Ever since Google got better at assessing online content quality (especially after the Panda update), content writers have started publishing less, but better-quality content.
This has made many bloggers and Internet marketers happy, as the idea of having to produce fresh content just because it is the only way to outrank a competitor isn’t really appealing. Creating really useful, evergreen content now seems to be in vogue; even more so with the introduction of the In-depth articles box in Google.
Three Examples of Evergreen Posts, Scrutinized
To find out what makes for a successful evergreen article, let’s perform a small case study and consider 3 of my highest-performing posts ever published either on Link-Assistant.Com’s blog or elsewhere on the Web.
They were chosen based on their ability to drive traffic, social shares and conversions long after the publication date.
1. Five Steps to SEO-Friendly Site URL Structure – Search Engine Journal
This post was published on February 27, 2013 on Search Engine Journal and has so far driven the following to our website:
168 Facebook likes
120 Google+ shares
The article was designed as an exhaustive write-up on the subject, so that the people who read it wouldn’t have to look for additional information. Plus, the topic itself doesn’t have an expiration date, because URL structure best practices don’t change as often as, say, Google’s ranking algorithm.
However, we are still receiving traffic from the article on a regular basis:
As you see, only 6.5% (137) of all visits occurred on the day of publication. The remaining 93,5% arrived along the way, and it doesn’t look like this is the end.
This one was published on Social Media Today on July 29, 2013 and has so far attracted:
202 Google + shares
80 Facebook likes
Not as impressive as the stats from the Search Engine Journal post, but if you look how the traffic from the article is distributed, you’ll see a beautiful even pattern (comments still keep coming by the way):
There’s been no spike in traffic since the day the post went live. The secret behind this post’s undying popularity could be its rather controversial nature. Plus, it takes a practical approach: there are screenshots, step-by-step instructions, etc.
3. Google Vs. Naver: Why Can’t Google Dominate Search in Korea? – Link-Assistant.Com’s Blog
This post was published on our company’s blog on May 14th, 2012. Here are the stats for it:
59 StumbleUpon bookmarks
40 Facebook Likes
The reason for this post’s success may be at the time of its writing, there weren’t many English-language articles on this topic. However, quite a few people were looking to learn what Naver was, how Korean SEO was different, etc. So, decent demand plus scarce competition equaled success.
Besides, the post presents a rather unpopular view on how the 2 search engines (Google and Naver) compare. It highlights the areas in which Naver has been ahead of Google. For instance, one learns that Naver technically invented Q&A search, as well pioneered many other phenomena later picked up by non-Korean search engines .
So, the article came out kind of lengthy, opinionated and controversial, which likely added to its popularity.
Crafting Evergreen Content (The Takeaways)
Now that we have looked at the three evergreen posts, let’s draw some conclusions. Basically, here is how to produce evergreen Web content:
- Choose a timeless topic
This is the hardest part, since the topic you choose to cover shouldn’t be overly broad or overly specific. For example, “landing page optimization” sounds like a really broad topic to me. While “how to add Facebook comments to a WordPress blog” could be too specific.
What about going for “How to create an effective call-to-action”?
- Confirm the topic’s actual popularity
What you think is a trendy topic may not be. To confirm that people are really looking up the subject you plan to cover, use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to research what people are searching for.
For example, if one enters several C2A-related keywords into the tool, here is one good suggestion that comes up:
About 1,600 people search for “call to action examples” online monthly. So, the topic could be worth going for. And your title could be something like “The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Great Calls-To-Action (Real-Life Examples)”.
It’s important to use your main keyword in the title, since this increases the post’s chance to rank for your target keyword(s).
- Check who you are going against
Almost any topic you take, chances are it’s been covered dozens of time by other authors. However, this doesn’t mean there is no space here for improvement. Of course, one shouldn’t simply repeat what’s already been said. See if you can:
– Approach the topic from a new angle
– Take an unpopular stance (if that’s really your stance)
(For example, here is what Barry Schwartz did with this post on why he was going to keep paid dofollow links on his site. Just be sure to read this update on Barry’s post to see how the story unfolded further.)
– Go more in-depth
– Explain it in plainer language, etc.
For instance, let’s see who currently ranks for “call-to-action examples” on Google. One result that really catches the eye is HubSpot’s PDF titled “101 Examples of Effective Calls-to-Action”. It’s a great doc with some awesome info in it – no doubt about that.
At the same time, although the PDF is nice, it’s 235 pages long, around the size of a short novel. So, what you can offer as an alternative is a shorter/cleaner list. Or an insightful tutorial with examples, etc.
- Craft the best title possible
Now, here is the challenge with choosing a title. You don’t want it to be overly yellow-press, but you don’t want to be too traditional or predictable either. Ideally, you’d need to find the happy medium.
But the way, if you think that “Best of…” and “List” posts are banal or cliché, I urge you to read this post by Heidi Cohen. No matter how tired one may be of these frequently used headline tricks, statistics show they still work perfectly in most cases.
- Publish the post on a popular resource
Once the post is ready, you’re likely to face the following dilemma: to publish it on your own blog or to make it a guest post on a third-party site. Each option has its advantages, and the choice would depend on your goals, the quality of your resource, and that of the third-party site you are considering.
On the one hand, by publishing the content on your own blog, you retain full control of it and get to keep all the traffic. On the other hand, if you post it on a reputable website in the niche, you can expect more exposure for your article, as well as new relationships built and new audiences attracted.
- Use visuals and examples generously
Visuals help those reading your post grasp the ideas explained in it better and faster. Just make sure to optimize your images for the Web before your post them.
Plus, to illustrate your points and to make them easier for your readers to digest, provide examples where possible. It does take time to look for examples, but nothing brings more clarity into what you write about.
- Make it truly one-stop-shop
Squeeze maximum value into the article. Just put yourself into your readers’ shoes and think if you’d need additional information on the subject-matter after reading the post. While editing the post, you can definitely delete any unnecessary epithets or sentences, but preserve any useful piece of information that adds value.
Of course, what makes an article evergreen is not just its size, or the number of images you use. Ultimately, it has to be an exhaustive piece of a topic. Writing “timeless” content does take time and effort , but this is exactly why it performs so well – it spares readers the need to do all the work you did for them.