This post is over 3,000 words. So, either grab a cuppa’ or bookmark for later.
Content writing is my business. And like any business, I have my sub-niche: content writing that’s always long form, and evergreen where possible.
That’s the stuff your potential leads will read today, and still search for in 10 years.
If there’s one thing I understand, it’s getting those first words down is hard – even harder when you’re not getting paid to do it.
Staring at a blank page is not fun.
So, you revert to the same SEO/SEM/content marketing posts you’ve read 100s of times before.
And it hurts.
Trust me. I’ve done it. And it’s why in this monster post, I’ve not referred to any SEM blogs.
Instead, I’ve linked to a tonne of gardening ones 😊.
The aim of this post is to cover a few processes and ideas that will allow anyone in any niche to start evergreen content writing for their website, right now.
I will say before going any further, it’s really important not to overcommit.
Over commitment (“I want to write 20,000 words today”), and unrealistic expectations (“Look at this Ferrari that finishes on eBay in 12 hours, the same time I’ll have published my post”) usually results in too many decisions needing being made.
That’s heading dangerously towards paralysis analysis, and nothing being created at all.
It’s a lot easier to improve the content you create over time, than create a monster piece in one go that you’ll never have to edit again (ignore this if you’re paying a content writer).
Large car manufacturers upgrade their cars every year. You can do the same with your content.
Long-form writing is a huge task. You’ve probably been putting it off. So, this is what you need to do:
Sometimes, there are new developments in your niche, and even if you thought you hit perfection a year ago. Now you realise you haven’t.
There’s no need to procrastinate about it then, or now.
How many words should my blog post be?
I have a definitive answer.
Blog posts should always be 1000 words or more. 999 words just won’t do.
I’m joking. It doesn’t matter how long it is.
My regular clients know I actually invest time with the sole purpose of removing text. It might be 1 word, a sentence, or a paragraph. If it’s not needed. It’s got no place and it’s gone.
My posts almost never go below 1000 words.
I rarely find that with text-based content, 1000 words is enough to explain anything properly.
My posts tend to stick under 5000 words. But, in all honesty, they shouldn’t.
None of this matters. Because, word count should never be a target.
Some things can be explained without text (such as a calculator). Or, with minimal text, such as a snippet.
A prime example of that would be something like “how many ounces are there in a lb?”
I want to see:
- The exact answer.
- Possibly, a calculator.
So, Bravo Googlebot.
This calculator is evergreen content too.
Your target, should be to deliver timeless value. Adding 500-1000 words for the sake of it, does the opposite.
On the opposite end of stopping because you write to much…
When it happens to me. It’s a real “oh, sh**!” moment.
If you’ve ever tried to write long form content, you’ll have hit writer’s block.
This is no joke. It’s my biggest cost. And it used to be even bigger.
However much I try….
I just can’t convince clients to pay me for staring at a blank page.
Sad face > > > ☹
There are two really important things I do to help my writer’s block.
- Remove all distractions before starting writing.
- Turn off my phone.
- Shut down my email.
- Turn off Skype.
- Write down a list of things I need to complete (today) so they are not on my mind.
- I don’t have kids, but I’d assume writing in slots where they are doing stuff like this, isn’t a good time to be writing…
- Have realistic expectations and a writing structure.
- 30 minutes per writing block is fine.
- 5 minute per block break. No computer during these breaks (and especially SEM related searches).
- Word count doesn’t matter. If you improve format, a paragraph or find the perfect video to compliment your piece. That’s productive in my eyes.
Most importantly. If you are stuck for ideas and find yourself searching Google for inspiration:
- Don’t read SEM blogs, the fact 99% of them focus on referencing SEM/making money online sites is the reason most people end up writing about these exact subjects. And those that have unrelated sites (that’s us), end up a little lost.
- Pick a completely random niche.
- Find a site killing it with content in that niche (you can usually do this by typing [keyword] or [keyword]+[guide]).
- Indulge yourself for 30 minutes and take away just 1 idea from their site (content formatting, visuals, detail, references they use, any colloquial language that works, humour and so on).
- Quit content writing for the day. Seriously.
The Law of Diminishing Returns in Evergreen Content Writing (reversed)
As I got more and more into long-form content, I realised one thing.
My work is subject to the law of diminishing returns, and it can be psychologically draining to say the least.
Loosely, words written as a content writer will directly relate to £ earned. And, seeing total days’ earnings on a graph, can be extremely depressing.
If I looked at content writing in this way, the last 20-25% of my day, I earn nothing.
But I’m not depressed. It’s important you understand why so you have the motivation to continue.
My output (and yours too) is connected to the total end value of the content to a website, and its viewers. And, that makes it so much easier to focus on time and effort spent, than the amount of words produced.
Every bit of time I spend making my evergreen content better than the next guy (or gal), gives it a sharper and sharper edge.
And, this extra time doesn’t mean 100s more words.
This extra TLC might include:
- Content formatting.
- Sourcing videos and images that extend your post (or even better, creating them).
- Researching forums to make sure you’ve covered every angle.
- Removing/moving sections that feel out of place.
- Improving readability.
- Some degree of procrastination
- Emailing a friend who reads about this kind of stuff, and seeing if they think there’s a lynch-pin missing.
- Anything else you can think of…
The more time (input in this case) you spend on your piece of content, should relate to value (output).
Boom. Now I feel happier.
Satisfying Search Intent for your keyword [and my 1m blog post]
I wouldn’t get too stressed about the exact keyword you use, or how many times.
If you look at this post below (and the email leads it generated), I targeted one.
Naturally, being 2000+ words, I’d put in a couple of others without thinking.
But, it ranked for over 270 search terms (a lot of LSI KWs) for over 3 years, and still does.
And this brings me to something REALLY important.
If your blog only gets 10, 50 or 100 targeted views a month. Don’t think you are doing a crap job.
I read a lot of marketing blog posts. And, the “100,000 visits in 6 day” or “1678% increase in organic search with this crazy tactic” makes you think like you’re doing something wrong.
If they are targeted visits…
Kudos. You’re doing great.
The simple way to serve keyword intent is:
- Look for the long-tail keywords Google suggests for your search term. It’s telling you exactly what people are thinking when they search the core term.
- Seeing what already ranks for that search term, and figuring out why (beyond just links).
So, I want to create an evergreen piece surrounding “Lawncare”.
We all know what I’m going to find for any given keyword when I look on lawncare blogs:
Lawncare [keyword 1]
Lawncare [keyword 2]
Lawncare [keyword 3]
I’d want to satisfy a few search intents within a single piece. And, I’d divide the post into digestible sections, using a table of contents.
But, I only want to do that if each keyword is deserving of its own section.
An article with sub-headings of “lawncare services”, “lawn mowing service”, “lawncare service” and “lawn service” is going to get pretty boring, pretty quickly.
So, for my lawncare brand I’ll start with:
I’ll go with tips.
Looks like our guys and gals want lawncare tips for specific times of the year?
So, the structure for the article might be:
Title: Lawncare Tips for Spring
- Lawncare Tips for March
- Lawncare Tips for April
- Lawncare Tips for May
I’d look at doing this for all seasons and months throughout the year.
Honestly, I’m only inclined to use Google’s Keyword Tool here out of interest.
I know what you are thinking. Those search volumes (UK specific), suck.
And, I’d tend to agree. But remember, if you serve the search intent of your main keywords, you’ll pick up LSI keywords (for free), and with a little bit of luck you’ll rank for your core search term:
So now the question is. What evergreen content are you competing with?
Further search reveal lawncare is non-existent in the winter months. So, I’d be looking at this format. It’s a visually appealing site, but this page really lacks content (bonus).
The new structure of the article is more likely to be…
Title: Lawncare Tips For Every Season of The Year
- Lawncare tips for Spring (March, April, May and June)
- Lawncare tips for Summer (July and August)
A lower ranking but more detailed version can be found here.
And remember, visuals help to break up text nicely.
I like to add videos if they illustrate a point in an impactful way where possible. So, get yourself on YouTube.
Building out your posts
When I read this (March):
“Avoid mowing the grass to short this time of the year.”
I’m thinking two things:
- Why can’t I cut it too short?
- How short is too short?
So, when you’ve planned your evergreen content.
- Determine what’s missing.
- Expand on points that are useful to your audience.
And, I’ll tell you a killer (but long-winded) way to find questions your potential visitors are asking.
I personally think Google has devalued forums, as a lot of the answers are short, weak and unverified (makes sense).
But, they have so many threads and replies, they fill every void, where someone hasn’t created a detailed blog post surrounding a subject.
It’s the forum content gap.
Most popular forums have such good link profiles, Google feels it has no option but to rank them in these cases.
I really feel like I need to say this again. Because, I’ve had big wins from this. Some of my biggest.
Forums fill every void, where someone hasn’t created a detailed blog post surrounding a subject.
That means low competition and big opportunity for you to go and create a piece of evergreen content on the subject.
Alternatively, if you really feel there’s not enough scope to build this out into real evergreen post, log the content idea, ready to add to a suitable article in the future.
And whilst we are on the forum train…
A cool way to find an extra sub-topic to cover (in a current or future blog post) is this:
- Find an active forum in your niche.
- Look for a way to sort posts by “most views”
- Look for any ideas that you can either
- Build into a completely different evergreen post
- Add to your existing post to give it more substance
So, I found this (look at how many views each topic has had on the far right).
Lawn preparation for clay seems like an golden subject. And, this is the great thing about searching forums. Ideas just start flooding in. Now, I’m thinking…
I’m confident I could write a whole new piece of evergreen content on prep for seeding if I needed to.
And finally, the good old “checklist”. You’ve seen them in marketing. But, I’m hoping your niche is going to be much more exciting.
Instead of a boring intro, a “kit list” or “checklist” makes sense. In the case of my lawncare article.
I’m thinking a simple section:
“What Tools Do I Need to Take Care of My Lawn?”
And there’s a quick example here.
In the spirit of not writing 1000 words for the sake of it. I’d make this section super-fast.
For stripes: Use a mower with a roller
For areas larger than ½ acre: Ride-on
For gardeners without a compost heap: Mulching mower
Or, simply go for a numbered list, with no explanation.
There’s really no need to talk about who invented the mower and the history of mower evolution.
Your long-tail keywords will help your evergreen content writing get some views. I can almost guarantee it.
But, I’m under the belief that how users physically interact with the page will carry some weight with your longer-term rankings. Even if it doesn’t, we should have a little pride 😊
And, this is the exact reason why I wouldn’t focus on increasing word count for the sake of it, or keyword stuffing. Cut the words that you are putting on a page to hit that word count goal crap.
Read your content out loud.
- If it doesn’t seem fluid.
- If you have to read it twice.
Delete, delete, delete.
Another quick thing I do with all my pieces is create a table of contents. And, I think this is really important.
Remember, you are asking for a huge time commitment from readers.
It’s an investment on their behalf.
Like any investment, these people want to know what the potential returns are. So, what are they going to learn?
The table of contents should answer that question for them.
I’m not a designer, or a coder. Without those two people. Adding videos, images and a table of contents is about all I can do to make my content “flow”.
I’m going to wrap this up with a few examples of evergreen content writing I’ve found on my travels.
Some are not particularly exceptional, but they are either better than what’s out there, or have something of value within (visual, formatting, comedy value):
Their content is in-depth, but it’s also pretty beautiful too. No doubt, this type of content is not just writing. It’s outreach, design and lots of planning.
What I like
They don’t (always) blog about snacks. They blog about things their potential snackers might read. And, this opens up big doors for content strategy.
Check out their 27 Things Successful Do to Increase Productivity. As a freelancer, I liked that.
What could be improved
My instant reaction from just reading the title is that there are books that would act as a naturally extension of this post.
So, I’d be thinking about adding
“Bonus: 16 Books That Will Help You Hack Your Workforce into a Productivity Machine”
This content could possibly be locked to grab some email subscribers.
I mean, it’s not hard to create that list. A lot less difficult (or costly) than making that post beautiful.
Jump onto Amazon. And, straight away you’ll see a nice list that includes some books like this
Pick Your Own
Me and Martin S (from Digital Outdoors) worked on this to see if aged domains would rank. Early doors…
What I like
It takes real information from farm websites, and there’s an alternative for those that don’t have a farm nearby. Make your own pumpkin patch people!
Check out Pumpkin Picking this Halloween.
What could be improved
It’s pretty obvious there are key areas of the UK missing here. If I did a content upgrade, I’d cut back individual location content, and increase the volume of locations, then add a clickable map at the start of the post.
I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like on this. But, I’ve been trialling a few different content formats. One is a short form review of an Ideal Vogue Boiler. A tad under 1000 words.
What I like
The table of contents is a really important factor to page engagement.
An example can be found on the heating problems article.
Also, note the “versus” in the review post.
When people read a review, there’s a good chance they are wanting a comparison to the most obvious equivalent. If you own a site you post reviews on, I’d seriously consider this format.
A quick example, could be GoPro.
I want a back to back comparison of the GoPro & Drift. GoPro are just well known. But, Drift are well known for bikers. I don’t just want to see specs and prices. I want to see which one is the best. Which is why I usually add a “review verdict” in any review I write.
You know your industry. Think about it.
What could be improved
I know, I know. Visuals. They are terrible. Videos would be the perfect way to “upgrade” these articles.
What I like
All three have a good basis of content. I wouldn’t say any exceed expectations. Combined, they could make an epic piece.
This article from Tomato Growing is just so much more visual, I can’t help but think the user engagement is going to be better, regardless of text quality.
What could be improved
As I’ve mentioned. These examples are good. But, not that good. You could easily fill a few voids such as:
- How do I prepare clay based soil for tomato growing?
- When do I harvest? Or, what colour should tomatoes be when I harvest them (images)?
- How far apart should I plant seeds?
- Which species of tomato seed grow the best in the UK/USA?
- How long should I leave seedlings indoors/in a greenhouse for?
There’s some great in-depth content on this site, and I can see it’s being rewarded by exponetional increases in search traffic month on month.
What I like
Although the site design is basic, the articles are all in-depth, and well presented. Something as simple as adequate white space, coupled with images, makes posts like their Best Gifts for Anxiety really appealing.
What could be improved
The content itself is great. But, I’d certainly consider creating a “Start Here” page (or something similar, and putting content in relevant sub-sections. This would then create a great linkable asset which could be built on over time.
What’s your experience been like with long-form & evergreen content?