How to create evergreen content

In most communication departments focus is shifting from quantity to quality. The development is no surprise, since the web is overflowing with content, and every second an article tumbles into the abyss of yesterday. As a result the concept of evergreen content is more popular than ever.

But what does this illusive concept of evergreen content actually mean? Can a single piece of content really continuously attract readers? And what qualities should it poses to accomplish this?

In this posting I will offer answers to those questions by sharing insights gathered from the many content-focused groups in the Boye network.

What evergreen content is (not)

Evergreen content is content that will continue to stay relevant long after the time of posting. It has a quality of timelessness to it, and this means that it can’t focus solely on current trends, and that it can’t be news articles or be grounded in specific statistics.

When was the last time you reread the headline of a paper from last year?

These pitfalls might sound easy to avoid, but they aren’t. One of the difficulties is distinguishing trends from stables. Regarding all things digital you could say that there is no such thing as stables, and this obviously complicates the whole concept of evergreens. More on that shortly.

Evergreen content is helpful

For content to stay green, it needs to be helpful, and not just in a broad, philosophical sense of the word, but in an immediate, actually changing something sense of the word.

Your content can explore a subject and discuss for and against certain positions, but it needs to have a take away. At the very least it needs to make way for some tiny epiphany that — if internalised by the reader — can result in a shift of routines or practices. How to guides are perfect examples of evergreen content, and in general terms you could argue that a lot of evergreen content possesses an instrumental quality.

It is written for people who know less than you

Evergreen content should be understandable to a relatively broad audience.You might think that broad isn’t your audience, but because you are an expert in your field, you are always writing to people who knows less on the subject than yourself.

If you keep it comprehensible, you might even spark an interest in someone and expand your target group. Secondly, I would argue that also addressing people not already convinced of the importance of your particular topic usually results in more engaging content.

This doesn’t mean that the topic should be kept simple. However, it does mean that you should present the topic in a simple way.

Evergreen content might need to be updated

In a lot of situations it is actually not possible to create content that can be left untouched but still be read for many years to come. As mentioned earlier how to guides have proven resilient to the passage of time, but the subject plays a pretty important part. If you are writing about strategies for infusing your rosebushes with that last growth spurt in spring time, then yes, you might not have to update your article for five or even 50 years.

If on the other hand you are blogging about social media, you are more likely looking at five months, which I would call pretty evergreen, considering the topic.

Evergreen content needs to be flexible

Writing for the web is no longer just about writing for your website to be shown on a desktop or laptop as Sara Watchter-Boettcher states in her book Content Everywhere:

“Content everywhere” doesn’t mean splattering your message in every corner of the Web. It’s about investing in content that’s flexible enough to go wherever you need it: multiple websites, apps, channels, and other experiences.”

With this in mind, creating killer content becomes not just a discipline of text writing or getting your message out everywhere, but rather making sure your content continues to be helpful no matter how people are engaging with it.

To give an example, people should ideally be able to skim this posting on their phones while sitting on the bus and still find it somewhat useful. They might not though, which only illuminates the point that creating evergreen content isn’t an easy task.

Take me to the evergreens

Communicators need a strategy for creating content that is fluid and flexible. They need to learn to create content that engages people, not only target groups, and which can be helpful in all those circumstances people will encounter it.

Danielle Brigida from the US Fish and Wildlife Service provided a hands-on example on how to create and use your evergreen content strategically in the piece Great content empowers your community.