What is evergreen content?

Evergreen content. You’ve probably heard the term buzzing around digital marketing and content circles, but what is evergreen content and how do you create it?

Below we’ll answer these questions and more, as we’ve laid out just what evergreen content is, why it’s important, and how you can leverage it in your own content strategy.

Evergreen content definition

Evergreen content is content that remains relevant regardless of the season or the time-frame, just like trees that never lose their leaves. In terms of value, it is content that never loses a residual level of traffic. With the right strategy, evergreen content will consistently generate interest over time, and people will still come looking for it for months, years, even decades to come. 

We’ve had success leveraging evergreen content in the past. One piece that stands out, simply because of its age and the volume of traffic it receives, is our content strategy guide. Since it was published in 2014 (and updated in 2019) it has received over 63 thousand page views and a constant flow of traffic:

Graph showing monthly page views over 74 months

But what makes this evergreen? Well, the obvious answer is that the topic isn’t something time-sensitive. Additionally, the content isn’t specific to our company, such as an update, or pat-on-the-back blog post. Rather, it’s a resource for many people working in digital marketing. And, most importantly, it’s really, really good. Quality is key since, for your content to be truly evergreen, you need to be confident that a competitor won’t come along and make something better (more on that later).

Evergreen topic examples

As we mentioned, evergreen topics never lose interest. This also means that they are not seasonal, so while elections happen on a regular basis, “US elections” is not an evergreen topic. Rather, it is a seasonal topic that ebbs and flows every four years. So what is an evergreen topic? Here are a few examples:

  • How to boil pasta
  • Who was Isaac Newton?
  • 5 full-body exercises

Generally, how-to guides remain evergreen so long as the methods never change. “How to write code,” for example, may change over time alongside changes in technology and trends. Additionally, definitions and lists tend to perform well over time.

What is the opposite of evergreen content?

Content that isn’t evergreen can be classed as time-sensitive or trending content. Newspapers are a classic example of publishers creating time-sensitive content. After all, you want the most up-to-date content when you’re reading the news while sipping your second cup of coffee.

There are also plenty of other industries and brands that rely on time-sensitive content, such as fashion brands. A piece on the best summer fashion trends is a staple piece of fashion content, but it’s hard to keep that as relevant for more than a few months from its publish date.

Evergreen content, on the other hand, allows you to grow traffic levels while producing content at a steady rate, as the model we’ll discuss later proves.

Time-Sensitive topics:

Time-sensitive topics are those that lose value after a given point. They either become less relevant or outdated relatively quickly. Content that contains dates and data-points that could expire soon, or content that is inherently seasonal are time-sensitive. Here are a few more examples:

  • Summer haircuts
  • US election candidates
  • Football games on today

The benefits of creating evergreen content

1. Increased traffic and lead potential

Evergreen content, when created on a consistent basis, essentially starts to layer the traffic from different pieces on top of each other. For example, if you publish your first blog post on day one, and it generates 100 views, overall blog traffic on day one equals 100. If you publish a post on day two, and it gets 100 views, and the first post also generates 100 views, traffic for day two is 200, and so it goes.

Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist, has explored this idea in great depth and has done the best job we’ve seen of visualizing an evergreen content strategy vs. a time-sensitive one. In the following two charts each colored layer represents a single piece of content.

In the evergreen example below, you can see that ‘layering’ we talked about above. Even factoring in some decay, the results are obvious:

Graph showing layering and compounding effect of evergreen content based on traffic over time
Source: Tomasz Tunguz

Conversely, time-sensitive content looks a lot more ‘spiky’ with traffic levels fluctuating dramatically. Most significantly, in the following example, by publishing the same number of posts with the same number of first-day views, the time-sensitive blog never gets above 70,000 visits per month, whereas the evergreen content model reaches just short of 200,000.

Graph showing spiky traffic fluctuating over time with temporal content
Source: Tomasz Tunguz

You can see this on our blog too. A time-sensitive article about new platform updates, for example, received a lot of traffic when it was first published (16,500 page views in month one, most of those within one week or publishing). On the face of it, that’s better than the content strategy guide, which only got 1,423. However, if you look at the chart below, you can see that in the first ten months’ traffic for each post, and the value of evergreen content becomes more clear:

Graph showing page views over months of time-sensitive content spiking in first three months then staying low, and evergreen content having fewer but more consistent views over 53 months

The evergreen post shown in yellow continued to get consistent traffic every month, receiving almost 15 thousand pageviews between months 2 and 24, while the time-sensitive piece of content received less than 4 thousand pageviews in the same amount of time. From the traffic alone, the evergreen piece is much more valuable because of this ‘compounding effect’ of evergreen content.

2. Self-sustaining articles

This is not to say that evergreen content is a set it and forget it deal. Like most content, it should be monitored, revised, and optimized over time. In comparison with time-sensitive content, however, evergreen content is far easier to sustain in the long run.

3. Requires less output

The main issues facing companies that rely solely on time-sensitive content are resources and competition. To grow traffic to your website, while relying exclusively on trending topics, you need to create content at an increasing rate. And the kind of newsworthy content that will gain attention is likely to be covered extensively. To compete with outlets such as the New York Times, for example, you’d have to post an unwieldy number of highly news-worthy articles in record time. 

How to create evergreen content

You now know the benefits of evergreen content and are ready to get started, but how do you go about creating such content? Good question! Before jumping in, follow the tips below to ensure you’re creating valuable content that will continue to retain relevance and gain traffic over time.

Search for evergreen content topics

Earlier, we mentioned a few content types that tend to perform well as evergreen pieces, but that’s not the whole story. To discover the most valuable topics, you’ll want to do some research:

Keyword research

  • Look for terms that users are searching for. That doesn’t necessarily mean targeting terms with thousands of MSV, but rather creating a content strategy that includes a variety of terms with a spectrum of search volumes.
  • Look for upward trends in monthly searches. Keywords that are time-sensitive tend to have volatile MSV, so be sure to research their trends before starting.
  • Check the competition. See what others are doing and how you can do it better. Also,  check for areas where they lag or holes in their content that you can fill.

Write valuable evergreen content

Once you have your topics, it’s time to get to writing. Remember that the primary ranking factors separating the good content from the outstanding are quality, authority, and uniqueness. That is to say that each piece of evergreen (and non-evergreen) content should be the best option out there for users to find the information they’re looking for.

Read through your content and have an extra set of eyes (or four) read it too. Be sure to replace any trending topics and references to pop culture as they can quickly become outdated.

Check the SERPs

As mentioned earlier, your competitors and the top-ranking pages can be strong indicators as to what users and search engine crawlers are looking for in great content. Are they providing more thorough information? Consider adding more detail and examples to your content. Is their language more clear? Use content writing tools such as Hemmingway to simplify your copy.

Know your audience

When you set out to make a piece of evergreen content, it can be tempting to try and write “War & Peace,” leading to a behemoth piece of content that attempts to be all things to all people. And that’s if you ever manage to publish it. So, narrow your focus and create something that serves a specific purpose, fulfills a specific intent, and speaks to a given audience.

Proofread, then perfect

When creating new content, remember the phrase “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” by which we mean, put the effort into shipping it as soon as possible. Then, learn from the initial traffic and engagement. Focus on updating and repurposing–which brings us onto the next point.

Repurpose content

Despite best intentions, evergreen content will begin to age and start to give subtle cues to readers that it’s old or out-of-date, which will lead to a drop in traffic. Was the post published on a blog with its publish date displayed anywhere? If so, consider republishing the post when it’s updated so it is moved back to the top. This is especially useful when you publish lots of content; you can’t expect readers to land on your blog/resources section and casually scroll to page 43.

There’s also an opportunity to update the post to reflect changes. These changes can be information and statistics, or just refreshing content to make it more relevant to a new/altered search intent. Users may not be looking for the exact same type of content five years down the line.

Changing the format can be a good move, too. You could turn a blog post into a video, a webinar, or an email series. There are plenty of options that are relatively easy wins in this scenario. 

Tip: If you plan on replacing the old piece of content with the new one, then be sure to either use the same URL as the older piece, or 301 redirect to the new piece.

Leverage time-sensitive content to aid discovery

While we’ve touched on some of the downsides of using time-sensitive content to drive long-term traffic, it can be useful in aiding the discovery of your brand and other content when it goes viral. 

To help make this tactic effective, simply make sure there’s a useful CTA on each and every piece of time-sensitive content. That CTA should direct the reader to a piece of evergreen content within the same topic. This should help keep the reader on your site for longer while also increasing the traffic levels of the associated content.

Tip: If you use the CTA to effectively gain email signups,  you can then target the reader with relevant content on a regular basis.

Wrap it up in a content calendar

Regardless of your exact content strategy, a content calendar is a must to organize your publishing schedule and make sure your content team is on track. Among the many benefits, you can organize your repurposing/republishing schedule to keep a smooth flow of content creation on your site.

How to get the most out of your evergreen content

Even the best evergreen content generally sees some decline over time. One reason for this is the work of competitors. Yes, you’re going to try and make the best piece of content for your topic and purpose, but you can’t stop somebody else coming along and doing the same thing. You will likely lose some traffic to another piece of competitive content just by the virtue of it existing. 

Additionally, when you get better at producing content, especially if you find your niche, you’ll also find that you have to compete with yourself as topics will have some overlap. Bearing all of this in mind, here are a few tips to earn and keep more traffic with an evergreen mindset:

  1. Monitor your traffic & rankings

Be sure to keep track of the keywords you’re targeting and how your content performs. That way, you’ll be able to swoop in and make updates as needed when you see pieces, or entire content groupings, starting to fall in the SERPs.

  1. Refresh and revise your content

Fresh content is key to a solid evergreen content strategy. Keeping your brand voice and content up-to-date should be a regular part of your overall strategy and workflow.

  1. Leverage a solid link-building strategy

Links signal to search engine crawlers which pages are connected. When creating and updating your evergreen content, ensure that each page is linked to and from other relevant posts so users (and crawlers) can find it.

Wrapping up

Evergreen content is simultaneously easy to grasp and difficult to put into practice. With this guide, you now have a better understanding of the value of evergreen content, and a jumping-off point to create your own or even upgrade what you already have. While the strategy will never be 100% bulletproof, it’s satisfying to see the resulting effect of compounding returns, as you turn a bunch of individual bits of content into a traffic-driving machine.

Updated post by Dawn Macri
Original post by Andrew Tweddle