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How to Clean Up Old Blog Posts
Winter is almost over, and both our homes and our blogs need some spring cleaning if you ask me!
This time of year always feels really hopeful to me.
Seattle is super dark and gloomy during the winter, but we're finally starting to see a few rays of sunshine and little daffodil leaves starting to poke through the ground.
I'm feeling hopeful and excited for the rest of the year when it will only get brighter and more lively, and I can't wait to see what this year has in store for me.
Let me ask you something.
When was the last time you checked out your blog? Like really checked it out?
When was the last time you read through a few old posts, made sure all your links worked, and took yourself on your own reader journey?
If you're anything like me… well, it's been a while.
So in today's post I want to encourage both you and me to whip our blogs into shape just before spring arrives!
Here are a few of the things I'll be thinking about this month to improve my blog for the long term. I hope you join me for this challenge!
1. I’ll Be Updating Old Posts
The biggest spring cleaning to-do on my list over the next 6 months is to start seriously updating my old posts.
I don't know about you, but I have a ton of older posts that are short, out of date, or simply aren't as good as they could be.
My hope is that I can improve and expand each of them over time so that when a reader comes across an old blog post it is still a valuable resource and has been recently updated.
My plan is to choose 1-2 older posts to be updated each week.
The first plan of action will be to add any sections that would make sense. Expanding an older post is a great way to get fresh information out there while cutting back on the stuff that is old news.
If you are part of my Blogging Hotlist, you know that at the beginning of 2020 I decided to move from two blog posts per week to one long, in depth, and crazy useful post per week.
I'd like to see the vast majority of my new posts meeting 2,000 words or more. When I look at my older posts, it's clear to me that many of them only ring in at about 1,000 words.
Now, if it only takes 1,000 words to really give all the information that your reader needs, then that's perfect! But I know for the topics I talk about on this blog, there's usually plenty of room for 2,000+ words.
Expanding my old posts with new information will be a great way to get them freshened up.
Another thing I plan to do to make my older posts as good as possible is to remove any content that no longer makes sense.
For example, I used to recommend using click to tweets on your blog posts to help them gain traction.
After doing this for a good 6 months, I saw very little return on the practice and have stopped including them on my blog posts. Thankfully I have very few recommendations on my blog that I feel are out of date, but my intention is to go back and update them as quickly as possible.
Another thing I'll be looking for with my old blog posts is to check for quality images and a relevant email opt-in.
Some of my older posts are a little sparse on images, and a few of them have older content upgrades that I know don't perform as well as my newer ones.
One of the best ways to grow your email list using your older posts, is to make sure to update them with opt-ins you know convert well. If you have at least two or three different opt-ins, you'll be able to check your Convertkit account and see which ones are getting the most sign-ups.
Convertkit now offers a free plan with email capabilities for your first 100 subscribers when you sign up through this link. They've never offered a free plan before, so this is great if you are on a budget or are new to email marketing and want to give it a try before committing.
2. I’ll Remove Any Plugins I’m Not Using
The next step to cleaning up your blog and getting it organized is to remove any plugins that aren't active. You'll also want to check your active plugins and make sure that they are necessary.
Too many plugins can slow down your site, so I don't recommend downloading every single one that looks like it might be fun.
However, I wouldn't recommend using too few either! They don't take up enough space to warrant paring back dramatically.
If you do decide to deactivate some of your plugins, make sure to write down which ones and the date you did so! I learned this one the hard way.
Sometimes when you add or remove a plug-in, there can be secondary issues on your blog that your web host support team will help you sort through.
However, they will need to know if you've added or deleted any plugins recently, so make sure you keep a log of this.
3. Check All of Your Posts For Affiliate Links
When you first start your blog, it's quite likely that you don't yet have any products of your own or affiliate partnerships to add to your posts. So for most of us, our older posts haven't been monetized properly and should be.
When you go through and start updating your old blog posts, make sure to add any relevant affiliate links and mentions to your own products as you go.
While your new and best posts may bring in more traffic than any of your single old posts, your older posts as a whole still bring in quite a bit!
I like to keep a chart in my Evernote account to help me keep track of which posts have been updated and monetized and which ones haven't.
Every time I fix up a post, I simply add an X and the date in that posts column.
This is a great way to see at a glance how long it's been since your older posts have been checked over. I recommend checking them every 6 months and updating them as needed. Most bloggers don't do this, so you'll be way ahead of the game when you do.
4. Archive Any Old Posts That Are Off Topic
Part of updating your older posts is figuring out which ones are no longer relevant. Most of us started our blogs with a rather vague idea of what we would be blogging about, and only discovered our niche over time.
If that's you too, now is a great time to look back at your oldest posts and figure out which ones should be archived.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
The simplest way is to just delete them. If you know they aren't going to serve a purpose for you, deleting them may be your best bet.
That being said, deleting posts creates an issue with broken links. I highly recommend using the plug-in Broken Links Checker to automatically look for broken links for you and let you know which posts need to have them updated.
The second way to get rid of irrelevant old posts is to unpublish them in WordPress. This is a good way to go if you feel that you may someday need the posts again, but you don't want them showing on your blog.
This method will still create broken links if you have other posts, websites, or Pinterest pins that are linking to them. If you feel that you only have a few links to these super old posts, it may be worth a while to unpublish them.
The last way to archive these posts is to leave them published but use a code to have them removed from your blog real page.
This is a good way to go if you don't want to deal with a mess of broken links, and you simply want the posts to no longer show on your blog page. That being said, these posts will still show up in search results and people may see them, so if they are super irrelevant it might be better to get rid of them completely.
I use Thrive as my blog builder, and I'm so glad I do. Their support is so knowledgeable and is always able to help me with little issues like this.
When I asked about archiving some old blog posts, they directed me to this plugin - Exclude Categories
All you have to do is create a category for posts you don’t want to be displayed, and add all of your unwanted posts to that category (and remove it from any other categories). Then you can use the plugin above to make that category not show in your blog reel.
5. Create 1-2 New Opt-In Freebies
One of my most successful experiments in the last year has been creating a number of different opt-ins to place around my site. This has made the biggest difference in my email conversion rate.
The industry standard reader-to-subscriber conversion rate for bloggers is about 1%. Right now I get between 5% and 12% converting, which is pretty awesome!
If you haven't focused on the percentage of readers who convert onto your email list, I highly recommend you do.
Why? Because getting more traffic is a heck of a lot harder than increasing the percentage of readers who decide to join your email list.
Here are a few posts to help you do that…
- How to Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers
- 5 Reasons No One is Joining Your Email List (and how to fix it!)
- The Best Email List Building Service for Bloggers
So how do you figure out which opt-ins will be a success?
My favorite way to get new email freebie ideas is to simply look through my most recent reader emails and see what people need help with the most. Where there is one, there are many!
If you are getting a question even once or twice, that's a decent indicator that a number of other people are struggling with the same thing. And if you get the same question three, four, or five times, you've struck gold!
One of the keys to increasing your email sign up rate is to make sure that your post and your opt-in are related.
For example, if people visit your blog post on knitting kids hats, an opt-in for personal finance probably isn't going to do very well.
A good opt-in for your post on knitting kids hats might be some free sewing patterns, and exclusive video giving step by step instructions, or a quick sewing webinar. Video opt-ins tend to do extremely well compared to PDFs and other written downloads.
6. Compress Large Files and Images
The next step to spiffing up your blog is to compress and reduce any images for other files on your blog that are too big. Images that haven't been compressed take up a ton of space, and can slow down your blog speed considerably.
Thankfully, compressing your images is really easy. I use free sites like CompressJPEG to compress all of my images before I upload them.
Now if you have hundreds or thousands of images on your website, manually compressing them probably isn't a great option. In this case, you'll want to use an image optimizing plug-in like Smush or EWWW Image Optimizing Plugin.
All you have to do is install one of these plugins and it will automatically compress and resize the images for you.
Keep in mind that if you have Jetpack installed, which comes with your WordPress blog, Jetpack will already be taking care of it.
One thing you don't want to do is install multiple image optimizing plugins, because they often "fight" with each other and cause issues.
Don't worry though, WordPress will let you know if you accidentally installed multiple image optimizing plugins. It isn't a huge deal, you'll just need to remove one of them.
7. Update Blog Post SEO on Older Posts
I don't know about you, but when I was first getting started SEO was low on my priority list. I didn't spend a lot of time getting my posts Yoast-approved, and looking back I wish I had.
As you go back through your old blog posts, spend 5 minutes or so on each one getting the basic SEO criteria set up. With the free Yoast plugin, you'll have clear spaces where you can add your keyword, metadata, slug, and other SEO. I don't recommend spending too much time on Yoast, though.
Yoast is notoriously finicky, and it can be very difficult to get a green light, even when you've met all of the criteria they've asked for.
I simply go through their list of recommendations, implement as many of them as I can, and call it good.
8. Check for Broken Links
One thing I'm always on the lookout for is broken links.
As I mentioned earlier, the free Broken Links Checker plugin is incredibly useful for letting you know as soon as any broken links are found.
This plugin digitally scours your blog on a regular basis, and sends you a report back when it finds links that aren't working. I love this so much because it does all of the hard work for me and makes my job so much easier.
Another way I cut down on the time it takes to fix broken links is to use the Pretty Links plugin. I'm using the free version, which I’ve found is perfectly good enough for my needs. Pretty Links is a fantastic free tool because it allows you to create a single link for a particular destination.
For example, one way I use Pretty Links is to create a single link for my affiliate links.
My Siteground affiliate code looks a little something like this…
Not only does this make your link look a lot less scary, I now can change every single instance of my Siteground affiliate link on my blog with one click. I do that by going into Pretty Links, and changing the destination link there. How cool is that?
Pretty Links is one of those plugins I highly recommend you use as early on as possible.
It's a lot harder to go back and manually change your existing links to the Pretty Links version so that they can be updated in one click, so get it installed early if possible!
9. Take Yourself on Your Reader Journey
My last tip for spring cleaning your blog is to take yourself on your own reader journey. Take some time when you are fresh of mind and play around on your blog. You want to get a feel for the flow of your reader’s interaction with you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Is it easy to find your about page and contact page?
- Are the opt-ins shown on your blog posts related to the post it's shown on?
- What happens after someone signs up for your emails? Is there a customized thank you page waiting for them?
- Is it easy for someone to find your recent blog posts on your homepage?
- Are there a handful of different options for someone to sign up to your email list when they come to your blog?
You want to take yourself on the reader journey so you can get a good feel for what your readers are experiencing when they come across your blog.
Ideally this experience should flow naturally, be super easy for your readers to find the information they are looking, and be consistent in showing the right offers at the right time on the right pages.
I recommend keeping a piece of paper handy when you do this so you can write down anything that stands out to you. If something feels awkward, forced, or could be done a little bit better, write it down so that you can go through and fix each of these steps one by one.
This will make an enormous difference in your readers perception of your brand and blog, which is so important.
Many of the trust signals we get from others are tiny things that we don't consciously think about. Having customized pages, a good flow, and easy navigation makes a world of difference.
Getting your blog cleaned up and organized for spring is such a great way to prepare yourself for the rest of the year.
Here are the things I am doing to get my blog spiffy and running smoothly this year:
- I'll be updating my old posts.
- I'm removing any old plugins that aren't active.
- I'm adding affiliate links to old posts that don't have them.
- I'll be archiving any old posts that are unrelated and not useful.
- I'll be creating new opt in freebies to entice new readers.
- I'm compressing any images and files that are too large and slowing down my site.
- I'll be adding SEO to old posts that never were optimized.
- I'll be checking for any broken links on the site.
- I'll be taking myself on my reader journey to make sure everything flows.
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