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! 🙂