Seeing the term ‘SEO’ hanging out alongside the words ‘budget review’ on a Board Meeting Agenda can be more terrifying for a CEO than a high court injunction. SEO can be one of those often unquantifiable black holes that seem to suck budgets into a vortex of cash munching mayhem (if this is the case then you obviously aren’t one of our customers. Yet…).
The resulting palpitations means a visit to Cardiac Monitors R Us, and that doesn’t fit into your schedule. So what do you do?
Keep it Simple
The search engines are making updates. Good updates. Updates that actually make SEO easier to understand. If your SEO agency is on top of their game, they will be creating evergreen content for your website. You’ll be able to see it, because it’s on your website. You’ll know it’s evergreen because you’ll want to read it and see it updated regularly. Having read it, you’ll want to share it because it’s amazing. Other people will be compelled to share it too. More people will come to your website because it has timeless content on it. Because you’re becoming THE greatest thought leaders of your business sector, people will trust you. You’ll get more enquiries and sell more stuff.
If you want a far more detailed (and very interesting) explanation, look at this slide share by Jonathan Coleman.
Keep it Human
Corporate salesy brand focussed content can seem spammy and does little to help your social presence on the web. If you spend your time banging on about how awesome you are without actually doing anything of interest, people will simply ignore you.
People like people. Humanising your content helps make it real, accessible and engaging.
Me, looking lush
That’s me, doing what I do on the weekend.
‘You sit in front of a mirror, naked, wistfully reliving your 80s mullet haircut?’
No. I play drums in a band called ‘Ye Gods!’ We dress up in togas, wear mullet wigs and play rock music loudly. On very rare occasions, we make videos. This means I have to sit in front of a mirror and achieve a Zen state known as ‘Rock Lord’ before donning my toga.
See? I’m a real person, talking about real stuff. You’re still reading this. It works.
A lot of the recent Google algorithm updates focus on content. If you’d like to see a detailed history of these updates, visit SEOmoz’s Google Algorithm Change History, but here are easy to understand explanations of the Panda and Penguin updates:
Panda - Panda identifies poor content and penalises you for publishing it on your website
Penguin - Penguin penalises you by identifying poor content that links to you
That’s the simplistic version, but it’s the essence of what you need to know. If you generate crap content, no one will read it, no one will share it, the search engines will ignore it and you’ll be wasting your time.
What you need to do is create good, evergreen content. Research your audience and give them what they want. Prioritise quality over quantity.
OK, enough theory. It’s time for me to prove I know what I’m banging on about by using a real example.
Content Case Study
Providing Useful, Timeless Content makes a Good Content Strategy
For this case study, I’m going to use a non client example so I don’t upset anyone by inadvertently divulging top secret information. So the following information is about a piece of content I produced as an experiment in my spare time.
As well as being a part time Rock Lord, I’m also a fiction writer. I run a personal blog which showcases my writing. When I started the blog, I received very little traffic to my website as I’m relatively unknown as a writer. I wanted to provide something useful that would help my website and writing gain exposure.
Understand Your Audience
I AM a writer, so I AM my target audience. I was lucky. Most business owners won’t have this luxury. You’ll need to find the communities you want to target, see where they hang out online, what they talk about and who the current thought leaders are. Then engage with them, find out what you can offer them and ensure they’d definitely be interested in it. How? Contact them and ask them. Once you have answers, provide them with the content they want to see.
This part of the process is essential.
If you don’t think through who’d be interested in something you intend to produce, you’ll create content aimed at no one. No one will care about it. No one will read it. Things will be bad. You’ll turn to drink. Rehab awaits (sometimes I overuse melodrama). OK, there will be the odd lucky ‘it’s gone viral and all I did was film my dog suggestively licking a Cornetto’ exception to this rule, but 99.9999999% of the time it’s true.
Deciding What Content to Create
Once I’d written a few short stories I did some research about publication opportunities. I wanted to find a list of short story writing competitions with lots of details about how often they were run, how big the prizes were, when their submission dates opened and closed etc. Although there are some lists and calendars on the internet, there weren’t any as detailed or as easy to use as I would have liked and a lot of them weren’t updated very regularly.
So I compiled my own list.
Then I thought, ‘If I find my list useful, I’m sure other writers will find the list useful too. Lordy, my mind is ABLAZE with ideas.’ I did some keyword research and found that lots of people search for writing competitions and competition lists and calendars. I also found lots of writers discussing these kinds of resources online and in writing magazines.
So I made my list look as pretty as I could (with my very limited design skills – I used Excel instead of Photoshop which says it all really…), presenting the details in an easy to understand, useful manner (within the capabilities / parameters that my website allowed) and published it.
The Results of Creating Evergreen Content
Traffic data from Google Analytics 3rd June 2012 to 23rd February 2013
The graph above is taken from Google Analytics. It shows the visits the short story competition page has attracted via organic search (through search engines like Google and Bing), referrals (people visiting my website through links on other websites) and direct traffic (people typing the URL straight into a browser or using a bookmark).
Below are some interesting statistics. They are correct at the time of writing, but are continuously increasing over time.
- All page visits (3-Jun-12 to 23-Feb-12): 32,977
- Organic page visits (3-Jun-12 to 23-Feb-12): 28,080
- Referral page visits (3-Jun-12 to 23-Feb-12): 4,114
- Direct page visits (3-Jun-12 to 23-Feb-12): 783
- Social shares: 75
- Number of user comments: 37
- Number of links generated to the competition page: 2 (all very relevant)
- Number of links generated to the homepage: 7 (all very relevant)
- Word count of the content: 8,605 (including comments)
Details generated using Shared Count
This page currently accounts for attracting 58% of the traffic to my website. It receives over 2,000 visits a week, 1,700 of which come from organic search. The average time spent on the page is 3 minutes and 33 seconds; 3:19 from organic, 4:50 from direct and 3:18 from referrals.
People like the page because I am providing something useful. Writers now come to me with a wide variety of questions about writing because I am beginning to be regarded as a thought leader. People are linking to my site and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter.
The search engines like the page because I am providing something useful to their users. They can see it being shared and people engaging with the site through the comments they leave. They can see the incoming links. So they are ranking the page for more and more search terms.
Because of all of the above, more people are reading my stories and buying my books. That’s the key. The content is working for my target audience, but it is also working for me.
For me, this website is a hobby and I enjoy experimenting with it because I like writing fiction and investigating SEO. But the same principal can be embraced by businesses, sometimes on a much larger scale with good in-house or agency resources.
The Value of Producing Evergreen Content
This type of content is timeless. By this, I mean people will keep coming back to it, especially if I update the resource regularly. I clearly state the last time it was updated at the top of the page so users and search engines can see I maintain it.
In addition to blog comments, I receive a lot of contact via email. On average, 2 short story competition administrators contact me each week, asking to be added to the list. This makes it an ever growing resource which keeps people coming back to my website.
Embracing Evergreen Content Strategies
The competition page is just one part of an evergreen content strategy. Due to its success, I have created pages on writing advice, short story magazine publishing opportunities, novel and book competitions etc. All of these pages are beginning to show signs of engagement and growing visits.
They appeal to the site’s target audience. They’re useful. Without sounding like a swollen headed egotist, they’re well written. OK, admittedly I am a tad biased, but I did spend a decent amount of time researching them and attempting to write them in an engaging manner.
Once you’ve created the content, you need to share it – just creating it isn’t enough. I shared the page on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. I also approached a couple of the competitions I’d listed, saying I’d created the page and included them on it and asked them for feedback. The response was good – my contacts were pleased that I’d listed them and gave me valuable advice about the page layout.
They shared the content via social media. They linked to my site, sometimes stating that it’s a regularly updated resource. I’ve found most links end up being to the homepage rather than the competition page, but this is just what people choose to link to.
I wish I had more time to spend on outreach, but like I said, this website is a hobby and I have a gazillion other things to do. But if you have an agency (like ours!) working for you, they will have the resource to be able to contact a whole heap of people, bringing in better results. Even though I only generated a handful of links, this still helped the page and my website gain more exposure. The content started to work for me.
Inreach – a New Method of Outreach?
OK, the terminology in the title is flagged in spellcheckers because I just invented it. Inreach is just another method of outreach, but you’re encouraging people to come to you rather than approaching them. I shall explain…
Evergreen content naturally gains links over time. Because it’s continuously useful, as more people hear about it, more people will link to it and talk about it. This means more people will outreach TO YOU, contacting you to ask questions or wanting your help. While you should never ignore the outreach process, having people contact you minimizes the time you need to spend outreaching. You just have to be sure you respond to people and engage with them
Other Examples of Evergreen Content
Competitions are a good example of evergreen content. If you run them annually and make them appropriate to your target audience, they will keep on working for you. Creating advice pages and keeping them regularly updated when changes in your industry occur is another good example.
There is SO much scope in evergreen content that any website owner should be able to come up with ideas suitable to their audience.
Don’t be Afraid to Give Away Links
One of the competitions I link to was kind enough to share some Google Analytics data with me, so I could see how many referrals they received from my website. The details are below, but the provider has asked not to be mentioned, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you who they are.
Referral traffic generated by my content to a website I link to
In 1 month, this site received 431 visits via my site. They are very happy to receive this traffic. Their short story competition is getting a lot more exposure because I link to them. This data also proves that writers are using the resource I’m providing.
Don’t be Afraid to be Yourself
I am a real person, engaging with other real people. This is the essence of evergreen content.
It’s not about shouting what you want to tell people and expecting them to listen.
It’s about listening to what other people want to know and showing them what you can offer.
All this illustrates how producing timeless content can work for you. I did this in my spare time. The initial preparation was fairly time consuming, taking maybe 10 working hours to do the research, write the copy and build the page on the site. Now, it takes me a couple of hours a week to administer the page and keep the content updated and accurate. In my opinion, that is time well spent. It’s much better to prioritise quality before volume as the rewards can be so much higher.
From the success of this page, we can also see the value being placed on the page content itself. By creating and promoting the content, I have generated a few links which are all highly relevant and will be helping rankings. However, due the limited time I have to spend on it, the quantity isn’t huge.
OK, I admit that for highly competitive search terms, you will need more links to rank well. But the quality of the content and how people engage with it and share it is becoming an ever more important factor in search engine algorithms.
For your business to succeed online into the future, the creation of excellent, targeted content is a must.
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