Creating content is hard work. So if you're going to go to the trouble of creating it, you want to make sure it'll bring you a great return on your investment for a long time.
What if each of your blog posts and articles were conduits of cash that never, ever turn off? What if they kept on delivering traffic, conversions, and revenue?
I’m going to tell you how to do that.
To create content with long-term ROI, you have to write evergreen content. This type of content lasts for a long time. Evergreen content is like an article you read today, and think “Wow. That’s great!” And when you read it in a year, you still think “Hey, that’s a really good article!” Evergreen content lasts, and it gives you a long-term return on your investment.
Why do you want to write evergreen content?
Evergreen content is the best way to get the most bang from your buck for the longest amount of time. There are four reasons for this:
Evergreen content gives you consistent traffic for a long time. Long-term traffic gives you long-term ROI. The more people visit a page, the more people that have a chance to convert based on your evergreen copy.
Evergreen content will produce conversions for a long time. If you can write really compelling and persuasive copy, it will always produce conversions as long as people are reading it. A strong CTA doesn’t go out of fashion.
Evergreen content creates trust, and trust means conversions. In order for a piece of content to be trustworthy, it has to be relevant. In order for it to be relevant over time, it needs to be evergreen.
Evergreen content produces long-term sharing. The more your article is shared and passed around, the more it’s going to bring you long-term value.
Want to start creating evergreen content? Here are the six qualities of content that will help to drive long-term ROI.
1) Write exactly what your audience wants.
The first step in creating evergreen content is knowing your audience. You’ve got to understand what resonates with them. Here are some helpful questions to ask about your niche:
What topics are always relevant?
What goals are always in place?
What controversies never go away?
What problems always need to be solved?
What skills do people always need?
What qualities of the industry are always important?
You’re looking for themes that aren’t going to go out of fashion.
For example, I wrote an article called “How to Predict Google’s Algorithm Changes.” The fact is, Google is always changing their algorithm, SEOs are always interested in these changes, algorithm changes always affect rankings, and so on. I know that this article will maintain its evergreen status, no matter what Google's changes actually are.
2) Update large portions of your content regularly.
The most important reason why you should update your content is because Google loves fresh content. If you update your content frequently, the algorithm will favor your content in the SERPs. This really works. It’s called the “freshness algorithm."
There are the eight qualities of the freshness algorithm that Cyrus Shepard outlined in his article, “Freshness Factor.” Here’s how you address each of those qualities to make your old content rank higher:
Change a substantial amount of content. Switching around a couple words doesn’t make a big impact. Adding a few extra paragraphs has a big impact.
Change the content frequently. Two changes a year isn’t “frequent.” Two changes a quarter is frequent. (If you want more information on how to do this, check out this blog post.)
Update your website as a whole on a regular basis.
Change the content that appears above the fold — important stuff like headlines and the first few paragraphs.
Link to that content from other pages.
Link to that content from other new pages.
Make sure the content is compelling enough to maintain clickthroughs.
Make sure the content is interesting enough to sustain high levels of reading time.
If you have any content that you want to be reindexed and get back in the SERPs, here's what to focus on:
Open up the page in your CMS.
Update the meta title. This isn’t absolutely necessary. I’m mentioning it only to provide an additional method of signaling to Google that your page has been updated. Just switch a phrase or two. Just make sure that you don’t remove any important keywords. If your page is not ranking for a word and you want it to, add this word to your meta title. Obviously, make sure it’s a word that is relevant to the rest of the content and website as a whole. Your title is the single most important piece of onsite content for SEO purposes, so make it good.
Update the meta description. Maybe change the wording around a little bit. Nothing major needed. You may want to spiff this copy up just to make it more inviting when users do start seeing it in the SERPs.
Update the content itself -- especially the content above the fold.
Change the H1s or H2s.
Edit throughout. Here’s where you perform both an edit on your content. I don’t care how good it was when you originally published it, there are probably a few things you can do to make it better. Add a line or two here and there. Switch a couple sentences around, if possible. Change wording, etc.
Add new content. Go ahead and make the article longer if you can. Creating new content on an old page will help your content rank.
You may not see the page rocket back in the SERPs, but you’ll probably see a slight increase in traffic.
3) Keep your published date visible.
In an effort to make their content evergreen, some people choose to hide the publish date. This is up to you, but it kind of annoys me when I don’t see a date. If the content is evergreen, I’ll be able to make that judgment myself, even if I see an old date.
If an article was published several years ago, but it’s still appearing in the SERPs, I know that it’s good content. The search engines are developed enough to discern between good content and crap. Plus, if the result is relevant to my query, then I can safely assume that the content within that SERP listing is also relevant to my query.
Keeping dates in your article is always a good move. Removing the date will not make your content evergreen, nor will it fool search engines or readers into thinking that your content is more relevant.
4) Place updated notes on the article.
One evergreen technique that I've seen have great success is placing an updated note to an old article informing readers that it was recently updated.
This helps drive the evergreen quality of the article. A reader may find the article, recognize its relevance, but wonder if he can trust its timeliness. A brief note at the front end of the article can help to encourage trust.
It can be something as simple as this:
I recently updated this article to take into consideration Google’s Penguin Algorithm.
Here’s an example of this on Forbes.com.
The editors of ePHOTOzine also made notes for their updated content, to make sure that it kept up with the ever-changing technology of photography.
Clearly telling your readers that the content is updated is a great way to maintain the article’s evergreen qualities.
5) Interact with comments on old articles.
If I want to find out whether or not an article is relevant, I scroll down to the comments. Assuming that people have commented, I find out when the last comment was posted. If it’s a recent post, then I know that there’s some continued value from the article, even if the original article was posted a long time ago.
To sustain that kind of evergreen feel, you need to interact with people in the comments. You should have your comment system set up to email you or notify you when someone posts a comment on an old article. When they do, go ahead and respond to the comment, regardless of when you first published the article.
I like to take this a step further. If I published an article a long time ago that is relevant to a current event, then I might go back to that article and open up the comment thread again. It might be a comment like this:
I heard that a lot of sites experienced a drop in rankings when Panda was released a few years ago. With this recent algo update -- Pigeon -- have your rankings changed at all?
Many of the original commenters will be notified about my new comment, reopening the discussion. This will provide a current forum of interaction to maintain the page’s relevance for other people who visit it in the future.
6) Write in-depth, detailed content.
The articles that last the longest are those that are lengthy detailed articles. There are some articles that I go back to multiple times, even if they were written several years ago. I know that the content is solid, enduring, and helpful. The authors delivered expert content that doesn’t get old.
Here’s an example of that kind of solid, detailed, and deep content that I love:
I actually used Shepard’s post as I researched this article. But it was published in 2011! I don’t care. This article explains features of the Google algorithm that are largely unchanged.
I trust the article, in part, because it’s a long article with lots of research, lots of citation, lots of careful explanation, and lots of really good stuff.
One of the best ways to write evergreen content is something that I didn’t even mention above. It has to do with plain ol’ great content. Google is constantly updating their algorithm to place quality content higher and higher in the SERPs. You simply can’t go wrong if you’re writing really good content.
How do you create content that drives long term ROI?
Originally published Sep 11, 2014 7:00:00 AM, updated August 28 2017