data below was tracked from the live date of the content until the end of February 2017.
Case study one: Insurance sector
For this insurance client we created a new guides section that focused on topics relevant to their key audience groups. These were designed for ‘awareness’, as the topics were fairly general and not directly related to insurance.
Date range: 01/08/15 – 28/02/17
Impact: The first few months saw very little organic traffic, however around 5-6 months after going live, the section then experienced a quick rise in traffic to establish around 5000 additional sessions per month being contributed to the site. A slight drop-off was experienced around Christmas (to be expected), but then the traffic has jumped up to where it was before.
Case study two: Professional training and development sector
For this client we had carried out some audience intent research and discovered that there were people searching for information about the company and their services, but the existing content was not strong enough to answer these queries. We created a section around key ‘Why use us’ topics, which included a series of pages to help people who had no knowledge (‘awareness’) of the brand, but also to those who had heard of them, but had searched on Google to read more about them (‘consideration’)
Date range: 01/12/15 – 28/02/17
Impact: In this case, the content gained traction very quickly but then remained static for a few months. No new content was added to this section post-launch, however the level of sessions has increased steadily month-on-month after that initial static period.
Case study three: Health and Beauty sector
Competition is fierce when it comes to the health and beauty sector, so we needed to give our client the edge when it came to using Google to attract potential customers that were searching for topics related to the service they provided. A number of key topics were identified and a ‘Guides’ section (‘awareness’) was created.
Date range: 01/01/14 – 28/02/17
Impact: In this example, it took a longer time for the content to really start to perform, but when it did the traffic came flooding in. What’s interesting is that there are three key uplifts in January each year. Because the traffic is steadily rising during the other months, then I don’t think it’s just down to more people searching in that month. The really encouraging thing is that even after each of those uplifts, the traffic continues to increase.
Case study four: Property sector
With a new website launching, we spotted the perfect opportunity to create a whole new ‘property resources’ section (‘awareness’) for this estate agency client. Again, we had identified that people were searching for these topics on Google, but the quality of the content on offer by competing sites was not always up-to-scratch.
Date range: 01/04/15 – 28/02/17
Impact: Another example where it took a little while for the content to gain traction – in this case, with the website being newly designed and structured it may be down to that ‘newness’. The first increase happens in January, which makes sense being the property sector, however the traffic then steadily increases until an expected seasonal dip in November/December. And this year has seen the section start to capture even high levels than before.
Case study five: Automotive leasing sector
In this example, we had identified that there was a need to include information on this car leasing website for both general motoring advice (‘awareness’) and also specific personal and business car leasing content (‘consideration’)
Date range: 01/10/14 – 28/02/17
Impact : This case saw the organic traffic benefit kick in almost straight away and then maintained a healthy level of delivering around 6,000-8,000 sessions each month until around September last year. I have found that the larger increase over the past few months is mainly down to one single guide page, which has driven around 34% of all of the sessions to the guides pages. More investigation is required as to why this page has suddenly been given more love by Google. One further key point for this content is that as well as driving thousands of sessions, it has also directly contributed to conversions and revenue for the business.
What does this tell us about evergreen content?
Although this study only includes five websites, the results do clearly show some key learnings around the importance of evergreen content:
- Whilst in some cases there has been a period of a few months before the true organic traffic benefit is shown, some have started to see it quickly
- There is an initial investment in planning and creating the content, however in all cases this is likely to have been repaid by the ‘lifetime value’ that the content is providing to the website
- Evergreen content can be used as ‘awareness’ content, but also can be used to help customers make a decision and purchase, for example with the automotive leasing content. Evergreen content can drive transactions and revenue!
- It can take time to grow and gain traction, therefore don’t just measure it after a few weeks and dismiss it – keep on measuring and reporting
- In some cases you might find that out of a whole content hub or collection of guides, one or two individual pages might be contributing to a large proportion of the traffic. These are your ‘star pupils’ so need to be investigated further to understand why they are good and whether you can replicate anything for the other pages
How to use this insight – planning your evergreen content
Knowing that evergreen content can take a while to really start to show the benefits, this means it’s vital to plan ahead and to get started right now!
Here are a few tips on how to start planning your content as part of your strategy:
Search intent – pick a selection of topics that you want to create evergreen content around and use a tool like SearchIntent.co.uk to identify a range of content ideas to write about, based on what people are searching for
- Top performers – analyse your current content to find your top organic performing pages, then simply build out content ideas around these topic areas
- Competitor analysis – take a look at what your competitors are doing (both the usual business competitors and those competing with you in search results for your main topics). This can give you some ideas as to what evergreen content they might have that you can do a better job of
- Answer questions – Use question tools, such as Ask The Public, to find out what the popular questions are that people are looking for the answers to and then create content to answer these
How else can evergreen content be used?
We’ve looked at evergreen content here in terms of the organic traffic benefits it can produce, however it’s a good idea to use the success of your organic content as an indicator of a topic being popular and therefore potentially driving interest from other channels.
Therefore if you do discover your content is getting traction from search you should instigate another one of my favourite strategies – content repurposing (which I wrote about here for Econsultancy).
This technique is where you take one piece of content and ‘repurpose’ it into a variety of different content types and formats, then distribute these far and wide across your social networks, email, document sharing sites, video platforms etc.
By repurposing your evergreen content you are really getting an ROI, but many people don’t take the time to do this.
Would you like a handy way of planning out all of your evergreen (and other) content? Download our FREE Content Marketing and Social Planner
Join the discussion with us at Fresh Thinking Live!