The more traffic your blog or site receives, the better. But drive-bys aren’t enough to drive user engagement and ultimately boost sales — instead, you need to convince potential customers that it’s worth sticking around. Topical content and its counterpart, evergreen content, can help you achieve this goal.Consider that 38% of people will leave your site if the content or layout is unattractive. In other words, if they don’t find anything of value ASAP, they won’t stay.
Of course, this raises an important question: When it comes to topical content vs. evergreen content, which delivers the best bang for your virtual buck? Which type drives more visitors to stay? Here’s what you need to know about boosting traffic with these common content types.
What is Topical Content?
Topical content is timely, relevant and regularly updated. It pertains to events that occurred or information that was discovered recently and is a good way to capture user attention.
Topical content focuses on current events or information to deliver targeted and relevant content to visitors. For example, a local roofing company might use the event of a large storm rolling through the city or county as a jumping-off point for a blog post about handling hail or wind damage. This type of topical content is relevant to their target audience in the moment, offers actionable advice, and may help drive conversions.
HubSpot’s recent State of Consumer Trends blog is a good example of topical content. The statistics provided are timely, relevant, and actionable in the near future.
Topical Content vs. Evergreen Content
Evergreen content remains relevant and applicable for long periods of time. This content is also SEO-optimized to drive website or blog traffic; since the content rarely changes, the webpage address is a good choice for SEO.
Like the evergreen tree, this type of content is always around and relevant. Unlike the time-based nature of topical content that requires regular updating to stay compelling, evergreen content has a longer-term appeal that lets you post it and (mostly) forget about it.
Common types of evergreen content include how-to articles, tips, or listicles that are broadly applicable. HubSpot’s list of 15 Customer Success Metrics That Actually Matter is a great example of actionable evergreen content.
Topical Content Pros and Cons
Considering using topical content on your site? Here are two pros and two cons to this approach.
Pro #1: Less legwork
Topical content is there for the taking. A quick review of relevant industry websites or digital news outlets can provide inspiration for your next post, meaning your team can cut down the amount of time required to find your next content focus.
Pro #2: Multiple traffic opportunities
Relevant stories can gain traction across multiple points of content. In practice, this means you can drive traffic from social media sites, emails, and web searches simultaneously to your site.
Con #1: It’s Not Just You
Interesting content is interesting to everyone. This means that other sites are also posting their own take on topical content, making it harder to stand out from the crowd.
Con #2: Trust is Built, not Posted
Just because you make a great post and get traffic to your site, it doesn’t mean that visitors automatically become buyers. Instead, it takes time to build up trust, meaning you’ll need more than just topical content to drive conversion.
Evergreen Content Pros and Cons
Thinking of an evergreen effort on your website? Here are some common pros and cons.
Pro #1: Stays Fresher, Longer
Evergreen content naturally stays fresher for longer, in turn driving steady traffic to your site. You can also update rather than replace this content as needed to keep users coming back.
Pro #2: Ideal for Entry-Level Content
How-to’s and listicles that cater to beginners learning a new skill or understanding a topic are great choices for evergreen content, since there’s always someone looking to learn.
Con #1: Brainstorms can Run Dry
The more evergreen content you post, the harder it can be to think of new topics. This creates a situation where your team may spend more time work-shopping posts rather than creating evergreen content.
Con #2: Success is a Slow Process
Where topical content posts can drive big spikes in traffic over short time periods, evergreen content is more slow and steady. While this is great for long-term growth, it won’t help if you’re looking to capitalize on seasonal or event-driven demand.
How to Use Topical and Evergreen Content for Traffic Growth
- Use content planning templates for your topical and evergreen content
- Set a schedule for regular topical refreshes
- Get the right tools
- Topical content: Don’t hold back
- Evergreen content: Think about the long-term
- Find a content balance
Ideally, topical and evergreen content work in concert to help boost your website traffic. Not sure what that looks like in practice? Here are six tips to get you started.
1. Use content planning templates for your topical and evergreen content
When it comes to getting the most from topical and evergreen content, planning templates are a great place to start, since they provide a solid foundation for your long-term traffic strategy.
Check out HubSpot’s free Content Marketing Planning Template to get your content creation campaign off the ground.
2. Set a schedule for regular topical refreshes
To keep topical content relevant, schedule regular refreshes. The length of time between refreshes depends on the type of content — for social media posts, any more than a week can start to get stale. For blog posts, two weeks to a month at most.
3. Get the right tools
Before creating your content, make sure you’re on the right SEO track. Tools like Google AdWords and Google Trends can help you find keywords that are on the way up or have sustained search volume to inform your content strategy.
4. Topical content: Don’t hold back
Swing for the fences when it comes to topical content. Given the number of other sites doing the same thing, it’s worth going all-in with content that’s relevant to your target audience. Even if it doesn’t land as intended, it’s ephemeral enough that you can recover quickly.
5. Evergreen content: Think about the long-term
For evergreen content, think about long-term traffic potential. Is the content useful to your current user base? Can it be updated as the market changes to remain relevant?
6. Find a content balance
Finally, find a balance between topical and evergreen. While a totally topical approach can produce quick-win results, it won’t provide sustained success. Evergreen efforts, meanwhile, offer steady progress but aren’t enough to jump-start customer interest or capitalize on market trends.
Directing Traffic: The Double Benefit of Evergreen and Topical Content
Put simply? Both topical and evergreen content offer benefits for your site. Where evergreen efforts can help boost SEO and deliver steady visitor numbers, topical content helps your site get noticed when relevant and timely events have customers looking for answers.
In other words, it’s not about topical vs evergreen content: It’s about finding a way to balance both that gets visitors interested and keeps them coming back.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.