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Content SEO

How To Identify & Refresh Stale Evergreen Content: The Underdogs that Drive Long-Term Traffic

 min read
March 31, 2020
Leslie Ramey
Director, Solutions Consulting US

Have you ever wondered where content goes after it's lived its best life? Does it cross a black-and-white bridge where copy editors and voracious readers cheerfully praise its great work? Do speech bubbles float above it with congratulatory comments?

I sure hope so.

Let's talk about what makes great content so great.

Content is the lifeblood of websites. A good piece of content may convince us to "buy that fabulous outfit" or "try that time-saving trick." And if the content gives us enough of the right information, we're grateful for it.

In any enterprise organization, there are entire teams of brilliant writers whose jobs are to strategize what content to write and when. They scour activity calendars, trending charts, and current events to develop comprehensive content plans that supply readers with the information and entertainment they need (even if they don't know they need it yet).

When they do it right, it's pure magic. I mean, truly, when a content writer can tell me everything I need to know about a subject (or product) - and turn a simple page of content into a memorable experience, it's a job well done!

But how does the content team figure out what types of content will be most effective? Well, it's different from site to site and from page to page. What's successful for an e-commerce site will be different from a publishing site, and what works for an informational page will be differ from a transactional page. Since the end goals are different, Google knows to judge the pages differently, too.

Curious how to evaluate your site's content quality? Browse our post on monitoring your site for thin content, content duplication, and more.

Creating content, especially the kind that serves real searcher queries comprehensively, takes time. But when you create great pieces that stay relevant as time goes on, it can go a long way - like a little trick in your pocket for driving long-term traffic.

The only catch is making sure to give that evergreen content the occasional checkup.

If evergreen content is built to last, why doesn't it?

What happens to those evergreen articles weeks, months, or even years after they go live?

If you work at an enterprise organization, you know things move fast. On top of optimizing content around new inventory, keeping up with the latest holiday trends, or adapting to the next algorithm update, it can be difficult to look backwards with so many new challenges on your plate.

Spending time, money, and resources on refreshing old content - especially if you need to figure out which content to prioritize - often finds itself on the backburner. But when it's done right, refreshing old content can actually save your team time, attract new searchers, and build your site's trustworthiness and authority.

Identifying relevant evergreen content on your site that could not only live but also thrive for another year (or more!) and then implementing the right SEO tactics can boost your site's traffic and dramatically improve your ROI.

Alright, first thing's first!

How to identify your evergreen content

When you have a site with millions of pages, it might seem daunting to comb through all of your content to find the evergreen gems. But have no fear.

If you're a Botify customer, there are two ways to determine which evergreen pieces are worth prioritizing (and which should be pruned).

First, leveraging Botify's SiteCrawler will help you identify pages that have earned organic traffic that were published before a designated date. By taking this route, you'll be able to uncover pages you may not have considered evergreen previously but that are still attracting visitors months after publishing.

To get started, set the following filters in the URL Explorer section of SiteCrawler:

  • Published date before three months: this timeframe is subjective and should be based on your publishing cycles. The point is to find content that has been live on your site for long enough to exceed its natural lifespan.
  • Visitors of at least 50: this visitor number, again, is subjective, depending on how many visitors your articles typically get. The goal is to find content that is not getting peak traffic but still driving visitors with little-to-no work from your teams.
date published and visitors filters in Botify
"Publish date" and "visitors" filters in Botify

Another option is to visit RealKeywords, where you can find evergreen pages based on their winning keywords. Again, using URL Explorer in RealKeywords, set the filter for your "before" publish date (which you may have applied in SiteCrawler previously). This view will provide you with the keywords and URLs that are attracting visitors, along with their impressions and rankings.

If you don't have access to Botify's unified platform, you can leverage Google Analytics and Google Search Console to identify your evergreen content. This option will take a little Excel magic, but by exporting a list of "active pages" from a defined date range and then adding "visit data" you'll be able to identify opportunities.

Sadly, not all content is meant to ride the internet waves. Most will find its way across the proverbial black-and-white bridge (and if that's the case, the pages should be removed from your XML sitemap and blocked from being crawled and indexed). But, before you call it quits, you may be able to revive some of that precious prose…

Now, let's revive your evergreen content

Once we've found the articles that still have what it takes to capture search traffic, there are two ways to give them a boost. The first is through technical SEO strategies. The second is through a good old-fashioned content refresh. These tactics are not mutually exclusive, and, in fact, they work better in tandem.

1. Technical SEO strategies to boost evergreen content

Improving PageRank

Let's talk about PageRank and evergreen content. PageRank has been around for almost as long as SEO. Throughout the years, though, it seemed as if Google might not have been using this metric as much as they once did. Towards the end of February, this little term became a hot topic once again when Google's John Mueller confirmed that they were indeed still using PageRank.

The PageRank metric is based on several factors, but, at its base, it looks at the page depth (how many clicks from the home page), internal links, and where those pages are in your site's architecture. Using these factors, we can create strategies to boost your PageRank.

Tweet from John Mueller
Google's John Mueller on PageRank

To note, the evergreen content we discovered in the last section probably doesn't have high PageRank. The reality is that most of these pages are probably going to be lurking pretty deep within your site. They also likely lack links from top-ranked pages. As we know, the further from your homepage a piece of content is located, the harder it can be to get that page indexed and ranking.

The good news is that your content has already passed that hurdle once before since it has earned organic traffic. Taking the next step to move that page closer to your homepage can boost its visibility.

Learn how page depth impacts your site's performance through every phase of search in our blog post, "Is Page Depth a Ranking Factor?".

Realistically speaking, we aren't going to redesign our entire website to save the life of these pages (unless of course you have the resources and have found enough pages to do an overhaul like this, in which case: DO IT!).

But otherwise, we have some other great options to boost visibility for our selected evergreen pages:

  • Add a resources section to landing page templates with links to these articles
  • Create a favorite/popular articles category link in your navigation where these pages will live
  • Add a favorite/popular articles section in your sidebar
  • Develop article playlists with similar content

Building link equity

Once you've identified opportunities to move these pages up in your site's architecture, we need to start passing on some link equity. If you are a Botify customer, you can use SiteCrawler to identify segments with high internal PageRank that you can then use to redirect link equity to these evergreen articles.

You can also go a step further by overlaying your "visit" data and "crawl" data to find that sweet spot for how many links are required to make your content visible again.

URLs by depth and pagetype in Botify
URLs by depth and pagetype in Botify

Uncovering PageRank without a proper tool can be challenging, but using a little critical thinking with knowledge of your site's architecture can help you get on the right path. Pay attention to the Google Analytics behavior tool so you can see how visitors interact with your site. Try to link some of your most popular pages to this article.

Curious how you can build out your linking strategies to boost performance? Watch our free, on-demand webinar!

During this process, don't forget to diversify your anchor text. Since this is going to be a manual process, it's a prime opportunity to perform some keyword research. Expanding your anchor text can go a long way towards increasing your article's relevance for other searcher queries.

2. A good old-fashioned content refresh

Using your super SEO skills to increase visibility of your evergreen content is a great option - especially if your content team is unable to support the project right away. It is, of course, not your only option. If you can get your content team on board, you can drive significant growth in the value of your articles.

Many studies have monitored the impact of a content refresh for evergreen content. While the degree of growth and ranking improvements vary (sometimes as much as 10-20 positions), virtually all of them see an increase. While revamping content can take time, it can take less time than writing fresh content.

Here are some ways you can enhance your content to give it the new life it needs to earn more visitors:

  • A refresh of your opening and closing paragraphs can add a new perspective
  • Updating content with new and current data makes it more relevant and accurate
  • Add additional references and check that your outgoing links are still working
  • Add further details, theories, ideas, and comments that were edited out, or concepts you weren't able to add at the time
  • Turn the article into a series of posts. Add context to explain and point links to other relevant content pieces
  • Change out your analogies. Sometimes these can get tired quickly. A new take on an old topic could be exactly what your readers and search engines were hoping for

It's alive! (and attracting searchers)

Uncovering content that is still being read months after hitting "publish" is an opportunity waiting to be uncovered. After all, your content team worked hard to create that content -- you might as well help it achieve its full potential. It can make all the difference for your site's ROI - and can save valuable time for your team.

With just a little extra love, you can have your evergreen content pieces of the past bringing in traffic like it was brand new!

Want to learn more? Connect with our team for a Botify demo!
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