28 November, 2017

Creating high-quality evergreen content that has an extended shelf-life is a common challenge that most businesses who have gone digital now face.

Whether you are publishing intense guides or short-but-sweet blog posts, if your content doesn’t serve a purpose and will go stale after just a few months, what is the point?

Creating a viable content strategy that reaches the right audience will ensure that your content has longevity, builds an organic audience, and most importantly, helps support your business goals.

Follow these essential steps to plan and create evergreen content:

1. Identify your Audience

As with any form of marketing, the first step of the process is to understand your audience. Content marketing can be a huge waste of resources if you don’t know exactly who you are targeting. Casting your net too wide will attract a broad audience that offers little value to your business. What you need to do is highlight your ideal readers and ultimately, potential customers.

  • Age: Depending on your services and expertise, you will need to know what age bracket best fits. What kind of age profile does your content resonate with?
  • Gender: Is your content mainly applicable to a single gender, or both?
  • Location: Can your content accommodate people from all corners of the globe, or is it better to focus on a particular country or region?
  • Education/Profession: Are you targeting students, workers, entrepreneurs, or retired people? Knowing the type of occupations and level of education will help enormously with your content planning.
  • Interests: What do your targeted readers like? What do they watch? What do they eat? Knowing their interests can help you precisely tailor your content to them.
  • Channels: Lastly, what types of platforms do your target audience use? Are they solely engaging with apps, social websites, or even forums?

2. Undertake Keyword Research

Once you have a clear picture of who you are trying to reach out to with your content, it’s time to gather the data and find the right phrases and words that appeal to your audience. Whether your goal is to attract organic traffic, or gain traction on social media, keywords are vital in every form of content marketing.

Keywords not only help search engines rank your content and drive “free” (exclude the investment in time and resources!) organic traffic, but through word association, they direct the human-eye to your content, and help improve click through rates.

For example:

You have just published an in-depth manual on how to use your new car cleaning wax and polish set. You have put it on your website and titled the webpage “George’s Car Cleaning Help Information”. A little keyword research and you would have discovered words like “Help” and “Information” get little to zero searches when combined with “car cleaning”, while words like “DIY” and “Guide” are searchable and popular phrases - you have just lost out on some extra organic exposure.

No matter what product you sell, or what industry you work in, keywords are still vitally important for search engines and for readers.

Even if the objective of your content is not to improve organic traffic, keywords can help you improve engagement on social media channels, in your email newsletters, and on all channels in which you distribute content.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Keywords should be used to determine a searchable topic for your content, and help find the right words and phrases. Never force the use of certain phrases or excessively place words. SEO continues to evolve, so be very careful where you take advice from as it could hinder your content.

3. Verify Searcher Intent

So now you know your audience, you know what words resonate with people, but what does the user expect to see when they see or search for those words and phrases?

Finding popular keywords with 1,000’s of monthly searches is one thing, but finding the right words that make the time investment worthwhile is another…

Understanding searcher intent is an incredibly powerful ability when engaging with content marketing. For the modern SEO, it is now a requirement. It can save you days, weeks or even months of targeting the wrong keywords that have zero monetary value, or even readership value.

For example:

You run a local events planning company and you’re looking at keywords that will pull in a large audience of potential clients.
You find the keyword “top events” and think great, that has 10,000 monthly searches, jackpot!
So you publish an entire database of articles on your website, 1 for each category of events all in order to get #1 in Google Search for “top events”.

THE PROBLEMS:

  • you haven’t targeted businesses
  • your audience are just curious information seekers
  • your audience are located all over the world and are unable to acquire your services

All these visitors will likely bounce and leave your website because they have no desire or means to acquire your services.

You may have accumulated some traffic on your site, but ultimately, the traffic is very unlikely to convert.

This is why it is important to verify the intent behind the words you will use, and check locally or regionally if the searches are there. Don’t just pick keywords with data, think about what the reader wants when searching for it.

4. Check out the Competition

Before moving on to writing (we will get there, I promise!), it is always best to see what other material exists for your particular topic. This will help to:

  • Avoid imitating the competition - knowingly or unknowingly!
  • Understand what the standard is for the topic and what is expected by the reader.
  • Be able to make something better.

A few simple Google searches on your topic can help you to see what content performs best. You can even use a tool like Buzzsumo if you want to look at your direct competitors or what content works best on social media.

Your target should be to create valuable content that rivals, or preferably, beats the competition.

5. Pick the Right Format

So we have seen the competition, we know our topic, and we completely understand our audience. It’s time to think about the structure and the type of content we want to produce so we can move onto writing.

Here are just a few examples of content formats to consider:

  • Lists
  • How To / Guide
  • Infographic
  • Slideshow
  • Comparison
  • Review

There is no best format which will guarantee huge traffic, social shares, or whatever your objective may be. A ‘How to / Guide’ for example, is a great structure for detailed step by step advice, whereas an infographic is perfect for compressing a load of data into an attractive visual.

It all depends on the goal of the content. You will also have to consider the nature of your topic and your audience when deciding on what format works best.

6. Write with a Purpose

Now onto the writing. We need to take what we know about our audience, transmit their intent, use the right keywords, and beat the competition by producing something with a logical format that is worthwhile and evergreen.

Always think about the ultimate goal of the content and the business. Showing off your expertise and demonstrating knowledge of a subject is good, but if you don’t plan a clever and user-friendly way of converting readers, what value do those readers offer you?

With all the information in hand from the previous steps, you need to accommodate your readers with the correct:

  • Tone + Narrative Style – adopt a writing style that resonates best with your audience and topic. Should it be formal, do they want humour, can you be sarcastic?
  • Length – how long does it need to be? Don’t decide you want to produce a 2,000- word article based on a theory you heard. Base the length on the topic in hand. An unnecessarily long article could prevent a reader from finding the information they seek.
  • Depth – isn’t this the same as the length you may wonder? No, length is the word count, while depth is the quality and detail included. If you want the content to perform in search engines or enlighten your readers, ensure you address the topic entirely so it doesn’t dissapoint.
  • User-Friendliness - keep the user in mind when writing. Avoid lengthy paragraphs, and format the content using bold, italic, and H tags to make it easy to follow.
  • Call to Action – using your understanding of the searcher's intent, you need to decide how aggressive you can be with your call to action. You don’t want to seem invasive or overly persuasive if the reader is not expecting it.

OPTIONAL: Do you need any images, examples, or any screenshots? The alt tags assigned to images are useful to search engines, while your readers may appreciate to see a bit of colour and a break from the text. Again, it all depends on the topic and format in hand, and if you have the resources to create useful images.

7. Planning for the Long Term

Not every article you produce will remain relevant for eternity. My advice is to take complete care in every article you publish if you want your site to blossom organically. Then as soon as you can, try to map out the bigger picture by creating a long-term content plan and strategy.

The key is organisation. You can create a Word document which just maps out the basic hierarchy, or you can go further and use Excel or another tool to keep track and organisze all your articles.

This way, you ensure you are not wasting your time and resources producing clashing and duplicate topics, which is a big problem for most websites today. The focus should be on quality, not quantity. Otherwise, you will have a lot of content pruning (cleaning) to carry out later on.

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The steps mentioned above can be used to create one article, or one hundred!

Creating evergreen content that has an extended shelf-life is not easy, and all content needs to be updated at some point or another. If you try to understand your audience, their intent, and produce content that serves the topic as best as you can, you will ultimately serve your end business goals.

Thanks for reading!

If you are looking to create great content and need some professional help, reach out to us at DQ Media and we can take a direct look at your current content set up and advise you on the best course of action.