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Breathe Life Into an Old Post [Day 21 – 31DBBB]

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

Let me be a little presumptuous and blunt – not every post in the archives of your blog is up to scratch.

I know this because the statement is true of my own blogs.

No matter how hard we work on our blogging there are always things in the posts that we’ve previously written that can be improved upon. There are also posts in most of our archives that have simply under performed for some reason or another.

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to update an older post on your blog.

This is a little different to our previous task to update a key page/post on your blog (day 14) because in that task we were looking at important pages to your blog. In this one we’re looking for posts that you’ve written that for one reason or another are not up to scratch.

This might be because:

  • you rushed the initial writing of the post and was poorly written
  • your post lacked depth in some way
  • that the information is now dated
  • that you’ve changed your opinion on what you wrote
  • a key element in the post (like the title, formatting or opening lines) was poorly done
  • you were wrong with your post and it contains factual errors
  • because you know more now about the topic than you did when you first wrote it

Whatever the reason – today your task is to update at least one older post.

The update might be anything from a couple of tweaks through to a complete overhaul.

If the update is significant write a new post on your blog linking back to the old one to let readers know that it’s updated. You might also want to think about promoting it on Twitter, to other key bloggers in your niche etc.

7 Ways to Update a Post and Give it New Life

Below are 7 ways that you can update a post. These come from a series I wrote a few months back on ‘crafting blog posts‘ and while it is written from the perspective of crafting a new post I think that most of it can easily be applied to updating old posts too.

1. Crafting Your Post Title – if there’s one element that lets down posts more than others it is the post title. A title can mean the difference between a post being read or not. I’ve reworked the titles on a few old posts and seen them have new leashes of life simply because the title changed.

2. Opening Lines – your post title’s goal is to get people to read your opening line – but if you don’t have a great opening line people won’t read any further.

3. Call to Action – what do you want people to do when they’ve finished reading your post? In many cases bloggers simply let posts end in a whimper without giving readers a call to do anything. Posts that call to action give readers a ‘next step’.

4. Add Depth – many blog posts that I read would be made much more successful if the blogger just had spent a few extra minutes giving examples, adding an illustration, suggesting further reading, sharing an opinion etc. This post gives 13 ways to add depth to a post.

5. Quality Control – many posts (my own included) could be improved with a little extra proof reading. Also pay attention to links that may have become dead or facts that you present that are dated or inaccurate for current readers.

6. Polishing Posts – how your post looks has a massive impact upon how they are treated by readers. A great looking post can mean the difference between a post being read and going viral and a post that sits unnoticed in your archives.

7. Conversation – for many bloggers once a post is published it goes off the radar for the blogger despite readers interacting with it and commenting upon it for days, weeks, months and even years after.

Further Reading

Updating Old Posts On Your Blog – an exploration of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to update old posts. This explores the question of when to update an old post and when to write a new post that updates an older one.

Check out the discussion on this topic here in our forum.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. I disagree with this task to some degree.

    Whilst I agree that old posts are often outdated or rushed (although I always make sure my posts are of a personal standard before posting anyway, hence why I refrain from a strict schedule), I think that the archives of a blog show the natural progression of knowledge and modifying them is preying on the ego rather than achieving anything constructive. I guess it depends on what is more important to you… Having a valuable and in-depth resource, or simply having good google rankings. Yes they are not mutually exclusive but they definitely influence and effect each other! :)

    Basically, if you really don’t like/agree with an old post then delete it; if you have new ideas, then simply write a new version of the post with said ideas included as well as more thought in the titles etc.

    This will make your blog a much more compelling RESOURCE, rather than a google traffic engine! :)

    Sam

  2. NUMBER 2! :)

    Since my blog is now actually being read by more than 10 people a day, I’ve been dusting off some old posts and have been getting great responses. Should I mention that they are a revisited/revised/updated post? Usually at the end of the post I will note that portions were originally posted on such a date. What do you do?

  3. Interesting task set for today. I will be visiting the older posts of mine..but am in two mind on whether to edit the information on the posts. Will be recategorising some of them though so that it would be easier for my vistors to search for if they do intend to dabble into my archives.

  4. I agree with Samual to some extent – having older blog posts helps readers to see a natural progression of your blog, and it acts as a reference point for you as to what your thoguhts were at the time.

    Why not put together a new post that addresses what you perceieve to tbe the failings of the original post ie uptodate content, a diferent perspective, and ackowledge that you wanted to bring a new perspective to the original text?

    This gives your readers an insight into how you and your blog has developed as well as ofering genuinely fresh compelling content.

  5. Samuel – I take your point, it probably does come down to a persons approach to their blog to some degree.

    I think it depends upon the blog – for a blogger writing in a more personal style about what they think or what they feel about a topic I can definitely see where you’re coming from – but I think in many blogs it’d be different.

    For example – for me at my photography blog I have developed pages on certain topics within photography but over time small things change in the industry that make the posts a little dated – not completely dated…. but dated to the point that an extra paragraph would enhance them considerably. I mark these as ‘updates’ so people know I’ve changed something so the reader still has a sense of what the original post was like and how it’s been changed – but my hope is that the update makes the post a more valuable resource.

    Deleting the page doesn’t make sense for me on a number of fronts. One is that itloses a ranked page in Google – but more than that it could be creating a dead link on any other blog who has linked to that post or any other link I’ve made to that post form my own blog. That’s just annoying for other sites and readers.

    Ultimately it’s a personal choice but I think there’s plenty of good reasons to update posts on many blogs. Just my humble opinion.

    If others have problems with this task – another task for the day could be to write a new post that updates your ideas on an old post.

  6. I think the point here is that we’re talking about poorly performing posts. So rather then necessarily changing the thrust or opinion of the post, I’m looking at the ones which haven’t done well for me, and tweaking them to see if I can get some more keywords into them, or link back to them from a more successful article.

  7. Sam’s comment made a new term pop into my head about this discussion. We need to decide if we want to “George Lucas” our blog.

    Remember all of the chatter and negative reaction when Lucas “updated” the old Star Wars for a theater re-release?

    However, I don’t know that our blogs are on the same par as Star Wars. I agree with Darren that it probably depends on the type of blog you have.

    Think of it as a resource, and you can see the importance of keeping it up to date. The last thing you want new visitors seeing when they first visit is wrong information or shoddy writing.

    The problem I have is how do you find the posts that need updating?

  8. Greg Hampson says: 04/26/2009 at 8:20 pm

    Funny how the guy saying he wouldn’t update posts has spelling mistakes on some of his content. I think his blog could be improved with a few updates.

    I can see how not updating the content might make sense on some blogs that are more personal because they do show the person’s journey I think most blogs could do with a second proof read or adding more up to date information or at least adding links to old posts where you’ve written more up to date information at the very least. Most could also do with some additions to the actual ideas in the posts.

    You don’t have to mess with the integrity of an old post to update it as long as you’re clear that there’s been an update. It can still show the progression of ideas – in fact it can show it even better as the progression is there all on the one page.

    The idea of deleting old posts doesn’t sit well with me either. Like Darren said, it’s a recipe for dead links on both your blog and others. Makes the blog less useful and credible to everyone.

    Lastly – I strongly disagree that updating old posts is about ‘preying on the ego rather than achieving anything constructive’.

    I can not see how making an old post more useful, readable or in depth for your readers is not constructive. Craziness.

  9. This is true. You should update your post. I have been updating underperforming post lately.

    Bloggers can base their updates on the google analytics or anything similar.

    Check pageviews, bounce rate and average time on each of the post. If its performing good, don’t update it else update it.

    A message from charles palma of
    http://www.brandingyp.com

  10. I am constantly updating old post. I do allot of “how to’s” and when a site changes I have to go and do edits. Many times I also try to fix any errors I had overlooked.

    I also watch my incoming search terms and see if I could have put different words in to get the targeted traffic. Some times I find that the traffic coming in from the searches is not getting led to the correct post because of my wording.

    I also try to never delete a post (something I learned from the Blog Squad Ladies), there are already direct incoming links to most every post and I do not want someone to get a bad link and think my blog is gone. If I don’t think the post is correct anymore, I may write a new one and put a redirect.

    I have been putting off updating 2 blogs all week, guess I should go ahead and do it now that you told me to. LOL!

  11. Updating older posts is also a good indicator of activity, especially if the blog is “old.”

  12. Agreed. I find sometimes I am rushing to finish my post (I need to invoke the earlier lesson of planning ahead and creating an editorial calendar) and I miss some grammar typos. Unfortunately spell check does not catch those.

    Speaking of, didn’t you mean “a new lease on life” rather than “(I’ve) seen them have new leashes of life.”

    And that brings up another question — do you correct grammar in other people’s comments here on your site? I do on mine. I just cannot let some stuff go in my comment section.

  13. @Darren,

    I think when we create new post and link to older one from there to tell that it is update of an older one, it is also good to update older post with a link to new one to tell the readers who are still going to older posts that it is updated with a newer one.

    Because some older posts get their traffic regularly from search engines or referral sites which may be new readers that can be informed.

    @Sheryl Loch,

    Quote:
    “If I don’t think the post is correct anymore, I may write a new one and put a redirect. ”
    UnQuote

    How do you put a redirect to individual posts? Is there a service for that or our blog platform should support? Do we need to write javascript for that in the blog template?

    thanks,
    swapna

  14. Yes, if your blog is old and you have worthful posts earlier then updating the content will surely help.

  15. Another response to Samuel. Isn’t part of showing the natural progression of your own ideas the very fact that you can update and amend things you’ve discussed in the past? Simply deleting something you no longer agree with entirely defeats the purpose of displaying the natural progression you’re promoting.

    This is a particularly pertinent challenge for me because my opinions have changed drastically since I began blogging, and I’m sure there are many posts I can readdress that will exemplify this natural progression perfectly.

  16. Great idea! I did not take an old post, actually it was yesterday’s post. I had made rather quickly a link list post to reliable places (not news), where you can find information about the swine flu. Today I have been adding new links including a map with the confirmed (strongly suspected) cases from reliable sources and also restructured the post.

    http://info.ulrich-schrader.de/node/643

    Btw. The current spread is pretty impressive.

  17. To take this a step further, one thing I like to do is take popular posts that are at least a year old and ‘recycle’ them… basically touch them up to improve them over their original form and repost them as new entries. On my blog, I have a category called ‘classic posts’ just for this.

    This accomplishes two things: It reintroduces the piece to long-standing readers who may enjoy reading it again as well as giving newer readers a chance to see a quality post that they’d otherwise have to dig through the archives for and likely would miss out on.

    The other benefit to this is that it presents an opportunity to make a post when I might otherwise be a little light on fresh content… it prevents long dormant periods and also avoids posting something of lower quality just to have something to post… in other words, it avoids posting just for the sake of doing so.

    Mike

  18. I enjoyed doing this – there’s always room for improvement. My update is called How I Put My Site On Steroids – Again

  19. In the early days of blogging, when a blog was more literally a weblog of events and updates, it would have seemed inappropriate to go back and modify history. At this point, though, blogging seems to have become a ubiquitous means of communicating a set of related and relevant concepts over a period of time, and with conventions like “Update MM/DD/YYYY” indicating that there have been changes made to the copy, updating an older post because it doesn’t have the stickiness of other posts or because its information is outdated, or any of the other reasons cited, is far more reasonable than not.

    The only catch, from a reader experience standpoint, is that for the sake of those reading via RSS, if you plan to update a lot of old posts, it might be advisable to spread out those updates rather than let a bunch of old posts show up all at once in the feed. It will look like a glitch. And it will probably be overwhelming to many of your readers, some of whom may even unsubscribe from your feed.

    To avoid those potential negative side effects, perhaps it is best to think of this the way online marketers do in other areas of the web, as an ongoing process of optimization. I am an optimization consultant (one of my blogs, the one for my web marketing consultancy, is here: http://metamarketer.com/) and I advise my clients to think of the process of optimization like brushing their teeth: do it so regularly that when you don’t do it, it won’t feel right.

    To find content on your blog to optimize, look at Google Analytics (or whatever analytics tool you’re using), go into Content, and look at Bounce Rate (% of visits with only 1 page view – in other words, someone found your site and it wasn’t what they were after) and at Exits (visitors leaving your site from a particular page) and you’ll definitely get some insights about which pages aren’t retaining visitors.

    After seeing hard evidence that your blog has cavities, why wouldn’t you want to clean it up?

  20. yeah. sometimes we rush to post and as the result, the article means nothing or at least blurry.

  21. i left a link to an old post a few days ago and when I went back to it i noticed typos, i didn’t like the setup and the dialogue between the two characters got a little murky.
    so i edited it.
    in fact, it inspired me to look through many of my older posts (mainly the ones written in the wee hours of the morning) so i’m really digging todays assignment.

    lots of ideas here in the comments that i never thought.

  22. I actually had not thought about re-vamping an old post – but I do go back and look for typos and try to update them where I can.

    It’s amazing that you can notice a typo several weeks after publishing even though you proofed it several times just before publishing it.

    Thanks for this great idea! Now to decide which one needs overhauling! Have fun!

  23. Editing older posts is like time-traveling into the past:

    It can be fun, it can be entertaining, it can make you shake your head.

    I have edited five of my older posts and found it surprisingly interesting to re-read my ideas from the past.

    From the Archives

  24. With posts more than a few months old, I wonder if it is better to edit them or repost them ‘as new’.

    My blog has been going for several years now, and there are some old posts I think are quite good that most people won’t ever have seen (because I had little traffic in those days). Personally I’d welcome any thoughts on whether it is OK to repost old posts, even if they have not been significantly edited.

    Nick

  25. I’ve never done this before, maybe it’s time for me to visit my older post and see if it can be revised… Interesting idea.

  26. This is worth a thought. There have been instances when I had felt that a topic that I intend to write upon was actually written about earlier. Then when I browse through that post I find that there could have been quite a few things that could have been written differently, but I have no options because the article had been written and published long time back and I felt that editing it would not make any sense.
    But after reading this post I feel that indeed editing would make sense. The only point in question is how do I make it available to my readers if it was a very old post now only found in the archives.
    I normally used to write a continuation article to the one that I felt I had new ideas about and would post it as a new article with a reference to the old article in the beginning of the post.
    Something like “Did you read the first part of this article? If not it is available here” and link it to the previous article.
    I feel this method can also be used in conjunction with the idea in your post.

  27. This is very timely for me – thank you darren. I am well aware that plenty of my older posts are not up to scratch *at all* and I can do heaps to improve them.

    I began doing this a couple of months ago but then new news got in the way of making the old news relevant and more helpful.

    Off i go into the archives then :)

  28. It seems I’m always working on just what you recommend before the email arrives!

    This morning I noted a spike in traffic on an older post, and a post from earlier in the week.

    I went back and added a little blurb about where to find more info about me, and how to subscribe. I hope this will help keep some of this random traffic stay!

    That said, I don’t have a ton of back posts. my blog is only a few months old!

  29. So much of it is in the title. That the #1 thing I focus on when i go back to old posts. You need that to grab people or the post will never have a chance at being looked at. With everything moving so fast in the social world most people simply see the title and that is what makes them decide to read the post or not.

  30. Hmm.. this is one’s a very good idea. Thanks sir!

  31. I am going to work on mt most popular post, this has always been the top page in my stats, it is high time to make it work for me!

    http://confessionsofahousewife.com/2007/08/16/10-great-things-to-say-to-your-lover/

    Off to research and make it better. Thanks so much for this task!

  32. The is a good point Darren. As I look in my archive there are definitely some post that need a “call to action” or maybe factual wrong. Certainly, will make coming up with post ideas much easier.

  33. I keep doing that all the time. Adding better pictures and linking them to future posts.

  34. Great suggestion Darren!
    Even though this is something I am trying to avoid because I want to add new content to my blogs, I agree that the life you breathe into an older post can add more to a blog. Another thing I plan to do is take a long blog and rework sections of it into a new blog…
    I will review my blogs and rework or write a Part 2 to an older post as I can defintely see the merit in the advice you give.
    Thanks again for all!
    Meanwhile, Have a very Happy Birthday!

  35. Blogging is a lot of work. For me it is, at least.

    I write 11 posts a week on consumer issues for baby boomers. As a journalist, I work to make them the best that I can in a reasonable amount of time.

    If I kept revising previously written posts like one of the commenters above, I’d be exhausted.

    I’ll follow the directions for the assignment and let you know how it goes.

    Darren, what about your comment on changing the title? I was told this creates a dead space in Google for a month so you shouldn’t do it.

    Also, what about the call to action? Does that fit for most posts? Do readers get tired of that approach? I write a lot of “how-to articles,” such as “How to Buy Eyeglasses,” and those seem to be a call to action because advise is given on how to do something.

    Rita

    The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thriveguide.typepad.com

  36. I think this is definitely true on my blog – I write a lot of Bible studies and devotionals, and I think I have developed my “blogging voice” as I’ve gone along. I don’t need to go back and update content as much as to put a little more personality in my old posts. I did this today as I want to start showcasing some old posts that I want my readers to see on Sundays.

    http://runwatchplaywait.blogspot.com/2008/07/so-why-do-we-have-bible.html

  37. I have a question. If you do an update on all your blogs when that create a lot of pings and cause your blog to be banned?

  38. Another fantastic piece of advice! Especially appropriate now that I’ve added the LinkWithin WordPress plugin that serves up 3 to six related posts for every new post I write. That plug-in alone (which also includes a picture with every related post) has almost doubled my page views alone. But, it does force me to revisit posts I wrote over a year ago and I’m realizing some of them could be tweaked.

    Have I told you that this series is fantastic? Unfortunately, it’s so much good information that I’m getting overwhelmed. I’ve saved every email (and hopefully you’ll keep the posts up for a good long while) so I can focus on one task per week. One a day is just making my head spin.

  39. I’m really proud of myself for this one. I actually started it yesterday before the challenge came out (Darren, how do you read my mind?). New photo and everything (which is lots of work on a food blog).

    Check it out if you want to know how to make the best hummus ever.

  40. These points are excellent for new posts too. I wrote a new article today and referenced Darren’s list prior to publishing. I liked the article, but saw that there was no call to action. Consequently, I added a challenge and I think the post is better for it, and I think it is more persuasive.

  41. My blog is new but I definitely need to go back and add calls to action to my posts. I also like the idea that Kelly and Eve mentioned about tweaking a post that’s getting a lot of traffic – very smart. Since I’m addicted to monitoring the traffic to my blog it will be great to put that information to good use.

    There are so many great bloggers in this challenge! I’ve spent much of the weekend checking out your blogs.

  42. I agree with both sides on this issue. My blog is personal and to change too much I think would be odd.. But, I continue to find misspelled words after numerous scans and I like the idea of reviewing some to see what might be ‘enhanced’, if you will.
    Tomorrow i will have published my 100th blog so I feel like it is time for me to get a retrospective, and add some polish..
    great reason to go back and dig around.. I think I’ll also be able to combine a few assignments, and review the topics w/ more views..see if I’m being repetitive.
    thank you!

  43. All the time i will look at post that i have previously written and i always think about how much i can add to it now. But i never knew how to go about updating an old post. Now i got an idea on what to do now

  44. Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with improving the performance of an old post. I don’t know why some people think that a legitimate blog is something that can’t take advantage of small changes with the purpose of getting more traffic or getting some commercial benefit. Of course, you have to do blogs for humans, but it doesn’t exclude that the same blogs can be built or modified for search engines, also.

  45. I usually go through some old posts and find I need to update them dramatically. Mostly, I’m adding depth to the content, and embarrassingly enough, changing spelling or grammatical errors.

    I can point out errors like this much better as I become a more experienced blogger, and I can also point out other blogging errors, like bad titles or no use of imagery. You mention many other great types of updates that I’ll have to consider when I update more posts.

  46. I never think my posts are good enough, i just make myself stay within a time limit so I can get on with my day. To be honest, I would change every single one and try to make it more succinct!

    I like the idea of having the option to go back at a later point and polish it up a little!

  47. I think that reposting old posts is generally a good idea.

    But I would leave the old posts untouched – because I think that it’s a good idea to show that you are human too just like your readers, I think not touching old posts helps relate with readers. As long as the date on your post is published, I would leave the old posts as they are – I would just post a newer version of the old post – and leave the old one as it is.

  48. Great advice as always Darren, and I will definitely use them on my blogs because as time goes by I am running out of topics and many new readers do not look at the older stuff.

  49. I have written posts that need updating, that is for sure. However, I thought that once a post or article is indexed, to go back and change or correct it was running the risk of having the search engines penalize the site. Is there not any truth in that? Once it is pinged it becomes indexed in the search engines.

  50. I’m actually right in the middle of reviewing the layout of my blog including blending two into one, recategorising etc. I’ve come across posts that needed tweaking to refresh dead links, or where I’ve wanted to add an update note to older information.

    Great task … there’s always some blogwork to be done on old posts!

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