Seasonal vs Evergreen Content: Which Is More Effective for Online Marketing?
This article is part 5 in an ongoing case study analyzing the impact of content on SEO. In the previous installment, we addressed the lessons learned from our Facebook content marketing campaign. In this installment, we compare the success of our evergreen and non-evergreen content in order to determine which type is more effective for meeting our goals. If you haven't read the previous installment in our series, you can click here to do so.
Chris ScaliseSupervisor of Editorial / Staff Writer
In previous articles, we’ve made the case that written content remains an invaluable tool for online marketing. But not all content is created equal. How do you determine the best type of content to produce for every marketing project, objective, and scenario? We wanted to answer that question.
Since we began populating the ad cetera blog with content, we have produced two types of articles: seasonal and evergreen.
- Evergreen content includes any articles that aren’t time-sensitive. They should be just as relevant in five years as they are now, and their content isn’t specific to any season, holiday, or other ephemeral occasion. Examples of evergreen content on the blog include Pens vs Business Cards and Corporate Giveaway Items to Energize Your Employees.
- Seasonal content includes any articles that are specific to the event or season. Examples of seasonal content include Five Hot Promotional Giveaway Items for Summer Travelers and Bring Out the Luck of the Irish With These Inspiring St. Patrick’s Day Giveaways.
When we set out to market content for ad cetera, an independent retailer of promotional items, we knew that we were facing an uphill battle. On Google, the phrase “promotional items” yields more than 204 million search results. The only way for a small business to compete in a saturated market like that is to focus on carefully targeted niches within that broad category.
Our goal was never specifically to produce a combination of evergreen and seasonal content; we just wanted to target as many related topics as possible. But as we began tracking the performance of our published content, we couldn’t help but notice a distinct divide between the evergreen and seasonal articles.
As you may recall from previous entries, our first few pieces of content targeted broad keywords like “promotional pens” and “quality promotional pens.” We had some success with these broad terms, but it took tremendous time and effort to even appear on Google’s radar.
As time went on, we introduced more targeted content. First, we produced articles aimed at dental practices and chiropractic facilities. Then we produced content for occasions like Black Friday, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and Mother’s Day.
The seasonal keywords rose through the search engine rankings much faster, achieved more prominent rankings, and maintained those rankings for much longer than the majority of our evergreen keywords. Whereas our evergreen keywords tended to be hit-or-miss, almost all of the seasonal keywords achieved third-page Google rankings or better. Some of our most successful seasonal keywords — ones that ranked near the top of Google’s SERPS — include:
- Promotional gifts for grads
- New Year promotional items
- Barbecue promotional giveaways
- Promotional items 4th of July
- Chinese New Year promotional items
- Promotional items Mother’s Day
By contrast, a majority of our evergreen keywords still aren’t appearing in Google’s top 100. For instance, we’re still struggling to gain traction with keywords like “corporate giveaway items” and “convention giveaway items.” It’s important to note that evergreen keywords can be as specific and as niche as seasonal keywords, but they can’t be seasonal themselves.
So far, we’ve only discussed search engine rankings. There are, of course, other important metrics that must be taken into account, such as how the content actually converts. This is where evergreen content has the clear advantage. Although broader evergreen content may take more effort to get noticed, it has no shelf life and therefore can give you more bang for your buck. Seasonal content may seem like low-hanging fruit (at least in terms of SEO), but it ultimately offers less value in many cases.
For instance, let’s take the key phrase “4th of July promotional items.” We had some success with this keyword, but if you enter it into Google Trends, you’ll find that the phrase only generates measurable traffic between the week of July 1st and July 8th. That means a lot of work for a very small window of opportunity.
What We’ve Learned
Your results with seasonal vs. evergreen content may differ from our own, but our experience has shown us that there’s excellent ranking potential in seasonal content. We have a few theories about why this is the case:
- Large businesses invest more time and money in optimizing evergreen content due to its higher long-term ROI potential. This means that the competition is less fierce for seasonal keyword rankings.
- Seasonal keywords tend to be more long-tail by nature, and long-tail keywords are almost always easier to rank for than broad keywords. This should serve as a caveat: not all seasonal keywords are easy to rank for, only long-tail seasonal keywords. If you want to rank for a term like “Christmas socks,” you’ve got a rough road ahead of you.
- Seasonal keywords are niche keywords. They identify user intent more precisely than broad keywords, and search engines are therefore better equipped to present your content to the right people.
Let’s focus on #3 for a moment, because it illustrates a very important point that ties this whole message together. Seasonal content often ranks more easily not because of the seasonality but because of the niche quality of the keyword. If you’re going after a keyword like “promotional gifts for Halloween,” you have three useful phrases to help search engines zero in on your intended audience: “promotional,” “gifts,” and “Halloween.” But your modifier doesn’t have to be a seasonal phrase like “Halloween.” It can be an evergreen phrase like “accountants” or “fitness buffs.”
We recently learned this in our own efforts with the ad cetera blog. Our Promotional Items for Dentists article now holds one of the top Google rankings for “dental promo items,” and the article also ranks highly for “dental office promotional items.” The content is completely evergreen in nature, but it still maintains the niche quality that has served us with seasonal keywords. This is great news because it means you can create evergreen content and still reap the same SEO benefits that you would get with seasonal content.
So which is more effective? Seasonal or evergreen content? If you’re an up-and-coming business or webmaster, the answer is simple: niche content. It may sometimes be evergreen, and it may sometimes be seasonal, but it should always be created with a specific user or intention in mind. The more specific, the better.
In our next entry, we’ll address the all-too-common problem of how to deal with stale content that’s no longer pulling its weight. Stay tuned!
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