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Evergreen SEO 2.0: Greener than ever
In this week's newsletter, we revisit a favourite topic: evergreen SEO. We explain how to identify strong evergreen candidates and write 10x content.
Hello and welcome back. This week it’s Jessie, fresh from a nippy -10°C (or 14°F) skate in the park.
This week, we are looping back to our favourite topic: evergreen SEO. In this week’s issue, we’ll discuss what qualifies as an evergreen topic or content type, as well as how you can update or expand your evergreen efforts to rank higher in SERPs by using 10x content and proper tracking.
In just a few short weeks, we will be hosting our first-ever live news SEO Zoom hangout! Join us on Feb. 3).
Join our Slack community to talk about news SEO any time!
Let’s get into it.
In this issue:
What is evergreen SEO?
How do you update evergreen?
What is 10x content?
What is evergreen content?
As we explained in an earlier newsletter, evergreen refers to content that is not tied to a single news event and does not go out of date. It is relevant year round and typically answers a question or helps someone live their life better.
A topic is considered evergreen if it has consistent reader interest and search volume. The content is considered evergreen if it covers an evergreen topic and the story, blog post, or explainer can be easily updated without changing the purpose or search intent of the piece.
Examples of evergreen topics:
Healthy cooking oils;
Work from home tips;
Socially responsible investing.
Examples of NOT evergreen topics:
Emmys, Grammys, other recurring events.
While there are some variations in search volume about the health benefits of cooking oils, the search query has a consistent baseline of search volume year round – the interest does not change based on a specific season or event. In comparison, the Olympics sees spikes in interest around the time of the Games, but not as much in the off-season.
There are a number of ways we can publish evergreen content.
Types of evergreen content include:
How-to guides, tutorials, checklists;
Frequently Asked Questions;
Glossaries, guides, lists;
Non-news explainers (who is, what is, how will, etc.).
Examples of NOT evergreen content:
Explainers that are tied to a news event (i.e., a party platform guide);
Live or rolling news coverage of an event;
News articles, generally (sorry!).
Why evergreen content?
Every major news publisher has a massive archive of great content. If optimized correctly, and responsive to specific search intent, those stories can continue to draw readers to your site long after they are first published.
This is the appeal of evergreen: Continuous, quality traffic for little ongoing effort. Evergreen can drive traffic to high-impact work all year – often new, top-of-the-funnel readers.
As explained by Ahrefs, we often see a “spike of hope” then a “flatline of nope” when we publish articles. Analytics for most of our news stories look like this – and that’s fine for a news story, but for content on an evergreen topic, we can improve the traffic line to be more consistent.
How to find your evergreen content
The first step is to take inventory of your existing evergreen content.
Use an SEO tool like Botify, Screaming Frog, SEMRush or Google Analytics to generate a list of URLs that were published more than 90 days ago that are still seeing clicks. Get data for the previous six months (including sessions, page views or visits – whichever metric is most common and useful in your newsroom).
Once you have that big list, identify the content you want to update and track using our tracking sheet.
Strong evergreen candidates will include or have the potential to include:
An easy-to-follow structure;
One of the 5 W’s in the headline;
Advice or information that doesn’t change often;
Might be a longer file (upwards of 2,000-5,000 words).
Put the URLs you identified in the tracking sheet by doing the following:
In the Evergreen tab, populate column A (URL) with the link to the existing content.
Columns B-J should automatically populate to include the current headlines, meta descriptions and canonical URL (and their respective character count), and the original publish date. If not, pull the formulas down from row 1 in the sheet.
Update columns K-L manually using your internal analytics (for sessions/month, use the last six months), an SEO tool and your judgement to populate the keyword focus.
Update columns M-V manually. This is a useful process and necessary to build a strategy and plan for updating your evergreen, but it can be time consuming.
Once you have the spreadsheet populated, it’s time to get to work researching the various evergreen topics and updating your content. (Generally, it’s best to schedule in time to update each piece of evergreen once every six months.)
THE HOW TO
Getting on page 1 of SERPs
After identifying evergreen content opportunities to update, you have to actually update it! Use a SEO tool to identify the top-referring keywords (Google Search Console works here) for the piece (you can also do this while populating the tracking sheet).
To analyze a specific single story, in Google Search Console click + NEW > Page > paste the URL for an evergreen candidate and choose "Exact URL." Set the Date filter to Last 16 months to see your historical data.
Top queries tell us how readers are already finding the post.
This data, along with keyword research to find the main-focus keyword, can inform the substance of the updates you make to a post. The objective here is to ensure the piece is correctly optimized (headline, meta description/deck, URL, subheadings) and clearly fulfills a reader’s search intent.
Writing 10x content
To rank in the first few spots in SERPs, you need to ensure your story is better than the other results. 10x content is a term coined by Rand Fishkin to describe stories, blog posts, explainers or other content that is ten times better than the highest ranking result.
According to Moz, 10x content:
Contains quality, trustworthy information that is meaningfully different from other posts in SERPs. The content needs to be unique.
Creates an emotional response (awe, surprise, joy) in the reader.
Solves a problem or answers a reader question in a comprehensive manner.
In short, it needs to be more thorough and better than the competition. Some examples of 10x content:
The New York Times: Is It Better to Rent or Buy?
The Everywhereist: I went paleo and now I hate everything
The Atlantic: What American workers have to say about their jobs
Each of these examples answers a clear reader question or fulfils a search intent. Every piece is incredibly comprehensive, including infographics, charts and interactive elements (see NYT and Vox examples).
So, how do you write 10x content?
Moz outlines the steps to creating 10x content: Getting deep insight, finding a unique angle that serves reader interest and being original in how that information is presented.
Getting keen insight: Use keyword research, your archives and your reporting staff to build this expertise. Evergreen content is often more in-depth (upwards of 2,000-5,000 words) than a standard news file because it wants to offer a wide variety of information on the topic.
Finding a unique angle: Google your main-focus keyword and compare the first 5-6 links to your own content.
For the term “healthy cooking oils,” the top results include lists of all cooking oils and their smoke point, infographics showing the pros and cons of each oil, guides for choosing the right oil, and recipes.
Compare those results to your content: What angles or subtopics are you missing? What questions have you missed? Consult social media and forums (Quora, Reddit or Hacker News) for new reader questions to include.
Try to identify an angle the publications on page one of SERPs have missed – and use that to inform updates.
Uncover fresh methods: A longform article (just text) may not be enough to rank. Consider interactive graphics, calculators, infographics or a video to make the file more robust. For example, The New York Times example above includes an interactive calculator, allowing readers to compare the pros and cons of renting versus owning a home.
Also look at related keywords for hints about the kind of content readers want.
For example, related terms for “budgeting” include "budgeting books," "budgeting basics,” "budgeting class.”
These could indicate there’s a need for structured, beginner-friendly content (a series of explainers, a newsletter or video course, for example) on the topic.
Check on-page elements before republishing
Before republishing and recirculating content, review on the on-page elements and update as needed.
Write an engaging, keyword-focused headline that is under ~70 characters (or about 600 pixels).
Include a meta description/deck that’s about 150-160 characters, includes secondary keywords and entices readers to click.
A short URL that includes the main-focus keyword (but without numbers, dates or special characters).
Use clear subheadings with H2 headings to provide structure to the reader.
Also check the images (that they are correctly optimized, including a clear caption).
Consider adding on-page navigation (a table of contents) for extra structure.
Outline a linking strategy to send readers from high-performing content to evergreen pieces and vice versa (be sure to link to the evergreen from a number of stories). The more links to a story, the more signals Google gets that the post is important.
You put a lot of work into updating evergreen content. Make sure your recirculation strategy matches that effort: create a Twitter Moment, post to Facebook, include in newsletters and repromote on homepage. It’s just as useful to readers as a new piece.
Track your efforts
Create a dashboard in your SEO tool to create and monitor the list of stories. Most tools will show the number of clicks, top keywords, your visibility and position in SERPs.
If no SEO tool is available to you, create new columns in the evergreen tracking spreadsheet and manually check/update accordingly.
Analyzing evergreen data can help undercover reader behaviour trends or inform your next audience development experiment.
The bottom line: Evergreen is a long game, but securing consistent, quality traffic to your existing content is well worth the effort.
THE JOBS LIST
These are roles across the globe we see that are audience positions in journalism. Want to include a position for promotion? Email us.
Axios is hiring an SEO Editor to help shape their editorial SEO strategy and will work with their in-house technical SEO team.
Can SEO documentation from Google be trusted? (YouTube video)
It doesn’t matter what type of SEO – these are always the first principles.
Twitter 🧵: Tips to find low authority sites with high organic traffic.
Picking apart the December 2021 Product Update page by page.