The term refers to articles that have a long shelf life. In other words, they may be just as useful to the reader a year from now than the day they were written.
The investment of time, energy and even money in generating such content may not pay for itself in the near future, but a good evergreen article will likely pay for itself in the long term and then become pure profit from that point forward.
In traditional media, think of magazines and newspapers that publish any of the following evergreen ideas:
- People: biographies, personality profiles
- Food: recipes, diet, nutrition
- Health and fitness: running, cycling, swimming, yoga, pilates, weight lifting, martial arts
- Travel: destinations, tips, guides, reviews
- Recreation: bowling, camping, hiking, fishing, boating, cycling, skiing
- Home and garden: decorating, gardening
- Communities: government, education, shopping, dining, organizations
- Hobbies: music, socializing, games, cooking, pets, volunteering
- Entertainment: attractions and annual events
These types of articles are filled with solid and mostly unchangeable facts, and therefore the articles fall into the category of evergreen content.
In contrast, think of news, sports and other kinds of events that have high interest the day they take place and possibly a few days after, but then their value declines.
Who remembers what happened during the fourth quarter of a college football game between Virginia Tech and University of Virginia in October 1998?
Few people remember and few people will have a reason to look it up. That means the article about that game has little value to anyone. There is no reason to keep it prominent on a Web site.
Who wants travel tips about vacating in the Bahamas? It may be a small number today and another small number tomorrow. In five years, that static article with unchanging facts — those beaches aren’t going anywhere — will still be attracting a steady stream of visitors if it is well-placed on the site or well-ranked in search engines.
Any site with evergreen content should have a strategy that 1) specifically develops evergreen content as part of the overall content development plan; 2) manages the content; 3) makes it accessible for visitors and search engines.
First, identify topics with the potential to be evergreen and categorize them by keyword like the list at the start of this article. Make a point of generating at least some ratio or percentage of evergreen content to total content.
Second, audit existing content periodically to see if any old articles are evergreen and have become inaccessible to visitors and search engines because of the site architecture.
Third, decide whether any article is worth having a permanent anchor at some point on major index pages ranging from the home page to section / channel fronts.
Fourth, consider the same approach with subsection index pages.
Fifth, build an archive page or section and place a link to it on a major index page.
Sixth, revisit that content periodically (at least once a year) to make sure it is still viable. Topics remain evergreen, and the content will remain mostly good, but sometimes an article needs to be tweaked.
Putting It All Together
What I have seen over and over again is someone who writes an article that makes a huge splash, gets plenty of readership and then dies off because the content is based on a topic that has a short-term life.
I have also seen many evergreen articles that make only a small splash, but they continue to generate readership month after month and even year after year because they have lasting value.
That lasting value often translates into more total audience and revenue than the short-term article with a big splash.
In the realm of evergreen content, it may be months or even a year or more before the winners and losers become apparent.
That’s why it is so important to review evergreen articles on a periodic basis. Then it will be easy to make informed decisions about which ones to lift in prominence on the site, which ones should decline and even which ones might be rewritten and expanded to increase the opportunity for more audience and revenue.
Besides, tweaking an evergreen article written a year ago is a lot easier than writing a completely new article. These days, we all want to make the best use of our time.