Get an Evergreen for Your Blog
This Holiday Season

image of evergreen branch

In the darkest depths of winter, an evergreen is comforting. No matter how cold it gets, how much snow covers the ground, or how badly the family dinner turns out, those green branches are always there, offering beauty and reassurance.

Evergreen blog posts are just as valuable. We bookmark and read them over and over again to inspire us, comfort us, and remind us of the basics. We all have half a dozen favorites knocking around somewhere, and the popular blogs helpfully direct you to those posts time and again. They know that on your dark days, what you really want is the friendly comfort of an evergreen.

So why doesn’t your blog have any?

While some evergreen blog posts spring up out of nowhere, most of them require planning, effort, care, trimming, and maintenance. Your regular Tuesday post on freelance writing isn’t going to cut it. Sure, it’s useful, and yeah, it’s probably entertaining. But what makes it one of those posts that becomes an evergreen?

The evergreens we admire for their longevity

The most obvious way is to write about a topic that never gets old. These are cornerstone reference posts, like ’10 Ways to Build a Better Blog.’ These posts are evergreen simply because people always need that information.

The good news is that evergreen reference posts are pretty straightforward to write. Do a step-by-step summary of how to do something from start to finish, and you’ve got yourself an evergreen post.

They’re also good for defining something that’s often mis-defined. For example, I have posts bookmarked in my ‘Evergreens’ folder on “What Marketing Really Is.” And I refer back to them often, because marketing is a slippery subject.

There are downsides to these types of evergreen posts. You’re up against a lot of competition, for one. There are already thousands of evergreen posts on building a better blog or providing better customer service. There’s probably an evergreen post on 10 Ways to Do Absolutely Any Topic Imaginable.

If you want your evergreen post to be the one that gets bookmarked, you’d better make it really, really good.

Which brings us to the second downside: Evergreen posts often require much more work than your standard post. You’ll probably wind up putting in at least 5 hours — and probably more like 15 — making sure everything is well-written, entertaining, compelling, and that you didn’t make any mistakes.

You might also be putting some extra hours into in-depth research if your evergreen post is on a topic that’s difficult to understand.

The evergreens we love for their emotion

When a writer goes off on a topic and comes out with a brilliant essay or a story you can’t take your eyes off of, that’s an evergreen post of emotion.

I’ve read great posts on topics like why writers are poor, why social media sucks, how to avoid destroying your family with your career, how to get things done if you’re a flake, and tons more. They’re usually born from the writer’s personal frustration or difficult experience, and they’re usually magnificently heart-rending.

That’s not enough, though. To write an evergreen post of emotion, you also need to have all your facts straight.

It’s not enough to go off on a huge rant about how writers aren’t paid enough. You need to do the research and see what they really are paid, from all angles, from every direction. You need to tell compelling stories about personal experiences and make reasoned arguments about why it isn’t fair.

You want a person to read your post and feel like you know exactly what they’re going through. You want them to gain insight and new ideas. You want them to come back and read it each time they’re feeling frustrated or upset. When they do, they’re going to feel a little bit better. Someone gets it. Someone has expressed their frustration in compelling, carefully reasoned ways.

The reason emotional evergreen posts are so popular is that when we’re upset, we don’t feel all that coherent. We want to bang our heads on the desk and scream and cry and punch things. But we also want someone else to get it so we don’t feel so alone.

Since we’re not feeling like we can explain ourselves very well, reading someone else’s post on the problem (and possibly the solution) makes us feel a little bit better.

Go grow yourself some evergreen

Try writing one of those two kinds of posts and make it evergreen. Expect to put some serious work into it, and don’t skimp on time. You want this to be the sum of your creativity and writing skills, an entertaining, well-spoken, thoroughly enjoyable piece that inspires.

It’s a hard thing to do, and you may need to re-write that post several times before you’re satisfied.

When you finish, though, you’ll be proud to post it up and send new readers to check out that evergreen post. You could even put a permanent link in your sidebar and keep it visible forever. It’s some of your best writing on a topic you’re passionate about.

And if you’ve done it right, you’ll know that many people will bookmark it and come back to it again and again, just to get that feeling of warmth and comfort that an evergreen always brings.

About the Author: For more feelings of warmth and comfort from someone who cares, head on over to James Chartrand’s blog at Men with Pens, where you’ll find plenty of evergreen posts full of insight for your freelance career. Even better, get free updates to Men with Pens via RSS or email.

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Comments

  1. Something else to aspire too; the writing of a great evergreen post. It is easier said than done, but I always try to hit it. I’m not sure that I achieve it very often though.

  2. A point that probably gets overlooked far too much is the amount of time it takes to create one of these “evergreen” posts. Many people (and I put myself at the top of this list) may have the desire to write something that becomes sticky, but don’t put in the extra effort that is required to do so. It’s a good reminder that quality content takes effort.

  3. False advertising. I thought I was getting a fucking evergreen. For my blog. I told all of my readers I was going to have a contest in my comments section. Now what? Now I have to buy a gd evergreen. Thanks a lot.

  4. So James, by headlining this story “… this holiday season,” are you preventing it from becoming evergreen content?

    Great post.

  5. @ Jason – Had I written “…the 2009 Holiday Season”, I would have shot myself in the foot, yes. But “this” holiday season can be whichever one you’re enjoying, regardless of the year you enjoy it.

    @ Jenny – (My, what a foul mouth… and not even noon!)

    Unfortunately, I can’t be held responsible for promises I didn’t make. “Get an evergreen” doesn’t mean the same as “James is giving you.”

    @ Todd – It actually *is* harder than it looks. The ‘net changes so fast that you have to be careful and ask yourself, “Will this information apply next year or just right now?”

  6. I’m trying to avoid having a silly, nerdy argument about headlines here, but what I meant was that this story will now only apply to the holiday season … and not to the 11 other months of the year.

  7. I agree completely about needing to direct users to your evergreen posts.

    However, I have to say that – at least for me – those types of posts come about naturally and almost unexpectedly. They’re the posts you almost decide not to publish because they’re too personal or off-topic. I don’t know how easily those types of posts can be forced.

    That is, I’m not sure you can really sit down and say, “I’m going to write one of the most important and popular posts that will withstand the test of time for my blog.”

    Coach Donnelly

  8. @CD, for me it’s maybe 50/50. Sometimes I have a sense that it will work (I did for the Third Tribe post), and sometimes I think it’s going to be be a big post and it isn’t.

    The reference evergreens are much easier to be strategic about, but the emotional evergreens are the ones that can be true game-changers, in my experience.

  9. You’ve done it again James.
    Another best. Bravo.

  10. Love the analogy between evergreens and posts that are always useful! Ideas from nature have a way of sticking in our minds, helping us remember…I’m sure I won’t forget that when I’m trying to write a good post that I want it to be “an evergreen.” Thanks!

  11. @James –
    Hey buddy, are Evergreen posts the same as “Pillar Posts”?

  12. @ Stan – Not quite. Pillar posts or cornerstone content tends to be a foundation on which your site is built or that your blog revolves around. Yes, they’re the kind of posts you want to be bookmarked, but they’re also the type that serves as the footing for everything that’s to come on your site or that upholds the mission and purpose of your site.

    (At least, that’s my opinion.)

    Evergreen posts don’t necessarily provide foundation, but rather return hits and longevity. An evergreen post for my blog might be “Ten Ways to Excel at Compelling Copy” – but a pillar post would be one of a series of five posts that goes more in depth.

    (I think.)

  13. …ahh now I get it. So I need both.
    Now the question is how to schedule creation of these evergreen love-fests. 15 hours! I’m game but…wow.

  14. James: Just wanted to say thanks for articulating the difference between Evergreen and Pillar, as I think I was using them interchangeably when I really shouldn’t have been.

  15. An evergreen post on 10 Ways to Do Absolutely Any Topic Imaginable?

    Even for ‘Knit Your Own Carpet Slippers in 10 Easy Lessons’?

  16. @Gordon, if it doesn’t exist you ought to write it & create an ebook to sell from it. ;)

    @James, I think of it as “all pillars are evergreen but not all evergreens are pillars.” Would you agree? Not that I think there’s some canonical Right Answer for what we will call these things.

  17. James, great point made. I’ve been trying to create more evergreen work with my blog posts and article marketing as well. Although “evergreen” in this age may be a year or two, it seems. I have found that many people trying to create such posts ARE re-hashing information from elsewhere, so I like your point about putting in the hours to get something that can really sit on the shelf for awhile.

  18. Dear James:

    Creating an evergreen…interesting :)

    Something that I will have to work on. Creating something that does keeps value over time. Most of my writing is about change in our lives and seems to be a pretty evergreen topic on it’s own.

    I guess creating a e-book could be my ever green “post” which would take much longer time, but I am sure it would be one of the ways to differentiate from the competition as you said.

    Thanks for a reminder to stay unique in order to attract new readers!

    Best of luck,
    Tomas

  19. @ Sonia – Ahh, exactly that, yes – trust you to find the words that fail me :)

  20. Great way to put it. I’ve written posts like that, but never on purpose – obviously I’ve been missing the boat :)

  21. Sounds interesting. I wonder how people find these posts – via the search engines or via a prominent listing on your blog?

  22. @Sonia. OK, an e-book it shall be!

    Aeons ago, I seem to recall your good advice to “start with the headline”.

    With ’10 Ways to Knit Your Own Carpet Slippers in 10 Easy Lessons’, the book will practically write itself. A certified evergreen, with fame, fortune and a brand new Lamborghini on the horizon.

  23. The beauty of Evergreen posts is that they stand out and you can even put them into your Sidebar. Call them POPULAR ARTICLES or something similar.

    Every now and then I write and Evergreen post, and use it like a benchmark where the rest of my blogging is trying to match the Evergreen in content, style, and appeal.

    Of course it is not always successful . Sometimes I hit the mark , sometimes not.

    But I often do. Thanks to keeping the Evergreen posts as a target to aim for.

    thanks for this one.

  24. Evergreen posts are a classic. It’s a writer’s masterpiece.

  25. Great post and this is coming from the evergreen state.

  26. @Gordon, it might be a Hotwheels Lamborghini, but one has to start somewhere . . .

  27. @Sonia. One good idea leads to another.

    We’ll give the punters a chance to win a FREE Hotwheels Lambo with every sale of my newest e-book: ‘10 Ways to Knit Your Own Racing Drivers Gloves in 10 Easy Lessons’.

  28. I have dozens of these posts written.

    Time to go through and update a few of them.

    Evergreen posts do need maintenance from time to time. A little pruning, some fertilizer promotes growth.

  29. I found that most of my latest articles are “evergreens”. The biggest reason? I cut my posts from every weekday to M-W-F. That resulted in much higher quality posts.

  30. New to blogging. New to copyblogger. You all seem to teach what I never knew I wanted to learn. Thanks for the insight and inspiration.

  31. @Judy. You’ve come to the right place. Stick around and you’ll learn just about all you need to help you get started.

  32. I feel that the site i’m building needs this kind of “evergreen” content at it’s core.

    I always feel that what i’ve written isn’t my best, but maybe i’m just a harsh critic.

    I really like this post. It shows you what kind of work goes into producing stuff that actually gets read and responded to.

  33. I really like the idea of evergreen posts and absolutely agree that they are kinda hard and demanding to put up.

    They will require much more time to write and can be very demanding. But on the upside, they are also easily linked to by other bloggers and marketers.

    You see, many marketers and bloggers will have no problem linking their blog posts to A “top 100 ……….” list, right?

    Ragards

  34. Love the analogy between evergreens and posts that are always useful! Ideas from nature have a way of sticking in our minds, helping us remember…I’m sure I won’t forget that when I’m trying to write a good post that I want it to be “an evergreen.” Thanks!
    ___________________
    James