When you invest in real estate, you might try to flip a house by selling it for more than you paid, usually within a few months of purchase. But it’s often more profitable to pick a long-term investment that will earn you dividends in the form of rent for years to come.
In content marketing, we can use this analogy to evaluate different types of content. There are articles that yield respectable short-term value immediately upon publication, but it’s often better to invest in content that will keep providing benefits to you indefinitely — in the form of domain authority, referral traffic, conversion rates, and brand visibility.
So how can you create content that keeps yielding value long after it’s initially been published?
Choose the Right Topics
First, you need to choose the right topics:
· Always go evergreen. If you want content that earns value indefinitely, you’ll need to choose topics that are “evergreen”, meaning they aren’t subject to obsolescence or a drop in relevance over time. An example of a non-evergreen article might be a list of new features speculated to be included in the next iPhone; this is an article with potentially high, yet temporary relevance to an audience. An article like “how to microwave popcorn,” however, will likely remain relevant for as long as people keep eating popcorn — there are no ties to news events or concepts due to expire.
· Speak to a need. If you want to get the most value out of your work, you should also speak to a persistent human need. Opinion articles and predictive articles can hypothetically be evergreen, but they don’t address a problem with any specificity or practical tips. For example, our “how to microwave popcorn” article helps consumers who don’t understand how microwavable popcorn works, but an article like “why microwavable popcorn is delicious” doesn’t address any such need.
· Be citable. It also helps if your article is citable for other people who might want to write on the subject. You can make your article more citable by including more original ideas and provable facts, but also by selecting a topic that could hypothetically spawn new topics — such as rebuttals, expansions, or related concepts. The more citable your work is, the more links it’ll earn, and the higher your website will rise in search engine rankings over time.
Put the Work In
Then, you need to put some serious work into your finished piece:
· Conduct original research. If you can, do some original research. This will help your article stand out from the crowd and offer more value to prospective readers, but more importantly, it will ground your work with a foundation of trustworthiness. The only problem here is that your data may one day become less relevant; for example, a 2005 survey may not be as relevant today as a 2015 survey, but as you’ll see, there are ways around this disadvantage.
· Dig deep. If you want this piece of content to last and yield value, you need to be as detailed as possible throughout the body. Include multiple subsections, be specific, and remain as concise as possible (which is good advice for any post). More details means more people will have something interesting to find, and your readers will spend more time digging into it. It also makes your content more link-worthy; longer, more detailed posts tend to attract more links than any others.
· Include visuals. Visuals, like infographics and short videos, help your content remain sustainable in a few different ways. First, they make the piece more powerful and more entertaining. Second, they give users small pieces that can be shared independently, or as part of the larger whole. Your infographics may, for example, end up on a completely independent syndication circuit as your core content.
· Make it uniquely your brand. Make sure the entirety of your work falls squarely in line with your brand voice. People will be reading this multiple times, for months or even years to come, so it should represent your brand at its best.
Nurture and Maintain
Finally, you need to nurture and maintain your work so it can keep earning you value for (potentially) years to come:
· Syndicate regularly. Most blog owners know the importance of syndicating your content to social media after it’s been published, but you aren’t limited to one burst of syndication. You can revitalize your content periodically, every few weeks, to circulate it to new audiences and re-inspire your readers. Doing so gets fresh eyes on your piece and reminds your most loyal readers of your most significant work in the past.
· Build links. If you get the opportunity, build some links to your best content on off-site publishers. If you’re guest posting regularly (a tactic I highly recommend), it shouldn’t be hard to build links to your best content — especially if you have citable facts, such as data from original research you performed.
· Update occasionally. Every few months or so, revisit your work and update it with new dates and figures as appropriate. It helps keep the content fresh.
Success in content marketing is all about getting the greatest value for your initial investment, and content that earns value indefinitely is one of the best investments you can make. Work these types of pieces into your regular content schedule, and keep tabs on how well they perform for you.
Odds are, you’ll earn far more links, shares, and engagements per piece over the long term with these future-focused heavy hitters in your lineup.