This is a guest post from freelance writer Anna Johansson.
If you’re like most bloggers, you publish a solid combination of evergreen and time-sensitive content.
The time-sensitive aspect is simple enough as long as you stay abreast of industry news and updates. But what does it take to write really compelling evergreen blog content?
While you can’t necessarily predict how your blog posts will be received, you can write with the following food for thought in mind.
Evergreen Content: A Definition
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of evergreen content, it’s not hard to grasp. Basically, evergreen posts never lose their relevancy. An evergreen piece you write tomorrow should still have the same value to readers several years down the line.
Of course, not every topic lends itself well to evergreen content writing. News about an up-and-coming Apple product, for example, would count as time-sensitive. A review of a newly released product might also be time-sensitive. However, a post about how to write product reviews would be evergreen.
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Let’s break this down a little further:
What “Timeless” Really Means
A lot of bloggers define evergreen content – also called pillar content – as “timeless.” In some cases, this is an accurate definition. “How To” guides, like the above example of “How to Write Product Reviews,” are often considered evergreen.
But there’s a difference between “How to Write Product Reviews,” which could theoretically be applicable to any writer reviewing any product, and something like “How to Set a Keyboard Shortcut on a MacBook.”
While the advice in the first example is unlikely to change significantly, the second could change – easily. Operating system updates change their organization, navigation, and other features as different updates are released, so setting a keyboard shortcut five years ago would have been a slightly different process.
Noticing a trend yet? Tech writing is notoriously hard to make evergreen because even instructional pieces are subject to change, often much sooner than even savvy industry writers expect. Other topics writers struggle to make evergreen include political content and fashion writing. Bloggers working in fast moving industries have to dig a little deeper to create this kind of post. Luckily there are a few general post formats that lend themselves well to evergreen writing, no matter the field.
When Older Content Makes Sense
Older content can have value if it’s been updated to remain relevant. Some content that might not be “evergreen,” per se, is still valuable because of how search engines work.
Google allows searchers to specify a date for the content they’re looking for – and because these searches are performed, it makes sense to keep this old content if you see that the page continues to remain active. Keep track of your analytics, though, because if an old page could use a boost in the search rankings, it might make sense to take another look at the content. Odds are good you can update or repurpose much of it.
If we’re following from the above example, the second “How To” guide would still remain relevant if the writer were to update it to include changes to the Mac operating system and software. It may not be precisely evergreen, but it also isn’t the kind of content that’s difficult to update.
HubSpot draws a distinction between “timeless” and “sustainable” content for this very reason. Some otherwise timeless content will need to be regularly updated to reflect the most valuable information available for readers, but this content can still be considered evergreen – in its sustainable form.
Be sure to earmark posts that you think may fall into the sustainable category, or that you may forget to update. After all, unlike truly evergreen content, this material is only sustainable if you put in the work to make it that way.
The Many Forms of Evergreen Content
In all likelihood, you’ve already published content that could be considered evergreen – ideally in your first weeks of blogging. A “How To” guide is one such example and includes such subgenres as recipes, hair or makeup styling tips, or fitness tips, but there are other pages on your blog or website that may fit the bill.
Here are some of the other kinds of evergreen content for your consideration.
Frequently Asked Questions. If you’re tired of receiving the same questions over and over (or you anticipate that you’ll receive a certain question), place it on a FAQ page with your response. This is a great example of sustainable content, because you can add questions as they crop up and provide answers that a lot of readers are looking for.
Glossaries. As an industry expert, you know what all the words on your site mean – but, depending on your field, your readers may not. Avoid alienating your audience by providing an easily accessible page that defines terms and phrases they might not yet understand, and make sure to point readers in that direction early on. No one likes stumbling through a post, only to find out that everything they needed to guide them was readily available on another page.
“History Of” Posts. History is, by definition, in the past – which means it won’t change. Consider doing some research about a little-known aspect of your niche or industry and providing that information. Or, dig up a few famous innovators from years past or people who inspire you and profile them for your blog.
If your post is the only resource on the internet that details this history, it will have tremendous value to researchers interested in your niche – for many years to come.
Checklists: Checklists are similar to “How To” posts, but with a twist. Rather than giving directions on how to perform a task, these posts provide just a basic outline. The magic of a checklist, however, is that it offers accountability and productivity benefits. Everyone likes crossing off a completed task, so why not build content around the process?
If you don’t already have any published blog posts or articles that use these formats, head to the drawing board and think about what you want to put out there. Once you create them, evergreen posts make great internal links, so you’re sure to reference them frequently.
Making It Last
Some content that isn’t generally considered evergreen can easily be made to fit the bill with just a few adjustments. Consider posts on how to stay productive at work. Many of these posts namedrop apps that may not be relevant in even a few months’ time as device updates appear. But you could write the same post without this type of time-sensitive information. Just go analog – skip the apps and write about your other strategies instead.
This same philosophy goes for many other “tips” posts, as well. You just need to think outside of the box. Can’t figure out how to write web design tips that don’t rely on current platforms or tech capacities? Just back it up. Web design may be a modern topic, but graphic design and its ilk have been around forever. Turn to the old pros for timeless design tips instead.
Another way to make create evergreen content out of normally time-sensitive material is to get more specific instead of less. Did a client just do something incredible with your help? Or has your company overcome a major obstacle to achieve a goal? Turn these time-sensitive news pieces into case studies instead.
A case study is a highly specific, yet broadly imagined kind of “tips” post. You’re sharing exactly how a specific company or individual accomplished something great. Readers love specific examples, drawing them to this kind of content. And what’s more, it’s much easier to load a case study with keywords and other SEO-friendly information than it is to do the same thing in a news post about the same event.
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Skip The Master Class
When writing evergreen content, it’s important to understand who your audience is. Experts are rarely the target audience. That’s because the level of knowledge and the type of information experts need tends to land more squarely in the time-sensitive camp. They know the basics and are busy innovating at a higher level.
Instead, try reframing your understanding of evergreen content towards a beginner to intermediate level audience. These are the readers who need guidance, and who are learning the ropes. Beginner level readers want to get their feet wet on the subject, while intermediate readers may need a refresher on a process or topic they’ve only worked with a few times before. And as they learn, they’ll click their way along to more complex, time-sensitive material.
If you do feel you need to engage experts with your evergreen content, you’re best off situating the expert as source. This makes beginning readers feel that they’re in reliable hands, and it’s more likely that the experts in the field will share the content with staff and colleagues. Writing a post about online stock trading? Frame it as advice from a senior broker and, if you’ve done it right, watch it take off again and again. That’s the power of evergreen content.
Put It to Work
Once you’ve developed your evergreen content, make sure you’ve positioned it for success. You might create a list of top blogs or a directory of information for beginners.
Then, put it as a main header on your site or in another noticeable place. You want site visitors to find this information quickly and easily, otherwise they may go elsewhere for their info.
Don’t forget to post your evergreen content to social media. Even though social content is infamously time sensitive, evergreen material also has a place. Make it intriguing and readers will still flock to it.
When you see a drop off in readers in your analytic data, wait a short time and launch it again. There are always new readers to reach, whether they’ve just joined the field or missed the original post in the mass of social content that comes our way each day.
Final Thoughts: Evergreen Content and Your Blog
As you work on your evergreen content, remember to always think back to your blog and what it’s about.
What kind of content should represent you? What do you want your readers to feel?
Interspersing evergreen posts in your blog will show these readers that you want to help them by providing information that will remain useful for years to come. But remember, even dictionaries are updated every few years, so don’t pretend “evergreen” means “untouchable.”