Audience Engagement Digital Publishing Top Stories
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Evergreen content drives up to 40% of publisher traffic: “20 in 20” and other strategies to create consistent traffic drivers

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Steadier traffic, better advertising prospects, and e-commerce revenue — evergreen content promises all three. Evergreen content has long-term value, and leads to more organic traffic to the site. Organic traffic, widely considered to be the most valuable traffic source for publishers, is now responsible for over 50% of all site traffic.

At Wired, 60% of the total visits are to new stories, 20% to stories that are between 1 week and 6 months old, and the remaining 20% to content that is older than 6 months. 

For The Atlantic, more than 50% of the traffic in a given month comes from content not produced in that month, according to Lymari Morales, MD of Editorial and Insights, Atlantic 57.


However, not all publishers would see the same benefits. It depends upon how much they have invested in developing and promoting evergreen content. 

Clare Carr, VP of Marketing at Parsely, Inc. says, “Evergreen content attracts readers, often through search traffic or referral links. In one study of our content network, over half of our top 100 sites have more than 5% of their page views attributed to evergreen content.”

News publishers see the value, and according to a Digiday survey from earlier this year, 68% intend to produce more evergreen content. 

This is mainly to offset some of the challenges associated with regular news content i.e., it can be expensive to produce and difficult to monetize. Also, it usually has a short shelf life.

Moreover, due to persisting brand safety concerns advertisers prefer avoiding sensitive and divisive issues in the news. This makes it tougher to monetize hard news content. An earlier Digiday research had 43% of media buyers saying that they avoid advertising next to news-related content. 

Ad buyers themselves report that clients are increasingly asking them to skip news sites altogether on their media plans.

Mark Weiss, Senior Research Analyst at Nielsen

Consistent traffic drivers

Evergreen content usually satisfies informational queries very well, so it tends to rank higher than other types of content for this type of search. If the topic is chosen carefully, publishers can get a steady source of traffic to their websites long after an article has been published.

Here’s a graph plotting the organic traffic for a New York Times article on 7-minute workout. It was published in 2013, but continues to generate organic traffic.

Source: State of Digital Publishing

It is also useful to publishers who rely on e-commerce as a revenue stream. Buying guides and product reviews can fetch traffic, as well as commerce revenue. 

More than 60% of B2B traffic, according to BrightEdge, comes from organic search, with evergreen content being a major driver of organic traffic.

“More likely to check out more of your content”

So how can publishers leverage evergreen content in their editorial strategy? Some topics lend themselves naturally, like cooking recipes. The New York Times has been very successful in driving subscriptions for its Cooking section. Other topics that that offer rich opportunities include healthcare, wellness, fitness, or parenting.

The Fayetteville Observer, a GateHouse Media newspaper in North Carolina has created lists based on food (best hamburgers in town), music (famous musicians with Carolina ties) and activities (best local hiking spots). 

Beth Hutson, Newsroom Editor at The Fayetteville Observer says, “People are always looking for something to do or somewhere to eat, so these lists in particular are providing our readers with content they can actually use. If the readers love what you’re giving them, it makes them more likely to check out more of your content, whether it’s evergreen lists or hard news.” 

The reason we keep creating new evergreen content lists is because they’re such consistent traffic drivers. Even the more labor-intensive ones are worth the time they take because of the traffic increase.

Beth Hutson, Newsroom Editor at The Fayetteville Observer

Hutson says that the ideas for these lists come from a variety of sources. Sometimes, they maybe tied to local events. Like when Bill Murray stopped in Fayetteville to check out the new baseball stadium, the Observer used the opportunity to create a slideshow of famous people who have visited Fayetteville.

The Observer digital team hosts several brief meetings every month to generate ideas for evergreen content. The meetings are called “20 in 20,” because the goal is to generate 20 online ideas in 20 minutes. They are not limited to members of the digital team and include other members of the newsroom to ensure variety in content ideas. 

“Some of the most-commented upon posts”

The newspaper also engages its readers in finding topics. For example, a new restaurant was about to open in Fayetteville. Its burger had been called the best in America by Consumer Reports. This prompted the team to ask its Facebook followers to name their favorite local burger joints. They used the answers to create a poll where over 2,000 people voted. The results were used to create a slideshow.

Social media can be a great tool for generating lists. If we want to create a best-of list, we’ll take to Facebook and Twitter to ask our readers for their top choices in certain categories. When we share the links to the finished product, particularly on Facebook, they’re usually some of the most-commented upon posts on our page.

Beth Hutson, Newsroom Editor at The Fayetteville Observer

The time of year or seasonal events can also provide fodder for evergreen content. Hutson explains that during the summer they come with lists about local ice cream spots, and free or cheap activities to escape the heat. Seasonal lists are resurfaced every year after updates to reflect changes like inclusion of newly opened ice cream spots. 

“There’s no end to things you can do”

Resurfacing evergreen content is an important part of the German publishing powerhouse Ebner’s strategy. The special interest and B2B publisher has 80 magazines, dozens of websites, and organizes events that draw 50-60,000 people annually.

At Ebner, evergreen articles are reworked every 3-6 months. The publisher’s audience development department checks the most popular Google-search keywords and phrases, and updates the articles accordingly.

They also often repurpose news into evergreen content. For example, when a new Rolex is launched, that is news. Over time, the watch undergoes modifications, like getting a new dial or new metals. There may also be fresh information about the resellers’ market or grey market. Rather than letting the original article get buried under new content, the publisher keeps updating and resurfacing it.

“Like a fine wine”

Promoting the article well is also crucial. Wired is creative about re-promoting its best evergreen stories on social media and newsletters.

“We’ve played around with language. We’ve pulled quotes from the story. We’ve made special art and created special assets. We’ve done Twitter threads. We’ve done interviews, we’ve done excerpts. There’s no end to things you can do. It’s one of the places you can play around the most. Are there holidays or special events you can peg these stories to?” says Indu Chandrasekhar, Director of Audience Development at the publisher. 

They also promote one or two evergreen stories in their daily email newsletter and even have an “archive only” newsletter.

This article in Wired’s newsletter today, was originally published over a year back.

Melissa Chowning, CEO of Twenty-First Digital which helps publishers with audience development says, “There is no greater marketing tool than quality content. If you don’t have that, little else is going to work to develop a strong audience for your brand. And of the quality content that publishers have, evergreen content is the crown jewel. 

Evergreen articles can be a very valuable part of your overall development strategy and, like a fine wine, they get better and better over time, but not without a little work on your part. 

Create a culture in which editorial and marketing teams are always thinking about the evergreen content available on your website and resurface relevant articles at news-worthy and opportune times.”