How To Breathe New Life Into Old Blog Posts
We talk a lot about repurposing our content, and turning a blog post into an ebook or slide presentation. That makes sense. No reason to waste the time you spent creating the blog post. Turn it into new versions and make that same content more portable. Repurpose it!
But what about the really old blog posts and content you’ve created years ago? What do you do with them? They aren’t fit to be an ebook anymore. They may be outdated. In fact, you may feel like your blog is a behemoth that got away from you and you’d like to rein it in.
It might be time to declare blog post bankruptcy.
When To Declare Bankruptcy On Old Blog Posts
Blog post bankruptcy is a topic I’m pretty interested in on my personal blog(s). Because wow. What a mess.
Blog post bankruptcy is similar to email bankruptcy in that you do a serious purge of your content and mass delete your old posts in favor of starting fresh or at least culling the old.
You’re not going to read a lot about blog post bankruptcy because it’s going to create a lot of headaches, mainly in the form of dead links. And most content marketers will tell you that such a “scorched earth policy” is stupid because you’ll hurt your SEO and you just threw away all the time it took to write those posts.
Fair enough. But…
That’s a grand total of 4,831 blog posts, spanning from 2002 to 2014. In the drafts bin alone, I have 621 posts! So yes, blog post bankruptcy is definitely on my mind.
There are a few reasons bloggers might consider blog post bankruptcy.
1. Embarrassed by content.
If you are a personal blogger (or started out that way before shifting to a niche) not blogging for marketing purposes or in a niche, you may have more motivation to delete posts that are over ten years old. You’re probably embarrassed by them, both in the opinions you expressed or how you wrote them.
2. Overwhelmed by content.
If you are like me–storing blog post ideas in your blogging platform–and hitting 621 drafts (13% of your total posts written), you feel overwhelmed by the content you’ve not gotten around to. Because bankruptcy isn’t just for published posts; it works for drafts, too.
Think about it. How can I possibly know what those draft posts are about? Chances are very good that the ideas are outdated, not worth writing about anymore, or a duplicate of another draft idea because I forgot what I had saved earlier.
Unpublished content gets in the way of that fragile motivation to create brand new content. Get rid of it, or get it on your editorial calendar and write it.
3. Poor content.
Back in 2011, when Google’s Panda update went through and decimated a lot of sites, the response given to some webmasters was simple: remove or change poor content on your site if you don’t want to feel Panda’s bite.
Yes, Pandas bite.
And apparently that old content, no matter what amount of time or SEO energy you put into it at the time, was a detriment.
While my old posts aren’t laden with link bait and any black hat SEO tactics from years gone by, they certainly suffer from poor, short headlines or brevity in length due to the fact early bloggers sometimes used their blog almost like Twitter updates. And, since WordPress has changed significantly over time, many of the posts lack the proper formatting or featured images that are basically a requirement now.
There are posts with no images, bad embeds, next to no keyword consideration, and in a general state of disarray.
4. Change of team.
Some people delete content written by team members who are no longer on the team. This is not a good idea, if the only reason you are doing so is a change in your team and has nothing to do with the content they created.
With WordPress, you can still keep them as a user, but switch them to the low subscriber level so that their content and authorship is maintained.
5. Outdated content.
Your flashy post about how to leverage your MySpace profile is outdated. You have product pages for products that no longer exist. It’s understandable that you want to remove posts that are old and aren’t evergreen content (content that is always applicable). There are two legitimate reasons to remove old content from your site:
1. Old content can confuse readers. If your blog does not use a post date in either the post itself, or in the permalink, that makes your old content more confusing. Readers have to rely on the dates in the comment section to get an idea of when the post went live and whether it is applicable now.
Luckily here at CoSchedule, we are pretty serious about our editorial calendar workflow, and we don’t have this problem where drafts become a massive dumping ground of ideas. We use tools like Evernote to store ideas. Then we put ideas on the calendar, and we write the posts.
Additionally, our blog started long after the shock of Panda, and the push for excellent content has become the norm now, so we don’t have to worry about old content hurting us. We also choose to leave old content up, even if it isn’t evergreen. Sometimes we redirect from an old post to an update that would mean more to a site visitor searching for something specific.
But if you’ve been blogging for many years, there are legitimate reasons to delete old content.
What To Do To Save Your Old Blog Posts
If blog post bankruptcy is not an option, and you shudder at the thought of deleting old posts and then dealing with redirects, dead permalinks, htaccess files, lost SEO, and a lost blogging history, you can still save your old posts. How do you start?
You can start at the end and work forward if sequential work is easier to track and organize. Or, start first with your most popular blog posts, the ones that get the most hits or social shares, even now. Then, focus on the posts that have topics that are still relatively viable. The last posts you’ll clean up are those with low traffic, shares, comments, or interest.
1. Rework the actual content.
Chances are your old blog posts are not as well-written as your current posts. You didn’t always follow great logical structure, your copy was convoluted. Rework your copy by bringing it up to your current standards:
- Editing. You’ll probably find editing much easier on those old posts. You have fresh eyes on them now, and you’re more experienced. Edit your posts by taking care of at least the most basic edits for typos and grammar.
- Style guide. Your old blog posts likely don’t fit your current blog style guide. Change how your posts looks as far as how images are handled, headings, and other elements.
- Logic. Until you found your groove, your early writing might have had structure that meandered about. You lacked a thesis, perhaps. Rework the idea of the post to fit a more logical start and conclusion.
- Content. Did you say enough about your topic? Did you ramble and say too much? Is there new information now that you could include? Have you changed your mind? Were you…completely wrong? This is where you remove that embarrassment factor.
Once the copy is in shape, you’ll move onto the peripheral requirements of a good WordPress blog post.
2. Update links, images, and SEO.
Create a checklist for what you consider “must haves” for your current blog posts. That checklist might include:
- Copyrighted images. Every image must be legally allowed. Be sure you aren’t using any copyrighted images. If you aren’t absolutely positive you haven’t misused an image (and it is very common to do so), remove them and find a replacement (read more).
- Links still work. Do the links to your own content still work? Sometimes changes in your site affect how your links work, so be sure that the links are still valid and that what you’re linking to still applies.
- SEO in good shape. If your posts are many years old, you may have used some SEO tactics that are frowned upon now. Check for excess use of keyword linking, etc. Make sure that your post now uses your current SEO plugins instead. Bring your posts up to current standards.
- Headlines are strong. If you have permalinks that mimic the full headline, readers will still see what your original headline was. Changing that permalink means dealing with redirects. You can still change the headline despite the permalink giving you away a bit.
- Affiliate links correct. If you rely on affiliate marketing, be sure your affiliate links are still correct. If you’ve switched which company you use, change them to be current or remove them entirely. Add links where you believe they would apply now.
- Featured images in place. Be sure you have a featured image selected for every blog post so that when they are shared on social media, they have a better chance. Add images to the post body itself if you have the time or perfect image.
Once you’ve made these changes to the post, decide if you want to merely update (keep the original publishing date) or republish on a new date (this may affect your permalink).
And speaking of publishing dates…
3. Consider adding a date to posts.
Dated posts help put content into perspective, but there are many people who think putting a date on a post is a bad idea.
Whether your permalink has a URL that looks like http://yoursite.com/blog/2014/08/post or you have an actual date on your post, a date takes care of the problem of readers who are asking “when was this written? can I trust it? does it still apply?” Those are the questions you are really answering as you rework old posts. A dated post could save you from having an update if reader confusion is the motivating factor for reworking old posts,. A date clearly says that it is an old post.
Case in point: more than a year ago, I wrote a post about merging your Google+ accounts. It was valid then (ever so briefly, so thank you, Google), but the process has changed. However, readers get confused, anxious, and sometimes upset because it is not accurate. Putting a date on the post might help readers who come to the post via search to understand that this isn’t a post we wrote last week.
This, however, is a point of argument. Some blogs, like Copyblogger, removed dates and advocate that. Others swear by the importance of putting a date on your content. Summation? Your call. You may truly be writing timeless content, or not.
4. Create a few compilation posts for future publication.
As bloggers, we think of our blogs as an orderly collection, and we know the history of what we’ve written for the blog. Sometimes we write in a way where one post then begets another, and so on, writing in order as if writing an online course. But site visitors don’t arrive and read in our proper order. They arrive randomly, and they don’t always read our in-post links to related content.
Many of your evergreen posts are being forgotten, even if the content doesn’t need a serious tune-up. The answer?
Periodic compilation posts, where you reference or mashup old posts, are a good way to help readers explore your site in a wrapper of helpful “new” content. We write these posts on CoSchedule periodically (here’s an example), particularly when we’ve had a monthly theme that warrants creating a summary post at the end.
Essentially, you are creating an abbreviated guide to a broader topic that your earlier posts covered in detail.
5. Decide whether to redirect deleted posts.
Some old posts you’ll be deleting, and not reworking in any way at all. In this case, you will have some dead inbound links as well as internal links. You will want to decide if the post has enough value and traffic still coming to it, and if you should redirect that to another post or page.
Redirects can slow your site down, so use them sparingly. They work best if you are changing, deleting, or moving a post or page that consistently gets a lot of traffic or backlinks from other sites. Not every deleted post needs to redirected. When you have thousands of posts, the idea of finding and redirecting a deleted post to its appropriate counterpoint is a lot of work (believe me, I know), and excessive redirects aren’t helpful to your site at all.
If you must redirect, choose the new location, or an equivalent/related post. You may be better off sending a reader to a category page.
Just remember that a 404 won’t hurt your site. It is OK to let some old links just die without any redirect at all.
6. Re-promote old posts.
Now that your old posts are cleaned up, start promoting them as if they were a new post.
And by that, I mean don’t start automatically churning social messages out. Be purposeful in both your sharing schedule and the message your social posts include with the link. There are plugins that automatically share your old blog posts on social media, but avoid them in favor of being purposeful. Use CoSchedule to put them in your social media schedule with the same rigorous social sharing plan that you use for your new posts.
Early on, your blog probably didn’t have the audience it does now. Old posts didn’t get commented on, and you know how important social proof is. By re-promoting it, you’ll bring your old posts to the attention of your new audience.
In summation, you can rework old posts, delete them, or leave them alone. Those are your choices, and somewhere someone will disagree with you.
I like the idea of visiting posts from two years or older, cleaning up old content, and deleting the stuff that I don’t think has value anymore. I let some of this deleted content go the way of the 404, and redirect those few posts that still get traffic to a better post (I often revisit the same topic later). I keep them on their same publishing date. If a post was particularly contentious or a key part of some great flame war, I note that it was updated, and how/why. If the conversation in the comments section hinged on some key piece of information I wish to remove, I note that change as well.
Otherwise, I have no problem going back and reworking a post. Heck, with fresh eyes, they are easier to edit and make better!
Some online readers get upset when you delete content, particularly now when content is seen as a social and collaborative affair. By deleting old blog posts, you create problems for other bloggers who linked to your content or want to link to your content. But let me suggest something inflammatory: ultimately, what you write is yours. You can do whatever you want with it.