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Topical and Evergreen Content: What’s the Difference?

As Robert Rose once said:

‘Marketing is telling the world you’re a rockstar, content marketing is showing the world you are one.’

Content is king when it comes to optimising your site and climbing your way up the search engine rankings, but did you know that there are different types of content?

I’m not talking about the different content mediums such as video, photos and infographics. I mean that there’s a difference between the way content is categorised: content is either topical or evergreen.

Both types can provide value to your social media marketing efforts, but one provides an instant win, whereas the other one is a slow burner.

So which one is right for you?


What is topical content?

Topical content is an instantaneous reaction to timely news. It’s the trending news that’s popular one day, and irrelevant the next. But for one brief moment, it’s all anyone can talk about.

Topical content gets bandied around Facebook and Twitter for a few days, before getting sucked back into the social media black hole.

Topical content is brilliant at growing your audience now, but ineffective at driving traffic to your website in two months time.

An example of topical content would be the excitement surrounding the announcement that Nick Clegg now works for Facebook. People were up in arms about it for a few days, and then suddenly it was all over. No one cares now because they’ve all moved on to ‘the next big thing’.

Topical content doesn’t have to appeal to a wider audience, because you don’t have time to explain the ins and outs and the backstory – you simply click and share the story, or you write your opinion, post it, ride the wave temporarily and then move on.

Pros of topical content:

  • You could create the next big thing – content that is so ‘right now’ it has the potential to go viral. And just think what that would do for your audience numbers.
  • It keeps your brand’s feed fresh and relevant.
  • When done successfully it drives seasonal traffic to your site, boosting your audience numbers temporarily.
  • You‘re showing your audience that you’re a leader in your industry.

Cons of topical content:

  • Topical content does not maintain traffic over an extended period of time.
  • It has an expiration date.
  • Regurgitating what has already been said doesn’t do you any favours, you’ll get drowned out in the noise – you have to add your own particular spin to the story.
  • It can be relentless trying to stay ahead of the curve.


So what about evergreen content?

Evergreen content provides high quality value all year round, much like the evergreen pine trees that keep their leaves/needles every day of the year, come rain, snow or shine. It gives the reader value today, and it’ll still have value for the reader in six months’ time.

It’s immune to changing fads and trends, like the digital equivalent of a Chanel suit – never ‘in’ fashion, never ‘out’ of fashion, just always there, warm, safe and reliable, ready to welcome new and old readers into the fold.

It’s the type of content where you can demonstrate your brand’s values and standards. It’s more about you as a whole and less about the individual parts. It’s a platform where your brand is the star. It’s the reason why your audience keeps coming back to you time and again.

An important factor when developing evergreen content, is that it absolutely has to answer the questions your audience is asking. It has to be incredibly relevant to your brand now, and remain relevant long past its publication date. It has to transcend seasons, years even.

Pros of evergreen content:

  • If done well, it has a magical ability to drive traffic to your website all year long, regardless of which topics are trending on social at any one point.
  • Traffic conversions don’t peak once and tail off, they’re continuous.

Cons of evergreen content:

  • You can’t focus on anything specific or timely, because it will ultimately become dated if you do.
  • To keep content evergreen it has to be general, which runs the risk of being too broad and ultimately irrelevant because it lacks current data and specific facts.


Which is better: topical or evergreen content?

This one is purely down to you and what you’re trying to achieve, who your audience are and what they like to read.

I can’t tell you which one is going to boost you up the search engine rankings and which one is going to get you more shares and more readers. Only you can know that.

But if you aren’t sure, the best solution is to have a mix of the two.

All the evidence points to evergreen content providing a higher return on investment, but when done well, topical content really can spike your audience numbers.

So if you don’t have the time to dedicate to a full-on topical content campaign, a recommended mix for a successful content marketing campaign is to publish at least one topical post to every four evergreen posts, of created and/or curated content.


Wait, ‘created’ and ‘curated’?

Created content is content that you ‘ve physically created or designed yourself, from scratch, like a post on your own blog, or an eBook that you’ve written.

Curated content is content that you’ve found online, such as a blog post from a news site or industry publication. Curating content is a great way to show that you understand the industry enough to source, or ‘curate’ the best content for your audience. Much like an art curator in a gallery, who finds pictures from only the best artists.

Here are three easy ways to find and curate content:

  1. Use a tool like Feedly to follow industry blogs.
  2. Share what your industry’s influencers are creating, or ask your audience for their favourite brands or publications.
  3. Keep an eye on relevant industry hashtags.


So there you have it! All you need to know about topical and evergreen content: what you should be creating and sharing, and where to find the best content to curate for your marketing campaigns.

A word to the wise though – don’t just spurn out content and be done with it. Content marketing shouldn’t be a one way street: engage with your readers, ask them questions and answer their queries – form a relationship. The ultimate aim of marketing after all is to convert people into paying customers, and people buy from people they like.