For Improved Search Results, Try Pruning Your Content

Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. As an avid gardener, both indoors and out, I’m always searching for how to improve how my garden grows. As a search consultant, I am always looking for how to improve a site’s organic search performance.

Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. As an avid gardener, both indoors and out, I’m always searching for how to improve how my garden grows. As a search consultant, I am always looking for how to improve a site’s organic search performance. The nexus of these two quests lies in the site’s content.

Search has become content-driven. Google is hungry for quality, fresh content and rewards it in the results; but, like a garden, content must be pruned.

Like amateur gardeners, many site owners have added loads of evergreen content to their sites and layered more content on top of even more content. It is sometimes lost that each new layer of content must balance and play off the existing content; otherwise it can obscure and diminish the desired result. The site can easily become — in gardening terms — overgrown.

If you have added extensive content over the past two-to-three years, it is probably time to step back, assess organic search results and prune your content. You may even need to reorganize some pages and site areas so that they are more visible, just as a gardener moves a plant to improve its exposure to sun and moisture.

Here are some suggestions for how to prune and garden your content:

Content Pruning Differs From Content Curation

Content curation involves the process of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds a specific subject matter. It does not specifically involve the generation of new content. The activity of content pruning is somewhat different, in that it specifically addresses content created to improve search performance.

Why Prune Content?

Pruning, in gardening parlance, is clipping or cutting away of branches, buds and leaves, both living and dead, that sap energy from the plant. A properly pruned plant grows healthier and stronger. Because SEO content is developed to support traffic to specific pages, SEO pruning can yield a page that provides a stronger set of search signals and yields improved performance.

When and How to Prune?

Your business cycle will set the proper time for SEO pruning. It is not a task that should be undertaken during peak sales season. Schedule it for off-peak times.

Begin by evaluating how long your so-called evergreen content has been sitting without being critically evaluated for how well it is performing. For each page and section, ask yourself:

  • Is the page being found for your keyword targets?
  • Does it compete with another page on your site?

If so, then some serious pruning needs to be done. You may find that the page simply needs to be tightened or freshened. If it has links, check if any are broken. If so, then these need to be fixed immediately, for broken links are deadwood. Do you have newer, stronger imagery that can add impact? If so, this is the equivalent of enhancing new growth in a plant.

Conclusion

For a large site with a substantial amount of older evergreen content, the results can be startling. If you have done the process critically and removed the deadwood and made the main thrust of each page, and by extension each site section, more clearly defined, you will be sending a clearer set of search signals. Watch the results and just as with gardening, you will enjoy a more bountiful harvest of search traffic.

Evergreen Content — The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Evergreen content should be a part of every content marketing editorial calendar. It’s frequently information of importance to your audience and can garner engagement long after the hard work of creating it is done.

You may not be ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the onslaught of “ho ho ho” holiday cheer, but there’s one gift you should definitely be paying attention to. (Along with Giving Tuesday!)

The gift I’m referring to will be a perfect fit for your audience and most welcome by your content marketing team: evergreen content.

What Is Evergreen Content?

Evergreen content is content that stands the test of time. It will be as valuable to your audience in 18 months as it is today. (I get that 18 months isn’t exactly an eternity, but in digital marketing terms, it’s out there on the distant horizon …) Even better, evergreen content is often also the kind of content that answers the basic questions that vast swaths of your audience have about the problem they’re trying to solve. (And that your product or service addresses.)

Why It’s Like Owning vs. Renting

Evergreen content will also be popular with your content marketing team because it can be a real time saver — publish it once and watch it continue to accumulate page views, likes, shares and comments. That’s not going to happen with content that is more timely, which will naturally experience a decrease in consumption over time.

Compounded Benefit from Long-Term Interest

This makes evergreen content especially well suited to spoke-and-hub or umbrella content models where one piece of content is created and many other pieces of content are adapted from it.

Those adapted pieces are, of course, easier to develop than content started from scratch. And they also can help you cover a lot more ground — A webinar script can be adapted into an ebook, a series of blog posts, a number of short videos, and a set of worksheets and templates, as well as numerous social media posts. Yes, the effort to create the webinar is considerable, but the mountain of content you can create from it makes it worthwhile.

That same approach does work with more topical material, though the effort is necessarily more intense (you have to get the content out there quickly) and the payoff period more compact.

Keep a Healthy Mix

Even with evergreen content’s great advantage in this area, you must mix both types of content into your editorial calendar. In most marketing scenarios, your audience is going to be looking for the veritable truths and also want news of the latest-and-greatest.

The Forest of Evergreen Content

One downside: whatever you’re saying of an evergreen nature, others are saying it, too. That makes it even more imperative than usual to have a perspective that sets your take apart from the competition. And whatever that unique slant is must be reflected in your title or subject line in order to attract the audience you seek to reach.

As long as you bear this in mind, evergreen content should be a major part of your content marketing and one of your most productive content marketing tools.

How to Create Evergreen Content and Make It a Productive Marketing Tool

Evergreen content is content that holds appeal year after year, rather than being topical and timely. Frequently these are the veritable truths of your industry, things that change little or not at all over time. Today, let’s talk about evergreen content and how you can create it once and reap its rewards for seasons to come.

white flower growing on crack street, soft focus, blank text

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create content once and have it serve your marketing needs for years to come? Well, now you can!

Actually, you always could, and my jokey late-night-information come-on notwithstanding, getting the most out of your content should be something you’re doing anyway. More on that in a future post.

Today, though, let’s talk about evergreen content and how you can create it once and reap its rewards for seasons to come.

What Is Evergreen Content?

Evergreen content, in case you’re new to the content marketing game, is content that holds appeal year after year, rather than being topical and timely. Frequently these are the veritable truths of your industry, things that change little or not at all over time. (Or whose changes are measured in generations rather than years.)

Examples of evergreen content include how-to guides, terminology glossaries, and process checklists. For example, at Andigo we might publish articles, videos and templates like

  • How to Secure Your WordPress Website
  • Everything You Need to Choosing a Website Host
  • Essential Website Planning Documents

What to Do with Evergreen Content

Once you have it written, you promote it of course, but then you can aggregate it into even more useful tools.

Content Hubs that provide an overview of a broad topic, with each evergreen content element diving into more detail.

Summary / Roundup posts or videos that also refer to topics that are related in some way.

Volunteer Evergreen Content borrows a term I learned from my wife, who is an avid gardener.

In gardening, a volunteer is a desirable plant (as opposed to a weed) that is growing without having been planted on purpose.

You may find, among your content, some items that attract a steady stream of attention over time even though you didn’t plan on them having that kind of staying power. You’ll find these happy accidents if you regularly review your analytics data, and can make the most of them by determining what long-tail keyword they are suited to and developing more content along the same lines.

You may also want to use content that is attracting a lot of attention as a gateway to other content, an introduction into a deeper dive, as we’ve mentioned with content hubs and roundup posts mentioned above. These can also take the form of a special series, that either uses the original piece as its front door for a broader look at the issue under discussion, or that dives deeper into the sub-topics you’ve mentioned in the original piece, expanding each into its own post, video, infographic, or podcast segment.

If you’re just getting started with evergreen content, you almost certainly have some sprouting under your nose already, so seek it out and make use of it as we’ve outlined above. And as you do so, you’ll begin to see opportunities for creating more evergreen content on purpose.

Encourage Action

Don’t forget perhaps the most important part of evergreen content – or any content marketing: make sure you have a strong call to action built into each piece of content. Ask your audience to subscribe, offer them a downloadable resource that dives more deeply into the topic, or find another way to provide value while building relationships that help you create a strong funnel and positive ROI on your content marketing efforts.