Marketing is quite a bit like farming – planting seeds, nurturing, and seeing results grow and bear fruit down the road. In content marketing, planning out a content strategy takes cues from gardening. Just like your yard or garden needs a mix of annual flowers and perennial plants, your content needs a mix of the new, time-sensitive (annuals) and the foundational, time-less (perennials and evergreens).
If you have a yard, garden, window box in your apartment, or spent any time watching HGTV or reading Better Homes + Gardens … you know the terms evergreen, perennial, and annual. They’re in every garden book and on all the tags at garden centers.
Good garden design tells us we need a variety of plants – we need a mix with evergreen content too
Mostly so your yard isn’t bare brown and empty during the winter or a monotone green with no pops of color in other seasons. Not that there’s anything wrong with green! But color and variety are more interesting and pleasing. Not to mention the variety helps birds, bees, critters and our environment.
And you don’t want your blog to be bare, to only post quote memes or National Chocolate Day posts, or have to constantly be creating content. You need a content mix that's as varied as a good garden.
Annual Flowers and Annual Content –
While annual flowers are bright, showy, glorious colorful bloomers – they last only one season. You have to replant those Marigolds, Zinnias, Petunias or Begonias every spring/summer. Many gardeners love getting cheap flats of fun annuals and digging in every year. Or buying a pre-done hanging basket or pot with good-to-go (that’s likely me) every season.
You have “annuals” content like this too
It's entertaining, fun, eye-catching, and very time-sensitive. Not long-lasting. You ‘re-plant' it often.
Think most Instagram posts, Reels, TikTok, a lot of Facebook posts. In fact, most of social media is ‘annuals’ style content – all about grabbing fast attention. Sharing news, events, hot takes, even some opinion pieces – none of that is evergreen or timeless but it gets attention and helps our audience, Heck, it’s often showy, colorful, fun to look at just like those annual bursts of color in your yard.
You’re constantly re-doing, creating, posting this kind of content. We need these posts, but we can’t rely or build a content garden around just these types. But it’s part of the content mix. Just like a yard looks better with some pops of color.
Also beware of the lifespan of your social posts. Just like annual flowers can get wilted, brown, leggy, or die of lack of water, your social posts have relatively short lives. It’s great to use social media scheduling tools, including ones that let you re-cycle and reshare content (I like MeetEdgar, SocialBee and SmarterQueue for doing this). But you don’t repeat the exact same posts forever. Even if you have a social post leading to an evergreen blog article or product, do create completely new social posts for these types of articles or products, basing what you say on current interests and trends, rather than yesteryear’s focus.
Perennial Plants and Content –
Then you have my garden staples and favorites – perennials. Long-living, come-back- reliably, plant-once-look-good-forever, I-can’t-kill-them plants. Ok, sure some perennials are really only great for 3-5 years. But others keep going. I have some “knock-out” roses in front that are probably in year 15+ and bloom nicely every summer. Without me ever doing ANYTHING. I love my lilacs – the gorgeous purple and heavenly scent. I do nada but enjoy.
Let’s turn to ‘perennial content’ …
Do you have seasonal topics in your niche? Parenting coaches can have timely tips for back-to-school, for summer break, and school vacations. Easy to refresh and reshare at key times of year. Different biz owners could talk about organizing, clearing out digital files, even website maintenance around ‘spring cleaning’ or even New Year’s.
Think about blog posts you have that you wrote a few years ago that still bring you traffic. Posts about topics (ahem – like evergreen content) that are kind of timeless and still hold true one, two, five years later – maybe with a little pruning or refreshing. [psst – that link is to a HubSpot article on evergreen content – from 2014 and it’s still relevant! Evergreen at work]
You could create some ‘perennial’ social media posts as well – customer testimonials, behind the scenes looks at your business, tips, how-to’s or other educational content that you can rotate through the year. If there are key National Day of X topics for your niche, why not reuse the graphics when those dates come back around next year?
Evergreens of plants and content –
The shrubs and trees that look good 4 seasons of the year. Pines, spruces, cedars and more. My neighbor has a line of various small-medium evergreens as the ‘fence’ between our yards. Much nicer than an actual fence.
Or like my holly bushes, bright green under their coating of snow. They would look better if we hadn’t wound up with all female bushes and no ‘dudes’ nearby – no berries (look it up – there are male and female hollies!) But they are sturdy, give nests to birds outside my window, and balance some of the other plants and flowers.
In our content mix we have evergreen content as well –
It's like perennial content but it can last even longer. These are the foundational content pieces, sometimes known as core or content pillars, that you can build around. Key blog posts that get lots of Google love and bring traffic for years. It’s better to have quality content than lots of mediocre posts with no staying power.
You can have evergreen blog posts, videos, self-study courses, and workshops even. Your automated welcome and nurture series of emails to welcome new subscribers should have evergreen info and an evergreen offer. There are software options to turn webinars ‘evergreen’ and have them run anytime a participant signs up rather than waiting for your next live event.
Just like evergreen trees and shrubs – this long-lasting content can stay fresh with good care and pruning.
Yes, you’ll need to update your content, especially if it includes any facts or stats. Check that links still work. Add a new example.
And … when you update, note the date when you updated it – then you can republish, reshare, and re-promote that content. Get new eyes on it. And new subscribers to your email list because of course your best, evergreen content all have opt-in forms or content upgrades with them right? 😉
[Hey: scheduling and setting aside time to go over content and do a content refresh is a necessary part of business and marketing. What are your top blog posts? Do you have outdated content that needs pruning? Need to fix broken links to keep perennial or evergreen content working? I do this work regularly. If you’re stumped on where to start or how to tackle a content refresh – you need my pal Kelly McCausey’s Content Refresh Challenge.]
Ok – what’s the bigger point of gardening and content planning you’re wondering?
Are you using all the content types in your business?
More importantly – are you leveraging the perennial or evergreen content? Or are you too reliant on the showy, one-and-done annual types?
And as you plan this quarter– and longer-term – think about what your gardening content mix should look like.
What are the evergreen topics in your niche and business?
For example, you’re a parenting coach for families with kids younger than teens – bedtimes, meal times, toddler tantrums, and homework battles are evergreen topics
The latest public health news or guidance is not evergreen – it’s time-sensitive, fleeting and at best an ‘annual’ type of content.
Talking about starting school or going back to school could be a ‘perennial’ topic.
What are the evergreen content types you feel most comfortable creating and sharing?
Maybe you want to create epic, deep-dive guide blog posts. Only a handful a year, but so good they will work for you for years. Or you prefer a mix of case studies and reviews as your evergreen pieces.
Sit down to look at your content strategy, next 30-90 days, think about your ‘garden’ or mix of content.
Can you create a foundational piece that will be timeless and good for months and years to come? What about some supporting pieces – a related blog post, a graphic, videos that are not time-sensitive – some perennial content. Then fill it out with the timely, eye-catching pieces of content – emails, social media posts, maybe live videos.
I did a Facebook Live video about this topic … while the video was ‘annual’ content at the time … it’s on an ‘evergreen’ topic. So I can embed the video in this post and now it lives on.
Do you look at your email opt-ins as part of your perennial or evergreen mix? Is everything thrown out there and you’re just hoping it blooms or grows?
What are some examples of perennial or evergreen content?
Answer common questions from your audience – if you hear a question multiple times, there’s a good chance others have the same question too. And they are Googling it – so be one of the answers they find. Perfect for blog posts, but also emails and videos.
Round-Up, List, and/or Guide Posts –
List posts are still popular as well as round-ups of key resources on a topic. Some bloggers have made the ‘ultimate guide’ their core content – deep dives on a common question, breaking things down step-by-step. Neil Patel is known for these deep dive posts, or see his his combo list/round-up style like 20 success lessons from top marketing blogs. At his previous sites like QuickSprout and Kissmetrics (see their guide on calculating conversion rates) the guides keep answering questions on digital marketing and bringing traffic for years.
They’re great opt-in gifts, in part because they can be evergreen. They answer questions in bite-size, easy-to-read way. Think of 5-9 items that people can easily follow, cross off, and get quick wins. Much longer than that and you lose your reader. You could use Canva to easily create a very attractive checklist that people would want to print and keep. I also love giving checklists in shared Trello boards.
Case Studies, Examples, White Papers –
If you have examples, maybe original research, or a client success story – share as a case study (or a white paper to download if that suits your audience). Results framed as a story show your expertise and the results you bring to your customers and clients
Glossaries, Definitions, Resource lists –
These don’t have to be deep or wordy but they are often comprehensive. A one-stop-shop place for your audience to come to – for top tools, best websites, best gadgets in your niche; define common terms your niche uses. Glossaries don’t seem sexy, but they are long-lived evergreen content. If you attract a lot of beginners in your niche, you’re doing a big favor to educate and show the way. For example, Search Engine Journal has an SEO Glossary of 200+ terms. I created an A-to-Z marketing terms glossary for library marketing professionals on my other biz site. Resource pages are good spots for affiliate or referral links to the products, books, and courses you use most and want to recommend to your people. Note – this is a page, not a blog post.
Other options for perennial or evergreen content may include: books, interviews, best practices, tutorials, your history or your story, and product reviews.
To save time and energy in content creation and marketing, think of what can be the perennial and evergreen content pieces in your business’s content garden.Do you have an existing blog posts that are older but still getting traffic? Can you refresh them and make them more perennial and visible? Get them working even harder in the garden to attract visitors.
What do you want to be known for? What do you want to use to attract the best birds, bees, and people to your spot? Consider creating a hub or easy way to see and find the best, sturdiest, most evergreen content you have so your visitors can easily find it. Plant or create a few core pieces, that if tended to, watered, pruned and refreshed, will be attractive and productive for much time to come.
I wish you much success in developing a green thumb for content planning, just like in gardening.
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This is a beautiful description of content planning. I also appreciate that you shared how and when we should consider different kinds of posts.
Thank you Crystal and I’m glad it helped illustrate uses for the different types of content. There’s room in the ‘garden’ for all of it – if we plan it, nurture it, and rotate things as necessary over time.
Creative analogy. I loved the information provided. Very helpful.
I love the analogy and there is huge value in this post. I will definitely get back to it from time to time. I have a garden and while I waited for over 6 years for my avocado tree to have some flowers, there are tiny tiny fruits beginning to grow, I wil get the avocados in 6 months. I’ve been watching my bananas for 2 months and they are still green. Learning to be patient with our garden, we need to be patient with our marketing content, too.
I think there has to be harmony between the pieces of content and they “help each other”.
I also like the fact that you walk your talk (FB live video embedded in evergreen post 🙂, well done!).
What a great point Mailys – yes gardening and content can both take patience to see the ‘fruits’ of efforts. And like we plant complementary plants (marigolds and tomatoes come to mind), we can help complementary or helper content. So true!
Having a post based on a metaphor is so creative and clever! I love it and found it helpful.
Love the way that this illustrated each type of content. It made it so much easier for me to understand than just the common terms that are used. It will make it easier for me to plan content having a much clearer understanding of the types of content!
Glad it helped shine a light on content marketing for you and to get you planning your content garden!
Thank you for this value-packed post! I’m happy that you shared the list of content ideas, I’m working on creating a course on lead magnets, so this gave me some great places to start for that. Your analogy to gardening is genius:); I’m happy to follow you in hopes of developing my ‘green thumb’ in marketing!
I’d love to see an example of each type of content you’re discussing here, either your own or from someone you know, along with an affiliate link to their product or course. ~ Connie Ragen Green
Hi Jennifer , Love the idea of gardening and marketing . I love how you classify the plants and social media websites into different categories. A different perspective on Marketing. Always learning something new.
This was great! First, the analogy is perfect. But this article really got my mind fired up with content ideas… I’m in the mood to work on my content calendar now. Thanks for this!
Love seeing the inspiration and leading to action! Yes, just like we have seasons to plan for our yards we can plan our content garden calendar too.
I took so many notes while reading this blog! Thank you, Jennifer, for this thorough and digestible information. I find content marketing to be incredibly overwhelming but the comparison to gardening and the way you broke these concepts down make me feel much more confident about diving in, assessing what I already have, and seeing where I can change things up.
Kimberly, I’m so glad it cleared some things up for you on content marketing and has inspired you too!
I love how you compare marketing to gardening. It really made sense to me. I need to work on refreshing my old content more. Thanks so much for the reminder.
Once again, you’ve outdone yourself, Jennifer! I love the gardening analogy as related to content. There are so many other tangents to grow or I mean-go- with this:
gardening pests = social media trolls or social media algorithms that slow down your social media or content growth
the garden pollinators = your audience who shares your content and spreads it all over for you making it viral
garden tools = any content creation app to help you tend [your garden or] your content
fertilizer for your garden = PLR, private label rights content which helps you multiply your efforts creating content
Thanks for this!
Oh I love how you’ve taken the analogy even further and the examples are so spot-on! Hmmm … new content ideas! We’ve re-tilled the soil and new sprouts are coming. 😉
I have a brown thumb so I would have never thought to compare content planning to gardening! 😄 I love the examples you shared and the linked content. And that FB video was a great bonus. Super helpful!
Glad it was useful for you Emjae! Irony, I have a pretty brown thumb too – why I outsource my yard and that both my garden/yard and my content have lots of evergreens and low/no-care perennials. 😉
Who knew that content marketing and gardening had som much in common? Now I know that content marketing and gardening have a LOT in common. Both require careful planning and execution in order to be successful. And both can be a lot of fun too!
Just like you wouldn’t plant a garden without first considering the type of plants you want to grow, you shouldn’t start creating content without a plan. Decide what topics you want to cover and who your target audience is. Once you’ve done that, you can start brainstorming ideas for blog posts, infographics, videos, and more.
Absolutely true Paul! True story – about 15 years ago we hired a garden designer to redo our front beds and plant new things. But I don’t think they really took into account our layout, sun, water, etc – and we ended up with plants that didn’t thrive or live long because they were wrong. And some of the things I’ve planted personally, ooops – they weren’t so right either! Why we need plans for yards and our business content.
Paul, I took the same thing from the article. I am in the process of redesigning my website. I used pencil and paper to sketch out everything before I started the redesign. It was extremely helpful.
Jennifer’s idea of gardening is perfect for brainstorming and creating content.
I really like the gardening analogy. It provides a great context for understanding the different types of content. Your post is almost a resource guide in itself! I really like how you’ve explained what different types of content look like, why they are important, shared tools and articles for me to check out, plus given me lots to think about for upgrading my content. I look forward to coming back to it again as I review and try categorizing my content.
Thank you Betty! And now you’ve given ME an idea – I should add a content upgrade (content specific opt-in gift) that’s a quick rundown of the content types and examples to help folks like you plan your content garden.
I love this connection between gardening and content creation! You have given me a lot to think about with this article, Jennifer. I immediately started to think about content ideas in each of the areas and I have a list that I can work on throughout the year. Thank you so so much for this enlightening blog post!
Benecia, I love that it got you thinking about content to create! Your own content garden will surely bloom brighter.