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How to Build Your Blog’s Audience with Long Form Evergreen Content

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of June 2015 General 34

How to Build Your Blog's Audience with Long Form Evergreen Content

Who wants to grow their blog’s audience?

I’m yet to meet a blogger who doesn’t, so I’m picturing in my mind a room full bloggers with their hands in the air!

If you’re one of them, I would highly recommend you spend a few minutes today listening to the first 20 or so minutes of this podcast by Tim Ferriss who outlines how he’d build his audience if he were starting from scratch today (note: the rest of the podcast answers other questions which are good but less relevant for bloggers).

There’s some great ideas in his answer that in essence are similar to what I’ve written and spoken about previously on:

  • identifying who you are trying to reach
  • asking where those readers are gathering and/or focusing their attention
  • and then trying to work out how to build a presence in those places

But one of the other key messages in Tim’s podcast that really stood out to me was this statement that he made:

‘The most labor-efficient way to build readership over time is long-form evergreen content.’

There is so much wisdom in this statement and I’d highly recommend bloggers ponder two parts of it.

Long Form Content

There has definitely been a trend over the last few years for many bloggers to move toward shorter form content. I’m not sure if this has been the result of the short for nature of social media, an assumption that people’s attention spans are short, the pressure to publish more posts or something else – but I’ve heard it taught from the stage at conferences and have definitely noticed more and more bloggers creating shorter posts in recent years.

My experience has been similar to Tim’s. I’ve noticed that it’s my longer and more in-depth posts that tend to get the most shares, the most links and the most traffic – both when they’re launched and over their long tail life.

There are definitely exceptions but today as I look through the top 10 most read posts here on ProBlogger over the last 12 months the shortest one is 714 words and the longest is over 7000. Their average is 2491.

I recently spoke about some of the benefits (and some of the costs) of creating long form vs short form content here so won’t go on too long about it except to say that at the very least longer form content is worth weaving into the mix of content on your blog.

I’m not arguing that every post needs to be longer form – it takes a lot of effort to create and there is a definitely place for shorter content – but the effort you put into longer posts can be a great investment to make into your blogging.

Further Reading: read Search Engine Journal’s article Why You Need to Start Creating Long, Evergreen Content Today.

Evergreen Content

Note for those not familiar with the term ‘Evergreen Content’: Evergreen posts are ones that don’t lose their relevancy over time. You write them today and they will be as helpful to readers in a few months (or even years) time.

I know that not every blog topic/niche naturally lends itself to the creation of evergreen content (for example ‘news’ and ‘reviews’ sites can sometimes struggle with it) but most blogs should be able to find a way to create at least some content that doesn’t date quickly.

As I look through the most read posts on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School over the last 12 months every single post is what I’d consider to be evergreen content.

Of course part of the reason for this is that it’s the main focus of what I do – but we do cover ‘newsy’ type posts from time to time on dPS and apart from a spike in traffic shortly after it is published it rarely ever gets more than a trickle of traffic ever again.

To illustrate the case for Evergreen Content

Let me give you a couple of case studies. Here’s how a time sensitive post announcing the launch of the New Adobe Lightroom that we published on dPS recently performed in terms of traffic.

Screen Shot 2015 06 17 at 10 51 48 am

You can see the initial burst of traffic as it went live and as our readers excitedly gobbled up the hot news (and it was fairly significant news in the photography niche).

But in the month after it’s had little traffic and I suspect will never see more than a handful of visitors coming to it in a given day again.

Contrast this with an evergreen post I published back in January of 2007 on the topic of ISO Settings.

Screen Shot 2015 06 17 at 11 00 27 am

The post had it’s own little spike in traffic in the first days (although I had hardly any readers at that point) but to this day it continues to get traffic (for example yesterday it had over 1100 visitors).

The beauty of evergreen content is that it not only gets the same initial spike of traffic to it when you publish but it also is much more likely to be searched for and found in search engines in the years to come.

The other benefit of the evergreen content is that you (and others) are able to keep sharing it on social for years to come also! It is this evergreen content that I’ve built my whole social media workflow around.

Take a look at this daily traffic graph of the same post on ISO where you’ll see some bigger daily spikes periodically on the days I retire it on social media.

Screen Shot 2015 06 17 at 11 03 39 am

I have given that post a refresh occasionally over the years but it’s largely the same content that I published in 2007 and despite being 8 years old still gets a great reaction every time I share it on social.

Note: worth noting here is that this example is not what I’d consider to be ‘long form content’. It’s around 700 words in length which isn’t short – but it shows you that there’s a place for ‘mid sized’ form content too.

The most compelling case for investing time into Evergreen Content…

As I look at the two examples of posts I’ve just shown you what strikes me most is the investment that was put into those two posts was similar.

From memory I probably spent an hour or two writing the post on ISO. I’m not sure how long the author who wrote the Lightroom announcement post spent on it but looking at it he put at least that much time into researching and writing it.

Considering that investment of time – I’d say the case for evergreen content is pretty clear.

The quote I started with from Tim Ferriss was all about labor efficient ways to build readership. It’s not the only way but I’d have to say that I think he identified one approach that really resonates with my own.

Further Reading: Check out Ali Luke’s post Your Ultimate Guide to Creating Amazing Content that Draws Readers Into Your Blog.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Never heard of long-form evergreen content, but willing to explore a new avenue in efforts of improving long-tail and long-term SEO.

  2. Darren,
    Thanks for the great post. Just like always, this post is awesome and your site is truly one of the greats.

    Your comparison between two case studies was a great touch and really helped.

    I plan on reading Ali Luke’s post about how to shape and curate a post, but do you have any suggestions about how to research an evergreen concept deeper in your blog, or is the Search Engine Journal article the best one?

  3. If only one 1,00 word post a day was written and posted to a blog or website, could that boost long-term SEO just off of posting one time a day?

  4. It makes sense that most evergreen content would be longer. If you consider writing about a topic that is not time-based, then it is a topic that exists in perpetuity and which therefore has a lot that could be said about it based on different perspectives and the various historical approaches to the topic over time. A post about one particular aspect of Google Search, such as Google Authorship Markup, could be long. But it could never be as long as a piece of writing about the broader and more general topic of Google Search that has existed for years or decades. Such longer form evergreen content, as you say, Darren, also will benefit from audiences interested in any specific aspect of that broader topic. Your post makes a good point. Jay

  5. Strongly agree with you that long posts tend to get more social shares rather than short ones but as a reader I usually find long posts quite boring (exception to list posts).

  6. Most valuable and three great ideas touched me
    “1. identifying who you are trying to reach
    2. asking where those readers are gathering and/or focusing their attention
    3. and then trying to work out how to build a presence in those places”

    Thanks sir, for your regular updates.

    Have a great Week. :)

  7. Darren,

    Great article! I have been doing this successfully for years but hadn’t realized there’s a term for it. Evergreen content works for me.

    • Chris,

      Do you post daily to your site? If so, how many words do you write daily?

    • Very useful tips indeed. As I write on life and self improvement topics which is evergreen content.
      As I am still learning, I write between 300 to 500 words articles and my readers do appreciate that. I personally feel that articles on self improvement topics should not be too lengthy. Should I increase the word count?

  8. One change I made about 18 months ago was producing evergreen content nearly every time I posted. In some niches there is no need for a constant commentary, a constant news feed… I also nearly stopped writing blog “posts” on WordPress, and made them “pages.” This appears to have made a large difference over some of my major sites.

    I can’t see long-form content going away anytime soon. Can you?

  9. You are right even the most preferred length by Google to rank it in the first page of SERPs is around 2400 words. Some people often refer the Long Form thing as Pillar Content.

    I strongly believe that a blog with at least 40-50 pillar articles with proper optimization and following Google standards can build a strong base and gain maximum exposure in search results. I’m talking about niche blogs not all in one types.

    So, any blogger no matter what niche it is should focus on deep and informative posts in the beginning.

    Thanks for the tips.

  10. I am so thankful for this post! My blog is just beginning (to say the very least) and my faith in myself and my writing abilities is already wavering. I especially appreciate the idea of allowing the audience to lead the way toward finding an expertise. I do have a few ideas on regular monthly and weekly content that I’d like to publish, but currently my blog has little direction. I was also relieved to read that waiting for perfection is unnecessary as I certainly suffer from procrastination due to being a frustrated perfectionist. I’m surprised I actually started a blog without an extremely structured plan in place. I will definitely be re-reading your post whenever I need a bit of encouragement.

    Thanks again!

  11. And for those of us who are inclined to give really detailed explanations of topics, long form content is a must. ;-)

  12. I do totally agree that post with shorter content are for short term only and that with the long form content are more effective in the long term.

  13. I’m personally a fan of medium-form content — perhaps anything between 800 to 1,200 words. Of course, sometimes I go over 1,800 words depending on the subject as well. I guess it really depends on what you are covering.

    For example, i occasionally read blog posts on Carol Tice’s blog, and I notice how they are often around 600-800 words. Yet, they always seem to get plenty of attention and the content itself is still quite informative.

    When it comes to certain topics, such as case studies and extensive analysis, perhaps long-form is always best. On the other hand, many topics that require “less thinking and testing” can be shortened and still pack a good punch.

    Elvis

  14. Long form content is awesome and get more shares as per social traffic is concern. But many readers still love short posts, because they fill longer post is boring.

    Thanks

  15. Hey Darren! I actually caught and enjoyed that Ferriss episode. And from all my own research over the past few years into the matter, I couldn’t agree with you and Tim more: if your niche can accommodate it, long-form evergreen is the way to go!

    Case in point: Aside from PROBLOGGER, Jon Morrow’s “newish” BOOST BLOG TRAFFIC (boostblogtraffic.com) is currently my favorite blog on all matters blogging in the blogosphere. :D And Jon has built it into an incredible success in just a couple of years by publishing only one post a week, with each averaging about 3,000 words.

    Moreover, contrary to the folks who claim they find long posts “boring” (and folks like Guy Kawasaki, who claim they won’t read anything over about 750 words), I find these wonderfully well-researched, in-depth articles ultra stimulating and helpful. I come away from every post with a list of about 10 action items on which I’m then psyched to get rolling. So I join you in encouraging more bloggers to try this strategy out.

    Cheers!
    Play

  16. Strongly agree with you that long posts tend to get more social shares rather than short ones but as a reader I usually find long posts quite boring (exception to list posts).

  17. Hi Darren,
    You brilliantly described the importance of evergreen content that generates traffic for long time. As you shown the traffic statics for evergreen and time-based content is also useful to make a decision for bloggers whether they should go for long-term content or one which generates traffic for few days or months…..

  18. I seriously agree with this. Even on our own publication (Inspire2rise) we had a lot of posts. We cover all recent gadget launches and their traffic graph is almost same as you showed in the Adobe Lighroom example here. But all our long form guides etc. which are still relevant are the ones that keep our readers coming in. Otherwise most of the tech readers come and go.
    Thanks for this post!

  19. Long form evergreen content is the gift that keeps on giving Darren. One can create something super helpful, in-depth and timeless and people will find it again and again. Some of my 7,000 word pillar style posts get traffic daily and the comments flow in steadily months after each post went live. Readers appreciate serious value, and heck, the more words the better if you really want to trick out the post and drive traffic over the long haul.

    Ryan

  20. This is a very interesting topic. Perhaps if everyone wrote 1,000 word posts daily & more, we would get better long-tail SEO results, just off of the strength of “doing the transformation SEO content work.”

  21. Just discovered that writing 1 to 3 Evergreen posts daily preferably 1000 words will rank better in search engines for years to come versus writing 2 to 300 word posts and publishing every hour. The Internet is a never ending portal for affiliate marketing and content marketing education.

  22. Hi, question for you: On the 19th I wrote a comment for this post that I thought was quite valuable, as it offered support for Darren’s argument in the form of a mention of the great success of Boost Blog Traffic with its exclusive use of long-form, evergreen content. For some reason, however, it apparently wasn’t approved. Can you tell me what I may have “done wrong” so that I’ll know for future reference when commenting?

    Thanks a million!
    Play

  23. It seems like you support an incredibly successful service! I would also suggest using Twitter as a platform to attract more followers, especially because over 300 million people use Twitter.

  24. What kind of mix would you recommend on a blog? This may sound crazy, but it’s never occurred to me to publish anything other than evergreen content. I noticed Neil Patel’s blog has a lot of this content.

  25. Well, i guess as a content writer we try to maintain such length and body of the article so that it doesn’t lefts the readers boring or spending most of the time scrolling the content length first …. which of course most of the readers do b4 actually going into an article but yes it also lays emphasis that a short length article though can be memorized sooner but its impact is short term.

    it depends on what kinda topic you actually cover in your content and eventually it will effect reader’s opinion. be it long or short length content, the stuff is all that maters and if it’s nice then Long form evergreen content is a wonder.

    still doing good job :)

  26. What’s really cool is when you publish a blog post without specific intentions of it being evergreen, but it ends up being that way. I have been surprised with several posts that ended up generating loads of traffic (and still do). I will take your advice, Darren, and try to be more intentional going forward :-)

  27. I like your tips.I think this three tips is very effective.
    1.identifying who you are trying to reach
    2.asking where those readers are gathering and/or focusing their attention
    3.then trying to work out how to build a presence in those places

    But would you please tell me how can I identifying people demand and put in my content and my blog?
    Do you thik if we dont understand people demand and make a blog in a horrible issue then i can improve?

  28. You brilliantly describe why we need a long term evergreen content, your examples and screen shots prove your content. a fresher can also understand it easily.
    thanks a lot……….!

  29. I’m in my first week of “serious” blogging (working through the ebook ‘first week of blogging’) and I’m glad I read this. I’ve been working on a few pillar posts and will aim to put in the extra effort and make them as long as needed.

    -Josh.

  30. Hello Darren – It’s almost 6 months now that I’m consistently reading and learning from your articles and I’ve no words to express that how much knowledge, direction and confidence I’m able to garner from your blog posts. You are one of the inspiration for the bloggers like me who doesn’t have any blogging background or back links :) for a speedy start. But taking clues from you – I’m taking baby steps, started a blog and slowly working to improve. I thought this is the right time to say thank you in helping people like us whom you may not know but we’ll follow you forever.
    Best,
    Harsh S.

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