The case for deciduous (or seasonal) content

Evergreen content is the best. It delivers boatloads of good, regular traffic the whole year round. A good content strategy doesn’t rely on one kind of traffic alone, though, and it’s essential to supplement your evergreen traffic with other sources.

Viral and social traffic is usually considered the other primary source of unpaid traffic. Where evergreen content is reliable, regular and a little bit boring viral traffic is unpredictable, sexy and has the potential to be exponentially bigger.

A great inclusion you should consider in your content mix is seasonal content – or deciduous as I’m calling it to continue the tree theme. This type of content – tied to regular events throughout the year – can deliver big traffic spikes when it’s relevant, but nothing at all when it’s not “in season”. This kind of material could be seen as the halfway point between evergreen and viral traffic. It has the dependable regularity of evergreen content, but the spiky traffic pattern of a viral hit. It can deliver traffic peaks as big as a healthy viral hit, and do it every year.

It’s a content mullet – business in front and party in back. It’s a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets. It’s… well, you get it.

The most obvious example is Christmas – trees, wreaths and all kinds of festive crap fly off the virtual shelves for a month or so, then are all-but ignored for the rest of the year. Most industries will have their Christmas – gyms have the January rush, florists have Valentines Day, and Asian confectioners have Pepero Day.

And, in the same way Christmas Tree growers spend all year cultivating and pruning their products to make them as appealing as possible when the big day arrives, you must tend your deciduous content so that when it’s in season it attracts as many customers as possible.

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Many people pump out fresh content every year for their seasonal traffic peaks – this seems like a waste of effort to me. A years-old, authoritative landing page will beat new content every day of the week. Rather than release new content every seasonal cycle, consider investing your time in polishing what you already have. Invest time in tentpole content and use each seasonal trough to tweak and refine what you have to make sure you’re in the best shape possible when demand is highest.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t publish new stuff when demand is peaking – but consider publishing around a static hub or landing page that you can build over time.

2. Know when your search volumes peak

Don’t be fooled into thinking all the searching related to your seasonal event happens close to the event itself – some people out there plan ahead and search volumes can pick up surprisingly early.

Taking Christmas as an example again, searches you’d expect like “Christmas cards” and “Christmas trees” peak in December, but searches for company Christmas parties actually peak in September, while the search for venues (notoriously hard to book as the holidays approach) begins in May.

 

♦ Corporate Parties ♦ Party venues ♦ Party ideas ♦ Christmas Trees

Note: Volumes are normalised

3. Build links and optimise in the off-season

A good content strategy is a long game, and the best thing about deciduous content is you have the majority of the year to prepare for the seasonal onslaught. When demand picks up your time could very well be better spent on social campaigns, PR, and other short-lead-time promotional activities. The rest of the year, therefore, should be spent on bread and butter content strategy and SEO stuff.

Internal linking, keyword optimisation and outreach should all be done on a regular basis. Monitor your search rankings with something like Authority Labs (or just do it manually in a spreadsheet if you’re only monitoring a handful of terms) and extrapolate forward to see where you’ll be sitting when the seasonal rush begins.

The time between seasonal peaks is a gift not enjoyed by plenty of industries, so make the most of it.

4. Need to forecast? Use Google Trends

Google trends is a surprisingly accurate forecasting tool for regular, seasonal events. Just download the Google Trends graph for your keyword of choice (Menu button on the top right -> Download as CSV), grab the organic page traffic from Google Analytics for the same time period and normalise the two – here’s the traffic for this Self Assessment post (green) overlaid with the Google Trends figures (grey).

 

This is a great forecasting tool if you need to justify putting resources into “off-season” content to make sure you grab as much traffic as possible when demand is highest. If you can achieve good search positions you can basically guarantee certain amounts of traffic by combining Google Trends data with your own visitor numbers. Tie this in with PPC prices and conversion rates and you have a pretty straightforward cost / benefit analysis of whether it’s worth your time to shoot for some organic rankings.

5. Page one means nothing

It’s always nice to break onto page one for a competitive term, but that placement could go right out the window just as you enter your period of peak demand. I speak, of course, of the scourge of the “In the News” boxout.

If you’re in position seven or above you should be OK, but if you’re eighth, ninth or tenth be prepared to be unceremoniously dumped off page one if your seasonal event makes the news. You could also be shanghai’d by the new-ish “In depth articles” boxout.

Look at all the additional content the organic results are having to compete with in this search for bacon sandwich warrior Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband

This means you need to work that bit harder to get a “safe” position.

Go forth, seasonal businesses, and make the most of your content.

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