Timeless or Evergreen Content vs. Timely or Just-In-Time Content

by | Jun 1, 2020 | Content Marketing

A quick Google search will reveal a continuing debate about which type of content will generate the best results on your website. The answer isn’t black and white for this question; it comes in the context of you, your website goals and the state of your website.

First, we should define the two types of content in the debate:

Timeless/Evergreen Content

Timeless or Evergreen content are pieces that can be read anytime after you publish them on your website and will still have relevance and truth to them. Being able to put something on your website that doesn’t need to be amended each month, quarter, or year can mean less maintenance and more time spent on creating new or complementary content.
Evergreen content can take a little time to develop as it isn’t always something front of mind, but it’s worth the extra effort since it will be relevant for years to come. 
Example: Tips for cutting the grass: A how-to guide on using a lawn mower. (Without grass or lawn mowers changing drastically, this is going to be read for years without needing a refresh.)

Timely/Just-In-Time Content

Timely or just-in-time content is reflecting a present day situation. The news is a great example as the definition of news is “something that happened today that was different yesterday.” It is reporting change. 
It can be easy to develop just-in-time content because it’s all around you at that time. Leveraging current events is a powerful way to associate with your audience and gain new fans. The difficulty here is getting it good enough, fast enough. We frequently see this in the news hour. Live TV often has mistakes that would have resulted in a director yelling “cut” if it was a sitcom or movie. 
Time and results are usually positively related. Shorter time equals lower quality, whereas longer time leads to higher quality.

Example: We’re hiring a web designer. Apply Now. (unless you’re continuously hiring a web designer, this will lose relevance once the position is filled.)

It’s easy enough to define the two types of content touched on above. Both have value and a certain place, but many websites have a difficult time picking one over the other. Can they both exist? Without context, the debate will live on forever.

Which Type Is Right For You?

Neither type of content is wrong for your website. After all, having more content is always better than having less. The right mix should follow this pattern of importance:

Timeless > Seasonal > Timely

Yes, I just threw in a different type of content, but it has its place right between Timeless and Timely.

All websites should start with Timeless content before adding Seasonal content before adding Timely Content. Here’s why.

Timeless content will always have relevance with your audience, and for any website you need this foundation to operate. For these examples, let’s stick with the idea that you’re in the fashion world, offering advice on style, trends and anything else related to a person’s style.

First: Timeless Content

The basic information that will always be relevant is the priority. You may think this is redundant with your competitors, and that’s partially true, but this is key to your internal back-linking strategy for your SEO. When you reference the timeless content in seasonal and timely pieces, it’s much more beneficial to have the reader stay on your site instead of leaving. This retention model works well, especially when you have the timeless reference content available. As mentioned above, timely content requires publishing on a tight timeline and doesn’t always allow you enough time to back-fill with timeless content immediately.
Here are two quick examples:

Essential: The 5 items every wardrobe needs.

Foundation Skills: How to tie a tie. 

As you can imagine, these two examples are things that have been “googled for years” and will continue to have relevance into the future. “How to” content doesn’t need a date stamp when it is timeless because it feels current no matter when the reader is accessing it.

Second: Seasonal Content

Seasonal content is exactly as it sounds; something that is useful every season. I like to think of the recipes that we have for Thanksgiving dinner. Those same recipes are clippings from the local newspaper in the 1980’s. Every year they get pulled out twice. One to check the shopping list, and then again to cook. After that, it’s back into the cupboard for eleven and a half months. This is perfect seasonal content. To relate as a fashion item, you can see how each of these would be essential reads each year, but only at a particular time.

  • Spring: The fastest way to store your winter clothes and transition into spring.
  • Summer: How to stay cool this summer without showing too much skin.
  • Fall: Start layering as the weather turns cooler, Autumn has arrived.
  • Winter: Stay warm. How to wear a scarf 10 different ways.

Seasonal content can also be tied to certain events. Sticking with our fashion example, it might be “appropriate outfits for weddings” or “how to impress at your job interview.” Situational content fits the bill, as well.

Developing seasonal content second is essential to bridging the gap between Timeless and Timely content. Again, this will help with your internal back-linking strategy as your timeless content will be referenced in your timely content.

Third: Timely Content

Since we’re not in the news business, I think it’s best to have only a light sprinkle of timely content when needed. There are events that will relate to you that deserve coverage. At 323 Media, we use timely content on the site of events that we are participating in either as a sponsor, speaker or from the perspective of an attendee.

Moving back to the fashion example, there is a huge opportunity to capture traffic by leveraging trends. The old saying, “success is the moment when opportunity and preparedness meet,” rings true with timely content. If you have the foundation in place to capture and convert traffic that is coming to your site, then take advantage of trends and pop culture to draw more traffic. 

  • Trending: How to get the J-Lo look from last night on the red carpet.

While this example will have a very short shelf life, you can use it for a much-needed boost to your traffic or to hit a particular audience. In this case, it would be the people who are interested in celebrity fashion. Maybe they’ll be planning a wedding and click your “what to wear to a wedding” that is backed by “how to tie a tie” since they can’t remember the last time their partner has put on a suit. Without that back-filling of Timeless and Seasonal content, your retention for timely content is low… which means your bounce rate will be high.

Back to the Debate – Timeless or Timely Content?

After going through some of the details, there should appear to be a clear winner – and that’s to stick to the system. Timeless wins when you don’t have it. Timely wins when you need to inject life into your existing content. Both have their place but if you are only going to do one type, commit to timeless. It will always be evergreen.

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