Evergreen content can be defined as content that doesn’t have an expiration date. It stays fresh, useful and relevant no matter when someone reads it, with minimal to no updates. An evergreen tree keeps all their leaves year after year, through all seasons. For content to be considered evergreen, it should maintain relevance regardless of its publication date.
Content that is not evergreen quickly becomes outdated and irrelevant. Most of the content published by the news media is not evergreen content. A story on the 2016 US Presidential Election, however well written and memorable, it’s outdated as soon as the election finishes. David Foster Wallace wrote a fantastic piece for Rolling Stone on the 2000 Republican Primary campaign of John McCain. It’s an outstanding piece of journalism that’s delightful to read, but people hardly do anymore, because it’s outdated.
Some topics are easier to turn into evergreen content than others. Most cooking recipes are a good example of evergreen content, and probably one of the reasons the Cooking section of the NYT was able to launch their own subscription service with great success. People will search for a good recipe for pasta all’Amatriciana at any point in time. But beware: a Thanksgiving recipe won’t be considered evergreen content, as it’ll only have relevance in the days before Thanksgiving.
Other topics rich in evergreen content opportunities could be healthcare, wellness, fitness, or parenting.
In contrast, topics like sports are dominated by current events content that becomes quickly outdated. But you still can produce evergreen content on those topics. An article on the different basketball positions or explaining the NBA drafting process would be examples of evergreen content in sports.
Content that is seasonal, focuses on holidays or on repeating events is not evergreen, as interest will increase and decrease over time, depending on the time of the year. The same happens with reports and statistics, which become outdated as time passes and more data becomes available.
Fashion, politics, technology or TV shows and pop culture are topics that are difficult to turn into evergreen content.
Evergreen content has distinct benefits over content whose relevance fades after time:
- Workload efficiency: From a content management point of view, evergreen content can be reused and re-run in the future, with minimal updates. You can still provide relevant content to your readers while keeping workload to a minimum.
- Introduce new readers to your expertise: Basic and introductory content makes great evergreen content that can be used as a reference for new readers to get up to speed with the topics you usually cover.
- Steady source of traffic: If the topic is chosen carefully, you’ll get a steady source of traffic to your website long after the article has been published.
- High search engine rankings: Evergreen content usually satisfies informational queries very well, so it tends to rank higher than other types of content for this type of search intent.
Why evergreen content is important for SEO?
For most websites, evergreen content should be one of the pillars (but not the only one) of any successful SEO strategy. They key resides in finding a balance between producing evergreen content that provides a long-term steady source of traffic and taking advantage of short-term trends and fresh keywords with explosive search volume.
When thinking specifically about SEO, evergreen content has several key benefits that have a positive impact on your SEO.
Evergreen content has long term value. It’s reference content which will be generating new links for a long time after it has been published. And as this content never or hardly ever goes out of date, it maintains the links it generates over time. This makes evergreen content a link magnet that will dominate search rankings for the keywords you’re targeting and benefit your whole website.
High-quality content on topics related to your area of expertise will help you establish your authority and develop trust with your audience. This authority will help you increase your click-through rates and will help improve the rankings of your whole site.
Your evergreen content can become your cornerstone content. You can grow your site around that cornerstone content in a hierarchical way that is easily understood by both search engines and users.
Drives search traffic from core keywords
The main benefit, of course, is the steady flow of traffic and high-rankings you can achieve in your core keywords. You can dominate the keywords more closely linked to your business by developing evergreen content that answers informational queries.
To get a sense of the benefits of evergreen content for SEO, look at the results from these two different pieces. The first is an article on the site of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo about the results of Spanish municipal elections in March 2019:
As you can see in the graph from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, organic traffic peaked just when the article was published, and then started to go downwards. This content, being related to the results of political elections, is not evergreen content. The content is only relevant in the days just after the election. As time passes, the content is slowly forgotten in search engines, because it’s usefulness is depleted.
Now look at this graph:
It’s the same graph from Ahref’s Site Explorer, plotting organic traffic for a post in the wellness blog of the New York Times about a 7-minute workout. It was published in 2013, but it continues to generate organic traffic years after its publication.
If we look at its backlink profile, we can see that this particular post has been amassing and retaining an amazing number of incoming links. This is because the content is still fresh, relevant and useful, even years after its initial publication.
Find evergreen topics through keyword research
How can you leverage evergreen content in your editorial strategy? The first step is to find the topics and keywords that are best suited to produce evergreen content. For that, you need to to keyword research.
When looking for evergreen topics you need to find keywords related to your business or expertise area.
The first step is to brainstorm keyword ideas. Think about topics that are related to your business objectives, informational and not seasonal. Once you have that, you should validate your assumptions based on three criteria:
- High search volume
- Stable or upward search trend
- Consistent, informational search intent
High search volume
Evergreen content is costly to produce. It requires significant resources in research and writing time that must be justified by targeting a keyword that can potentially deliver a high amount of organic traffic.
To do that, you need to use a tool that can provide you with the search estimates for each keyword. You can use Ahrefs for that, or if you want a free alternative, you can use Google Trends or Keywords Everywhere.
For example, for the “what is meditation” keyword, here’s the result from Keywords Everywhere:
You’d have to decide, based on your experience, what constitutes an appropriate high search volume for your content.
Stable or upward search trend
Even if your keyword has a high search volume, you need to look at the bigger picture, to see how that search volume is evolving over time. If it’s trending downwards, even if you are able to position your content in the top positions of the SERP, you will get less and less traffic over time. It’s not a good investment of your time and resources to produce content for such a keyword.
When looking at Google Trends for the keyword “what is meditation”, we see that it has a stable search trend. People tend to search for that keyword at any point in time, independent of seasons or current events. This makes it a good candidate for an evergreen content piece.
If we look at keyword variations from the same theme, we can see different trends. For example, if we wanted to target the keyword “meditation tips”, we could see it has a downward trend:
From the outset it could look like a good evergreen content candidate, with a healthy search volume, but the trend tells us that the return we’ll get in organic traffic will only diminish with time, so it’s probably not worth the effort.
Consider this instead:
The keyword “mindfulness for kids” not only has a search pattern that is free from seasonal influence (almost: see those drops? Christmas holidays), but it has an upward trend which tells us that getting a content piece in the top search results will generate more and more traffic each year. It’s a big opportunity for evergreen content.
Consistent, informational search intent
The last thing you need to consider is the search intent behind that keyword. For that you would need to analyze the search results for the keyword. An SEO tool that gives you search traffic for each URL in the SERP would be useful as well.
Analyze the search results for the keyword you’re evaluating and see if the top results are:
- Informational. The search results are articles or any other types of informational content, as opposed to products or brands.
- Not related to current events or seasons or any other specific timeframe.
- Stable. You’d need a specialized tool like Ahrefs for that, but if the SERP changes frequently over a short period of time, it means the search intent for that keyword is unclear, and the SERP varies to try to accommodate different search intents.
- High click-through rate. Again, with a specialized tool, you’d be able to see how much traffic the pages in the SERP are getting. High CTR implies a stable SERP.
Evergreen content formats and examples
Some article formats are better suited for evergreen content than others. Here you can find a list of evergreen article formats, with examples:
How-to’s and tutorials
- How to bullet journal
- Step by step guide to writing a book
- How to write a short business plan
- A short history of musical notation
- The history of flamenco dance
- The Origin Of The Word ‘Meme’
Lists of tips, ideas, resources
- Pitching Articles: 5 Tips for a Successful Freelance Writing Pitch
- Steal these 5 tricks reporters use for fresh article ideas
- 16 Incredibly Useful Resources for Aspiring Authors
- How to Start Your Blog – 23 Point Checklist
- Ultimate Testing Checklist for eCommerce Websites
- A Checklist For Designing Data Collection Regimes
Answers to industry questions
- What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing?
- Will Journalists Be Replaced by Artificial Intelligence?
- Freelance life: what to do when the work dries up
- Redesigning the New York Times app — a UX case study
- How GE Healthcare Is Operationalizing Content at Scale
- Zara: A Usability Case Study
- Content Marketing Glossary
- Technical SEO glossary
- Financial Terms Glossary
Beginner’s guide to
- The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
- A Beginner’s Guide to AI/ML
- Beginner’s Guide to Blockchain — Explaining it to a 5 Year Old
Ultimate guide to
- The Complete Guide to Chatbots
- Facebook Ads: The Ultimate Guide For Businesses
- The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
What to avoid in evergreen content
The purpose of evergreen content is to remain fresh and relevant years after it was published, so people can read it and digest it as if it was published yesterday. So the main thing to look for when writing this type of content is to avoid any references that may become easily outdated.
Avoid references to pop culture and current events
Children’s stories and fairy tales should be one big example of evergreen content, right? No matter when you read them, they remain relevant and timely. But just the other night I was reading stories to my children at night from a book published a few years ago. I had to constantly skip paragraphs or change names because the stories were plagued with pop culture references from when the book was originally published. What could be a great book of evergreen content looks now dated and not relevant.
The same happens when you insert pop culture references in your articles, or references to current events, like the Olympics or the World Cup.
Avoid time-related language
It doesn’t matter how well written and relevant your content is. If you start your article by saying “Today in 20XX we…”, the content will be instantly outdated as soon as the year changes. Be sure to avoid any language that refers to concrete timeframes. For example:
- This year, month, week
- Last year, month, week
- Yesterday, tomorrow
- Earlier in the year
You get the idea. When you anchor your content to a specific timeframe, you’re essentially adding an expiration date.
Data and statistics
We all love content that is grounded in facts and data. Being able to go beyond opinion and speculative content and backing up your assertions with data goes a long way to establish authority and trust with your audience.
But when developing evergreen content data has to be used with caution. If your content is using data anchored to a specific timeframe, like labor productivity in the past 10 years, it’ll become outdated as soon as new report or data point is released.
In this case, it’s recommended to establish a periodical reminder to update the content with new data to maintain the content fresh and relevant.
Evergreen content should be memorable
It’s not enough that your evergreen content remains relevant and fresh years after it has been published. It also has to be memorable and high-quality to achieve and maintain a high ranking position in the SERP.
Focus on content quality first, but ask yourself these questions as well:
Is it the most complete article on the topic?
In-depth, longform articles tend to perform well in search results. Your evergreen content should aim to be the definitive resource for the topic you’re targeting, so be thorough and complete. Don’t leave anything on the table. Your content should demonstrate your authority in the field.
Is it accessible to beginners?
Avoid overly complex or specialized language and jargon. Your writing should be clear, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go deep inside a topic. The idea is that someone without expertise should be able to read and understand your article. Experts, after all, won’t go looking for help.
Is the topic narrow enough?
Choosing a specific topic will give the writer a needed focus to deliver interesting content. It’ll also likely have less competition.
How to promote evergreen content
Think about how your evergreen article fits your content architecture
Evergreen content is usually ideal for beginners. Think about how could you feature your content to new readers so they can then be able to access and read more complex content. Or perhaps your evergreeen content can be part of a bigger series. You could create a hub for your evergreen content. It can take many shapes: a “start here” section or a widget with highlighted posts on a sidebar. Perhaps a resource library. In any case, make it easy for visitors to discover your cornerstone content.
Think as well on how you link to your evergreen content from other posts on the site. Your internal linking strategy should promote your evergreen content to support their ranking in the SERPs.
Promote (and re-promote) on social media
When your content is first published, you’ll likely share it on all your social media platforms. But your evergreen content is likely to remain fresh in the future. There’s no reason you shouldn’t share your content again months and years after it has been published. If it remains relevant, it’ll still engage and generate reactions from your social audience in the future.
You can do more than just share the link too. You can repurpose parts of your evergreen content to be shared as social content:
- Key points of the content as Instagram stories or images on Twitter.
- Create short videos for Facebook. You could use tools like Animoto for that.
- Share stats, images or key takeaways from the text.
- Republish your content in Medium to take advantage of the audience discovery there, but keep in mind to maintain a canonical link back to your content.
Republish as new
You can relaunch evergreen content that was previously published as if it was new content on your site. Here’s how you can do it:
- Find evergreen content in your blog that hasn’t been updated in a while
- Update content, screenshots, images and remove or add new content if necessary
- You can update the headline, but leave the URL exactly the same
- Change the post date and update the post
Your post will now be on the top of your blog feed and archives. This will improve the discovery of your evergreen content in navigation and internal search.
Repurpose your content
Your evergreen content is costly to produce. But once it’s done, it can be repurposed in other formats with a little bit of work. You can adapt your evergreen content to produce:
- Ebooks and reports
- Presentations and slide decks
- Podcast episodes
This extra content can be used to feed other content channels or create lead magnets, and can be linked back to your evergreen content. But remember that the content probably can’t be used as-is. You need to put some extra effort to adapt the content to the new format.
Search engine and social media advertising
If your content has a transactional objective with a call to action and you have the budget, you can also take advantage of social media advertising to boost traffic to your evergreen content.
The recommended approach is to find content that already has a high engagement rate in social media. Then create a custom audience (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have audience targeting options) that will likely interact with that content.
Content governance on evergreen topics
When you write evergreen content you want it to stay as timeless and relevant as possible. You want that content to be fresh forever. But it will likely not be the case. At some point you’ll have to revisit your evergreen content, update it and polish it. The recommendation is to audit your evergreen content 1-2 times a year. Critical content should be revisited more frequently, maybe once per quarter or per month.
Identify evergreen content
There’s a chance you have evergreen content on your site already. To identify it, use a web analytics tool and a SEO audit tool to identify content that:
- Has a steady flow of visitors.
- Maintains high ranking for certain keywords.
- It hasn’t been published recently.
Update and optimize content
Once you have a list of evergreen content pieces you should establish a process to audit these content pieces periodically. You should look for:
- Changes or new developments in the topic.
- Examples or statistics that need to be updated.
- What no longer applies or is outdated.
- Verify that all the internal and external links are still valid. See if there are better resources to link to.
- Update any CTAs in your content (if you don’t have dynamic CTAs already).
- Review the search rankings and take steps to re-optimize your content
- Make sure your content is still useful and your writing is clear.
Evergreen content should be a key part of any SEO strategy. It requires effort in finding the topics and keywords best suited to this type of content. And you’ll need to invest time and resources to create content that remains fresh and relevant long after it has been published. But the benefits of evergreen content in developing authority and trust, providing a steady flow of search traffic, dominating certain keywords and generating an impressive amount of backlinks will affect the SEO of the entire website.