Evergreen Thinking: Creating Education Marketing Content that Lasts
Date posted: September 12, 2018
Wouldn’t it be great if one day’s work could generate leads for your school for years to come?
That’s the beauty of what digital marketing experts call ‘evergreen content’. These timeless pieces eschew topical or trending subject matter to focus on providing information that will be useful to your audience whether they read it as soon as it is published, in a couple of weeks or months, or even a few years later.
Evergreen content can be ideal for schools. After all, many of your courses, facilities and unique selling points can remain largely unchanged from one year to the next, so why not take advantage of that by designing content that can be built to last?
Not only is evergreen content incredibly valuable to prospective students, it can also provide a number of advantages when it comes to SEO. Keep reading to learn more about why evergreen content should be a part of your student recruitment strategy.
What Evergreen Content is and Why it Matters in Education Marketing
Traditional publications and marketing material always had a somewhat limited shelf life by nature. A great article in a school newsletter, for instance, was only going to be viewed by a limited number of people within a relatively short timeframe. While certain content could be reused for things like brochures and prospectuses, even these pieces were limited in their reach.
The internet, however, has changed the rules regarding how content creators approach the process. Because any content posted online is will be available permanently, posts produced some time ago will often still show up prominently in relevant searches.
Example: This 2015 post from Automotive Training Centres remains one of the top results for the search ‘reasons to become an auto mechanic’ over three years after its publication.
In addition, because search engines use page authority as a ranking factor, pages which attract large amounts of visits and engagement will often accumulate it over time, meaning older posts can even have an advantage over newer material. The blogs, news pieces, videos, infographics and other content which continue to attract large amounts of engagement over time are a website’s ‘evergreen’ content, high-performers which maintain their relevance and usefulness, and even become more valuable as they grow older.
This phenomenon is common across all online content producers. As an illustration of its value, digital marketing specialists HubSpot analyzed its own blog’s attribution reports a couple of years ago. The results were incredibly revealing, showing that 76% of blog views and 92% of leads came from blogs over a month old, while 46% of leads were generated from just 30 of their 6,000-plus posts.
With this in mind, many experts have begun to recommend that content creators focus more on evergreen content in order to maximize the benefits it brings. In the next section, we look at how schools can create evergreen content of their own.
Generating Evergreen Education Content Marketing Ideas
The easiest place to start when defining evergreen content is to explain what isn’t evergreen. On a basic level, this is any content which is likely to become out of date and irrelevant soon after publication. Good examples would be news reports or posts that closely link themselves to recent events, as well as those that focus on the latest trends and developments.
Often, even if a new trend stands the test of time, pieces created early in its development that focus too much on its ‘newness’ will quickly seem stale as time goes by. A good example of this from the digital marketing sphere would be posts from several years ago that focused on the rise of recently launched social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. While both are still going strong, they are very much part of the digital furniture now, and articles which present them as exciting new players in the market seem antiquated.
Content creators developing evergreen posts will take more of a long view of their topic choices, considering what will appeal to readers in the months and years to come rather than just what is likely to attract engagement in the now. This means thinking about some of the most important intrinsic motivations and concerns of your student personas, and creating content that addresses those needs without relying on the hook of current events or the latest fad.
Often, the results will be deceptively simple. A few evergreen education marketing content ideas schools could consider include:
FAQs– This doesn’t mean your website’s frequently asked questions page. Rather, it means that the first thing your school should look to do when trying to develop posts with evergreen potential is to look at the most pressing motivations of your prospective students. How will the skills and expertise your courses provide help them reach their goals? What kind of careers are available to graduates? What opportunities for further education could they lead to? These kinds of topics will always be relevant to new applicants, and a well-crafted blog, video, or other piece of long-form content could become instrumental to your student recruitment efforts.
Example: This blog from Berkeley Haas School of Business, “16 Benefits of an MBA”, is a great example of this kind of post.
Published 5 months ago, it’s already showing real signs of having evergreen qualities. It ranks first in searches for ‘benefits of an MBA’, even attracting the rich snippet treatment from Google.
You can also address more practical concerns that tend to serve as barriers to enrollment. For instance, many admissions teams are likely to encounter students who are worried about how to finance their education, balance work and study, or adjust to life at your institution. Evergreen posts which address these issues will provide prospects with an introduction to your school that quickly allays their concerns and immediately creates a positive impression.
Example: This blog from Cornerstone University about balancing work and study still shows up in top positions in targeted searches over a year after its publication.
There may also be common questions you have to answer that are very specific to your school and its identity. For instance, you may have a unique learning approach you often need to explain, or a common misconception about your school or it courses that you need to address.
Example: This blog on common misconceptions about online learning published by South University remains in the first page of search results about the subject, nearly seven years after its publication.
Posts which target common areas of interest for international students may also be worthwhile, such as overviews of life in your country, or a guide to visa requirements and application processes.
Program ‘sneak peaks’- Your prospective students will always be eager to learn more about what they will learn on your courses, and basic overviews and introductions to particular subjects, modules, or techniques can make for great posts that won’t become stale.
Example: This video from Caltech is the first in a series offering insights into complex mathematical concepts. Content like this will remain interesting to prospective students long after its publication.
You could also offer how-to articles explaining some of the simpler aspects of certain subjects, or practical tips for how to improve your knowledge and abilities in specific areas.
Local guides: While your city or town is likely to evolve over the years, its fundamental identity is unlikely to change too much, making it ideal for evergreen content. You can produce guides to living in your area, its attractions and amenities, and any other aspects of it that make it stand out. One of the first things students coming from elsewhere will often consider is what life is like in your location, meaning this type of content will be revisited again and again.
Example: The top post in the search ‘things to do in Toronto for students’ comes from language school Quality English, and was published in 2016.
For larger schools, this might also include guides to your campus and its amenities, as well as any accommodation options your school provides.
Histories- While focusing too much on the present can date your content, looking to the past won’t. Posts which detail the history of your school or location, a particular subject, or even a profession can be extremely enjoyable for prospective students, giving them a wider appreciation for how your school or their chosen area of study have evolved and become what they are today.
Example: Trebas Institute treated prospective audio design students to a history of auto-tune in 2016.
When developing evergreen content, it’s crucial to keep its staying power in mind throughout its creation. Minor details like the overuse of statistics or projections for the near future, mentions of technology that will become outmoded or even passing references to current events can all make your posts quickly seem dated to prospective students who discover them in the future, and should be avoided wherever possible. Instead, you should focus on providing information that is universal and likely to remain relevant to prospective students discovering it at any time.
While many experts consider seasonal content, such as posts centred on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, not to be evergreen, there is an argument that they could potentially continue to attract engagement when the occasion rolls around again in subsequent years. For schools, this could also include important events on your calendar such as orientations, graduations, and exams, as well as regular events such as dances or festivals that might be held either on campus or in your local area.
Although pieces which contain elements like schedule details or event previews will obviously become irrelevant quickly, ones which take a wider, more general view may have more staying power, such as exam season or orientation ‘survival guides,’ or blogs which look back at the history of longstanding events in your school or its location.
Example: Rather that previewing that year’s event, this 2012 post from EC English offers a simple, broad overview of what to expect from the Montreal Jazz Festival. The blog still shows up in search results six years later.
If you can create content around these occasions which has the potential to stay relevant year after year, it could still have a long shelf-life, and provide you with a small but significant engagement spike every time the season rolls around again.
After publishing an evergreen post, it’s important to amplify it in order to maximize its chances of success. You should take the opportunity to link back to it in subsequent posts wherever possible in order to send stronger signals to search engines about its importance, and to encourage prospective students who land on your site through other pages to look at it. In addition, evergreen posts can be periodically shared on your social media pages to attract more engagement. Since their subject matter doesn’t date over time, they will still be relevant, and this approach will ensure that followers who had not seen them the first time don’t miss out.
Keeping Evergreen Education Marketing Content Fresh
While you should be aiming for your evergreen content to be as timeless as possible, your school may still find that it is worth updating from time to time, a process which is sometimes called historical optimization.
You may find, for instance, that a blog focused on a particular course needs to account for some recent curriculum changes, or that a piece discussing some of your campus facilities and services doesn’t reflect what you currently offer. It could even be a simple detail, such as an image included of a building or area on your campus which has been renovated or otherwise changed significantly.
Rather than throw out content that has already proven to generate engagement and accumulate SEO authority, a few simple updates can seamlessly and quickly make the page relevant again. You may also identify improvements you want to make to otherwise perfectly good pieces, such as additional information about something, or more appealing visuals. For example, if you had created a guide to exciting attractions in your city or area and then something new opens, including it in the piece will ensure you are still capturing the best of what your location has to offer.
Example: Binghamton University updated this “Where are they now?” blog to include some of the featured alumni’s more recent exploits.
You may also want review your evergreen education content marketing from an SEO standpoint on an ongoing basis. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing, and you might find content created with SEO best practices in mind four years ago is less effective now. A good example would be a page which isn’t optimized with voice search in mind.
Additionally, if you have a post which you felt had evergreen potential but hasn’t generated the engagement you had hoped, updating it can be a chance to find out where you went wrong and fix it. Analyze the post and its performance to see what you can identify. You might find you were targeting the wrong keywords, that the title wasn’t enticing enough, or that parts of the post need to be rewritten or rejigged to better appeal to your audience.
The best part of this is that posts which have been significantly changed can be republished and reshared as new. While they will retain their existing page authority, search engines also reward recency, and will recognize that the page has been updated, supercharging its potential rankings and resulting in even more engagement.
However, if you are doing this, it can be wise to add a disclaimer in the piece indicating that the post had originally been published at an earlier date, but has been updated for accuracy and relevance. This will stop frequent visitors to your site from getting the impression that you are simply recycling old content.
Example: The University of Michigan republishes this blog for students on its waitlist on a yearly basis, but is careful to note that it was written in 2015 and has been updated to reflect the current enrollment cycle.
Balancing Evergreen and Topical Posts
While creating evergreen content marketing for education can be incredibly powerful and rewarding, that doesn’t mean that your school shouldn’t still attempt to produce more current, topical posts. Blogs, videos, and articles focusing on recent happenings at your school, upcoming events or dates in your calendar, or new trends and developments in your chosen field can all still serve as an important part of your content marketing mix.
Example: The University of Waterloo created this video to tell its online community about its new AI Institute earlier this year. While the content may date as the institute becomes more established, it’s still exciting news that is worth being shared on a large scale.
These posts keep your online community informed and up to date, and will often attract more immediate engagement than a slow-burning evergreen piece. Striking a balance between the two is key, and will ensure your content strategy is built with both long and short-term goals in mind.
Example: IH World’s news page features a good mix of evergreen topics about language learning and news from the organization’s global network of schools.
Perhaps above all else, it is crucial that you continue to create new content regularly. While your best evergreen pieces will often significantly outperform the rest of your posts, each new piece you publish helps to further strengthen your SEO authority, build links, and establish your school as an engaged and active online authority in your field. By seeing your content strategy as a whole rather than a collection of individual pieces, your school will be able to keep each aspect of it in good health.