Editor’s note: Updated November 2018.
Did you know that the world’s oldest known tree is a type of evergreen? Its common name is the bristlecone pine, and the most aged of its kind is just a few centuries shy of 5,000 years old. It looks something like this:
As marketers, we’re always in pursuit of the bristlecone pines of the content world – that explainer video, how-to blog post or timeless eBook about proper boot maintenance – that will maintain its relevance for years to come, repeatedly cycle back into new generations of marketing campaigns, and even appreciate in value as time passes.
This type of content creation is aptly referred to as “evergreen marketing,” and we’re going to show you what it’s made of.
Topical vs. evergreen content: Understanding the utility of each
Topical content is any blog post, article, press release or other piece of marketing collateral that has an element of timeliness to it. This includes news articles, coverage of a recent talk at an industry event, a product announcement on social media and other content that is created with the purpose of explaining “what happened.”
In a way, topical content is like the grass of the marketing landscape. Users will generally spend less time engaged with it because new information is constantly cropping up in our always-on digital lives. This makes it great for driving top-of-funnel web traffic. But today’s news will be a hard sell by tomorrow.
By contrast, evergreen marketing content is a resource that users can come back to time and again, sometimes many years after initial release.
If topical content is grass, evergreen content is a landmark for your brand (yes, sort of like a really captivating tree). Evergreen marketing content can take a number of forms, but it most commonly manifests as one of the following:
- Surveys and original research.
- How-to blog posts and articles.
- Listicles (“8 benefits of cloud-based HR software”).
- Instructional videos.
- Best-practice collateral (white papers and eBooks).
- Product reviews.
- FAQ pages.
- Landing pages.
- Case studies.
- Trend-analysis content.
- Interactive online quizzes.
- Social media pages (more on this later).
At first, this type of content might not generate as much web traffic as topical content. The difference, though, is that evergreen content’s value appreciates over time, which is in direct contrast to topical content.
Every time someone references your how-to videos or links back to your FAQs, that asset gains credibility in Google’s eyes. Slowly but surely, that content takes root as an established source of trusted information. Consequently, it will surface above the ranks of the top SERPs for that particular subject matter.
Equally important, evergreen marketing content can be recycled in campaigns and shared multiple times on social media channels. A post from 2012 with a title like “10 easy steps to a healthier head of hair,” has a better chance of garnering attention on Facebook than a news article from 2016.
The simplest way to think about evergreen content is this: Information that still has utility to your target audience will continue to perform on the web many years after it has been released.
Developing evergreen topics
And where to work your products in …
Say you have a gardening blog and you current goal is to create a “Gardening for beginners,” campaign to establish your brand (personal or commercial) as a trusty source of authority for novice gardeners.
If you’re a seasoned gardener, you’ll probably have plenty of ideas sprouting up in your brain just from experience. You might even want to start with the obvious question: What does a newbie need to know before getting his or her hands dirty?
That alone can be a four-part series of articles, if not a full-length eBook with visuals, that introduces the basic ingredients of any good garden. The topic is as good an opportunity as any to pepper in some references to your product offerings if, say, you’re a supplier of some of the basic starter materials.
But once that well of inspiration dries up, there’s always Google. The snapshot below was taken in a Chrome Incognito window:
Notice the search phrase “gardening for beginners.” Something as simple as scrolling down to the bottom page of SERPs can show you similar queries to the one you’ve entered.
Then, of course, there are the big guns. The image below was taken within SEMRush’s Topic Research tool. We used the same search term “gardening for beginners” to look for relevant content topics that are driving traffic.
Notice “Green Beans” at the top left corner has search volume of 60,500. Beneath that is a list of topics that are performing well for that term. Maybe you already knew that green beans was a hot keyword among your target audience. Maybe you didn’t.
And granted, you may not have access to SEMRush, and “gardening” may be a fairly watered-down example relative to your more niche B2B product offerings. The point is, there is a science to topic ideation.
In some cases, your industry experience will be your most fertile source of content ideation. But in others, you may be surprised to learn what you should be covering in your attempts to create SEO-powered evergreen content.
How to weave your products into your evergreen content
Often, this is something that needs to happen in execution. And usually, it’s not that difficult. For example, say you’re selling disaster recovery-as-a-service. In your evergreen post, “5 best practices for optimal data durability,” you can easily tie in the value of off-site, air-gapped redundancy.
Whether or not you call your solution out by name and/or link back to a product page is up to you. Either way, the nod to your value proposition is implicit, because you’ve chosen to cover a topic that is directly pertinent to your products and services. Additionally, this topic will most likely be as relevant to prospective customers in a year as it is now.
Of course, “most likely” is the operative phrase. Google algorithms are always evolving. Not to mention, competitors and other content creators will influence SERPs for your keywords over time. Then there’s just the fact people’s habits change over time. Case in point: Who ate quinoa 10 years ago?
That means the inverse is also possible. It’s possible to create something that is “accidentally evergreen.” If you notice a particular blog post from more than six months ago is performing well, don’t shrug it off as a fluke. Try to figure out why that content is still performing so well. And if it only just got hot, try to find out why.
Like most things in content marketing, the goal is to create something as deliberate as possible with the information you have available to you at that time.
Do that, and your odds of seeing ROI on your evergreen marketing content will shoot up.
Resonating with your prospective clients
And using evergreen marketing content as a sales tool …
Audience is everything when it comes to evergreen topic generation. First you have to define that audience, preferably by persona. Create fictional character profiles if you have to.
For example, if you’re selling DIY gardening tools, you’ll talk to a seasoned gardener very differently than you would the yuppy who just wants some petunias and vincas to spruce up his apartment porch now that the weather is getting warmer.
Understanding these types of characteristics will help you pinpoint buyer intent. In turn, this facilitates a deeper understanding of the types of content that will resonate with your potential buyers.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Sales people talk to a lot of prospects. Accordingly, they’re invaluable in helping your marketing team develop audience personas. Sales can also provide concrete examples of specific pain points or questions based on real conversations they’re having with leads.
Your job as a marketer is to take those pain points and use them to create content topics that get to the heart of the issue. If you can do that – and you’re able to subtly tie those pain points to your products – you’ve essentially created evergreen topics that can be used at different stages of the sales funnel.
- At the top as a traffic generation vehicle.
- As a resource for prospects in the consideration and/or intent phase (sales enablement).
An FAQ-style eBook or even just a blog post that answers a specific question are great examples of content formats that have the potential to work simultaneously as a top-of-funnel asset and as a resource that helps sales teams close deals.
Long story short: Work with sales to get to really know and understand your audience; use that knowledge to create versatile evergreen marketing content that is not only relevant in six or 12 months, but can also be used in more than one way at that time.
Advocacy marketing and evergreen content
Different branches of the same tree.
Advocacy marketing is when you transform existing customers into advocates for your business. Social media is the most obvious way to do that. If your customers or regular readers share your high-quality content because it’s useful to them, they’re advocating your brand indirectly.
Where does evergreen content fit into advocacy marketing? Great question:
- Obviously, when people share your content on social channels or email it to friends, they advocate your brand.
- Some types of content are inherently advocacy-driven. Case studies and customer testimonials, for example, demonstrate the value your brand has brought to specific customers.
- Evergreen content with information useful beyond the here and the now is akin to reference material. And every time your customers link back to that content (either in their own blog, on a customer review site or on a forum such as Quora or Reddit), they advocate your brand to search engines. Google, for example, rewards pages with backlinks by pushing them higher up in the list of search results, thereby making them more visible to other searchers and prospects.
- It’s no secret that great customer service creates brand advocates. Sometimes the best way to help a customer is to provide evergreen reference content like an FAQ page. Apple does this all the time. It might share proprietary content after a support call about how to reinstall the OS or perform a RAM reset. If you use your evergreen content on the frontlines of customer support, you’re using it to help build business advocates.
Inversely, advocacy marketing can be used to inspire content. Flagging down the author of a strong customer review on the web, for instance, can lead to a case study opportunity. Questions that arise on social media in response to someone sharing your content can inspire new topics.
A powerful symbiosis exists between evergreen content and brand advocacy. Develop a strategy or marketing plan that can help the two complement one another to improve business outcomes.
Cycling through evergreen content on social media
Is there such a thing as evergreen social media content?
Social media plays an interesting role in the world of evergreen content creation. First, each of your channels is technically evergreen, even if the content on those channels (user generated or otherwise) is often topical in nature.
In other words, the channel itself sticks around. Meanwhile, industry news, discount announcements, events promotions, product reviews, etc., are typically transient.
But what about your evergreen content? Can you continually cycle that on your social media pages to simultaneously promote time-insensitive content and boost impressions on social? You betcha.
According to Social Media Hat contributor, Mike Allton, there is indeed such a thing as “forever sharing” in which you continually post all of your evergreen content in a repeating cycle, on all of your channels. In fact, several tools exist that actually help automate the scheduling of these posts. There are obviously some best practices to keep in mind:
- As a rule of thumb, wait four weeks before resharing the same content.
- Make sure you actually have enough evergreen marketing content to cycle through.
- Be mindful of trends and recent events that you can use to justify sharing your evergreen content ahead of schedule (i.e. social media is a discussion; sometimes your engagement efforts need to be ad hoc).
It’s an interesting concept – sort of like creating seasons for your content on social media.
If done right, it’ll give your “how to …” and “Top reasons …”-type pieces the exposure they need to continue performing for years to come …
… And that’s the whole point of evergreen content
Which brings us full circle to the claim that evergreen marketing content actually has the potential to increase in value as time passes.
And no, nothing lasts forever, so that value will eventually fizzle out as the great circle of content production buries it under new web matter.
But you might be surprised by how long your well-constructed evergreen assets withstand the test of time.
Even the 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine had to get past day one, after all.