Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Write Sports Articles, That Actually Last

When you add in the qualifier, “That Actually Last,” describing how to write sports articles is no easy matter. After all, most sporting events are date- and event-specific, they come and they go, as does the interest in the event. Being lovers of our sport, we want to cover them. With some forethought, however, you can make any online sports story one that attracts and keeps readers for years to come.

An Example from this Blog (and not a good one)

On the surface the example below may sound good, but I’ll show you why it isn’t in just a moment.

The 3rd, 5th and 8th most popular posts on this blog are these:

Top Sports Writing and Freelance Jobs for Week of March 2, 2009,

Top Sports Writing and Freelance Jobs for Week of March 16, 2009, and

Top Sports Writing Jobs for Week of March 11, 2009.

(Limited job postings was a short-lived feature here)

Why is the fact these posts continue to rank highly a bad thing? Well, it isn’t BAD, it just isn’t good. Here’s why; those three posts attract most of their visitors from search traffic. They’re doing well with attracting traffic, but not giving visitors what they need.

For example, I’m certain would-be job searchers aren’t looking for “Top Sports Writing and Freelance Jobs for Week of March 2, 2009.” They’re conducting Google searches for “freelance sports writing jobs,” and “sports blogging jobs.” When they find my posts from 2009, they promptly leave this site and go to the next Google results.

It’s great they stopped by, but I’ll never see them again. Unless they find me for another search term.

U.S. Open Golf Tournament, 2011, Does Not Make an Evergreen Sports Article

By all accounts, this year’s U.S. Open was as historic as any since Tiger won the Masters in 1997. But there’s two main reasons why I won’t cover it here, or at all:

1) The big sites get all the traffic for big events (where would you rather see it, ESPN.com or here?). Even if by some miracle I was able to rank well in searches for U.S. Open 2011, most traffic would either not visit me or come and go.

2) Such a time-specific article would quickly die in number of searches. When the British Open rolls around in a few weeks, searches for the U.S Open will plummet. By next year they’ll be dead.

Sporting event articles need to be evergreen, meaning they have to be somewhat like the trees of the same name. They need to focus on popularity over the long haul, and not U.S. Open 2011, or Super Bowl XLVI (next year’s), or any other particular event.

If You Can’t Resist, Make it Evergreen

An eye toward retaining traffic for years to come when you write about a sporting event that is specific to time and place needs something that sets it apart from all others. Keywords and keyword phrases have to be distinctive.

If I were to write about the 2011 U.S. Open, I can mention the winners and losers, but a more enduring angle will have to be my focus. I could center on and attempt to rank for (and I’ve done no keyword research with these, mind you) “youthful Rory McIlroy,” “golf’s younger generation,” or “pga golfers under 30.”

Keeping such a focus, with a memorable title, and not simply regurgitating the outcome and events of the tournament, could make it last and set it apart from the others.

Go Green with Your Writing

I’m not poking (much) fun at the green movement. We need to go and stay evergreen if we want to build successful sports blogs and popular sports articles that stand the test of time.

Without the “why” and “how” of writing a good sports article, lots of traffic can be lost. Also, without the evergreen aspect, our blogs will become like the articles I mentioned above. Visitors will bounce off them like a football off Ocho Cinco’s hands when he’s having a temper tantrum.

Visit this blast-from-the-past for another "evergreen" article.

Evergreen image courtesy Filip Maljkovic.

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