Viral Videos versus Evergreen Content on YouTube

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

One phenomenon created by the Internet is the spread of viral video. Just like a virus (except that it’s the good kind that won’t make you sick), a viral video spreads rapidly online and can garner a million views in a relatively short time.

On the opposite side of the spectrum lies the evergreen video: As its name implies, videos with this distinction usually remain fresh and vibrant for longer periods, providing a timeless quality to the content.

Your channel’s objective depends on being able to bring as many viewers as possible to your content. Sometimes that comes from a single, albeit extremely popular video, whereas at other times it’s more about having a healthy lineup of relevant content.

Creating a single viral video can bring a great deal of attention to your channel, and those visits can quickly monetize into big bucks, especially with a video that garners a couple of million views. On the other hand, evergreen videos (see below) lend themselves to less dynamic, though more steady buildup through a variety of content that keeps people coming back.

Don’t bet your YouTube strategy trying to create a viral video. When it comes to viral videos, there’s a random element to their success that cannot always be duplicated the next time around. Nevertheless, you can do some things to make success just a tad less random.

Viral content

Viral videos usually consist of some trendy or contemporary aspect that allows it to build a huge audience quite quickly. For example, a new dance craze or music video sometimes makes for the most watched video, but it can also consist of a dramatic news event or wild stunt that people can’t stop talking about. Sometimes it fades away as quickly as it started, whereas at other times it sticks around.

Evergreen content

Like a tree of shrubbery that never turns brown, the evergreen video remains popular with its niche audience for a long time. That’s because it consists of content that people are going to search for often and over an extended period.

If YouTube were a refrigerator, comparing the two, a viral video would have a shorter expiration date to more evergreen content. Though there’s less pressure to creating a successful evergreen video, it still requires a lot of work to gain a following. You have to let people know that it’s out there while keeping it relevant for them to venture out and find you.

The types of content that may have (potential) evergreen value include

  • Instructional videos

  • Educational videos

  • Travel videos

  • Overviews of holiday traditions

  • Biographies of famous people

Most evergreen content — instructional videos or content associated with a historical event, for example — doesn’t usually go viral but can enjoy a longer run of popularity because the content will continue to attract a steady stream of viewers.