If you want to get more visitors to your website, common marketing wisdom is to create lots of new content to seduce search engines. But as a freelancer, you don’t have time to create endless content and to run your business. So without a whole marketing team, how can you make best use of content marketing without working 90 hour weeks?
The answer is to rethink the type of content you’re creating. Rather than feeling the pressure to publishing something (… anything…) every week to keep your website fresh, spend some time planning valuable evergreen content that can become a permanent asset to your site, showing your expertise and drawing in your perfect potential customers.
What is evergreen content?
Evergreen articles are carefully-chosen, long form posts that will keep giving you the benefits without having to continuously create. By choosing a few topics that your customers are continuously searching for, you can build something that doesn’t go out of date and keep publicising it, rather than writing more and more blogs.
Once you’ve got your articles written, they’re valuable content. Publish them repeatedly through your social media channels, a couple of times a week (remember that the half-life of a social post is tiny; the majority of people won’t see each one).
The results of this approach are steady and cumulative. This is the traffic report of a normal write-and-post-once blog:
And this is the traffic from a write-once, publish-often piece of evergreen content:
You can see how the value of the content, and therefore the value of the time you spent creating it, is so much higher for an evergreen article. So how can you go about doing it?
How to set up your evergreen content
- ‘Blogs’ and ‘news’ are date-driven and so have a limited shelf life. So instead, remove the date from your blog pages and call them articles or knowledge base or primers or academy — this makes your content last longer and also makes it sound more authoritative.
- Talk to your existing customers in person or run a survey to find out their pain points. Many freelance creatives do their work for Marketing departments or business owners, so focus on those roles.
- Make a list of potential problems you could solve with your expertise (I use a Trello board for this).
- For each article, ask yourself ‘will people still be having this problem a year from now?’ Those are the topics you want to focus on. So no comments on product releases, no years in your titles, no seasonal content.
- Search in Keyword Planner to find what sort of search traffic your topics are getting. Start with the most popular.
If you’re using Trello, their Butler automation add-on lets you set your board to automatically sort each list by a custom field, so add a ‘search traffic’ field to each article and let the board show you which articles to work on next.
How to write evergreen articles
Write for the right audience
You want your readers to come away from your article with a solution to their problem AND feeling that it was easy to learn it. That way they’ll come back to you.
Provide a comprehensive solution
Make sure you fully and authoritatively solve the problem. This usually means that your evergreen article will be longer than normal blog posts, and that’s a good thing.
Writing more comprehensive articles (2,000 words +) used to give you a big boost in Google as an ‘in-depth article’, with a greater chance of showing on the home page, but Google seem to be removing this feature. Long format writing is still great for SEO though, as you have lots of keyword-rich content for it to index.
Break up your article
Use clear sub-headings to help people scan through quickly. Also add in images, screenshots and pull-out quotes. A big wall of text is intimidating and can put people off.
How to promote your evergreen content
Showcase your content
You’ll have spent more time creating your evergreen articles, so be sure to give them pride of place on your website. A ‘popular posts’ section is common but a bit old fashioned… go the whole hog and have a hub for it — guides, primers, how-tos, answer hub: all of these give more credibility to your work. Make sure to add it to your site navigation too.
Come up with multiple headlines
You’ll be reposting each evergreen article to your social media channels a couple of times a week, so it’s worth coming up with 4 or 5 different headlines to go with it. That will add to the variety of your social feeds and also attract slightly different groups of people.
Automate your posting
Use a social media scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to plan out your posts. The whole point is to save you time while building your audience, so don’t waste time trying to remember to post things every day. By spending half an hour setting up your article posts for a few months in advance, you can set-and-forget, and rest assured that your social media channels will have a continuous drip of useful content for your audience.
Every year, check through your evergreen content to make sure it’s still accurate, add some brief edit notes if things have change and republish it (don’t change the page URL, that’ll ruin your Google ranking). This is MUCH quicker than endlessly writing new blog posts.
To sum up…
- Evergreen content increases the value of your website over time
- Choose topics that help solve the problems of the type of customer you want
- Use the popularity of search terms for each article to help figure out which to write first
- Write an undated, illustrated, in-depth article that helps people solve their problem
- Use a social scheduling tool to automatically repost your article a couple of times a week using a few different headlines