Avoid Stale Content! How to Keep Your Evergreen Content Fresh
This article is part 6 in an ongoing case study analyzing the impact of content on SEO. In the previous installment, we addressed the ranking and marketing potential of seasonal vs. evergreen content. In this installment, we examine the importance of proactively keeping content fresh even when it appears evergreen. If you haven't read the previous installment in our series, you can click here to do so.
Chris ScaliseSupervisor of Editorial / Staff Writer
Evergreen (adjective): Universally and continually relevant. Not limited in applicability to a particular event or date. From Merriam-Webster.
Throughout this case study, we’ve talked a lot about evergreen content. If you want to get the most value for your time and money, you should deliver content that will resonate as strongly in five years as it does right now. That’s not difficult to do, but it may surprise you to learn that you can’t just post an article and walk away. No matter how perpetually relevant your content may be, it’s going to turn stale if you don’t take the time to nurture it.
While producing articles for the ad cetera blog, we noticed something interesting. Even though the majority of our content was evergreen (e.g. Top 5 Best Promo Items for Your Dental Practice, 5 Ways a Small Business Can Effectively Use Promotional Items at a Convention, How to Turn Your Buyers Into Willing Advertisers and Promoters, etc.), we were slowly losing some of our hard-earned search engine rankings. But why?
For starters, we adjusted our efforts early in the game. In the beginning, all of our content was centered around promotional pens. As a result, we started to rank for keywords related to these products. After a couple of months, though, we shifted our focus to other topics and keywords like holiday promotional items, branding, and tradeshows. Shortly thereafter, we noticed a decline in our rankings related to promotional pens.
All of our pen articles were evergreen. They were well-organized, keyword-optimized, and filled with relevant information. In theory, that should have allowed us to move on to other topics without having to repeatedly revisit the keywords associated with branded writing utensils.
But we were wrong.
If you let your articles collect dust, they’re going to lose value for you. So, what can be done about this?
What We’ve Learned About Updating Content
The search engine gods are not monitoring your content and smiting you for a lack of updates. If you’ve noticed that some of your older evergreen content – or your website in general – has plummeted in the rankings, it’s probably more a matter of circumstance than retribution. There are many logical reasons why stale content will lose ground:
- Consider that about 380 new websites are created every minute. Like the universe, the internet is ever-expanding, and you constantly have new competitors to contend with.
- Your top-ranking competitors are examining your site to see how they can beat you at your own game. If you aren’t taking steps to improve and expand your content on a regular basis, you’ll be left in the dust of more ambitious webmasters and SEO agencies.
- Search engine algorithms are always changing and adapting. For example, let’s say that your article for “Best Stainless-Steel Widgets” ranked highly in 2013 due to its high keyword density. But then Google unveiled its Hummingbird algorithm update and determined that your keyword density was perhaps a little too What was once a stellar article is now considered low-quality in the eyes of the world’s No. 1 search engine.
- A lack of website updates can hurt your traffic (less new content means less engagement), and that in turn can affect your rankings.
- Lack of working backlinks/outbound links
So now that we have a sense of why evergreen content can become stale, the next question is what to do about it. For the ad cetera blog, our approach has been to continually produce fresh content that reinforces our most important topics and keywords. Rather than rehashing old articles, we’re producing new content that addresses our core topics from unique angles. Most importantly, we’re producing content that’s designed to be useful and engaging to readers.
If you’re likewise hoping to regain some lost momentum, here are some simple steps you can take:
- Pinpoint which keywords/topics are now underperforming.
- Consider why those topics are underperforming. For instance:
- Examine the sites that are outranking you, and determine why they may be considered higher-value by search engines. According to a blog post on moz.com, your content should be 10x better than what is currently in the top search results.
- Visit your Google Search Console to see if you have any alerts about search engine penalties or warnings.
- Determine how long it’s been since you populated your site with fresh content.
- Establish a publication schedule and start producing new content on a regular basis. This content should prominently incorporate the topics and keywords that have grown stale on your site.
In addition to producing new material, here are some other ways you can prevent your content from becoming stale:
- Revisit your old articles and see how you can improve them in light of recent search engine competitors (how are other sites beating you?), algorithm updates, and lessons learned.
- Examine the success of your keywords and identify your wins and setbacks. It may be time to readjust your keyword strategy.
- Take some time to market your existing content. Just because an informative piece was published seven years ago doesn’t mean you can’t still promote it on social media or through your other channels. If it’s evergreen, it should still provide plenty of value to readers. This type of promotion can also look good to search engines.
- Make sure your content still answers the user’s questions. Google is obsessed with ensuring that the top search results are answers to the search query. Over time, these answers can change.
Regardless of how you go about maintaining fresh content, the key is to do it. As we’ve learned through our own efforts, your content will grow stale if you just set it and forget it. Think of your content like a garden that you must regularly tend to. If you don’t water it on a regular basis, that material is going to wither and wilt.
In our next entry, we’ll evaluate the virtues of short vs. long-form content. Do longer articles really promote higher rankings and traffic? Stay tuned!
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