How to find and unlock the power of evergreen content

Publishers and news organisations spend a great deal of time creating new, timely content but often overlook the value held by content that already exists. Here’s how you can identify evergreen content and unlock its true value by refreshing and rewriting articles in your archives

It seems natural that journalists are driven to deliver ‘new’ news. After all, that’s what reporting is all about, isn’t it? Delivering reliable, up-to-the-minute content on breaking topics. 

Yes, this is an integral part of good journalism but news organisations such as Tortoise have shown that there’s also great value in playing the long game. Generating ‘slower, wiser news’ and evergreen articles that can be updated, enhanced and used to add context to more timely pieces can be incredibly valuable. 

We think well-executed evergreen journalism is often the very best kind of journalism there is,” writes Matthew Yglesias, co-founder of Vox, in a piece on refreshing the evergreen written for the American news website.

And his words ring true the publication has asked its staff to do at least one refresh per week. We want to be doing it regularly […] periodically refreshing stories so that timeless topics are covered in timely ways.”  

But news organisations and publishers face the challenge of splitting resources on current, time-sensitive pieces and evergreen content. Luckily, although publishers have been reposting their old content for years, the tools to help them when rewriting articles efficiently at speed are starting to emerge, and this could be a game changer.

If you read on, we’ll take you through the different types of evergreen content, how you can refresh old content and why you should be updating your content archives on a regular basis.

But first, let’s get the basics down. 

What is evergreen content?

This type of content continues to stay timely long past its publish date. Much like an evergreen tree that holds onto its leaves all year round, evergreen content continues to remain relevant and valuable to readers year on year.

These articles can be incredibly valuable for maintaining a high readership. They drive a steady flow of traffic long after a piece is initially published, as opposed to time-sensitive content which may receive an impressive initial spike in traffic, only to find this quickly drops off.

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But what key qualities make an article evergreen? And what steps can be taken to make sure it retains its value?

Types of evergreen content

It’s not easy pinpointing exactly what defines evergreen content. The definition and focus will naturally vary depending on the newsroom or publisher.

That being said, one of Polis LSE’s JournsalismAI Collab teams headed up by Florencia Coelho of La Nacíon (Argentina) and Kristoffer Hecquet of Altinget (Denmark) have distilled the definition of evergreen content, particularly within newsrooms, into four main pillars.

They identify evergreen content by:

1. Content type

This refers to the content’s form and purpose. Some types of content will stay relevant for a longer period of time than others. In a newsroom environment, these pieces tend to sit outside the daily news cycle, staying rich in value for longer.

Examples of evergreen content types are:  

  • How to guides 
  • Resources lists
  • Topic glossaries 
  • Reviews

2. Cyclical in nature

These articles may only be relevant at a certain time of year or for a certain event (for example, a public holiday, anniversary, or yearly occasion), but if the content itself applies year after year, its traffic will increase again during that time period. This means it holds evergreen value.

Example: “How to protect your skin from damaging UV rays“.

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LOYAL Tip:
Try using a tool like Google Trends to clearly see if a topic is rising or falling in popularity over time.

3. Contextual value

When a piece is historical in nature and can enrich a new article by providing context, this is another clear indicator of evergreen value. These articles are timeless. Therefore, they are a great addition to content archives, providing linking opportunities to give readers a more in-depth understanding of breaking news, for instance. 

4. High-performance metrics

If a piece of content sustains high traffic numbers for an extended time after release, that might indicate that the story has a ‘timeless’ quality and potential evergreen value. Also, a sudden spike in traffic long after a piece has gone live can signal a renewed interest in a story. This is a great opportunity for rewriting articles to capitalise on this traction.

LOYAL Tip:
If you spot that your Google rankings are slowly decreasing over time, then could show that although your topic may be evergreen, your content is not.

To keep an eye on this, you can use a tool like Rank Tracker.

What value is held in content archives?

As we’ve mentioned, there’s an incredible amount of untapped value held in evergreen content within content archives. And with a relatively small amount of effort, this value can be unlocked. Meaning that you can save on the expense and effort of creating new content by rewriting articles that already exist. 

Search engines like Google reward high-quality legacy content that is updated regularly. It can boost search engine rankings (SERPs) and readership numbers. This is why it’s an important place to focus your attention if you’re looking to increase or maintain an engaged readership. 

On the impressive republishing efforts at VOX, Matthew notes how the updating of previously written articles is ingrained into their journalists’ daily workflow. He says: “Our writers filter their daily reporting into a larger, deeper, and continuously updated topic resource.”

When describing how they focus on refreshing old content, he explains: “We changed the headline if the writer felt the old headline didn’t work very well […] added new information […and] added new ideas. We rewrote sections that dragged. […] Our articles have always had “updated at” rather than “published at” adjacent to our time stamp, so we simply changed the “updated at” time.”

If we can use our archives as a way to deliver more great pieces to today’s audiences, then that’s a huge win — for us and for them.”

So we know evergreen content contains great value, but how do you go about unlocking it exactly?

4 ways to refresh old content

1. Update articles with new information

This almost goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway). When you’re refreshing an older article, be sure to update it with the latest statistics, case studies and information to back up previous arguments.

A journalism research tool like LOYAL can help you find the most up-to-date and relevant information to embed into your old content quickly when rewriting articles. You can run entire articles through it to bring up highly related content elsewhere on the internet, fast.  

2. Link to recent content within your archives

When building your internal and external linking strategy, make sure you don’t forget to revisit previously-written articles. Make sure these are updated with links to related fresh content you’ve written. This will help your content maintain its SERPs.   

Find out more about why you need internal linking to boost SEO

3. Link to current and relevant external content 

Just like with linking to new internal content, you should also focus on updating your piece by linking it to related new content on the internet. This is a great way to signal to search engines that your article is still as relevant to readers today as it was the day it was published.

Read more on how to maximise external linking to help maintain your search rankings

4. Scan content for broken links

Rewriting articles also gives you the chance to scan your content again for links that are outdated or missing. We all know how 404 errors can slow loading speed. Checking on links in past content once in a while will ensure you provide quality posts all year round.

This may sound like a time-consuming exercise, but fortunately, advancements in technology have streamlined this process.

LOYAL Tip:
Don’t forget to add a date stamp to your content indicating when it was last updated. This shows that you are constantly providing current information. 

How to speed up the refreshing process

One of the main challenges of evergreen journalism is maintenance. Trawling through content archives to find articles to refresh is as arduous and time-consuming a task as it sounds – if done manually, that is. 

Fortunately, new tools exist that can do the majority of the leg-work and speed up the process of rewriting articles. For instance, you can use our LOYAL journalism tool to identify previously-written content in publishing archives that relates to a current piece as you are writing. If you know a certain topic is receiving a high level of traffic at the moment, you can quickly pinpoint past articles to refresh, republish and drive readership. 

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You can download LOYAL from the Google Chrome Web Store and use within a working Google Doc. Within seconds, it will retrieve the most related articles from an extensive range of trusted sources. These will appear down the side of your article, ready to embed.  

You can use the tool to both find evergreen content within your archives that can be refreshed and LOYAL helps in the refreshing process itself too, highlighting new statistics, case studies and information to enrich previous pieces.

By investing even a small amount of time into creating and refreshing evergreen content, you can leverage an incredibly valuable existing source of information to enhance your readers’ experience. 

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