- Trending/timely content can be a useful part of your content strategy, as long as it’s used sparingly.
- Timely content is great for temporary strikes in traffic, connecting with audiences, and capitalizing on trends.
- At the same time, trending/timely content becomes outdated fast and only leads to temporary gains.
- Follow content best practices, such as the 75/25 rule and regular content pruning, to get the most out of trending content.
Timely vs. evergreen content? The eternal question (no pun intended). As we’ve said before, content creators should strive to publish mostly evergreen content. That’s because, as the name implies, evergreen content will stay relevant for a long time.
But does that mean you should never publish trending or time-sensitive content? Not necessarily, especially depending on your brand or your particular content goals at a given time. Content that is not evergreen, which we’ll call trending or timely content throughout this article, can play a role in your content strategy. To use it right, you just need to understand the impact it has on your traffic. You should also have a plan for dealing with trendy content once it inevitably becomes outdated.
Ready for a crash course in timely content? Let’s start with some definitions.
Defining trending or timely content
What we’re referring to as trending or timely content is basically everything that evergreen content is not. So, let’s break down the concept of “evergreen.”
SEO suite Ahrefs makes an important distinction between two key terms on this subject: evergreen topics vs. evergreen content. The difference becomes clear when you look at Ahrefs’ example of “football scores.” This is an evergreen topic because the search term “football scores” will always be relatively popular – at least, during football season. However, evergreen content about that topic is pretty hard to imagine. As Ahrefs explains, a piece of content about football scores is likely to be about scores for a particular game or set of games – and that content becomes outdated as soon as the next week’s game happens. So even though this is an evergreen topic, it doesn’t really lead to evergreen content.
Now let’s apply this logic to trending content with an especially unique – and dare we say timely – example. Since March 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., timely content about the virus skyrocketed. Brand new search terms like “covid numbers in my area” became prime examples of topics that were hyper-specific to a particular time period. The content created around these topics was even more time-sensitive, changing weekly or even daily, and competition for rankings was dominated by high-authority news sources.
But COVID-19 had such prolonged, fundamental effects on people’s daily lives and the realities of many business verticals that evergreen content seemed, for a time, almost impossible to create.
Example: One of our clients in the event-planning space converted much of their business to virtual formats, and their content shifted to reflect that. That included content for general, seemingly evergreen topics about the fundamentals of planning and executing events. The kicker? Now that COVID-19 restrictions are relaxing, content around virtual events is no longer as relevant. Suddenly “these times” have become “those times,” at least for some.
Then there are content creators whose businesses remained largely the same, but whose seemingly evergreen content seemed outdated or even insensitive if it didn’t acknowledge the pandemic.
Example: One of our clients in the eCommerce space publishes lots of evergreen content about events like birthday parties and holiday celebrations. After March 2020, though, no one had much use for an article about planning a kids’ birthday party, or any other kind of social gathering.
To put it in Ahrefs’ terms, COVID-19 left a lot of content creators with a glut of content about highly timely topics. Even those whose businesses were able to survive largely unchanged found it hard to avoid timely references to COVID creeping into their evergreen content. This article you’re reading this very minute is only relevant as long as COVID-19 is relevant!
The takeaway? Timely or trending content can have a role in your content strategy. In fact, sometimes it’s inevitable, as we’ve seen with COVID. So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of it? It starts with an understanding of what timely content can and can’t do for your strategy.
The pros and cons of trendy/timely content
For the purposes of this breakdown, trendy or timely content refers to content that targets trending search terms (i.e., trendy topics) or contains lots of timely references, information, or statistics (even if its topic is evergreen – think “football scores”).
Pros: What timely content does for you
When used wisely, timely content allows you to:
- Capitalize on trends. This is the most obvious advantage, but let’s break that down. If you manage to rank well for trending topics, you can use trending content to achieve a spike in your traffic. If your goal is to gain lots of exposure fast or go viral, this is great! Just understand that the traffic will fall off once the trend loses appeal or relevance. More on that later.
- Connect with audiences. Readers want content that speaks to them in the moment. Again, consider the pandemic: timely content about things like staying connected to friends virtually or adjusting to working from home allowed brands to meet readers’ needs. Content that didn’t acknowledge the pandemic could even seem insensitive.
- Personalize your content. On a similar note, timely content about things like seasonal events or holidays can be great places to have fun with content and show your brand’s personality. At RMG, we have a couple of horror movie fanatics on the team, so we have a lot of fun with our content when Halloween rolls around.
- Leverage content for conversions. Did you just release an awesome webinar? Are you running a promotion on one of your services? Did you just release a new product? In these situations, publishing timely content isn’t just unavoidable, it’s also a strategic way to use your content presence to turn readers into customers.
Clearly, trendy/timely content brings plenty to the table. Problems arise when you rely too much on it. That’s when the cons come out…
Cons: The dangers of too much trendy content
Though some trending/timely content can be a useful piece of your strategy, it does come with the following drawbacks:
- Spikes in traffic are followed by plummeting traffic. It’s just natural: once the trend loses relevance, so does the content. Search interest declines and traffic goes along with it. A site that publishes lots of evergreen content and has built up good authority and rankings can typically take these hits in stride. However, if most of your content is trendy or timely, you’ll be riding a blog traffic rollercoaster, and trying to keep up will get exhausting. Plus, higher ups won’t like to see those dips in traffic at your quarterly reviews.
- Trending topics can be highly competitive. Depending on the topic, trending search terms can be highly competitive to rank for. As we saw with the previous bullet point, the effort may not be worth the short-lasting reward – if you even get the reward.
- Outdated content creates more work for you. Content pruning should be a regular part of your content strategy. That means regularly auditing your existing content and getting rid of anything that’s not performing well, as this just weighs down your brand. The more trending/timely content you produce, the more pruning you’ll need to do.
That last point brings us to an important takeaway: When it comes to timely and trending content, you need to be prepared to deal with it once it becomes outdated. Keep reading to learn some tips for doing just that!
Best practices for dealing with outdated content
1. Prune content at least once a year.
As mentioned, you should be auditing your content and eliminating or improving any content that is not performing well. At minimum this should happen once per year, but if you publish a high volume of content, you may want to prune twice per year.
2. Follow the 75/25 rule.
We recommend that at least 75% percent of your content be evergreen, leaving no more than 25% to be trending or timely. Check out our blog for the best types of evergreen content to include on your site. Having mostly evergreen content ensures that your content is always “fresh” and that the authority and ranking wins you gain are reliable and sustainable.
3. Use pop culture references sparingly.
Don’t get us wrong – we use our fair share of timely references too! (See the Halloween blog linked earlier in this article.) But it’s best not to go overboard and to make sure most of your evergreen content is free from references to TV shows, sporting events, or other trending topics that will seem outdated once the trend dies down.
4. When pruning content, look for outdated statistics and facts.
Depending on the industry, statistics and research are some of the quickest pieces of information to become outdated. Checking for updated statistics should be a top priority when pruning content. When planning your content strategy, also consider keeping this type of content to a minimum.
5. Avoid putting the year in your title unless necessary.
Speaking of statistics, SEO content producers are likely familiar with the spike of “50 [insert industry] statistics for [year]” that hit search engines, well, pretty much every year. Again, it isn’t that these types of content are forbidden. There’s a reason they continuously get published; it’s a popular and useful type of content, as people want to stay up-to-date on the landscape of whatever industry they work in. That’s especially true in digital marketing!
Again, just keep this type of content to a minimum and leave specific years out of the URL unless it’s absolutely necessary (which it sometimes is). Changing a URL after the fact is an SEO no-no, so by including a specific date or year in the title, you’re permanently time-stamping your content and guaranteeing it will become outdated sooner than it needs to.
Strategy is king
When it comes to timely and trending content, getting it right requires that you be strategic – just like everything else in content marketing. At RMG, content strategy is our bread and butter. If you need some expert help getting your content strategy in shape, reach out to us today. We’d be happy to help!