Day 21 of the A-Z challenge.
U is for Update & Refresh
If you’ve been blogging for a few years you probably have a substantial library of posts. How many have you ever revisited? A handful? None?
We focus on writing new content so much that we forget the posts we wrote years ago. Yet there’s gold in those older pieces.
Think of it like this.
Most of the readers who follow your blog now, were not your followers when you started the blog. So they’ve never seen many of the older articles that you worked so hard to create. Those earlier posts have disappeared into a blog cemetery.
Why not dig them up and give them a second life?
Why It’s Good To Update Posts
If you give these older pieces of content a refresh and then re-publish them, you’ll be bringing them to the attention of your current readers and helping to boost your presence with search engines.
Here are some valid reasons for updating content:
- You’re a more skilled and savvy blogger than you were in your past. Your writing has likely become more polished with all the practice you’ve had. You’ve got better at using images. When you first started the blog you maybe didn’t know how to use keywords or links. And you didn’t fully appreciate that writing for a blog is not like writing for a print publication – large blocks of text are difficult to read on line. Applying the skills and knowledge you have now, to your older content can give them added value.
- Many of the people who discover your blog will never see the majority of your posts. If you re-publish older posts you give them more content to enjoy.
- Some of the older content has become outdated. For example you may have reviewed one title in a series that has expanded since you did the review. Or the author whose debut work you reviewed has since published additional titles.
- Your original post didn’t link to some more recent content you’ve written on a similar topic.
Ways To Update Older Content
- Replace the images/graphics (remember to add the alt text). You may also want to make the images larger/smaller.
- If the post is lengthy, add more images to avoid the text looking too dense on the page
- Improve the formatting to make the page more readable and findable by search engines. Add headings, sub headings, shorten the paragraphs. Use bullet points.
- You could re-write the heading. A word of caution here– be very, very careful that change doesn’t affect the url. If the url is altered, other posts that link to the one you are updating will become broken.
- Add internal and external links. Over time you’ll have written new content that is associated with the old ones. Maybe you’ve written a review of another book by the same author, or you’ve written on a related topic. Links improve the experience of the reader by directing them to content you think they would be interested in discovering. For more information on links check out the article Is Your Book Blog Search Friendly?
- If the original post was very long, consider adding more content. As I wrote in the topic Quantity or Quality Which Works Best, there’s an indication that search engines prefer longer content. Obviously the new material has to add value to the piece.
- Fix any out of date or incorrect information – either remove it or update
How To Republish: Step By Step
1. Select the posts to update
You’re not going to update every post you’ve ever written. Some of them are not worth the effort. Think about what would interest your readers most? Probably not your “new book purchases” or month in review posts or your predictions for which titles will win the xxx literary prize three years ago. The posts you’ll want to focus on are those that have a longer life span, like your book reviews.
If you were a professional blogger you’d narrow down the list further by using various analytical tools to decide which are getting some, but not a lot of views.
We non professionals can use a simpler approach and review a year at a time. Use the statistics available via your blog programme to find posts that had modest traffic and a few comments.
Set aside some time, maybe just once a month, to go through that list and update one at a time.
2. Decide How Much To Change
You have two options for updating.
The simplest method is just to republish each of the older posts. All you need to do in WordPress is to change the “publish” date. It will then appear in your followers’ blog feed as a new post.
It will only take you a few minutes for each post.
But I’d advise against doing it with posts that have a good number of comments. The reason is that readers will see from the date it’s a new post. Yet the comments are dated from years ago. So they’ll end up confused.
The better solution is to update the post. Some posts may need only a light touch update, others may warrant a substantial rewrite.
3. Make Your Changes
Before you make any changes, make sure to keep the original post live. In WordPress “edit” mode do not select the option to “switch to draft.”
- If you plan on making just a few tweaks to the text, do this within the blog editing mode. If you intend to do a complete re-write or want to add a lot of new material, copy and paste the content into a new document, make the changes, and then copy back.
- Add your links. Check existing links are still valid.
- Change other elements like the graphics and formatting
4. Be Transparent
Add a note at the end of your post to indicate this is an update. This transparency will maintain trust with your readers and is especially particularly important if your older version had a good number of comments.Your transparency note could simply say:
This note was published originally in [date] but has been completely revised and updated for accuracy.
This note was published originally in [date] but has been partially revised with new information
You are now ready to republish.
Change the publish date and time to the current date and time, and click “update”. Do not try to schedule the changes for a future date or time otherwise it will result in a “404 page not found” error message for your readers.
Ready To Give It A go?
It’s a whole lot easier to revise existing material than it is to create new content. So if you struggle to think of new content, take the pressure off yourself by revisiting older material. Is this something you have tried yourself or maybe will consider doing in the future?