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The 5 Most Effective Types of Evergreen Content

By: Compose.ly — September 04, 2018

evergreen tree farm

This post was written by Compose.ly writer Holland Webb.

What types of evergreen content are the most efficient when it comes to driving traffic and conversions?

Evergreen Content: What It Is and Why You Need It

Marketing content comes in two types – topical and evergreen.

What is topical content?

Topical content is your company’s take on a headline issue. If the subject is lighting up Facebook and Twitter, it’s probably topical. Topical content can relate to current events, but can also just be seasonal or trendy. The common factor in all topical content, however, is that it is relevant for a limited period of time.

What is evergreen content?

Evergreen content, on the other hand, is any content that readers find interesting and meaningful over an extended period of time. Just like evergreen trees retain their green leaves all year long, evergreen content never loses its relevance to readers.

Some businesses are drawn to the high click rates of topical content. Their blogs and web pages fill up with clickable pieces, but without a foundation of evergreen content, these brands run the risk of creating flash-in-the-pan marketing strategies that fail to elevate their public profiles.

Evergreen content boosts searchability, and it adds gravitas to your brand, building trust with potential consumers. A consumer-friendly, SEO-optimized, viable content strategy includes a healthy mix of topical and evergreen content.

Does your website have enough evergreen content?

Open up your brand’s blog in a new tab. Scan the first few pages. What do you see?

If most of your article titles contain words like trending, hype, 2018, or holiday, your content might be listing heavily in favor of topical pieces. By contrast, if you see a lot of terms such as best practices, how to, advice for, or case study, you’ve probably got a rich library of evergreen content.

Big Tip
If your site contains about 70% evergreen content and 30% topical content, you are probably doing a good job of satisfying your potential consumers’ knowledge needs and interests.

5 Examples of Evergreen Content That Get Results

Above all else, evergreen content needs to be useful. It is rich with instructions, tools, warnings, historical insights, and lists of resources.

Below are five examples of great evergreen content that drives traffic. Pick and choose which ones will work best for your business.

1. How-to Guides

According to the University of Bath, there are two reasons to create a how-to guide:

  • To outline a step-by-step process that a user has to follow to complete a task.
  • To provide instructions on how to use a piece of software or technology.

Effective how-to guides are well-planned, thoroughly researched, and cleanly structured. Since the subject matter can be challenging, the language shouldn’t be. The best how-to guides use simple words and sentences. Most importantly, they need to be pinpoint accurate; there’s nothing more frustrating than a how-to that gives incorrect information.

What can a how-to guide do for your content marketing strategy?

How-to guides:

  • Drive SEO traffic. As a popular type of content, people frequently search for them
  • Make excellent gated content. You can offer them to subscribers as a reward for signing up to your email list, generating leads.
  • Build credibility. Provided your guide is accurate, well-written, and easy to understand, it will make your readers perceive you as an expert in the subject.

A how-to guide also keeps your prospects coming back. It’s such a valuable piece of content that buyers will tend to assume you will have more of what they need. Before you launch your how-to guide, be sure to have a few blog articles or listicles tucked away so your content stream remains consistent.

Lifehacker is one of the best-known publishers of how-to guides. As they put it, “Step-by-step guides are our bread and butter here at Lifehacker, and you seem to enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy writing them.”

The site even publishes an annual list of its “best how-to guides” for that year. Topics include:

The site ranks as the 377th most-visited site in the U.S. Its high visibility is due in large part to its having become the “go to” spot on the internet for people wanting to learn how to do stuff.

How to write an effective how-to guide

When writing a how-to guide, do your homework, and plan it out carefully. Readers use how-to guides to make their lives simpler. Start off on the right foot by making sure everything you put in your outline is true and up-to-date.

Make sure that your how-to guide actually instructs readers how to do something step-by-step. That’s what a how-to is, after all. That doesn’t mean that it has to be formatted as a numbered list, although many how-to guides are.

lifehacker howto list

The Lifehacker guide above is written in paragraph form, but it can still be broken down into seven distinct steps. This helps it retain its “how-to” feel, and is what makes it simple to follow.

The best how-to guide writers are a cross between teachers and technical editors. Put on your teacher’s hat while you write and your technical editor hat after you complete your first draft.

A good how-to guide takes a long time to research, write, and publish, but the results are well-worth it.

2. Top (X) Lists

A top (X) list is a list-style article, where “X” is a number you decide on. Top (X) lists are very common – for instance, you’re reading one right now.

A top (X) list should help your reader get organized, accomplish more, and save time and money by following your advice. Like how-to guides, these pieces should be information-rich but simple in tone and verbiage.

Angelica Weddell of the National Research Center says, “Readers are busy with work, studies, life and a million other competing articles. A list needs no time spent searching for takeaways. Most web readers look at headlines first (or only) and content second. Since lists are really a series of headlines, they are an easy win.”

Big Tip

It’s great to give your lists eye-catching titles, but make sure that they match your content. Google’s algorithm punishes articles with misleading titles. 

When should you write a top (X) list?

Any time you want to create a clickable piece, go with a list. For shareable content, lists can’t be beat. (Check your Facebook feed – you’ll see people sharing lists.)

Lists are fun. They’re easy to gamify – like a quiz – and are easy to scan. You can also add video clips, GIFs, cartoons, and cinemagraphs if you want to.

Even the New York Times, as venerable an institution of traditional media as you can get, says, “Aaron Carroll’s ‘simple rules for healthy eating’ … attracted a big audience, and it did so largely organically, through social media. … To put it bluntly, it was a better, more useful piece than it would have been as a 1,000-word essay or news article. Human beings often think in terms of lists.”

Let’s take a look at a section of Carroll’s article:

new york times list article

Notice how scannable this sample is. It’s possible to skim it and come away with a good idea of what it’s saying, just by looking for the numbers and reading the bolded sentences, and it’s easy to circle back afterwards and hone in on entries that are particularly interesting. This is why people like list articles – they’re easy to read.

It’s fun to read (and write) top (X) lists. Just be sure to do it right. You have to pick the right tone, be consistent with it, and write an eye-catching headline for each number in your list.

3. Q&A Interviews

Interviews are an excellent way to create authoritative, unique content on your site. By conducting a live interview with a leading expert in your field, you add an original voice to the internet’s discussion of your topic. It’s also a great way to build friendships with clients, vendors, experts, and anyone else you choose to interview.

As Kathrina Tiangco says on AudienceBloom, “Interviews are a prime opportunity to reach out to influencers in your industry. It’s a free opportunity for some additional publicity, so most influencers are happy to get involved, even if you’re operating at a lower level of influence than they’re used to. When people see your company associated with these major influencers, they’ll view you as having a slightly higher authority.”

You can work with a media production company to turn your interviews into podcasts or videos for YouTube. That way, your reach expands and your content is available in multiple formats.

Conducting a successful interview starts with securing the right expert. From there, develop a list of powerful questions that allows your interviewee to shine.

The quintessential content marketing interviewer is probably James Carbary, founder of SweetFish Media. Carbary launched his company as a content marketing production firm in 2014. He hired a writing team and set to work. Within two years, Carbary transitioned into an interview format, creating podcasts, cold emails, and blog content for B2B companies that hire him to produce their shows. Since moving into interviews, SweetFish has been featured in Time, Inc., the Huffington Post, and Forbes.

Conducting a successful interview starts with securing the right expert. From there, develop a list of powerful questions that allow your interviewee to shine.

Practice your interview before you start, especially if you’re nervous. Finally, you can write up your interview as a Q&A or turn it into traditional, paragraph-style text.

Topical interviews can become evergreen

Sometimes, interviews can pertain to topical subjects but go beyond them and in so doing become evergreen.

The Innovator’s interview with Alex Renz of the New Mobility Consulting is a good example of this. Part of the interview is concerned with a recent blockchain-related hackathon that Renz participated in. The interview contains topical news about the hackathon, but in talking about it, Renz makes several larger points that have staying power.

Blockchains and distributed ledger technologies are still in their infancy, but they have the potential to disrupt platform intermediaries and enable completely new business models. I encourage every business to explore the technology and assess what risks  and opportunities   it creates.

To conduct an interview that will remain relevant, make sure to give your interviewee plenty of chances to dig a little deeper and reveal something that’s of lasting value.

4. Checklists

People love checklists. Few things are more satisfying than drawing a firm line through a completed item on a list. Checklists are so beloved that New York Times bestselling author Atul Gawande wrote an entire book called The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

In the book, Gawande tells about the power of checklists. In Austria, a near-drowning victim was saved through an emergency checklist. In Michigan, a checklist eliminated a deadly hospital infection. Checklists, Gawande says, prove satisfying to the user and prompt immediate improvements.

As you do when creating any quality content, make sure to involve subject matter experts in the development of your checklists.

Include 5-9 items on the list. Too few, and you don’t have a checklist. Too many, and you’ll lose your reader.

Remember to keep your language simple, clear, and familiar to your readers. Incorporate some “must dos” and some “nice to haves.” But note which is which so the reader doesn’t become confused. The folks at The Art of Manliness provide more helpful tips for creating a checklist.

If you have access to both a great writer and a top-notch designer, try incorporating your checklist into an infograph. You could use numbers, letters, or tick marks that make the content more colorful and meaningful. If you also have access to a programmer, try gamifying your checklist so the reader can actually tick the boxes online. That approach makes your content fun and interactive.

web launch checklist

Humaan’s website launch checklist is a very useful piece of content that does a lot of things right. It’s dynamic and gamified – look at those satisfying lines drawn through the completed entries – and has a clean yet colorful layout. Needless to say, nothing on it will become obsolete any time soon, putting it firmly into the evergreen category.

5. Case Studies

Though it falls last on our list, providing case studies is actually one of the most effective marketing and selling strategies you can employ. A case study boosts credibility, puts real numbers and stories behind your claims, and hooks your content in the readers’ minds. Plus, most companies don’t take the time to prepare case studies. This kind of evergreen content offers a great opportunity for you to stand out.

The inbound marketing and analytics software platform Moz says that case studies were a “game changer” for their business and that their case studies portfolio page is the second most visited page on their site. They also credit case studies with being a primary conversion tool turning visitors into leads.

Syed Balkhi, the co-founder of Optinmonster, says, “In essence, a good case study highlights ‘what’s in it for me?’ from the target prospect’s perspective.” He gives five reasons you need to include case studies in your content marketing.

  • They are niche-specific.
  • They position your brand as authoritative.
  • They explain how problems get solved.
  • They provide social proof.
  • They lead to spinoff content.

For a look at what makes a great case study, consider reading DocSend’s list of 150 successful case studies. They highlight several standouts in each industry, and explain what they do particularly well. Successful case studies are clearly and engagingly written and include plenty of hard data. Customers believe peer reviews, hard numbers, and stories far more than they trust pure marketing speak.

casino case study

This case study on casino security, for example, does several things right. The title is attention-grabbing (and manages to include a small pun without compromising their professional tone). The study includes plenty of pictures and has an attractive layout that’s easy on the eye. The writing is engaging – after this, they engage in a little storytelling about the testing they did – and it gets to the point: by the end of the first paragraph, you know what you’ll take away from their study.

Although it makes topical points about the particular casino they tested, it contains plenty of broadly-applicable information that will hold its value. The result is a valuable case study that’s been linked to from several websites (like DocSend) and that will continue to drive traffic from people in the security industry for a long time.

Creating case studies like this takes a lot of work. They are a challenge to research and write even for an experienced content marketing professional. But they are advertising gold, and the payoff is worth it.

Final Takeaways

These evergreen examples show how building a library of reusable content that’s authoritative over the long term is one key to effective content marketing. However, researching, writing, and editing quality content may not be something you have the time or skills to do in-house. Outsourcing can help, but it comes with its own drawbacks. Hiring an agency can be costly, and not all freelance writers are able to produce the top-shelf work you need.

At Compose.ly, we select only agency-quality writers to boost your SEO, and provide content at a fraction of the cost. Fewer than 1% of the writers who attempt our test actually make it into the Compose.ly pool. That means our content is among the best on the web.  Our business model lets you have access to content marketing experts at a small percentage of what an agency charges.

To learn more about how Compose.ly can help you create high-ranked content that drives traffic right to your site, contact us today.

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