Evergreen content is defined differently by many different content experts. Wordstream even wrote a blog post about what evergreen content is where they covered many different definitions. The one we like the best is this one, "continues to be relevant long past its publication."
Evergreen content is great because strangers keep finding it and coming to your site to consume it, giving you traffic, improving your SEO, and expanding your reach to new visitors who might be interested in your products and services.
The only problem with evergreen content is that it's seldom evergreen forever. Eventually most evergreen content needs to be updated, and many organizations have a problem with that because they don't plan for it in their content development schedule. It may not get updated, meaning you lose those evergreen benefits, or, as we find in more cases, it turns into a content hand-grenade, creating lots of churn as the drive to update it disrupts normal content development. In this article, we'll share seven tips that make maintaining evergreen content easier.
Tip 1: Don't Water Down Content Trying to Make it Evergreen
If you read the Wordstream article referenced above, you'll find a number of descriptions for what makes content evergreen. Some marketers go further than that, trying to design content to be evergreen. They also try to address the problems with content getting stale or out-of-date. Some recommend excluding screenshots that might change in a few months, omitting dates in the content, or even excluding links that might break. Frankly, we believe this is foolish. There is only one thing that makes content evergreen, if people keeping finding it, and coming to your site to consume it. If you want content to drive visitors to your site, you have to make content the best it can be. If it's better with screenshots, dates, and links included, then include them. The content will drive more content over the short term and the long haul. It's the only way content has a shot at being evergreen.
Tip 2: Evergreen Content Will Need to be Updated, Plan For It.
We recommend a two-phased approach to planning evergreen content updates. First, someone on your content team should be monitoring metrics on all of your published content for multiple metrics. Traffic metrics such as views are usually cited, but there are different shades of evergreen. Some content is better at compelling visitors to click on content offers, or subscribe to blogs. Key content attribution metrics should also be tracked and compared. Content that generates traffic and improves SEO is great, content that gets visitors to give you their content information is gold. We prefer having a single person track all content as it enables them to see relationships between pieces of content, and content campaigns, and suggest priorities based on the metrics.
A second person, usually the content author, is responsible for identifying when content is getting out of date and nominating it to be updated. The content author is the logical choice for this job. They know the topic and content very well, which puts them in a good position to tell the difference between an article that is dated but still viable, and one that must be updated to remain relevant. This should be easy for them as they should be monitoring the content piece anyway to respond to comments and engage the community. If for any number of reasons, the original author has moved on or is unavailable, we designate the person who is tasked with responding to comments for the article to monitor it and determine when it should be updated.
Both pieces of information should be rolled up in regular marketing content team meetings. These meetings might be weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. We recommend bi-monthly for most of our clients with content plan decisions made once a month. With this information rolled up, the entire team can give input on content priorities in ongoing content plans, and any emerging evergreen content updates that might be needed.
Tip 3: Build Evergreen Content Updates Into Your Content Plan
Build time into your content development schedule to update evergreen content. Many factors impact the amount of time you need. From the amount of published content you have the size of your team, and it's content workload all factored into how many old articles you can update. Small content teams may have to pull content authors off of active campaigns to update content, while large organizations may have multiple people in dedicated roles who are responsible for keeping published content up-to-date. A good place to start is by counting the number of evergreen content pieces you updated in the previous year. Take that number, and assume you'll be adding to that number each year. For many clients, building one evergreen update a month into the schedule is more than adequate.
The key is to allocate real time to update evergreen content. Don't add it to a content developers plate as "other duties as assigned." That's what creates churn, and puts both the content to be updated, and any other deliverables they're working on at risk.
Tip 4: Carefully Consider When You Should Start the Update Process
It may seem simple. You follow our recommendations. You have time for updating published content in your schedule. You identify a piece that needs updating. You schedule it for the next available content update slot. While that often works, depending on the topic and the factors that are necessitating an update, you may wish to wait.
For example, we recently updated two pieces of evergreen content. One on How to Increase Social Selling Success with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and another on 7 Secrets for Creating Great LinkedIn Showcase Pages. As you may have guessed, LinkedIn's UI redesign and feature reconfiguration, released to the general public in January of this year, was one of the primary reasons we had to update these articles. However, we waited several months to update the articles. Why? Our articles weren't feature reviews. They explain common tasks and usage scenarios and provide tips on how to make the most out of LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Showcase pages. We wanted to give users some real time to adjust to the UI and see if the redesign helped or hurt common usage scenarios. We wanted to wait for both our staff, other LinkedIn experts, and other content publishers to run the redesigned tools through their paces. By doing so we were able to discover more of the good, bad, and ugly about the feature changes and pass along some different perspectives, as well as some new tips and tricks.
Tip 5: Deciding When to Update, and When to Start Fresh
The good news is that updating previously published articles usually takes significantly less time than writing new articles. Most of the blog posts we write take between three days and two weeks to write. Most updates take a day and a half to two days. However, if changes to a topic are extensive enough, it may be better to rewrite an article entirely.
When most people think about updating content, they think about replacing out-dated screenshots, updating statistics, features, and dates while adding a few new anecdotes. That may be the case, but in many cases, changes might be deeper forcing you to spend more time to do an update right.
The two LinkedIn articles we updated recently provide a good example of each type of update. The article on LinkedIn showcase pages qualified as an update. LinkedIn changed some of the rules around naming showcase pages, and a few of the features, but most changes were cosmetic due to LinkedIn's new UI. We updated screenshots and verified the features available to make the article current and accurate. The majority of our original article focused on how businesses can use showcase pages for promotion and engagement since that didn't change major rewrites weren't necessary.
The LinkedIn article on Sales Navigator was different. We had originally compared Sales Navigator to LinkedIn Professional, and had walked through several social selling scenarios highlighting the differences between the two versions of LinkedIn and show off the powerful social selling features of Sales Navigator. The changes LinkedIn made to the Professional version such as removing tags and notes, and nerfing search capability, meant our comparison of the two tools had to be completely reworked. On top of that, the UI changes throughout Sales Navigator impacted not just feeds, but also how searches are performed and other key user activities. So, while scenarios we had created were still valid, the way you approach social selling tasks, and the steps needed within the tool had substantially changed. That's a rewrite.
We follow a couple of guidelines for determining what constitutes a rewrite:
- If the length of time to update an article is going to be similar to writing an article from scratch, then it's a rewrite.
- If the assertions, key points, or vision of the article has substantially changed, then the article needs to be reimagined. That's a rewrite. In that case, we'll often lead off with a summary of the previous article, and follow that with a discussion of how and why things have changed.
If content needs to be rewritten, treat it like a new piece of content and give the author or authors the time required to create the new content.
6 - Deciding Who Should Update the Content
This seems like a no-brainer. If the original author is often the best person to monitor content and identify when it needs to be updated, it follows that they are the best person to write the update, correct? Not so much. In practice, we've found that original authors do the updating only about 35% of the time. There are several reasons for this.
First, staying plugged into a piece of content to see if it needs to be updated, and responding to comments is part of content ownership and doesn't take that much time. Updating and rewriting content does. The original author may have other campaign or content priorities that make them unable to update the piece in the required timeframe. Their focus may also have moved onto other topics. They also might not be interested in updating the content. After months of owning the content, they might just be done with it, and we don't recommend assigning people to work on content they aren't passionate about. That said, we always give the original author right of first refusal to take on update or rewrite projects for content they've authored.
This raises a question; if the original author doesn't want it, who should update it? We've found that updating content is a good responsibility for new hires or new members of the content team. These people often have less on their plates and need some practice authoring content. Doing content updates lets them start at the shallow end of the content development pool. They'll likely need a little more supervision, but they'll need that on any content they produce. At the end of the process, they'll own a piece of content and get familiar with responding to comments and tracking when the piece needs to be updated again.
Tip 7: Always Protect Your SEO
The content you're updating is evergreen because people keep finding it and sharing the link. Make sure the protect the SEO that's built around that content. Update blog posts in place, unpublish them then republish once updates are complete. Be sure to use the same title, URL, and keywords that were associated with the previous version so social shares, backlinks, and SEO for the content remain valid. If you're updating videos or SlideShares, replace existing content rather than publishing new versions on social platforms.
Updating evergreen content can be a hassle when organizations don't build time for updates into their content development schedule. By setting up a process to determine when content needs to be updated, building time into the schedule, and selecting the right people do content updates, you can reduce or eliminate many content update issues. By doing so, you'll be able to continue to realize the traffic and SEO benefits of long lasting content.
CarverTC is a Hubspot partner agency in Portland Oregon that provides inbound marketing and content for technology companies and anyone with complex messaging. CarverTC also provides digital marketing training across North America.