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Blog Struggles: I Need an Eraser for My Old Posts

Blog Struggles Article SeriesOnline Diary: May 20, 2010

I’d like to go back and erase my old posts.

Don’t you feel that way sometimes? Maybe all the time?

As I think about talking to the telephone poles out there and reassessing where I am, the urge to purge is overwhelming me. I want to go through all my out-of-date information and tips on WordPress. I want to rewrite all my SEO articles. I want to totally redo my most popular post, What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content, and break it into an article series. I want to clean up all the spelling mistakes from before spell check was available. I want to send so many articles through the thrasher and separate the wheat from the chaff, I feel like a blog basher.

I stopped myself from hitting the edit button on those posts and realized this is a good sign. Honor the moment. While I realized that editing old posts is really another excuse to stop generating new content, for me it was something profound. Something seriously more.

Once I remembered that lesson from past urge-to-purge moments, I realized this wasn’t really an excuse but an attempt to get back into the flow of things again. This was indeed a good sign. Cleaning house means making room for new. Cleaning up the old content means I’m back into the flow of producing new, starting to regenerate old ideas and find new ones to share with you.

I faced this challenge with a lot of frustration and angst. This is more than just cleaning up grammar and punctuation – though everything I write could use a little of that. This is about fixing the gateways to my site and finding the creative spirit again that had me publishing content on this and other blogs every single day of the year for years. Last year, when someone averaged out my annual content product to be 1,975 articles a year – trust me, there is a lot of fixing I could be doing, but I need to be specific. I needed to focus. With more than 2,000 articles on this blog alone, I needed direction.

I hit my top ten most popular articles according to WordPress.com Stats WordPress Plugin available to everyone on . The ten most popular articles over the past six years are:

  1. WordPress Plugins for Images, Photographs, and Graphics
  2. Designing a WordPress Theme From Scratch
  3. HTML, CSS, PHP, and More Cheat Sheets
  4. What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content
  5. Video, Music, Podcasts, Audio, and Multimedia WordPress Plugins
  6. Buttons, Bows and Badges for Your Blog
  7. Subscribe, Email Mailing List, Blog Update, Alerts, and Newsletter WordPress Plugins
  8. Horse Sex and What is Dictating Your Blog’s Content
  9. The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin
  10. Translation and Multilingual WordPress Plugin

I’ve written a lot about cleaning up old post content in articles such as Do You Update Posts or Post Updates? « Lorelle on WordPress, Blog Struggles: When An Old Post is New Again, Rotating Old Posts and Tires, Cleaning Up Old Posts, The Gateway to Your Blog, and SEO Tips: Increase Page Rank By Revitalizing Your Old Posts. I’ve gotten a ton of flack from “SEO Experts” who tell me there is no need to step back into the past and clean up or update old posts. Just keep focused on the new.

That’s crap. Total crap. What’s the most used gateway to your blog? Any article on your site can be that most used gateway and landing page. The most popular are the doors through which guests enter the most, thus you should clean up the entry a little. You like to make a good impression, right?

I walk the walk, so to get me back into productive mode, it’s time for some serious blog-cleaning.

The Stories Behind the Content Challenge The Cleaning Process

Article on WordPress Plugin for images and videoRight after my father died and my family imploded, I knew I needed time for grief and time to refocus my life back on my work. I needed a serious distraction. I dedicated myself to producing a month of WordPress Plugins with a minimum of one post on one or a group of WordPress Plugins published every day. It took three months of research and preparation. I put my blogs through intensive testing of all the various Plugins to ensure they worked, breaking my blogs more than a few times. I took lots of notes to explain how they worked and what they did as so few Plugin authors know how to write good descriptions, no matter how good their code. It was hard work. Seriously hard work. I won’t even mention the hemorrhoids. I needed it. It was good for the spirit, soul, and my poor battered brain.

From that series, WordPress Plugins for Images, Photographs, and Graphics, Video, Music, Podcasts, Audio, and Multimedia WordPress Plugins, Subscribe, Email Mailing List, Blog Update, Alerts, and Newsletter WordPress Plugins, Translation and Multilingual WordPress Plugin, and others continue to soar into my top ranks. The issue with updating them is that the updates are eternal. There will always be Plugins in the lists that will stop being supported, and there will always be Plugins to replace them. I decided that other than updating links and removing the ones people complain are broken links or no longer working, these stand as a testament of the possible and help people get the words they need to find the Plugins they need.

Images and Video WordPress Plugin ArticleThat’s an important thing, finding the words. As part of the month long series, I wrote “A Love Letter to WordPress Plugin Authors,” describing how to promote a WordPress Plugin, but more importantly, how to help people in desperate need of the solution you offer. I spent over a year looking for a WordPress Plugin or bit of code that would help me do something I was sure what simple, only to stumble across it by accident while searching for something else. The author didn’t speak English and had created a very simple page in English about the Plugin that didn’t even describe what it did. There was enough for me to realize quickly, even though the words were different, that this is what I had been looking for. Part of my job when writing about these things is to give people the words to find what they need, not just to provide the tool itself. So I leave those alone for now.

Article on adding buttons and bows to your blog for funIn the top ranks are a lot of articles dedicated to design elements, some within WordPress and some dedicated to only CSS and HTML. HTML, CSS, PHP, and More Cheat Sheets and Buttons, Bows and Badges for Your Blog just needed some minor updates. The former is always in need of attention and update, so I’ve poked at it over the years to add or remove links as new things become available, but most of these are solid, faithfully linked references, as is the latter. It amazes me that there are more new references for these topics. Stalwarts, they continue to be.

Designing a WordPress Theme From Scratch is one that needs some serious revamping. I want to combine it with Designing a WordPress Theme: Building a Post Sandbox as they two go hand in hand. The article originally was a very basic introduction with links to a lot of other resources, but things have changed a lot when it comes to designing for WordPress Themes since 2005, so this article will need a lot of work to revamp.

I’ve started working on how to pull those two articles together, and sure enough, the creative juices started flowing. I’ve a huge list of article ideas that keep spilling over from my work in updating those.

The Ultimate Tag Warrior WordPress Plugin and articles related to the use of that and similar tag Plugins are now deprecated. I’m going back through all of them and putting a note at the top to inform people that WordPress now has built-in tags and taxonomies. I thought about deleting these, which I might, but the built-in functionality and WordPress Plugins designed to improve it still don’t match the complexity and vast customization options and features that UTW offered. I hope today’s Plugin authors can use these guides as references to offer features missing from WordPress tagging today.

Tags and categories continue to be problematic and troublesome for everyone today, years after people should have figured them out. Come on, folks. Categories are your table of contents for your site and tags are your index words. Still, articles like Categories versus Tags: What’s the Difference and Which One Do You Use?, The Problems With Tags and Tagging, Tags Are Not Categories – Got It?, Putting Some Thought Into Blog Categories and Tags, Keywords Versus Tags, Tags and Tagging in WordPress, and Are You Abusing and Misusing Tags? really need to be updated with more recent information.

What fascinates me in my journey back through my old content is how ahead of my time I was in the advice I offered. When everyone was jumping on linking their tags to off-site content like Technorati, I recommended on-site links via the tags. People were furious with me. They ranted on about how important it was to be found among others of like interests and how it would improve their Google juice. Linking to off-site resources is good. Sending your visitors away to find related content off your site when you have it on your site is ridiculous and a time waster for everyone involved.

Today, people see the logic in keeping traffic and sending them away satisfied, not at the first opportunity. They also see the lack of logic in sending your traffic away to sites with little responsibility over the content within that tag’s collection.

Tags never took off. They just didn’t work. No search engine, including Technorati, recognizes them or honors them in any way, so their only purpose is to offer micro-categorization and navigation for your site. Doesn’t stop people from playing games with them, but honestly, tags are dead except for labeling and categorizing your content.

There is still a lot of confusion around tags and categories, and now that taxonomies have been introduced, the confusion escalates. People get the gist of what they mean, but when it comes to application, they are truly stymied. Again, this offers up a ton of new ideas for articles and interviews I can do to help people understand these better and learn how to use them.

Two remaining articles in the list give me an amazing amount of grief and challenge.

How to Clean Up The Uncleanable

Article introducing the first use of the term content theft in dealing with online plagiarismWhat Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content” took me over a year to write. I then sat on it for a couple of months for fear of the repercussions of speaking out about copyright infringement.

I was the first to call it “content theft” and my fears were realized when many spoke out venomously against me for using such terminology. Long comments ensued over the phrase. I stood my ground and explained that when you take something without permission that doesn’t belong to you, it’s theft. If someone takes my content without my permission, especially content that drives income to me, and pays for the roof over my head, that’s stealing on many levels. If they put it on a site stuffed with income producing ads, that’s even worse as they are taking more than just my content and potential income, but generating money with it that I will never see. I think that is serious theft. Luckily, enough people understood that I wasn’t making a legal stand but a personal one, and now the phrase “content theft” is used universally to describe the online piracy that is plagiarism and scraping. Long ago I cleared out those inflammatory and useless discussions.

So many things frustrate me about that article. It’s too long, has too much information, and way too many useless comments and trackbacks. My first task will be to go through those and clear out the crap. I don’t want to, but I need to shrink down the size and increase the relevancy of the conversation. The thank yous are wonderful, though not helpful. The naysayers were helpful sometimes, but the bitchers and whiners and those arguing law for the sake of some point that isn’t important are time wasters. There are over 700 comments on that post. I fear the amount of time cleaning out the comments is going to take on this post, but it’s necessary.

The content, that’s a bigger problem. I need to update the information, links, and streamline the delivery. Many tell me to break it up into an article series, but several other related but kind of unhelpful articles get a huge amount of traffic which in turn drives traffic to that post, but they are also distractions, forcing people to work harder to get to the information they need. Breaking it up means diluting that effort even more.

For that post, I think I’m going to work with my dear friend, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today to help me edit and update the article. Yeah, for teamwork and partnerships! Another way of putting me on the path back to productive and creative work!

Horse Sex and What's Dictating Your Content - From past to 2010 all times stats as most popular postsHorse Sex and What is Dictating Your Blog’s Content” offers a more unique challenge, and a secret glee that bubbles in my chest whenever I tell the story behind the article.

The article was written after the first full year a huge regional newspaper in the Pacific Northwest had access to detailed stats and the beginnings of what would become web analytics. They had most of their news now online and wanted to track the responses to the content in order to form their next year’s editorial content. Newspapers, in particular, rarely get to test the waters to accurately measure audience response. With the numbers in hand, they could really see what their readers wanted and offer it up to them.

Unfortunately, the number one article, FAR above the rest, was a single paragraph filler piece that they thought about not doing, but added it at the last minute. It was a news brief on a man in Eastern Washington who died after having sex with a horse.

If they were only into the numbers, the number was so far off the charts, they would have devoted their entire newspaper to horse sex. Luckily, as the editor explained in an editorial, they had some moral fiber and realized that while the bean counters might be thrilled, the response from the majority of their readers would not appreciate the editorial content shift.

Horse Sex keyword search at the top for multiple years of stats.With web stats moving from complex and confusing data to simple and specific statistics and analytics, I thought this was a great lesson in how to read the stats, but also take into account your own moral fiber and goals. Just because a word or two is driving mass volumes of traffic to your site, do you really want your site to be about horse sex?

I thought this would be an amazing discussion and released the post eager to talk about it. Nothing happened. In those days, 50-100 visitors to a page was a big deal. In the first week, the post got 7 hits for the whole week. Not sure if it was a slow week or holiday, but literally no one was interested and no comments.

A month went by and I forgot about it, only to find it suddenly in the top ten of the brand new WordPress.com Stats WordPress Plugin I was testing on . Finally, a chance to have some dialog with people who are thinking the same way as I am about the new stats.

No comments. Nothing. Just high volume of traffic.

Then I realized that it also had the highest bounce rate. I showed it to my husband who laughed and said, “Of course it does. There are no pictures. You should add some.” NOT.

Andy Skelton, developer of the WordPress.com Stats Plugin, asked me if I wanted the post taken out of the tracking for the stats on WordPress.com. I own horse sex, horses sex, sex with horses, and related words on WordPress.com and, for many years, top ranked on Google and other search engines. Andy said he was tired of seeing it in the top 100 blog posts on WordPress.com, so he blocked it from there, which was perfectly fine by me. I thought about his request for a long time, and flip the decision around even today, but a little part of me likes it.

The story is a perfect example of what the newspaper editors faced. I’ve learned invaluable lessons from this. Here is a post that totally screws up my analytics, and invites a lot of people (disappointed people) to my site that will never convert into a solid reader base. It drives up bandwidth, server loads, and wastes a lot of time for those determined to learn more on a subject I can’t help them with. It’s a testimony to why you shouldn’t blog about anything if you don’t want just anyone to show up. It’s led me to write articles such as Give Back To Blog Experts on the Blog Herald and Blogging Tips: Writing Purposeful Content on ProBlogger. I use it as a lesson in many of my workshops and training programs, so the article is still of value, as are the lessons it represents.

Or is it? Maybe it’s time to update it with some new updates and advice for better understanding how analytics works and how to interpret it for content development and editorial planning. Then again, since it doesn’t have pictures, would anyone read it.

Ah, it’s fun to go back memory lane with your old content and be inspired again.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

12 Comments

  1. Posted September 10, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I started writing online content in 1989. I’ve kept some of my old content and wished I had kept all (or at least more) of it. It is a great trip down memory lane, also a resource to find new topics to write about from my old research and opinions. It makes me a bit sad to read something old and then look up the person or site I had talked to then but find them long gone. I, sometimes, find them again through Twitter or Facebook or something and then I really like to see what they are doing now, how things changed and grew in their experiences online.

    I’ve never changed my old stuff. But I have taken parts of them and created a new post from the basic idea. A little seasoning gives flavour after all.

    • Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Old content is always a great resource to cull from for future content. After all, there hasn’t been a truly original idea in a long time. :D I love your seasoning reference, as that is exactly what they are. Excellent.

  2. Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Welcome back. You’re already giving me posting ideas, one of which I used the other day. I may have to start a posting to-do list. ;)

  3. Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    The main reason why SEO experts tell you not to cull old content is because most people “clean up” old content with the DELETE key. Imagine how much traffic you’d lose if you deleted your top 10 most popular posts! Many writers do that. So many, it’s good advice to tell people to leave their old posts alone.

    The other mistake many people make is to retitle previously successful posts. They also go further and delete the crucial keywords from the body. By doing this, the article is no longer a gateway to your blog. Lastly, people who overly focus on their old content do not produce new content. Blogs without new content aren’t attracting many subscribers.

    Most people can’t generate 2000 posts about a single topic. If I get a client who can write 20 posts about what they do for a living, that’s a very easy client to work with.

  4. Posted September 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Why do Bloggers have struggle? The thing that is most cumbersome regarding blogs and bloggers is the reduncacy of information and lack of original information.
    So much of the blog world is drivel. Everyone and their dog is writing a blog. Sifting through the the garbage to find something interesting and worth taking time to read is a chore and let’s face it…internet surfers live in the land of instant. easy. now.
    Information has got to be relevant.
    I don’t even mind poor writing if someone has something to say.
    Good writing though will always bring me back. But with busy lives, time spent reading something of no value is just a waste of cyber space.
    I like this Lorelle blog site. It has good relevant information and actually has a purpose .
    I came across a brilliant blogger, great writer, who is Intelligent and informed. I read it for a couple of weeks but soon he bored me. He was entertaining but I need more than mild entertainment in this world of entertainment. So bloggers…analyze yourselves. WHAT are you writing and is anyone actually interested? Does anyone actually think your opinion is worth reading on a regular basis? You might be better off writing about what you know. Dog grooming, gardening or something with your own audience. I will quit now before I bore you.

  5. Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t all have to be about opinions. There are endless facts out there, nuances and tidbits. One new piece of information can be greatness without a lot of fluff or opinions added. You must be reading a lot of blogs about blogging, those get very repetitive pretty quick. I mix it up with a lot of niche blogs, outside the topic of blogging. Or, like Lorelle’s WordPress blog which does well with original content, facts and opinion about more than blogging in general.

  6. wendy
    Posted September 11, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Thatgirl…yes there are some good blogs out there, tons.This is the FIRST blog I have read that is on ‘blogging’. What I have noticed is that MOST blogs are opinions. I love opinions and views. My website is all about ‘views’ but news orientated.
    So much is regurgitated on the net though that it gets tedious, blogs, twitters etc and not much that is fresh. Like I said I found a brilliant blogger but even he runs out of material and gets bogged down in the usual drivel, albeit it is written very well.
    People these days have little time and choose 1 or 2 blogs and faithfully read them. That is good. Choosing those blogs and sifting through blogs is the tedious part. How to find good blogs. I put a few really good bloggers on my site but I am always looking for great bloggers…a hard search

  7. Posted September 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    old content is only old to those that have already read it but millions of new people travel about cyber space and stumble onto blogs. That content is new to THEM. If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it, rule
    In saying that I am always reading new stuff and have gotten past reading humour…which seems to be very popular but I enjoy content that is useful. opinions are always good, depending on the writer, because it gives me an idea of the pulse of the nation.

  8. Posted September 29, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your candid insight Lorelle. I hear you. I look back at some of the posts that I have published on my blog back when I was just learning about WordPress, SEO, social media, and web development in general and I’m shocked of my limited knowledge base. I guess it’s time to start doing some Fall cleaning. I needed the reminder!

  9. Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    “Categories are your table of contents for your site and tags are your index words.”

    That’s new information … fully in tune with your “give them the words” musing. I had finally figured out the categories = TOC part, but still didn’t understand the purpose (however limited) of tags. Programmers adopt particular mind-sets which they are quite inarticulate to explain. They make think the explanations obvious or they may simply be out of touch with the Rosetta stone between geek-speak and street-speak.

    I agree that the copyright post should be broken up and probably all but the most informative dozen comments excised, but I still don’t understand what WP means by “articles”. Are these simply the separate components of a series?

    • Posted December 11, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      WordPress does not use the term “articles” officially for anything. A post is a post. A series of posts is a series of posts. The references to articles and article series are mine. Thanks for your input.

  10. Posted October 2, 2011 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    [...] Blog Struggles: I Need an Eraser for My Old Posts « Lorelle on WordPress [...]


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] after reading a post by Lorelle VanFossen, Blog Struggles: I Need an Eraser for My Old Posts, relating to redoing old posts, I got to thinking that there were a couple of old blogs that I need [...]

  2. [...] If you are having trouble writing new posts, why not clean up your old posts? [...]

  3. [...] Blog Struggles: I Need an Eraser for My Old Posts [...]

  4. [...] May 2010 I admitted to the world that I needed to go back and erase my old [...]

  5. […] after reading a post by Lorelle VanFossen, Blog Struggles: I Need an Eraser for My Old Posts, relating to redoing old posts, I got to thinking that there were a couple of old blogs that I need […]

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