This post is based on episode 234 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Today I want to answer a question I get regularly from listeners: How do you relaunch a blog that’s died or become dormant?
I’ll lay out two scenarios for relaunching a blog, and then give you 11 things to consider during a relaunch.
Last week a ProBlogger reader asked for advice on how to relaunch their blog, which had been dormant for the past year. (They took a 12-month break from blogging.)
This is something many of us bloggers have to deal with at different times. There have been times where I’ve put my own blogs on hold – not ProBlogger or Digital Photography School, but other blogs I’ve put on hold that I may need to relaunch one day.
So it’s something I’ve thought about numerous times, and talked other bloggers through it as well.
Maybe your blog became dormant for family reasons. Maybe a health crisis forced you to put things on hold for a while. Or you may have simply lost the motivation or passion to keep the blog going.
Whatever the reason, many blogs have a period where they slow down (if not stop completely).
The first step in reawakening your blog is to thinking about where you and your blog are at right now. There’s no one piece of advice I can give you here, but assessing how you and your blog are will help you to determine what to do next.
And then you need to answer three questions about yourself.
1. Why did your blog become dormant? Why did you stop blogging?
These are important questions to answer, because it will help you avoid the same thing happening again down the track.
2. What are your dreams and goals for the blog?
It’s really important to revisit them, because they may have changed since you first started blogging. Getting back to your ‘Why?’ will help you become more realistic about what you do this time around.
3. Do you want the blog to have the same topic or focus?
You may think your blog is great, and that you want to just keep doing what you were doing. But you may also want to tweak things a little bit. (I’ll be talking about pivoting your blog soon.)
Having answered those three questions, it’s now time to answer some questions about your blog.
1. How long has your blog been inactive?
The answer to this question will help determine how you relaunch it. If it’s only a month then you can probably get back to blogging pretty quickly. But if it’s been a year or more, the strategies you use will probably be different.
If your blog has been dormant for five years you’ll probably want to do some redesign, update the archives, or even change the technology you use.
2. How much traffic does your blog still have?
Dig into your Google Analytics account (or set it up if you don’t have one) and work out if you still have any traffic.
I looked at one of my old blogs the other day and discovered it was still getting a thousand visitors a day. And they were all coming in from Google.
Is your blog still getting traffic? Where’s it coming from – search engines, social media, other sites?
Do you have a post or page that’s still performing really well? A lot of bloggers with dormant blogs tell me they have one post in their archives that’s going really well. Knowing what that post or page is can really help as you think about moving forward. It might be a good starting place to do some analysis, do some updating, and think about leveraging it in some way.
Of course, if you don’t have any traffic you can skip this question.
3. How many followers do you have on social media?
Do you have social media accounts set up? How many followers do you have? What platforms generated the most activity?
4. What about your email list?
You can ask the same question about your blog’s email subscribers. How many does it have? Are any of them new, or are they all years old?
Knowing about the health of your social media and email subscribers is important. Are they warm? Has automation kept those subscribers and followers warm and connected, or have they gone cold? The answer will shape your strategy for warming up your list again.
5. Is the current domain still relevant?
This question is probably only relevant if you’re thinking of changing your blog’s topic or focus.
Okay, so we’ve asked you to answer questions about yourself and your blog. Now it’s time to answer an important question about your niche.
What’s the current state of play in the niche you’re operating in?
If it’s been a couple of years since you blogged, you might want to find out what other people are doing in your niche. Who are the big bloggers? Who are the big social media influencers? What are other bloggers doing at the moment? Have they changed tech? Are they using different mediums? Are they all doing podcasts now? Are they all on video? Where’s the action happening for them in terms of social media?
This can help you work out where you should be doing things. Of course, you shouldn’t just copy what everyone else is doing. But you may find a gap or an opportunity you could take advantage of. It can help you decide how you should be engaging with people in terms of social media. You may even find an emerging trend in your niche or industry you could latch onto.
For example, in the past four or five years we’ve seen new types of cameras and drone photography emerging in the photography space. If I was relaunching my photography blog I’d probably focuses on these new cameras and technologies because things have changed over the years.
Having answered these questions about you, your blog and your niche, hopefully one of two scenarios will emerge.
The first scenario is realizing you were already on the right track with your blog, and that you were simply interrupted by something. Your blog is relatively healthy, and you just want to get back to it.
This is obviously the easiest scenario, but there’s still some advice I’d encourage you to consider.
Pay Attention to Your Content
To shorten the re-growth time for your blog, look at the content you’ve already published that’s still working, or has worked in the past.
Update and republish the posts that are still getting traffic. Put a new date on them (providing it doesn’t change the URL), then put them back up as fresh content and leverage them to get some new subscribers.
Write some follow-up content on those topics. Repurpose your good content into a different medium such as video or audio.
And think about how you can expand on your good content. If you’ve got a category that’s still getting traffic, focus more on that category.
Pay Attention To Your Archives
Just don’t start writing new content all the time. A lot of bloggers now pay as much attention to their archives as they do to new content. By all means write new content for your relaunch, but you should also update your archives. Try to alternate between writing a new post and updating an old one.
Pay Attention to Your Readers
Now it’s time to warn up your old followers, subscribers, and readers. Because if your blog has been dormant for a while then your email list and social media following are both going to be pretty cold.
They might remember you. They might still think highly of you. But they might also be a bit frustrated that you haven’t updated your blog for so long. They may even be wondering if you’re still alive and healthy, or whether you’re still interested in them and their topic.
So how do you warm them up again?
If you’ve been gone for a while, you might need to explain your absence. This might be a good time to do a video post about what’s been happening during the past last 12 months (or however long you’ve been away). If your absence was health related you may not want to go into great detail. But telling your story may actually help reconnect with your audience.
Now’s a good time to create something to give your readers as a gift. If you’re sending something to your new email subscribers, send it to your old subscribers as well just to say, “Thanks for sticking around”.
Another option is to launch a content series that challenges your readers to do something. Use live video, images, or something else that’s a bit more personal to warm up your readers.
But above all, you need to start creating content again. The best way to relaunch your blog, particularly if you’re just picking up where you left off, is to be as useful as possible to your readers.
The second scenario is realizing you need to change direction.
Maybe you you lost your passion for the topic. Maybe the niche changed. Or maybe your blog wasn’t working in some way.
Whatever the reason, if you start blogging again without changing anything, chances are you won’t last very long.
If you haven’t been blogging for a few years, you’ll probably find your niche has changed quite a bit. And you may have trouble connecting with your readers if you keep blogging the way you did.
It might be time to consider pivoting your blog by changing your topic, perspective, medium or audience (or even a combination of them).
Change Your Topic
If you want to change your topic completely you’re probably better off starting a new blog than relaunching your old one. Maybe you had a photography blog, and now want to start a blog about blogging. Maybe you had a fashion blog, and now want to blog about travel. Unless your domain name is relevant to both topics, you should probably start a new blog.
But chances are your pivot will actually be more like a tweak. Here are a few ways you can tweak your topic to bring you new life for your blog.
Narrow Your Topic
Donna Moritz (who we talked to in Episode 117 of the ProBlogger podcast) ‘pivoted’ her blog by narrowing her focus. She used to have a blog about social media that wasn’t much different to every other blog about social media. So Donna decided to focus on the topic of visual content in social media such as infographics and images.
Donna soon became known as one of the key people with expertise in visual content for social media. Narrowing her focus helped her stand out from all the other social media blogs.
Ask yourself whether there’s a category in your old blog you should focus on when you relaunch. (Hint: Look at any categories that are still getting lots of traffic.) By doing that you can become the expert in that particular field.
Broaden Your Topic
You can also take the opposite approach. If your previous topic was too narrow, try broadening it. For example, a blog about printers could be broadened to include other related technology topics.
Change Your Perspective – Voice
Another thing you can try is using a different voice.
I talked a little bit about voice in episode 213 of the podcast, so I won’t go into great depth here. But in that episode, I reference five voices Jeff Goins says you can use for any topic:
- the professor who teaches
- the artist who brings out the beauty in their topic
- the prophet who tells the cold, hard truth and busts myths
- the journalist who is curating and gathering ideas and putting them together in stories
- the celebrity, the one that everyone wants to know your opinion.
But you can use your own voices as well. You could be:
- the companion who journeys with people around a topic
- the mentor
- the entertainer
- the reviewer
- the curator
- the storyteller
- the guide
- the teacher
- the thought leader.
Whatever voices you come up with, try and bring some of them into your blogging.
Change Your Perspective – Intent
Another way to change your perspective is by changing the intent of your content.
If your blog was about bringing the latest news to your readers, you could pivot and make it more of an opinion blog. You’re still talking about the news, but now you’re adding your opinion. It’s a slightly different intent, and chances are you’ll also have a slightly different voice.
My original photography blog used to be a review blog. I was reviewing cameras, and I got completely sick of it. So I decided to pivot that blog and start teaching people how to use their cameras. I changed my domain, updated the older content, and Digital Photography School was born.
That was a big pivot for me. But you might just want to tweak your voice, or add new types of posts to sit alongside the old ones.
Change the Medium
If your blog was mainly written content, you might want start using audio, video or more visual content when you relaunch it.
It could be a complete shift. You may switch from writing a blog to having a podcast or video blog. Or you might just want to add the new medium to what you’re already doing. You could even experiment with a mix of mediums.
Change the Audience
The final way to pivot is to start serving a different demographic – something I’ve seen a number of bloggers do this quite successfully.
It’s similar to narrowing your focus. But instead of blogging for everyone, you blog for a particular demographic.
For example, instead of just offering general travel advice, you might focus on travel advice for retirees, families, single women or gay men. Writing about your topic for a particular audience will make your content much more useful to to them.
Narrowing your potential audience may sound dangerous. But your content will be much more focused, making it more attractive to anyone in that demographic. Just keep in mind you may also need to redesign your blog and your branding.
However you choose to pivot your blog, you may find that it reignites your passion for what you’re doing. Rather than going back to the same old routine, you get to try something new.
Once you’ve worked out if and how you’re going to pivot, you’ll probably need to consider other factors. I recommend taking our free Start a Blog Course to make sure you’re across them all and relaunching your blog with a strong foundation.
And finally, here are 11 other things I’d focus on if I was relaunching my blog. (Most of these are in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Course.)
1. Think about your goals and objectives for your blog going forward
What are you trying to achieve with the blog? Where do you want it to take you? Are you trying to generate income? Are you trying to open up opportunities such as landing a job or a book deal?
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve will help inform how you design your site and create your content.
2. Think about how your blog will change you readers’ lives
For me, the key to success is having a blog that will change people’s lives. Knowing what you want to achieve is one thing, but what do you want your readers to achieve?
3. Come up with lots of ideas for content
Many bloggers abandon their blogs because they run out of ideas. Before you relaunch your blog, spend as much time as you can generating ideas for content. Map out the next few weeks, months and years. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers mapping out a year’s worth of content ahead of time.
4. Build your archives up and build on your archives.
If you’re restarting your blog with minor changes, think carefully about your previous content. Audit what’s in your archives, and delete anything that no longer serves your readers.
Identify the top 10-20 posts that are still getting any traffic and:
- make them more visually appealing
- make them more scannable
- optimize them for search engine optimization.
Think about the calls to action you have to get new subscribers. Could you do a follow-up post? Could you add a link to further reading? Could you repurpose the content in some way?
5. Plan your editorial calendar
Now that you’ve brainstormed all those ideas, when will you publish them? How often will you publish? What mediums will you use?
You might want to come up with a weekly format. A tips article on Monday, an audio post on Tuesday, a link post on Wednesday, a review on Thursday, etc.
You don’t necessarily need to post every day. But think about the types of posts you are going to publish. By putting topics alongside them in a calendar you’ll have an editorial calendar.
This is really important, particularly if you gave up blogging because you had issues with planning.
6. Analyse where your readers are coming from
If you’ve already got readers coming in, find out where they’re coming from. And think about how you’ll grow your readership. Could you do some guest posting? Should you be interacting in forums or Facebook groups? How can you be useful in these places? Who else do you want to network with in your niche?
7. Decide what social networks you’ll focus on
Chances are there are more social media platforms than there were when you stopped blogging. What are the new ones like? Could they provide new opportunities for you? Have the people in your niche moved from one to another?
Decide which ones you’ll focus on (choose one or two), and register all the accounts you need. Then come up with a strategy as to how you’ll use those social networks going forward.
8. Start creating content
Focus on your pillar content first – the evergreen content you’ll build the rest of your blog around – because you’ll be referring to it constantly. It’s what you stand for. It’s your core teaching.
On Digital Photography School it’s my post around aperture, shutter speed and ISO – the three key components of photography.
As you relaunch your blog, look at your old pillar content and decide whether there’s any new content you need to write first. Believe me, it will pay off for years to come. So deliver as much value as you can with your early posts.
9. Think about your list
If you have a cold email list, how will you warm it up again? How often will you send emails? How will you the list going forward? And will you grow it?
10. Figure out your blog design
Blogs look different to how they used to look. Does you need an update? Do you need to change the logo? Do you need to lay it out differently? Is your blog responsive? With so many people looking at blogs on their mobile phones these days, you may need to refresh your blog design so it is.
11. Decide how you’ll use your time going forward
One reason so many bloggers abandon their blogs is they struggle to find a balance between blogging and everything else going on in their lives.
We all have a limited amount of time. But we can be more productive if we plan how we’ll use whatever time is available.
Make a list of what you need to do, and then look at how much time you have (whether it’s one hour a week or forty). Start prioritizing all the things you need to do, and then add them all to a calendar. This is exactly what I did, and I now have a weekly template. On Monday mornings I write content, and on Tuesday mornings I record a podcast. Knowing when things will happen has made me so much more productive.
Even if you’ve only got two or three hours a week, you can still fit a lot in if you plan how you’ll use your time.
Ultimately, the success of your relaunch will be determined by what you do over the coming months and years. It’s the accumulation of the content you create, the value and usefulness you deliver, and the engagement you have with your readers. So make them a priority.
Create content. Promote yourself. Engage with your readers. Create value.
The 31 Days to Build a Better Blog course is designed to help bloggers kickstart their blogs, whether they’re new, established, or being relaunched. And if you’re about to put a lot of effort into relaunching your blog, the course will help you direct that effort and make your relaunch a success.
Image credit: Nick Jio