Using Evergreen Content as an Audience Development Strategy
It’s not uncommon to hear from publishers, “what is the best tactic in audience development right now?” The answer we give is one that always applies despite trends, tools, and even new technology: good, quality content that your target audience wants to read.
There is no greater marketing tool than quality content. If you don’t have that, little else is going to work to develop a strong audience for your brand. And of the quality content that publishers have, evergreen content is the crown jewel.
Let’s discuss how to find (and get the most out of) your evergreen content so that your most valuable audience development asset (good content, remember?) is constantly working in your favor.
Finding Your Evergreen Content
More than likely, you already have an arsenal of content in your archives generating modest amounts of traffic each month. Moreover, these pieces of content are driving traffic with little to no effort or even awareness. How-to, guides, explainers, and long reads have evergreen appeal.
Find these existing pieces inside Google Analytics by reviewing your content pages under “behavior.” By searching over a longer period of time (12+ months), you’ll bring evergreen content to the top of the list rather than flash-in-the-pan articles that generated a lot of traffic at one time. You can also search content consumers by new users only or traffic to articles that are older than one year.
Export and sort through the first several pages in this view and identify pieces of content that will continue to serve a purpose over time. For each piece of content, ask yourself if it answers a question that your user is likely to ask over and over again.
If you want to find out what keywords your pieces of content are already ranking for, you can use SEMRush, Moz, or another SEO tech tool to produce reports on individual pieces of content. Understanding what keywords your content is already attracting (and the search volume of each) will help you refine your keyword strategy.
Creating New Evergreen Content
When creating new pieces of content – especially pieces of content designed to be search-friendly – consider the keywords to be the question and your content the answer.
For example, we worked with a client to establish a new page on their website, a compilation of kid-friendly recipes for parents looking to cook with their children. In an effort to attract that audience, we also focused on the longtail keyword, “easy kid-friendly recipes” which has a lower search volume but they are more likely to win. To make the page clear to both the consumer and Google, we made sure to add a headline and subheadline at the top of the page, describing the contents of the page.
To improve rank for the page, we ensured there was plenty of text on it for Google to adequately read and understand what it’s about. We accomplished this by including copy below some of the recipes that are descriptive and keyword-rich for other longtail searches we identified as strong targets.
Optimizing Evergreen Content for Discovery
Optimizing your content for discovery is the next step in the process and there are several different approaches to take. First, make sure your content is search-friendly from a more technical perspective. This means fast page load times and clean user experience. If your website suffers from slow load times – especially on mobile – your content will likely not perform well in search. Google simply considers it too important at this point. There are many, many other factors that Google considers as well.
Another great example of how to optimize your content for search is to make sure you’re not competing with yourself or creating pages with strong search potential that quickly become outdated. For example, we worked with another client to stop posting individual articles about things to do in their city and instead create a single evergreen page that would always host the most up-to-date content of what to do that weekend. By creating a single page instead of weekly one-off pages, their traffic to “Things to Do” content increased over 900% each month.
You’ll also want to ensure sure your ‘on-page’ SEO game is strong. Don’t forget to create fitting page titles and meta descriptions, plus use your target keyword throughout the content. Don’t try to disingenuously include the keyword repeatedly, though. Google is smarter than that. Rule of thumb: Just make sure your content is about what you are trying to say it is about.
Promote evergreen content regularly as well. Share evergreen content or long reads on social media and allocate a special content block in your newsletter for weekly articles from the archives. Link from other content on your site to evergreen content whenever relevant and useful for the user.
Optimizing Evergreen Content for Conversion
In addition to your technical SEO elements, it’s important to optimize your page for building relationships. This might be your first (and only) chance to capture a little more from the user. Bring out your finest china. Link within your content to other relevant articles on your website. Ask the user if they want to hear more from your brand, in a clever and thoughtful way (if you want an example of one, watch what happens when you start to close exit that page). However, don’t be obnoxious. Adding pop-ups as soon as your user hits the page or aggressively interrupting their experience is likely to have the opposite effect than what you’re after.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of content creation and optimization but touched on the top-of-the-line elements of driving a successful evergreen content strategy. In our experience, most publishers have plenty of content they should be optimizing before prioritizing creating new content. Start by digging into your archives and updating out-of-date content that has valuable evergreen potential. Make that content search-friendly and be ready to foster the start of a relationship.
Evergreen articles can be a very valuable part of your overall development strategy and, like a fine wine, they get better and better over time, but not without a little work on your part. Create a culture in which editorial and marketing teams are always thinking about the evergreen content available on your website and resurface relevant articles at news-worthy and opportune times.
Melissa Chowning is the CEO of Twenty-First Digital, where she guides her clients’ digital strategies and audience development efforts to drive traffic, engagement, and retention. Formerly the Audience Development Director of D Magazine, Portland Monthly and Seattle Met, Melissa understands that the key to audience growth is also monetization. When she’s not immersed in the digital world, you’ll likely find her reading, listening to podcasts, and keeping busy with her two children, both under the age of 6.