7 Evergreen Content Writing Lessons Learned From The Harry Potter Series

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a major Harry Potter fan. I may not be the demographic J. K. Rowling was aiming for but she got me anyway. 🙂


This year we’ve been celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first book that came out, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (although in England it was called the Philosopher’s Stone). There’s been tons of stories about the books, the movies, the characters, the fandom beliefs and I’ve loved every bit of it, especially an article titled 194 Thoughts I Had While Watching The ‘Harry Potter’ Franchise For The First Time and Dobby The House-Elf Still Brings Generosity To The ‘Harry Potter’ Universe And Beyond.

The thing is, I’ve been a fan for a long time, although I wasn’t a fan from the beginning. I thought they were kid’s books, which the early books were. I started the series by reading the 5th book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and realized there was a lot of information I was missing that made it a bit hard to fully understand, but it still captured my imagination. After that I found my way to watching the first two movies and I’ve been hooked every since.

How hooked am I? I can’t give you exact numbers but I’ve consumed each of the Harry Potter books multiple times; I’ve never read any other book more than twice. After the way I started I decided that, when I’m ready to go through them again I always have to start at the first book and go through them in order. I pretty much do the same for the movies, although every once in a while I feel the need to watch a particular movie on its own. I’ve seen each movie at least 20 times, which might be fewer times than I’ve seen Independence Day, but that’s just one movie whereas there are 8 Harry Potter movies… and all of them are longer. 🙂 Not only that, but when I went to Orlando, all I could think about was visiting the Harry Potter world at Universal; I didn’t even think about Disneyland! 😀

With that build up, it’s time to get into the main topic of this post, which is a discussion of evergreen content writing (or marketing if you’re a purist). This is actually the third time I’ve made Harry Potter et al the topic of a blog post. The first one was about Harry Potter being a great leader. The second was blogging lessons from the series. There could have been a lot more but I figure I should only milk it so many times! lol

Many of us read articles where they say that the best types of posts to write are evergreen posts; that means articles that either never age to the point where they’re useless or articles that can be made “new” just by doing a few tweaks here and there. The first way is the best way to go if you can get there because not only do you never have to touch it but you can always refer back to it and gain a new audience that might have missed it.


The Potter Universe is a great place to glean a few lessons in evergreen content writing. They may not be the lessons you’re thinking about, and they’re definitely different lessons than the one I wrote about blogging (although I’m going to touch upon one of the points from there). These are pretty good lessons for all of us to learn, and we can thank the only billionaire writer for helping us to learn them (although James Patterson’s getting close; I might have to talk about him at another time).

1. Think long and hard about what you want to say

I have to admit that I violate this principle more often than you would believe. For instance, the idea for this article came up only 15 minutes before I started writing it. Yet, the longest and consistently most visited articles I’ve written are those that I’ve spent time developing up front before I started writing them. A couple of my most popular articles are 15 Lessons From 1,500 Blog Posts, which I wrote in 2014 and 10 Things You Must Have For A Happy Life which I wrote in 2012. Those posts took a lot of thought and some planning, and at 3100 and 2700 words you know I planned those posts to be epic!

Every post doesn’t need to take this kind of time to put together obviously, but we’re talking about evergreen content. There’s nothing in either of those posts that’s not as true today as the day that I wrote them. They continue getting pretty good traffic some years removed from publication and I’m still proud of both of them.

2. Write about what you know; if you don’t know it, research it

When I wrote about blogging lessons learned, I stated that “Research can help bring more meaning into what you’re doing”. That’s still true to this day, but one doesn’t always have to do a lot of research to know what they’re talking about.

For instance, I’m a health care finance consultant, which might not mean much to you until I give a little bit of explanation. What I do is help hospitals increase their revenue, which invariably increases their cash. I’ve been doing this kind of work for more than 30 years. I can sit down a write an article like How Hospitals And Physicians Set Prices without batting an eye or losing any sleep because it’s something I know really well.

Yet, something I see that quite often fails is when I see many guest posts on blogs that are basically copying what someone else has already said. Not only is it lazy but it’s content that only people new to the concept might even entertain themselves to read. Many times the people writing the content don’t really know what they’re talking about and haven’t put any time into researching it or learning anything about the topic.

Years ago I used to write for a bridal dress website. When I got the contract, I knew little to nothing about weddings, even though I’d been to one. My contract called for 10 articles a month of at least 500 words. I could write about anything I wanted to as long as I also wrote about the top designers of the day. Being way out of my element, I did two specific things. The first was to research the top designers at the time and put together mini-portfolios of their work. The second was to learn the language of the wedding industry so I could sound like I knew what I was talking about. Many of those articles are still on that site, while some have been transferred to “article farms”. Those still on the site are evergreen because the advice never goes out of style.

3. Don’t be afraid to be bold


A lesson I keep having to remind myself about is to stop writing in a passive mode and write more directly instead. It works wonders for a lot of my posts and I my writing has gotten stronger over the years.

The best content writing doesn’t pull punches, whether it’s commercials, blogs or articles on a myriad of websites. It doesn’t even have to be true (which is unfortunate); it just has to look like it’s real. Hopefully all of you will be telling the truth! lol

4. Whether it’s real or made up, explain it

If you ever read a Harry Potter book (which most people who read this will have done), you’ll realize just how many words and characters you’ve learned about that aren’t real things. We can talk about hippogriffs, horcruxes, deluminators, blast ended skrewt and avada kedavra as if they’re real life things… which of course they aren’t. What makes them real is that Rowling took the time in each book to explain these things to us as part of the plot of the stories they’re in. After that, she reinforced their importance so that it became part of our knowledge base; I bet most people know these items better than they know the history of the country they live in.

Most of us are going to write about real things on our blogs or in our marketing. A quick lesson to learn is that everyone doesn’t know what you’re talking about, even if they’re in the same industry as you or are hoping to learn from you. If you’re honest you’re not going to try to trick people by using words they don’t understand to benefit yourself (which many politicians do). That’s why I’m known to take time to define terms that many people read about which no one else actually explains such as the concepts of what an authority post is and high quality content means.

5. Don’t make your protagonists perfect all the time

Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are the heroes in the series, with Harry obviously being number one on the list. Yet, throughout all the books and movies, each of them has times when they’re not shown in the best light possible. It’s that quality that makes them human, that makes them feel like one of us even when we’re mad at them (like Harry doing all that whining in book 5 lol).

Something I often acknowledge on this blog and some of my other blogs is that I’m not close to being perfect in everything I write. Even in this article (which I hope goes evergreen and viral), I’ve acknowledged that there are things I don’t always do or make mistakes on here and there. There’s a difference between pitching a product (where you’ll be forgiven for not highlighting deficiencies up front) and coming clean when you’ve done something that didn’t work out and how you’ve adjusted or corrected it. If it’s true, put it in; people will respect you for it.

6. Write for your audience; others will figure it out

The one thing I’m proud of from Rowling’s books is that she wrote the entire series with an “England” English voice and sound, with its specific words that were confusing to American audiences initially and might have sounded funny for a while. She didn’t try to clean it up; she made us learn it so we could feel the characters and the people and make it a part of our lives (I’ve found myself using the word “suss” on occasion; definitely not an American word lol).

If you don’t learn anything else, I hope you learn to write for your audience, no matter who you think they are. The best rule of thumb is to think of yourself as part of your audience; what would you like to read or learn about and how would you like to do it? If you write something you wouldn’t mind reading more than once, you’ll find an audience for it.

7. Leave people something to talk about

I began this post sharing a couple of new articles that people have written regarding the Harry Potter series. Truth be told, there are probably hundreds of articles every week talking about something Potter related. Some of them are fan theories; some of them are history we don’t know. Some are critiques of scenes left out of the movies and some in the movies that we wish weren’t there (because they’re so much different than the book lol).

There are a lot of bloggers and writers who recommend that we write content that gets our point across, yet still gives people a reason to comment or share your information. I believe there are times when you have to be specific about something such as when writing what amounts to a tutorial on how to do a certain thing, whether or not the entire article is about it, or writing something that’s educated opinion where people can either add to it or possibly find something they disagree with.

The best kind of evergreen content gives people something to talk about either way, and encourages them to keep joining in even years after you’ve left the topic alone. It helps to explain why a video I did complaining about Verizon has more than 33,000 views and still gets new comments after more than 2 years; that’s just crazy!

There’s my 7 lessons, and I got to write about a few things I love… especially Harry Potter. Do you have any takeaways from this that you believe you can use? Do you want to debate the merits of Harry Potter and evergreen content? Let’s find out! 🙂
 

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23 comments on “7 Evergreen Content Writing Lessons Learned From The Harry Potter Series

  • Hello Mitch, great article. Although I am not in the Potter demographic having never read any of the books, I prefer to read factual, I have seen and liked most of the films. The one thing done really well is making us care about the characters both the good ones and the not so.

    As you mention to create good content we need to take a stand on a topic, explain and justify our position and stick to it. This generates the conversation we often hope our content will create but all too often never achieves.
    igor Griffiths recently posted…Why I am not a bloggerMy Profile

    Reply
    • Igor, I used to only read nonfiction until I started getting depressed by a lot of it. That’s when I turned to fiction and I’ve rarely been depressed since (except for Patricia Cornwall books, which I’ve recently given up on). I’m probably way past the Potter demographic but I’ve never let stuff like that define me. lol

      We do have to stick to our guns on a topic, even if we change those positions later on in life. I keep working on the concept of not giving it all away so people have something to contribute; I’m not very good at it though.

      Reply
  • Hello
    I like your writing style and a previous post you created about blogging. I was researching actually, I have an idea for a blog but I want it to look good. It seems so difficult, for example the other poster igor griffiths has a page with links that take you to another persons page. There a pages where code is displayed rather than buttons or links. My point is…if you need an idea for another post or video I could use an updated walk through. I feel like you would just break it down, because I am ready to join the conversation.

    Reply
  • Great article. Can’t say I’m a big fan of Harry Potter though, but I make sure to watch all the Harry Potter movies. Creating good content has become more like a “science” – with so many factors to be considered, but thats unavoidable, I guess.

    Reply
    • Tony, I look at the creation of good content like writing a term paper in high school. The task isn’t to write War & Peace; the task it to write something that’s cogent and able to be understood by the reader. Having something to say, whether it’s entertainment or educational, helps a great deal, but the way I see things it’s just storytelling in a written form if done right.

      Reply
  • Hey Mitch, I did read the first book, borrowed it from the kids. Didn’t interest me enough to check out the other books and I love Sci-Fi and fantasy stories.

    As for the movies, they’re pretty cool.

    Evergreen, a nice way of putting it, sort of like those evergreen trees.
    Peter recently posted…AFL Round 14 2017 TipsMy Profile

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    • That’s the idea Pete. For instance, every once in a while I’ll link back to one of your older posts before you started writing the joke posts because I feel it makes a good point still valid after so many years. That’s the point of evergreen posts; their essence can live forever.

      I wouldn’t have seen you as a great Harry Potter fan to begin with; you’ve never given me the impression that it would interest you. However, I’m betting that if you started like I did, which is with one of the older books rather than the first one (because I didn’t know they were going in order) you might have gotten hooked. That last book for instance… I can’t get enough of it! lol

      Reply
  • Believe it or not, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan as well. And, I’m completely in awe of what JK Rowling achieved. Amazing. Some great lessons here and they definitely do apply to blogging. They also apply 1 on 1 when we are speaking with our customers.

    Often, it helps when you enter a field as a novice because you have to learn everything…and then you can explain it to others in layman’s terms. JK Rowling was able to do that, knowing these imaginary creative things she invented. Love this. Thanks.
    Rich Witt recently posted…Greenport NY: A Long Distance Property and a Serendipitous SolutionMy Profile

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  • Strangely enough Mitch, those joke posts are bringing me the most traffic, more than any other post. Too bad I don’t have Google Adsense on Wassup lol

    Knocked back my first advertising gig too. Someone want to advertise for a escort agency on my sex blog. Had to knock them back and it wasn’t hard to do. See, I do have some morals 😉
    Peter recently posted…Best Sports Betting AppMy Profile

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    • I’m surprised you turned that down Pete. Not for morality’s sake but because it’s already a sex blog as you say, and you probably could have asked for $500 a month and got it.

      Reply
  • I’ve done almost everything on that list. Planning for posts ahead of time just doesn’t seem to work for me. For one of my other blogs — involves a lot of collaboration with SaaS startups, etc — this is a must, actually.

    But for my agency blog, I come as close to a day or 6-8 hours to hatch an idea before the blog post should go live 🙂

    Of course, I go bold and I have taken on the likes of Smartblogger and HubSpot. If I have something to say, I say it.

    Ash
    Ash recently posted…16 Front Page Designs Built For High ConversionsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Ash, I don’t often plan my articles out, even when I write multiple articles in a day. There have been times though, such as when I did my 12 posts in September on this blog or in 2015 when I wrote a post a day on my business blog and last year when I wrote a post a day on my local blog. I’ve got to say that made the writing process slightly easier, knowing what I was going to write about, but it was pretty tiring as well… which it’s not supposed to be.

      Reply
  • Hi Mitch,

    I never read a Harry Potter book, but kind of know a little of what it is about from my nephew. I like the way you wrote this about the lessons you learned from the series.

    Writing comes easy for me because I get all excited about sharing what I know about for other people. Sure beats answering a million questions lol. But the thing is when I write I can go on and on and on. I have to spend more time editing to make it all make sense.

    Yes, I can be a little bold sometimes because it is a part of me. Hey I’m a Brooklyn gal at heart – what you see is what you get he he he.

    I enjoyed this article so much!

    -Donna

    P.S. I like reading vampire books. I find them romantic. Just say’n
    Donna Merrill recently posted…Put Your Blogging Brand In Front Of A New CrowdMy Profile

    Reply
    • Donna, you probably were into those Anne Rice books at one time, right? lol

      I think the “being bold” part is the thing most new bloggers need to get over. It can seem scary putting something out there and either not getting any attention at all or having people hang onto your every word. Still, there’s nothing I’d rather do than blog; well, there is, but I have to leave home for it. 🙂

      Reply
  • Mitch, how have you been?

    When you spoke about the Hurry Porter, I found an online training course called, “Learn English with Hurry Porter Movies.”

    I was the same you. I though it a kid movies. After reading this article, I think that I shall look back to the reading or find more information related to Hurry Porter.

    Anyway, I’ve plant to write an ebook for a very long time and as I could remember the last work that I give up is 50 pages.

    I have a question, how did you manage to overcome your writing fair?

    Thanks for sharing
    Kimsea Sok recently posted…How to Get AdSense Account Approved After Published 4th ArticleMy Profile

    Reply
    • Greetings Kimsea,

      First, how could you spell “Harry Potter” wrong? Heck, I wrote it enough times here and even in the title! lol

      Second, I’m assuming your question is how I overcame writing “fear”; if I’m wrong let me know. I never had any fear of writing. I’ve been writing since I was 11 years old in some form. I’ve written plays, music and lyrics, stories, two books and ebooks and journaled for about 20 years. Just write without worrying what others think; that’s my motto.

      Reply
  • Hello Mitch,

    This is my first time of visiting this site. I must confess, your style, layout and settings are awesome.

    Not really heard much of Harry Potter though, but I gonna give watching Harry Potter movies a trial henceforth.

    Writing a good content for your site has so many factors to be considered if your content must win the heart of search engines and pull in the much needed traffic.

    Reply
    • Welcome Bless (I don’t allow non-names on this blog per the comment policy),

      Harry Potter’s been around for 20 years, and is the biggest selling series of books in history, along with the best selling series of movies in history; you’ve been missing a lot! lol

      You’re not totally incorrect on your words concerning content, but it’s a different thing that thinking about evergreen content. Writing posts that people like is sometimes better in my opinion than the evergreen content, but it’s the evergreen content that’s going to make search engines love you. For instance, just writing this article using Harry Potter as an example has already made it the 2nd most popular article of mine over the last 30 days and knocked out articles that have been around months. Almost anything that ties in with Harry Potter gives you a chance for evergreen content; it’s more about that series than anything I could say. 🙂

      Reply
  • Many great tips in this post, Mitch! Being a Harry Potter fan myself (I know of very few people who are not) I too am happy to bring in the 20th anniversary of the first book!

    I appreciate all of the writing tips you have pulled from your reading of the series, I tend to find myself writing to myself and not to my audience. This brings about an entirely new set of problems.

    Being bold is also tough to interpret, as bold can mean so many things!! Thankfully you were clear in the context of the word bold in your post, otherwise I too would admit to being fearful of bold words and bold opinions!

    Thanks again for the post Mitch, looking forward to reading through the rest of your blog posts!

    Reply
    • Thanks Patrick. One of the tricks in writing for yourself is determining what you’d read and how you’d like to read it. True, not everyone will like your style, but the general idea is that there will be others who enjoy your style and those are the people you ultimately want to reach to begin with. Problems… nah! 🙂

      Reply

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