More on writing high-earning evergreen topic pages for news websites

I wanted to address some questions and reactions to my piece last week about optimizing news websites for maximum AdSense revenue.

The questions focused on my final recommendation: “Create sharply focused evergreen topic pages”

Since this is the most important of my recommendations, I felt it deserved some extra attention, especially since some folks appear to be having a tough time wrapping their heads around it. If you follow all the rest of my advice but fail to create evergreen topic pages on your website, you might notice an improvement in AdSense earnings, but you won’t earn lucrative CMPs without them.

From the comments last week, a question:

“What is a ‘sharply focused’ evergreen content page?”

And from my e-mail, another:

“I’m wondering: you mention ‘evergreening’ your site. But won’t ‘niche’ sites that are specific to a handful of closely related topics get the same result, but also be updatable with daily news without making google’s bots upset?”

One OJR reader offered an answer to the first:

“My guess it means a [frequently] updated page that contains content with a common theme. for example, only sport news”

Not quite. A true evergreen page won’t be updated frequently. Its content should be written in a way that makes it, well, evergreen – able to stand as factual information for a relevant audience for a long period of time.

The page does focus on a single theme. But neither a niche website nor a topic index on a general news website necessarily serves the function of an evergreen topic page. A optimized evergreen topic page ought to focus on a single element within a theme – not just sports, for example, but on soccer officiating in the World Cup.

I understand why this might be a tough concept for some news veterans. After all, what I’m asking you to create is in several ways the opposite of what we do on a daily basis writing for newspapers or broadcast reports. This is a different product for a news organization, but one much closely aligned with its core mission than fake front pages or coupon deals.

An evergreen page doesn’t lead with the latest increment of knowledge about a story. It won’t be superseded tomorrow by fresher information. Its content is driven by readers are searching for through Google and other search engines, and not by what sources deliver us through events, document data, news releases or tips.

These pages stand apart from daily news updates on a news website, though sharp journalists should take advantage to refer to them to help bring new readers “up to speed” on the background behind hot news topics.

Start here: Forget for a moment that you work as a journalist. Think of a place or topic that you don’t cover, but in which have some curiosity: A hobby, or a favorite vacation destination, for examples.

Imagine that you are sitting down at your computer, with Google or Bing on your Web browser. What will you type to find information about that hobby or destination? Jot down those words, phrases or questions.

Now imagine that you are an uniformed reader, doing the same about the beat or place that you cover. Remember, you’re an uninformed reader, who’s not been reading your coverage. Stay general.

Write down those words, phrases and questions. Those will be the topics of your evergreen content pages. On those pages, you’ll provide the answers to those questions, or the detail behind words and phrases, ideally in less than 1,000 words.

The title of the page should be enclosed in an H1 tag, and include the relevant word, phrase or question that you’re addressing on that page. You also should use that in the lead paragraph of the article and at least three other times in the piece.

You might think this a sop to a search engine robot. Actually, it’s a writing trick to keep you on topic. Sharp focus is essential, both for attracting traffic and targeted ads to the page, as well as fulfilling your readers’ information need.

Finally, these pages must be linked to from the front page of your website, and ideally from all relevant internal pages as well. Burying links to these pages inside individual daily news stories won’t expose them to enough readers to build any viral support for the pages. And if they’re not linked to from the front page of the site, search engines won’t consider them important anyway.

A right-side navigation rail provides a great place to spotlight topic pages such as this. In fact, a right-side rail topped by a medium rectangle ad provides also provides a great home for a lucrative ad position. (See my post last week for more on that topic.) Plus, it loads all pages of your news website with this core keywords and phrases that you’ve identified.

We first started using evergreen topic pages on OJR, with the “How-to Guides” you’ll still find linked from the right side of the page. (FYI: We introduced them back when OJR was an ad-supported website with a student writing staff. We no longer run ads nor employ students on the site.) I stumbled onto the value of evergreen content pages when I wrote my “statistics every writer should know” tutorial in 1996. I added AdSense ads to that site in 2003 and continue to earn several hundred dollars a month from those pages today.

How many of you would like to be earning several hundred bucks a month from something you wrote 14 years ago? My hand’s up. How about yours?

Now let’s multiply that income by all the writers covering all the beats maintained in a larger news organization. Sharply focused evergreen content pages can provide an additional income opportunity for news organizations of all sizes.

About Robert Niles

Robert Niles is the former editor of OJR, and no longer associated with the site. You may find him now at