The New York Times shut down some of their blogs as they “got very, very little traffic, and they required an enormous amount of resources, because a blog is an animal that is always famished.” There was a constant pressure and the visitors “expected us to be filling the artificial container of a blog” with new content frequently.
The NYT are doing it wrong! Blogging is not about feeding the hungry beast and constantly manufacturing new content. It is difficult to churn out a large amount of content continuously and keep the quality high. Strong content ideas need time, patience, attention and nurture in order to shine and they cannot coexist with the emphasis on assembly-line schedule. You need to think differently in order to compete. Work smarter and not harder!
An essential tool in your content toolbox is timeless content. Timeless (or evergreen) content is the durable content that has a long shelf left. It is content that thrills, that is as useful, as interesting and as true in a year as it is on the day it is published. It keeps working for you as it sends you traffic through search engines and shares in social media months and even years after it has been published. This type of content can be reused, recycled and repurposed in many different ways too.
In the early 2015, web publisher Vox started an “evergreen stories” experiment by rewriting and refreshing older articles, republishing them and promoting them in social media like they were new. In 5 days 88 of these articles brought in more than 500,000 visitors combined. Some of the articles even got more views than when they were originally published. They did not get any complaints either – nobody noticed! It’s a huge win for Vox. You should aim to be a little bit more like Vox and a little bit less like the NYT.
So how do you create more timeless and evergreen content? Keep reading.
Regularly revisit, rewrite and refresh old content
In the early days I focused on creating great content and attracting visitors. I published insightful posts three times a week. I promoted them in social media and forums. I was excited by each new comment and spent a lot of time checking my Google Analytics. All this helped me grow my reach but there was no big picture and strategic plan behind my efforts. It was only when I started to think strategically that I saw the real growth and benefits of running a site. These days I spend most of my time optimizing and tuning the existing site and content.
The nature of content online means that new articles rule, while old material is quickly forgotten. Don’t let your posts disappear into your archives never to be heard about again. History repeats itself and old topics become new again. Instead of giving up on that long forgotten content, squeeze out more mileage out of it by breathing new life into it.
Your how-to guides, tutorials and other long-form timeless content needs to be revisited and refreshed once in a while in order to keep it completely relevant and up-to-date. Sometimes new facts, information and ideas will become known that help you tell a better story – update the article. Sometimes the site you were giving instructions for makes a change in their design – update your guide to feature the new design. You already have the old story, now just update it with a recent and relevant news hook that people are talking about and push it again. Even consider changing the headline if the old headline doesn’t work or doesn’t fit as well.
Focus on the meaning rather than the happening
Focus on topics that connect to people on a deeper level. Whenever you are about to start creating a new piece of content, always make sure to ask yourself is this article timeless? Could this content be viewed and still be relevant a month or a year from now?
Timely content is normally short and features facts and information on what exactly happened. To differentiate yourself and make your content more timeless you need to add extra value. Share insights. Give away your secrets. Focus on the meaning of what happened rather than the happening itself. Provide fresh views and opinions to the story. Provide context, connection and the larger picture. Explain to your audience why they should care and how this affects them. It is this value that you provide that makes your story stand out, makes it timeless and people can get benefit from it for a long time.
Avoid time specific references
Avoid including specific dates, times and other time specific references in your content as much as you can. Saying something has happened “today” or will happen “tomorrow” is only relevant for those few hours in those days. Even if your article is still valuable, people may see it as inaccurate, irrelevant and outdated just because of the dates and times you mentioned.
Add “last updated” date in the byline
Remove the “published at” date and add the “updated” date in the article byline. This will contribute to your visitors taking your posts more seriously. People care about information being relevant and accurate. If you have an old date in a prominently placed byline of a timeless article visitors might think your article is outdated and incorrect, even though it may not be. Post byline is one of the first things people notice and I believed that it would give a wrong impression to a new visitor. Impression of outdated and irrelevant post, or even worse an impression of an inactive site. That is not the image you want to give your visitors.
Repurpose old content in different formats and platforms
These are the simple but effective tactics you can use to reuse your old content by giving it a fresh look and a new format.
- Use for your newsletter. Consider grabbing a couple of old posts and rewriting them for your email subscribers.
- Do a webinar and create a presentation. Record the webinar and upload the presentation to Slideshare.
- Make a report or an ebook. Put together a report or an ebook from your archives and allow it to be downloaded from your site. Either for free or sell it. Or use it to get social media shares thanks to a plugin like wpLike2Get.
- Create an infographic. Some of your posts might make sense to be republished in a visually appealing infographic format.
- Turn quotes into stunning imagery. Use some useful tips or quotes from your posts and turn them into nice looking images. Brand your image with your URL. People love images so these could be spread through Flickr, Pinterest and other social media.
- Record videos and podcasts. Turn your popular posts into a video or a podcast.
- Use as guest posts and other syndication. Put together several of your best pieces of advice on a specific topic into a new and unique quality post. Submit this article as a guest post to a large and authoritative site in your field. You can also post your posts to sites like LinkedIn that allow you to syndicate your content.
- Create topical best-of posts that curate links to your most popular and best posts on that specific topic. Make it a best of list, the ultimate list of resource or the definitive guide to an interesting topic.
Promote refreshed content in social media
Don’t be scared about tweeting the article again even though it is a refreshed but “old” article. You don’t just have to push new articles only. Keep it fresh by pushing the article with different headlines, different quotes or by using different imagery. It is a fact that only a small percentage of your total followship actually sees what you publish in social media. Distribute your great posts to those of your followers who may have missed it the first time around.
Consider how you monetize your site
Mail Online and other major sites spend a lot of their time on timely content – being first to break the news and reporting on current events and happenings that everyone is talking about. These big sites sell banner ads on cost per thousand (CPM) impressions which forces them to chase page views. This is why they publish large volume of content daily and report on all the trending topics. They keep chasing visits, keep the page view count high and sell as many ads as possible. This strategy puts you as a content publisher on a treadmill of constant content creation. It is not realistic to keep at it for a longer period of time and it will burn you out.
If you monetize by selling your own product or doing affiliate marketing you can step away from the treadmill. Then you can aim to produce more of timeless type of content, content that is not perishable and much more valuable than content that is instantly out of date.
Timeless vs timely content
Don’t let your content creation and storytelling be too dependent on news, trends, and events happening in the moment, but don’t ignore timely content completely. Depending on your time and resources you can aim to find a balance between the two content types. Your timely content should be primed for social media consumption. It should be in line with how people use social media – make it real time content. It gives you a hook that is short lived but could be very impactful thanks to current news and trending topics and people’s being interested in the environment around them.