This is a guest post by Jay Douglas.
In the blogging world, managing and maintaining your old content is the digital equivalent of cleaning out your rain gutters. You know you need to do it, but something else is always more urgent. Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the more risks you accumulate. And like the day you notice costly water damage, failure to maintain your blog can come back to haunt you.
In this article, I’ll talk about proper blog maintenance, which is important for any online business with a blog. I’ll cover why this is so important and how to go about it. Let’s get started!
Why Should You Care About Old Blog Posts?
It’s easy to forget about a blog post you wrote last year or even several years ago. It was a great post at the time but now, it’s had its day. Why bother focusing on it again? Poorly maintained content may actually be costing you revenue or worse. Here are some important reasons why:
- Brand image: You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression; if your customers or prospects find outdated information on your site, they’re likely to view you as untrustworthy.
- Liability: Your blog, by definition, is a set of public statements by you or your business. Depending on the business you are in, outdated information could actually expose you to legal or financial liability.
- Bad for SEO: Old blog posts that are outdated and irrelevant are now useless and are simply poor quality content. It’s taking up space and has no value. Search engines don’t like poor quality content and having it on your site may actually decrease your rankings.
- Loss of revenue: Old blog posts may still be getting traffic and this is a complete waste of potential revenue you could make use of. Why turn away good traffic? You should try to recycle these old posts, turning them into revenue makers, which I’ll cover more on below.
Let’s Not Be Too Hasty to Delete…
OK, so now you may be concerned about all those old posts lying around on your blog and anxious to start deleting them all. Keep in mind that old content can be an asset you are failing to exploit. Here are some of the ways your old content can be (and may already be) an asset to your business:
- Traffic: Some of your old content may have been widely shared, and may have a lot of incoming links from other websites. These “oldies but goodies” might be key traffic drivers, and could be even more so if they were refreshed/updated.
- Renewed relevance: Some topics are cyclical (like boom/bust cycles in the economy). You may have a blog gathering dust that becomes highly relevant again and only requires a small amount of editing to become a compelling, new blog entry.
- Cost/value: Updating old content is typically easier and faster than creating new content. You may save time and money on your blogging efforts by refreshing some of the old stuff. This is especially true if your blogging topics tend to be “evergreen” rather than highly topical.
What to Do?
So old blog posts are bad, yet they can also be beneficial? Confusing, right? Here’s what you can do. You want to maximize every blog post by either updating it or recycling it. Some of your old blog posts may simply be a little outdated and a quick refresh can bring it all up to date:
Refresh the Good Stuff
Re-edit the content to make it relevant and timely:
- Check and correct references to public figures who have changed titles, retired, passed away, etc.
- Delete or edit references to defunct businesses, technologies, etc.
- Update references to “current” cultural and political trends, especially “of-the-moment” trends in fashion, humor, etc.
- Clean up time-based references that are relative to the post date (“it’s been 2 years since…” etc.)
- Change tense where applicable (e.g. change “is” to “was”).
- Consider adding a blurb at the top of the blog to note the update.
Tune up the SEO:
- Add in newly relevant keywords where possible. There may be new terms that are relevant to your content now that were not in use when you first posted.
- Update on-page optimization where applicable (meta-description, image alt tags, etc.).
- Consider adding new images to update the visual appeal, especially the thumbnail. This may draw in people who have read the old content but pass over the new version because they associate the image with the old content.
- Consider publishing in a second format, e.g. a video version. Two versions are better than one.
Recycle the Bad Stuff
There may be some old blog posts that are just no longer relevant and beyond saving. If you have blog posts like these, then you may want to consider deleting them. However, you might still be able to benefit from them. Write a brand new blog post that is somewhat related to your old, useless one. Then delete your old one, but 301 redirect the URL of your old post to the URL of your new one.
Promote the “New” Old Content
Now that you know what to do with your old blog posts, it’s time to start promoting them again!
- Repost updated blogs. Don’t be shy about treating the “old” content just like the new stuff. It will be new to much of your audience.
- Use your taxonomy to link your refreshed content with your more recent posts. You can categorize your old (updated) blogs so they show up alongside your new blogs as related content
- Promote the strong performers. Don’t assume it’s repetitive to your audience. Again, many people in your audience might not have seen the original version. Push it out on social media, etc.
Here are a few tips that will help you manage your content efficiently, reduce risk, and reap maximum benefits from your blogging efforts:
Build Your Blog for the Long Term
Give your blogs a long shelf life with smart editorial choices:
- Emphasize “evergreen” content: focus on core aspects of your subject matter. Almost every subject has “fundamentals” that either don’t change or change only marginally over time.
- Avoid transient social trends (e.g. the latest fashion or music craze), if possible. Passing memes, fads, and trends can go from highly relevant to embarrassing in the blink of an eye.
- Emphasize absolute references over relative ones. For example, say “March of 2015” instead of “March of last year”, or “back in 2014” instead of “two years ago”.
Make your content easily searchable:
- Use metadata (keywords and meta-tags) on all your blogs. This not only improves SEO but also makes it easier for you to do maintenance.
- Create a content taxonomy. If you are using a blogging platform (such as WordPress), you can create a taxonomical structure to organize your content by topics and sub-topics. Think through the taxonomy up front and stick to it. This will improve your “related content” links on your blog and keep old blogs more visible.
Set an expiration date for your content:
- Set a global default expire date for all blog posts. This is not necessarily a trigger to delete them, only to put them in review. On most blogging platforms, this can be automated.
- Set a local expire date for blogs with a shorter shelf life (e.g. highly topical posts).
Create a Content Review/Refresh Process
- Do regular reviews: Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly—set a timetable for a review and evaluation of all expired content.
- Check your Google Analytics: Check for high and low page view performers among your blogs. Flag old blogs that are being frequently viewed for possible refresh or repost. Flag low performers for deletion.
- Check incoming links: Identify all links that point to your old posts and evaluate the links for quality and relevance. You’ll want to conserve posts with valuable backlinks. You’ll need to use a good backlink checker to find these, but it’s very important to keep old posts with good links. ALWAYS try to recycle them and don’t delete!
- Search-test your blog: Do searches on your blog with current, relevant keywords. Search trends change over time. Old blogs may show up in newly popular searches, and may be candidates for refresh/repost.
- Delete sparingly: Only delete posts that are irretrievably wrong, outdated, and damaging to your brand.
In the blogging world, what is old can become new again. So don’t be afraid to rummage through the attic of your blogs and clean it up! Proper blog maintenance is an important part of having a blog and is something that you must invest your time in.
About the Author: Jay Douglas
Jay is a web guru with nearly a decade of experience building and hosting websites of all kinds. He is an online consultant and founder of How To Get Online – helping small businesses learn about web technologies and getting their business online. Jay loves learning and he loves teaching. That’s what the Web is all about for him!