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Blog Exercises: Clean Up Your Most Popular Posts

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.“It’s dated 2008. It must be useless.”

This was the response to an article I tweeted out recently. Yes, the article was dated 2008. Did that mean it wasn’t a valid, timely, and invaluable resource?

It was, but that’s not the point. Some people equate old with useless. With the aging population gaining the majority around the world, we need to change our attitude about aging, so let’s start with blog posts.

The most popular post on my site continues to be “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content.” Written in 2006, people still find value in the words, even if they now refer to it as “old” or “dated.” With more than 600 comments and endless trackbacks, it continues to help thousands of people every year understand that they are not alone when it comes to copyright violations and content theft, and that there are things they can do. Those steps have not changed in 7 years. The law regarding the rights of intellectual property moves very low.

I’ve gotten flack for many posts I’ve written and “Cleaning Up Old Posts, The Gateway to Your Blog” on The Blog Herald was no exception. What I thought was a simple site maintenance topic became a rip-roaring argument around the web. There is a solid mind-set that old posts are junk posts, forgotten and ignored purposefully. Only recent content matters. Fixing old stuff is a waste of time. Put all your energy into new content.

In this Blog Exercise, we’re going to be wasting time cleaning up old posts.

Blog exercises such as the monthly Random Editing Day and others call for you to dig into your publishing past, “putting things right, that once went wrong,” to paraphrase from the television show, Quantum Leap.

In my classes and workshops, I ask the participants to identify the most popular entry point to a website. The majority answer with the front page. While it may be true for some sites, for the majority the correct answer is any web page on the site. Specifically, it is the most popular posts on the site.

Any article on your site could be the source someone needs to get their question answered. Any article. Popular or not. Editing and updating every post on your site is tedious and boring, so focus on the ones most likely to be a gateway to your site. Keep your most popular posts updated.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to check your site’s stats for the top 10 most popular posts and edit and update them if necessary.

Your top 10 may flux from week to week or may stay consistent. Choose the top 5-10 for this week to edit. Depending upon the age and condition of the article content, it may take 30 seconds to 30 minutes for each post. Hopefully the entire task will take you less than 30 minutes.

In the Random Editing Day exercise I listed some tips to help you edit the randomly selected articles. Apply these to your editing process. Look for spelling errors, dead links, images that need updating, and adjusting the voice and flow of content to match your current style.

As you explore each one, consider the statistics associated with each post. The WordPress.com Stats WordPress Plugin and stats for WordPress.com allow you to see the entire history of a single post. I took a look at “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content,” one of the most consistently popular posts on my site.

Ignoring the occasional spikes that article tends to attract, the average visits to that article are 37,000 a year. That breaks down to 100 people a day entering my site through that article. Keeping that article updated helps maybe half of them directly. That’s 50 people a day helped. Fifty people receive the answer to their query, get the confidence they need to do the right thing in response to content theft, and possibly 50 hearts changed from miserable to positive.

When I look at it that way, I think about all the jobs I could have in this world, what could bring greater joy than one so easy to bring answers and assurance to 50 people every day. For them, I keep that post updated.

Your most popular posts are the doors to your site. They welcome people on a regular basis. Let them feel welcome. Encourage them to tour your entire virtual home, finding comfort in all the rooms. Let them rest a while here and there and know this is a safe and comfortable place to return for more.

If you choose to blog about this subject, remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

9 Comments

  1. kdmarshall
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle

    I’ve been following your blog exercises. This one I started a little while ago after looking at my google analytics and seeing that people were reading stuff I’d written two, three years ago.
    Great advice!

    Thanks
    Keith

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      You are welcome. Isn’t it amazing how something you said years ago still matters today? :D

  2. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Great post. Good stuff here. Now, I get the pingbacks and links to the old posts, but what if you just want to republish some really old posts? Is it as simple as just changing the date of pubication?

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      You should not change the date of publication as that will break links to the original posts. How to handle these are coming up next month. In brief, the basic policies are to clean it up then blog about updating the post, promote it in social media, include it in a new article series, rewrite a new version and point to the old (updating the information on the new post rather than just the old one), and featuring old posts in a “blast from the past” series of posts. Many different ways to bring them back to life and to the attention of your readers without republishing, which is considered bad form.

      Thanks!

  3. Posted February 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a great suggestion. I started my blog back in 2004, but forgot about it for a few years while I was in school. Back in August 2012, I decided to revive the site and started out by editing the collection of articles that already existed on the site. Even though I had written them almost ten years before, a lot of the information was still applicable, they just needed a bit of a refresh.

    • Posted February 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      @Shannon,

      Didn’t you find some new energy and enthusiasm coming out of the effort? I find ideas percolate and start flowing while editing old posts, uncovering gems withing gems.

    • Posted February 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. Going through my old articles gave me the opportunity to really see what I was missing as far as content, giving me the opportunity to brainstorm ideas to cover them. It also provided me with the chance to rewrite some “okay” content to make it much more useful and applicable.

    • Posted February 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      @Shannon:

      Love it! I am always stunned when I hear “professional” bloggers say they ignore their old content. I find it such a great way to motivate and inspire myself. Good for you!

  4. Mary
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I agree. Some of the most interesting posts I find on other people’s blogs are dated years ago. Just because some content is “old” doesn’t take away the truth in it.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Blog Exercises: Clean up your Most Popular Posts This is a good thing to do monthly or quarterly. […]

  2. […] Blog Exercises: Clean Up Your Most Popular Posts […]

  3. […] the gateway to your site is rarely the front page any more. Search engines and incoming links direct visitors to a single […]

  4. […] I introduced tracking Statistics and Web Analytics in these blog exercises last month, pointing you to “Web Statistics and Analytics Glossary” to help you learn the terminology. We’ve also had blog exercises on stats and traffic analysis to help you know when you publish your posts, help you define and identify your audience, and how to identify and maximize the gateway to your site through your most popular posts. […]

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