Evergreen Content: How to Drive Repeatable Organic Search Traffic
Evergreen content is the foundation of any solid content marketing and SEO strategy.
But many marketers still get it wrong.
They seem to misunderstand what evergreen content is and how to use it effectively as part of a full content marketing strategy. Because it can’t work on its own.
First, a quick primer on what is “evergreen” and what is not.
What is evergreen content?
Evergreen content is the kind of content that is perpetually relevant to a specific persona within your target audience. It’s a resource, guide, or article that isn’t tied to any one point in time and is always useful.
If you’re reaching an audience of homeowners interested in repairs or renovation, then some evergreen content may be:
- How to install a new smoke alarm
- When to replace the roof on your house
- How to increase the resale value of your home
- When should you replace your furnace?
News articles, trend analysis, or other content tied to a specific point in time are decidedly un-evergreen. They have a finite lifespan and then die as they become outdated or irrelevant.
Evergreen content on the other hand is something your audience will likely, at one point or another, be actively looking for—it’s something they type into Google.
And this is the real value of building a library of evergreen content. It provides lasting, residual search value by bringing in consistent, relevant traffic from your target audience.
It’s like free advertising for your website or business and it can create value every single day.
But to get people to come to it, you have to build it.
How to build a huge library of relevant evergreen content
Many times, people struggle with the idea of coming up with content ideas—how do you know what to write about? Or what will your audience care about?
This becomes even trickier when you’re considering evergreen content because a great post shouldn’t just be useful and relevant, it should also be tied to a specific keyword or search phrase that your target audience is already using in order to generate the maximum amount of value.
Luckily, this limitation provides some insight into how to approach the process of compiling topic ideas.
Start with the keywords.
Since you ultimately want the content you create to be tied to specific search terms or themes, you can use these as inspiration for topic ideas.
1. Keyword research
Good ol’ fashioned keyword research is your first go-to for identifying relevant keywords within your market and then transforming those keywords into topics for content.
There are a few important tools that you’ll want to use in this process.
You’ve likely heard of Google Keyword Planner that’s attached to AdWords. But hold off on using that. Instead, use some of these other tools to generate a big list of long-tail keywords, which you can then plug into Google’s tool for further suggestions and analysis.
I’m going to start with my favorite tool—Keyword Shitter (yes, shitter).
All you do is plug in some keyword ideas to seed it, click the button, and let it do its thing.
Within a few minutes (the longer you let it run, the more ideas it will come up with), it will generate a giant list of keyword ideas based on the ones you put in.
You’ll probably need to scrub some of these, but you should end up with a big list of keyword ideas. Add these to a spreadsheet and move on to phase two.
2. Competitive analysis (aka stealing)
Another way to find great topics is to steal them.
Not, like, stealing the actual content—but borrowing ideas from other websites.
You can identify the posts from your competitors or related websites that are bringing in the most search traffic and use that data to build your list of topics.
For this process, I like to use the tool Ahrefs, which gives you a pretty thorough analysis of the top keywords for any particular website and the pages that rank for each keyword.
So, going back to our example of a home remodeling website, I can perform an analysis of ThisOldHouse.com and immediately see the topics that are bringing in the most search traffic:
Source: Ahrefs Site Explorer
This makes the process of coming up with ideas so easy that it almost feels like cheating.
Add these to your list of topics and repeat for other related sites and competitors.
Now you should have a good list going!
The last step is to run these through Google Keyword Planner to get all of your relevant data and look for any last-minute additions. Then export it out.
If you do this process right, you should be able to easily generate a list of hundreds of keywords and topic ideas. This should keep you busy for a while, huh?
Once you’ve gotten this far, you’re undoubtedly thinking what comes next.
Of course, the obvious next step is to start writing articles based on all of these topic ideas.
But there’s another key piece of this strategy that you need to know about first.
Getting value from your evergreen content
Ultimately, your evergreen content is only creating value every day if it consistently brings in traffic.
This means that it must drive traffic from search—it must rank well on the SERP.
Most of us know that one of the core components for improving search visibility and driving organic traffic is to increase the number of inbound links to our site, commonly known as link building.
This term may feel a bit icky. There’s a lot of black-hat, spammy crap out there masquerading as good link building strategy.
But, there is one tried-and-true, 100%-white-hat way to build links to your site and raise your domain authority.
This is by creating kick-ass content.
One thing that many marketers get wrong about building links is that they assume that that the content that they want to appear in search must have hundreds or thousands of links pointing to it in order to outrank their competitors.
But that’s not usually the case.
Many times, your content can rank well for a specific keyword based solely on the power of your domain authority, despite having few (or no) links to that specific page.
This means that having links to one page on your site can help raise the rankings of all of the other pages on your site.
With this in mind, you want to pair your evergreen content library with a healthy mix of content aimed specifically at building links to your domain.
There are plenty of articles out there about various ways to build content with links. And I could write an entirely separate post on this piece of the puzzle. But, for the sake of brevity, I will give you just two main points that you should know.
First: Visuals, data, and maps all sell.
Want to ensure that you create a piece of content that’s worthy of linking to? Create some kind of cool, new, or exciting visual asset—link bait, as it’s often called.
This may mean using data from within your company, public data, or commissioning an entire research study.
But your end product should be something like:
- A map
- An infographic
- An interesting analysis or study
Second: It’s not enough to create cool content.
Don’t just click publish and wait for the links to come pouring in. Because it won’t happen.
If you want to generate links back to your website, you’ll need to learn how to do link research and manual outreach. Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique is one of the most-often cited examples of how to execute this strategy—and it works!
The premise is pretty simple: You create an interesting piece of content and then show it to the people who are most likely to link to it. Not so bad, right?
Putting it all together
This approach for building sustainable traffic and value from evergreen content basically boils down to a really simple formula:
Keywords + Links = Traffic
And I’ll admit that this may feel obvious since most people are familiar with the basic mechanics of SEO. But understanding this in theory is much different from tactical execution.
If you want to generate real results, you need to put together both pieces of the puzzle into a single, cohesive strategy and then execute on both fronts.
Over to you
That’s all I’ve got for today. But, feel free to drop any questions you might have in the comments.
You may also want to check out the case study we recently published on how we used a strategy like this to generate 100,000 organic visitors/mo.
About the author: Tyler Hakes is strategy director at Optimist, a full-service content marketing agency that helps create sustainable growth for startups, SaaS, nonprofits, and agencies through strategic content and SEO. He’s worked in marketing and writing for nearly 10 years.