You never know when an old post will revive itself and become one of the most popular posts on your blog at the moment. I’ve had this happen many times. Sometimes, it’s expected. More often not. In the beginning, it would send me into a panic, just another of my many blog struggles.
I will never forget in November of 2006, we’d survived the a year of non-stop hurricanes, massive cross country travel, deaths in the family, and now, another cross planet move to a new working base. We’d driven for three days with little sleep, hauling our truck and trailer and car from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to Tulsa, Oklahoma, arriving an hour before Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s huge family. We raced to the shower and, hair wet but bodies clean for the first time in four days, sat down at the overladen table ravenous, competing with the hungry adults and dozen children for home cooked food.
A few hours of food and chasing tired children around the house, I ducked out to check my blogs to see how things had been over the past four days out of contact with virtual civilization.
It took some work to get Lorelle on WordPress up as it kept giving me errors. Finally it loaded and I had dozens of comments waiting for me, mostly just saying thank you for the great information. What information?
It seemed that during our long drive and disconnect from the web, an article that had never gotten much attention, written the year before, was suddenly off the charts with popularity. It had been dug by Digg, bookmarked by several new social bookmarking sites, and had so much traffic, the new Blog Statistics chart WordPress.com had just introduced was having trouble keeping up. As was WordPress.com.
Within a few days, the traffic was back to normal, but I spent two days in a panic between family events and preparing to pack everything for shipment to Oregon as my husband and his father left to haul the truck and trailer westward, and I, with one of the cats, was to fly to Seattle for a conference and meet up later in our new residence, and updating and monitoring this hot old blog post.
I cleaned it up, made sure the outdated information was updated, and that it still said what I needed it to say. I added new related posts, and monitored all of the comments, cleaning out the useless ones and responding to questions. I was exhausted, but laughing. I never thought anyone would ever pay attention to this year old article, let alone have it strike Digg gold. Sheesh. Leave the blog alone for a minute and boom! Massive traffic.
When An Old Post Becomes New Again
I’ve written about how old posts become new again such as when My Tech Talk featured another of my past posts from 2005, Learning About Blogging and How to Blog, turning it into a new gateway post on my blog. There is real value in cleaning up old posts to keep them bringing in new visitors. They are doors through which anyone searching can find your blog and uncover the wealth you’ve written now, and in the past.
There are several ways to keep up with old posts. I tend to use them all.
Regular Maintenance of Old Posts
While I’m not as consistent about my regular blog maintenance as I tell you to be, I do select one to five posts a month to “clean up“. These are usually the blog posts that I think have value and are often found through search engine results, bringing in a steady stream of visitors.
I go through the post, checking links, language, styles, and make sure it is still relevant and up-to date. I’ve changed the look of my blog rarely, but there are still some blog posts with the old style post layout, which I update to make match the rest of the posts.
Most importantly, I go through my blog to update the list of Related Posts, a list I create manually by searching for relevant content from within my blog and add to the list. Some of the past related posts aren’t as related as other newer posts, so I clean out the old and add the new, making sure the old post serves as a good gateway to my blog, and holds some interesting paths elsewhere to deeper content within my blog.
When a Blog Post is Hot: Clean It Up
Without a doubt, the best time to clean up an old blog post is when everyone is looking at it. If you find one of your past posts suddenly getting attention, then rush to it, edit and clean it up so it only gives the best of what you got on your blog.
I call it the panic method of maintaining your old blog posts, but if it is suddenly in the spotlight, make sure it looks its best and is a wide open door to the rest of your blog content.
When You Feature a Past Post
As I write on my blog, on guest blogs, and on other venues such as my regular stint at the Blog Herald, I will often link back to my past posts to make a point or direct the reader to more information.
Um, shouldn’t I check first to make sure the past post still says what I need it to say and that it still provides up-to-date information and links to support the current article I’m writing?
For me, there are few things worse than making a recommendation only to find out that the information is out-of-date or the link is broken. ARGH! So it pays to check first before including the past post in your recommendations.
Why Should I Bother With Old Posts?
When I bring up the issue of maintaining the integrity of your past posts, I’m always confronted by someone who says, “Why bother?” and “It’s too much work. I can barely keep up with writing new content.”
Why? Because old posts are the gateway to your blog. It’s that simple.
They exist, and often have more PageRank points because of their age and the number of incoming links. New posts rarely have many incoming links which build over time. They certainly don’t have the respect of time. A new post may even take minutes or days to get properly indexed by the various popular search engines, even though Google may find it in minutes. Don’t forget, Google ain’t the only game in town. An old post is already in the ranks, just waiting for its turn at the search engine spin.
You never know when a blog post will suddenly catch someone’s interest. You never know when a blog post will be the post of the town. So it pays to keep them cleaned up and updated, even if you do so after the fact.