How to Create Evergreen Content that Dominates SERPs
Would you like to write a blog post today and receive traffic from it for years?
How about a lead magnet or video or infographic that keeps getting you leads 2 years after launch?
Of course you would.
Evergreen content is the holy grail of content marketing - content so good that it keeps producing results years after its creation.
Think Wikipedia articles and in-depth guides that become the go-to reference source on the topic.
Creating evergreen content is hard (as it should be), but the results are worth the effort.
The question now is, how can you create evergreen content of your own? What ingredients do into creating successful evergreen content?
In this post, I’ll help you find some answers, and more.
What Exactly is “Evergreen Content”?
To start with, take a look at this chart:
This chart shows the distribution of Wikipedia entries (by ranking) on the first page of Google for 1,000 randomly selected terms.
It’s easy to see why Wikipedia dominates SERPs. Most of its articles are so thorough, so in-depth, and so well-referenced that they become the de-facto reference on the topic.
“Make your content so remarkable that they become the de-facto reference on the topic” [click to tweet].
These are prime examples of “evergreen content”. This is content so good that neither Google nor your audience can ignore it.
Over time, it even becomes the default reference on the topic.
Evergreen content can be broadly divided into two categories based on its topic focus.
- Breadth: The content covers as many facets of the topic as possible without overwhelming the reader with details. As an example, just look at how WaitButWhy tackles a complex issue like Artificial Intelligence.
- Length: Since the content has to touch upon multiple facets of the topic, it is substantially lengthy. For example, the WaitButWhy AI article referenced above runs into 7,614 words. And that’s just part 1.
Sub-headers: The breadth of the topic means that the content will usually be broken into dozens of sub-headers, each covering a different facet of the topic. For example, just take a look at the table of contents for Wikipedia’s entry on The Great Gatsby.
- References and further reading: Evergreen content with a broad focus will usually serve as an introduction to a topic. It’ll also include links and references to other pages to help readers understand the topic in-depth.
- Head keyword focus: Most broad content focuses on head keywords (such as “auto insurance” and “summer movies”). This means that you get more traffic, but the traffic doesn’t convert quite as well since it isn’t targeted.
This is content that focuses on answering a narrow question on a big topic. For example, instead of giving you a brief overview of Martin Scorsese’s filmography, a narrow-focused article would focus on the use of music in Goodfellas.
Narrow-focused content has a few characteristics:
- Depth: Instead of going wide, narrow-focused content goes deep into a topic. For example, Our content marketing guide series show readers how to do content marketing “on a budget” (instead of a broad-focused content marketing guide).
- Specificity: This content will usually answer very specific questions on a topic. For example, instead of telling readers “what is keyword research”, a narrow-focused topic will tell readers “how to conduct keyword research using AdWords Keyword Planner”.
- Indeterminate length: Unlike broad-focused content, such content need not be lengthy, as long as it answers the question adequately (example: Ahrefs’ list of growth hacks) or be condensed into a single image (example: Backlinko’s infographic on viral content).
- Mid and long-tail keyword focus: This content usually focuses on mid and long-tail keywords. Thus, instead of “insurance”, it will focus on “tips to save money on your insurance”, for example.
6 Types of Evergreen Content You Can Create
How-to guides, timelines, curated resources - these are all content-types that can be “evergreen”.
Let’s look at some of the content types below.
1. How-to guides
The how-to is an evergreen content mainstay. This content usually:
- Has a narrow-focus
- Targets a long-tail keyword
- Answers a very specific question
- Is visual and focuses on showing rather than telling
You’ve seen content like this all over the internet. Every Wikihow article, every in-depth how-to marketing article you’ve ever shared would fit into this category.
For example, this Wikihow entry on how to tie a tie is a great example of a how-to evergreen content-type.
This content doesn’t have to be written; it can also be visual. This infographic on “how to stir fry” is the perfect example of a visual how-to evergreen content-type.
And of course, you can also have videos in this category. For example, this video on “how to install NOS” (Fast and Furious, anyone?) has earned over 2,500,000 views in less than 2 years.
2. Beginner, Advanced and Ultimate Guides
Beginner, advanced and ultimate/complete guides aim to give readers an in-depth understanding of a topic from the perspective of a specific persona (such as an advanced user or a beginner).
This content-type is usually:
- Lengthy, often running into thousands of words.
- Broad, but not deep. You’ll get a strong overview of the topic but you might have to look at additional articles to understand the topic further.
- Text-heavy. Visuals are usually used to illustrate a point, not to replace text entirely.
- Targeted at head and mid-tail keywords.
- Broken down into multiple sections or chapters.
- Gated, i.e. it is behind an opt-in form.
For example, take a look at Neil Patel’s Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.
This guide runs over 30k words and is broken down into 10 chapters.
Another example is this “Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Arduino
3. Curated Resources
There is no shortage of content online. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find enough information on virtually any topic.
The problem is that most of this information is poorly organized. There is no way to tell whether an article is actually good and if it is, how it fits in with other articles.
This is where curated resource lists come in handy. This evergreen content-type helps readers understand a topic better by guiding them to the right links.
Curated resource pages are usually:
- Thorough. If the curated list is about “conversion rate optimization”, you’ll find links to every facet of CRO, from performing audits to post-testing analysis.
- Well-organized with links broken into separate headers and sub-headers.
- Impartial. There will be links to competitors as well where appropriate.
For example, our social media advertising guide has 50+ hand-picked links that covers everything you need to know from how to’s to case studies with sub-headers dividing the post into multiple sections.
4. History/Timeline of X
This content-type shows readers the history of a topic. This can either be in a simple textual history, or a more visual “timeline” format.
A few characteristics of this content-type are:
- Historical accuracy. Since it is literally the history of a topic (such as “History of iPhone”), it has to be historically accurate to be credible.
- Thorough. For a history to be “evergreen”, it has to be the definitive history on the topic.
- Fact-checked. You can’t claim to be accurate without linking to sources.
For example, this “History of Content Marketing” article/infographic by Joe Pulizzi points out how businesses have been using content marketing (though, it was just ‘marketing’ back then) for hundreds of years with plenty of examples and references.
5. Introduction to X
This evergreen content-type aims to give readers a starting point towards understanding a complex topic. Depending on the topic itself, this introduction might be as short as a thousand words (with links for further reading) or as long as a book.
This content-type is usually:
- Beginner-friendly. Since it literally aims to introduce readers to a topic, it is written in a beginner-friendly language with minimal jargon.
- Includes links to additional sources. By itself, the introduction might not tell the readers much, but it will usually include links to additional sources where readers can learn more about the topic.
- Broad-focused. Usually, the introduction will focus on a broad topic such as “coding” or “blogging”.
Complex topics, such as programming, will usually have lengthy “introduction to X” content. For example, this “Introduction to Python Programming” has several chapters.
6. Interactive content
Interactive content can be anything - quizzes, calculators, simple tools, etc. This content is evergreen not because of its length but because it answers a very specific question in the best possible way.
This content-type is usually:
- Up to date. For any interactive content to be relevant, it has to be up to date with the latest data. A forex calculator that isn’t updated with the day’s currency rates, for instance, is practically useless.
- Highly specific. Instead of a broad topic, interactive content usually answers a very specific question, such as “convert EUR to USD”.
- Interactive. Obviously, this content-type should require some input from readers.
- Useful. More than any other evergreen content-type, this content solves a very real reader problem quickly. While a “guide to forex” is great, a tool that converts EUR to USD in real-time has more practical use.
How to Create Evergreen Content
So far, we’ve seen tons of examples of evergreen content-types. This should have already given you some ideas on what makes content “evergreen”.
In this section, we’ll drill down further and show you how you can create such evergreen content of your own.
The Solution-Focused Approach to Evergreen Content
The lazy approach to creating evergreen content is easy enough to understand:
- Find big head keyword with tons of competition
- Spend countless hours creating content for this keyword
- Regret as your content gets drowned out by competition
This approach is simply a matter of throwing words, money and backlinks at the content until something “sticks” in the SERPs.
A much better approach would be to:
- Find out what problems your readers face
- Find the best solution to said problems
- Find the best way to present this solution
- Create and promote the solution
For example, suppose your readers want to find outdated older content on a topic. You can solve this problem in two ways:
- Write a 3,000-word blog post explaining Google search operators and how to use them to find older content
- Create a tool that searches Google for older content (like this)
The second solution is much more effective. It doesn’t simply throw words at a problem; it gives readers actual solutions to their problems.
Adopt this approach and you’ll never run out of evergreen content your readers actually love and share.
Let’s look at a step-by-step process for creating better evergreen content.
Step #1: Brainstorm evergreen content ideas
The first step in the evergreen content creation process is to brainstorm content ideas.
This is harder than it sounds since the content idea must:
- Be appealing enough for social media
- Have enough search volume to justify the time/money investment
- Solve actual reader problems
- Beat competitors in terms of quality and depth
The right content idea will satisfy all the criteria above.
Here’s a process for finding such ideas:
1. Figure out what your audience cares about
Remember that the purpose of evergreen content is to solve your readers’ problems. Creating content that simply targets a keyword without taking readers into account is an easy way to lose at content marketing.
There are three ways you can figure out what your audience cares about:
Niche-specific forums and Q&A sites like Quora are a goldmine of data on actual user questions and concerns.
For example, looking up “content marketing” on Quora shows me hundreds of questions:
Each of these questions represents an actual reader problem.
You can also find such questions on niche forums. Use a query like “[broad topic] + intitle:forum” to find such forums.
Although sparsely used, customer surveys and interviews are extremely effective in helping you understand what your readers actually care about.
You can either pick up the phone and interview customers directly, or you can create a simple on-site survey to understand reader concerns.
Ask questions like:
- What topics would you want to see covered more on the site/blog? What topics would you want to see less of?
- What is your biggest concern regarding [topic]?
- What are your favorite articles on [topic]?
- Where do you get your news, information and opinions about [topic]? Why do you prefer this source?
Your analytics data can also be a great way to figure out what topics your readers are actually responding to.
Start by finding your top performing pages in terms of pageviews.
To do this, log into Google Analytics and go to Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages. Then sort the results by “Pageviews”.
Make a list of topics your readers are responding to the most.
Next, plug your site into Buzzsumo.com to find your best-performing pages in terms of social shares:
Combine all this data to come up with a bunch of broad topics (such as “content marketing tips” or “influencer marketing strategies”).
These topics will serve as your seed keywords in the next step.
2. Use Keyword Planner to make a list of target keywords
For most businesses, search engines will be the best source of traffic to evergreen content. This is why it makes sense to start your search by making a list of target keywords.
If you have an SEO campaign up and running, you likely already have these list of keywords.
Else, log into the AdWords Keyword Planner (Adwords Dashboard -> Tools -> Keyword Planner) or your favorite keyword tool.
Here, click on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”.
Enter your seed keywords from the topic list from the above step. This will show you a bunch of related keywords along with their search volume.
Ideally, your target keyword(s) should have enough search volume to be commercially viable without being so broad that it impossible to rank or write for.
Look for 2-4 word long mid-tail keywords with a good mix of low competition, easy content creation and commercial viability (i.e. readers can be converted into leads).
3. Reverse engineer your competitor's keywords
If you have access to tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz, you’re in for a treat. In this example, I’m using SEMrush.
Type in your competitor’s domain (or any site that you want to reverse engineer).
Now, let’s say that you decided you want to create an evergreen content around “content marketing”, but you needed to find the mid to long-tail keywords. The next step is to filter the results to ONLY show keywords that have “content marketing” in it AND are longer than two words (SEMrush allows you to do this). I’m pretty sure Ahrefs and Moz have this feature as well.
Next is to find keywords that have a decent amount of search volume AND reasonable ‘keyword difficulty’. Regarding ‘keyword difficulty’, anything above 65 falls into my ‘forget-about-it’ list.
4. Assess your competition and be “Judge Judy”
Before settling on a content idea, it’s a good idea to take stock of the competition on search and social.
Start by downloading the Moz Bar to quickly gauge the domain, URL and backlink strength of your competitors. When you search with the Moz Bar enabled, you’ll see SEO-related metrics right within the search results.
Google all the keywords you brainstormed in #2 and #3 above one-by-one (yes, it takes a lot of time. Deal with it!). If the search competition is too strong (especially with high PA), it might be a good idea to move onto another keyword.
If you do find a keyword with relatively low competition in the SERPs, open up Buzzsumo and plug the keyword into Buzzsumo’s search box. This will show you the competition on social media.
Once you zero-in on 2-3 prospective keywords, open the top performing pages for the keyword (on search and social). Ask yourself:
- Is this content visually rich?
- Is this content reader-friendly? If not, why?
- Is this the best way to present this topic?
- What do you like about this content?
- What do you NOT like about this content?
- What sub-topic ideas do they cover?
- How long is the article?
The next step is to combine the strengths AND weaknesses of said content/posts and turn it into the best answer/resource for the topic.
4. Create a catchy headline, with the keyword, that will grab people’s attention in Google searches
Once you’ve zeroed in on an idea, it’s time to come up with actual content titles/headlines.
There are three things you should consider here:
- The title must be click-worthy. This means it should include power words (such as “Astonishing”, “Smashing”, etc.) and/or numbers.
- The title must be SEO-optimised. If possible, include your target keyword in the title.
- The title must have a narrow-focus. For instance, “How to choose a content marketing platform for SaaS startups”, instead of “How to choose a content marketing platform”.
Try to brainstorm at least 10+ titles before settling on one. You can also split test titles to see what works better using Twitter or Facebook ads.
Step #2: Figure out the best content format for the topic
The next step is to figure out what’s the best format for the topic.
For example, if your topic is “content marketing tips”, you’ll do better with a listicle or a guide than with an infographic.
Similarly, if your topic is “cooking a steak”, a video or an infographic is a much better content format than an article.
There are three things you should consider when choosing the format for your topic:
Ask yourself: what kind of content is your team good at creating? What kind of in-house talent do you already have onboard?
For example, if you have strong in-house design talent, it might be better to create an infographic than to write a 10k word blog post.
If your competition already has a 10,000-word guide on a topic, it makes little sense to write another similar text-heavy guide; there’s a limit to “one-upping” your competition.
Instead, you could turn the topic into an epic infographic, an interactive guide or a video.
Carefully consider your competition before deciding on a format. Pick a format that your competitors haven’t already excelled at.
If your objective is to “go viral”, you’ll do better with a video or an infographic than with a 10,000-word blog post.
Similarly, if your purpose is to get leads, a “how-to” post with a relevant content upgrade would be better than a video.
Consider the content’s purpose as well before deciding on the format.
Step #3: Create the content
Depending on your experience and expertise, this might be the easiest or the hardest step in the entire process.
Evergreen content essentially has three ingredients:
- It is reader friendly.
- It is in-depth (and relevant).
- It is visually appealing.
Let’s look at how you can tick all the boxes:
1. Make your content snappy
By now, you should have known that people don’t read online; they scan.
Reader-friendliness essentially means making your content as easy to consume as possible.
Here are a few ways to make this possible:
- Use simple words. Your writing should read at a 5th grade level for most content pieces.
- Use short sentences. Longer sentences can be confusing, especially on screens.
- Use short paragraphs. Your paragraphs should be 2-3 sentences at most.
- Use sub-headers, dividers and images liberally to break up text into smaller segments.
I highly recommend using a tool like Hemingway when writing. This tool will point out whenever your writing becomes too complicated for the average reader.
2. Create a flagship content
Imagine your blog or website like a fleet, and your blog posts as the ships. Now, you can have many ships, but the one that carries the flag is usually the best and the biggest ship (The Black Pearl, anyone?). Your blog posts are like that. You can have many blog posts (ships), but the evergreen content must be the one that stands out (flagship).
So, how can you make your evergreen content stands out? There are at least 3 ways you can make your content stands out:
Like it or not, size matters. Remember "back in the old days" where people were pumping out listicles after listicles trying to "one-up" everyone and people shared it? Unfortunately, it's not that simple anymore.
Don’t just publish ‘100 ways to X’; ask yourself, “does it make sense?” [click to tweet]
Depth is easy enough to understand: your content should be the single best resource on the topic (at least when compared to your competition).
Don’t see “depth” as an excuse to pad out the content with unnecessary words. Instead, see this as an opportunity to save readers a click by including useful information within your content.
What do I mean by this?
Simple: instead of directing readers to another link showing how something is done (say, checking pageviews in Google Analytics), show readers how it can be done within the article itself.
This essentially turns each evergreen content piece into multiple “asides”. These add depth to the content without making it irrelevant.
For example, CoSchedule regularly uses visuals to create mini how-to’s within its articles. In the example below, the image shows tips to write great introductions without directing readers to another article.
How do you create a content that is so broad that people would want to share it?
Think about the -landscape of your industry. Let's take web or graphic design as an example. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of awesome resources, tools, or books out there. New design tools seem to pop-up every week and so often that many people need just one place to keep track of these.
Besides the above, your content should also be:
- Up to date. If new information comes in on the topic, make sure to edit the original content.
- Well sourced. Link out to your sources or include a list of references at the bottom of the post.
- Links to further reading. No matter how deep you go, you can’t possibly cover every aspect of the topic. Include links to further reading material at the bottom of your content. Bonus points if this is your own content in the form of a content upgrade or guide.
3. Show, don’t tell, with visual content
Visuals - mini-infographics, screenshots, embedded videos, comics, etc. - keep readers interested in your content.
They also help you stand out from the competition while also giving you additional shares.
In fact, content with visuals gets 94% more views than content without.
A visually captivating content piece has several attributes:
- Strong, visually evocative cover image (for blog posts and social media).
- Screenshots that show instead of just telling readers about something.
- Graphics and illustrations to help explain ideas and concepts.
- Embedded videos to explain complicated topics visually (especially how-to’s).
- GIFs and reaction images where appropriate (works particularly well with a humorous tone).
For example, our how to create long-form content includes an infographic at the bottom of the post summarizing the entire post.
This is a great way to make your content more visually captivating.
When combined together, these ingredients will help you create stellar evergreen content that will bring in traffic for years.
And if that’s too complicated, remember that you have a simple goal as a content creator: to make the best content possible on the topic.
Over to You
Evergreen content is hard to create, but it is also one of the best ways to rack up social shares, get backlinks and dominate SERPs.
Remember, web users are busy. So, they want:
one trusted resource,
that fully answers the question,
in a language they understand,
in a place they can easily find.
For inspiration, start by looking at the examples above. Then follow the steps above to brainstorm content ideas and start creating your content.
Here are your next three action steps:
- Find 3 examples of successful content in your niche.
- Brainstorm 1-3 evergreen content ideas using the framework above.
- Brainstorm titles for each of the content ideas, start creating, and promoting your content.