Evergreen Basics: GameSkinny's Crash Course in Creating Killer Content
In the plant world, an evergreen is a tree that has leaves or pines throughout the year, and so is always green.
Evergreen content, in its most basic sense, is content that stays relevant for an extended period of time. As such, this sort of content has a hugely extended opportunity to gain views on your blog or website or here on GameSkinny.
This is the most simplistic way to refer to evergreen, but don't let the simplicity of the concept give you a false sense of confidence: this genre of writing is very difficult to master.
NOTE: The tips, tricks, and advice offered in this guide will be applicable to all industries and topics, regardless of GameSkinny's video game-centric leanings.
Before we dive in too much, there are three basic rules to bear in mind that will ensure your evergreen content will remain relevant for a long time:
- Be the definitive authority on the selected topic
- YOU must be the expert, so do your homework and be the ultimate resource for your reader. They shouldn't have an excuse to go looking for more information elsewhere.
- Write for beginners, while retaining your authority: aka teach
- Being the authority doesn't mean filling your prose with jargon - it means explaining everything clearly, confidently, and without margin for confusion. Think of Bill Nye, or your favorite teacher: their authority comes from their ability to teach so well that you, the novice, actually learn.
- Narrow your topic and pick a niche
- Niche doesn't automatically mean small audience. Writing about 20 League of Legends Cosplays is very specific and niche-oriented, so is a guide on hidden Diablo 3 easter eggs. But the thing is: these are large niches with tons of interested gamers - both articles have achieved sustained success as a result. Niches are easier to write, because they are so focused, and are easier for readers to grasp and quickly understand.
Put it all together: Write an authoritative article about a niche, for beginners, that will stay relevant for a long time. Boom, that's your formula for successful evergreen!
What Makes Evergreen Content So Valuable?
Evergreen content has a long shelf life.
A typical news article will only last as long as the news is relevant and is still news - no matter how huge the event is. An evergreen article simply has a much longer life span than a pure news article, thus a much longer amount of time to potentially get views.
News Example: Germany Beats Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup. At the time, this was massive news! Every outlet scrambled to get that event covered and those who scooped it first got mega views. However, after the World Cup, everyone knew that Germany beat Brazil and the news lost relevance in a matter of days. No one needed to search for it anymore, so no one did... when was the last time you felt the urge to look up news about that game? Or any specific sporting event results?
The event brought in a news spike, but didn't have much longevity in the long term from an article standpoint.
Evergreen Example: What Are the Best Minecraft Seeds? We don't have to look past GameSkinny for an awesome example of gaming related evergreen - this article, written over a year and half ago, STILL outperforms most other GS articles (on a daily basis) and has been on our "Top Articles" page so long that we were beginning to think it was a glitch.
This article has been relevant, and will continue to be relevant, as long as Minecraft is played and players are still looking for a good resource for seeds.
Video game guides make up a large number of our most productive, high-view articles on GameSkinny.
Search Power: SEO
The other secret sauce to evergreen's success is how articles are found: searches and shares.
Google search referrals make up somewhere between 80%-95% of most websites' view traffic. Views are important because views = ad revenue = sustained website upkeep costs = ability to keep running the website. Direct links and referrals are usually low for all but the major outlets: IGN, Kotaku, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, etc. These outlets have the necessary fanbases to rely heavily on social shares and the prestige for frequent direct linking. For every other outlet else, we all play Google's searching tune.
That is why SEO (search engine optimization) is so important. Researching trending search terms & related search terms and using those in your articles at a healthy level (not too much, but enough to register) of keyword density will help evergreen articles rise to the top of searches and compete with similar searches results.
SEO is something we'll cover in more depth another time. It's complicated. But one leg up that we have on GameSkinny: GameSkinny is a Google page-one search result. By default, our articles are not lost in Google's page 2-3 obscurity so we have an advantage over other smaller sites. Becoming a page-one website takes a large amount of web infrastructure in order to compete.
What Makes Good Evergreen?
So, we know the basics, but what do we actually DO here? The best thing to do is learn from the experts. There are plenty of other sites, full of experts who can explain this damn well - so I'm going to save myself time by parroting some examples and providing you with some additional reading material.
Remember this as you read the examples: just because a post is not evergreen doesn't mean that it's not still valuable in some way! Evergreen just happens to be the biggest view-bang for your buck.
We are big fans of the Buffer Blog at GameSkinny. In Buffer's Complete List of Evergreen Ideas for Your Blog, which is itself an example of good evergreen, the following are examples of almost every category of evergreen:
- How-to posts and tutorials, such as:
- How to Write a Professional Social Media Bio
- Publishing on WordPress: Step-by-step from Idea to Article
- How to Start a Newsletter Campaign from Scratch
- Historical posts and origin stories, such as:
- The Origin of the 8-Hour Workday and Why We Should Rethink It
- How Facebook Got Its Start: Inside the Early Days of the Social Media Giant
- What Copywriting Used to Look Like: A Trip to the Golden Era
- Encyclopedic posts and informational posts, such as:
- The Complete Guide to Finding and Sharing Better Content on Social Media
- Everything You Need to Know About Blogging for a Niche
- Best Practices for Growing Your Twitter Followers
- Resource lists of curated content/Top tips, such as:
- 8 Simple Copywriting Tips, Backed by Science
- 10 Top Tips for Crafting Clickable Tweets
- The Best Advice for Consistently Posting to Your Personal Blog
- Answers to industry FAQs, such as:
- Why Google Authorship is So Important
- Getting to Know How Facebook Business Pages Work
- Should Content Be Free? The Pros and Cons to Subscriptions
Examples of non-evergreen content
What is the opposite of an evergreen? A willow? An aspen? Call it what you want, these types of posts lack the longevity and timelessness of evergreen content, but they could still serve as helpful articles in a content plan.
- Data and statistics, such as:
- The 20 Most Important Marketing Stats of 2013
- What the Latest Numbers on Facebook and Twitter Usage Mean for Your Business
- Speculation and opinion, such as:
- Why iOS7 Is a Bad Idea
- Looking Ahead: The Future of Blogging in 2014
- Event-specific content, such as:
- The Top Ways to Tweet Your Winter Olympics Coverage
- The Ultimate List of Christmas Vector Images
- Breaking news, such as:
- Complete Coverage of the Twitter IPO
- What the Nintendo Wii U Announcement Means for Gamers
Also, I'm going to add reviews to the list of not-evergreen. Again: Non-evergreen posts do have value! But reviews are just not effective evergreen content.
- Reviews, such as:
- Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- Maker's Eden Review: Style Isn't Everything After all.
Recommended Readings (that don't suck)
Here is a quick handful of outside sources to get you started on further educating yourself on creating killer content that will actually stick around. Also, as always, we do recommend you take a look at our own GameSkinny writing resources.
- An Expert Guide to Idea Curation: How to Get More Ideas for Great Content
- How to Write The Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headlines
- The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post: The Data on Headlines, Length, Images and More
- 15 Ways to Optimize Your Evergreen Content Strategy
Meta: A quick step back
This article is specifically meant to be an evergreen piece about evergreen for our GameSkinny readers. The only thing that I'm not doing is being the 100% definitive source: for the sake of education, I am giving you a number of outside resources so you can learn even more. But consider the principals of evergreen in relation to this article:
- This tackles a niche
- This is written for beginners
- This is written with research and authority to act as a definitive resource
- This headline designed to be easily searched for in Google
Thanks for taking the time to read this overview, let me know if you have any questions at all and good luck with evergreen! Now, if you aren't 100% sure what to write about, don't worry - we've got articles specifically about that coming down the pipeline!