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Evergreen: The Lesson that Cleveland & SEO Can Learn From Trees

Evergreen — to most people, it’s a kind of tree, the kind that stays green all year. To content creators and SEO guys like me, it’s also a label we use to refer to something that is relevant even years after it was created. To the city of Cleveland, it ought to be both. The Forest City (yep, that’s Cleveland’s official nickname) isn’t known for a lot, and much of what it is known for has faded like the leaves in the fall — the Rock and Roll hall
of fame isn’t as popular in today’s rap- and pop-dominated musical landscape, not that many people are into Drew Carrey anymore, and did anyone know that Halle Berry came from Cleveland in the first place?

You can probably see where this is going — Cleveland & SEO content both need the same quality: evergreen…ity. ness. osity. Whatever: they need to have something in them that is perpetually relevant.

How Do You Create Something Evergreen
Unfortunately, I’m not a city planner or a brilliant social engineer, so I can’t really help the city of Cleveland with that. But I am an SEO guy, so maybe I can help with that part of the equation. Evergreen content offers useful information that will still be useful in 1, 5, or even 10 years. The easy examples are ‘how-to’s that aren’t going to change in the near future, like ‘how to ride a bike’ or ‘how to make antipasto’.

Of course, if you’re in an industry that changes quickly with the times, that kind of thing seem hard to find. Here’s where this gets interesting. When you have a webpage, changing the content of the page doesn’t invalidate the backlinks you’ve earned with that content. There’s absolutely nothing keeping you from updating a webpage — after all, even an evergreen tree needs rain and sun to keep itself green. So creating evergreen content is as simple as keeping your subject vague enough to be relevant in a decade.

Look at these sets of titles:

  • How to Jailbreak Your Motorola RAZR X3
  • How to Jailbreak a Smartphone
  • Get All Of The Music From American Idol’s Third Season Here!
  • All The Latest American Idol Music
  • Get The Most Out of Your Checking Account
  • Get The Most Out Of Your Checking Account

See the pattern? If you write content that isn’t linked to specific, temporal entities like individual products, companies, or events, you’ll have a much easier time creating content that people will still be reading years from now. Yes, you’ll have to update your page
as new information comes out, but think of it this way — do you think the page on diabetes looks the same now as it did in 2002? Of course not — but do people still read it now as much or more than they did a decade ago? Of course they do. Evergreen doesn’t mean static, it just means relevant.

Why Evergreen Is Important
Evergreen content is important for the same reasons in both Cleveland & SEO: because things that last a long time create a space for themselves in people’s minds. Here’s what I mean:

Quick, think of at least three things that are on the Capital Mall in Washington, DC. If you’re like most people, you probably mentioned the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian, any of the various National Museums, the Capitol Building, or of course any of the various War Memorials. You were probably able to do that pretty easily even if you’ve never been there — and now that you’re thinking about it, you probably have some sort of desire to go there and see them for yourself.

When you’re talking about websites, you don’t have the luxury of being a “I wish I could go there someday” kind of destination — but you do have the ability to gather signs of authority and popularity that show that people were happy they found you. Comments, social shares, SERP rankings, and so forth all accrue over time, so eventually evergreen content gains authority simply by virtue of being relevant over such a long period of time.

That authority is the holy grail of SEO, particularly for small businesses. It’s that ability to create a lasting impact that drives new readers to your site for years and years – – making your RoI on that piece of content fairly obscene — that makes evergreen so worthwhile.

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