I love to play in my garden. Every spring I head out around Mother’s Day and start to get it ready. For many, this might sound late to start getting the garden ready, but I live 5500 feet above sea level and we often still have snow falling in May. In fact, it snowed most of the day yesterday, May 3, 2022.
Once things begin to grow, I pinch and prune the suckers off the tomato plants and weed through the abundance of itsy bitsy baby beets, so that the ones that are left have room to grow and thrive.
What does any of this have to do with a blog and blogging? Nothing and everything.
Just like a garden, if we don’t take the time to prune and shape and weed through excess content and posts, our messages get crowded out and watered down. In a garden, the seedlings and plants compete for nutrients in the soil, for space to grow, for sunshine.
Our blog posts are also competing for attention, and when our blog has content that lacks a clear audience or focus, nobody can find what they need, so they leave.
A little content pruning can help refocus and direct your content so that you reach who you want to reach.
When is it time to Update Old Blog Content?
If our blogs lack a content focus, a purpose, and a clear audience, or if that audience has changed over the years, it’s time to update, so that your new audience can find value in your posts.
I’ve known it was time for a content refresh on my blog for a while now, and I finally dug in and did it. I originally hesitated because some of my old blog posts drove thousands of visits per year to my website. In fact, one post on table runners was on page one of Google, in the third or fourth spot, right next to The Pottery Barn! Thousands of people curious about table runners visited my site and read that post.
But do I want table runner people here? If I ran an interior design business or sold patterns to crafters or quilters to make table runners, then yes, I would want that traffic. But that traffic has nothing to do with either my book coaching or my novels.
I originally started my blog way back in March 2011 on a free blogging site. I wanted to get past my fear of sharing my writing with the world, develop my voice, establish a writing habit, explore life, and really own the title of writer. The purpose for posting was one-hundred percent personal as was the content. I blogged about teaching, parenting, quilting, my novels, my writing process, and whatever random thing popped into my head. I hadn’t yet defined my audience because the blog was for me. I wrote hundreds of posts, posting twice a week for several years.
Then, a year or so later, I started a creative writing website for teen writers. That site had a clear audience – teens who wanted to learn to write fiction. At the time, I was teaching High school, so I knew my audience well. I wrote hundreds of posts geared to them with writing prompts, tips, and lessons all around developing their stories.
All the posts I ever wrote on either site ultimately ended up here on my current blog, even though very few of them had anything to do with my business, book coaching for nonfiction writers, but for whatever reason, I felt attached to them…until I wasn’t. They’d served their purpose.
It was time for a long-overdue content refresh on this site which meant I needed to evaluate every post and possibly remove it.
Would this impact traffic?
Yes, but if it’s the wrong traffic to begin with, it was time to let those old posts go, be grateful that they helped me find my voice and taught me how to blog and be visible.
The content you share on your website should be helpful or useful to your current audience, and my content was neither.
How to Evaluate Your Older Content
Anne Handley, in her great book Everybody Writes: Your Go-to Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content, offers two questions to guide your content creation, and by content creation, I mean blog posts, podcast episodes, social media posts, anything that you publish for your readers. (You can find her explanation of all of this in “Rule #6 – Follow a Writing GPS”).
Question #1: What’s your business goal? What are you trying to achieve with this piece of content?
Question #2: Why does this content matter to your readers? What’s in it for them? What’s the takeaway?
These two questions force you to focus your writing on the purpose of your content AND the readers who are going to read it. They’re invaluable for guiding you as you create new content, AND they’re invaluable for evaluating old blog content.
I used them to remove hundreds of posts from my blog. The table runner post? Gone. All the teen writing prompts, goodbye!
To refresh your blog content, apply Anne Handley’s questions to every single blog post. Yes, this will take some time, but it’s time well spent. And, it’s easier than doing the process that is suggested in many content audit posts out there almost all of which recommend creating a spreadsheet with the title, URL, traffic stats etc. They focus on SEO, metrics, traffic acquisition, social media shares, conversion rates, metadata, and more fun stuff!! If you want to be super comprehensive, google how to do a content audit and you can create a massive spreadsheet to help you decide what to keep on your site.
If that feels overwhelming and awful and like WAY more work than you want to do, you can do my super simple strategy (that will probably make an SEO person want to cry) but feels so freaking good to get done!
What to do with Outdated or Irrelevant Posts
I did not create a spreadsheet. Instead, I opened up each post and evaluated it according to Anne Handley’s questions. I asked if the piece helped me to achieve one of my business goals and if it mattered to my current audience of aspiring nonfiction authors.
After scanning each post and evaluating my answers to the questions, I either:
- kept it live on my site, as is, with its current category
- kept it live but gave it a new category (my old blog had something like 22 categories – WAY too many), or
- I deleted it
If a post met the qualifications and got to stay published, I deleted any links that went to posts that I removed. That was a bit of a pain, but it’s important so you don’t have a ton of internal broken links.
I chose to either keep or delete posts. I did not update any of my old posts. That is certainly an option, but I felt like they had fulfilled their purpose, and it was time to let them go. And, sometimes revising, updating, or combining old posts to make them relevant is as much or even more work than starting fresh.
I will add that I did create a “Life as a Writer” category where I kept posts that relate to writing in general and being a writer. They may or may not be perfectly targeted toward my current audience of nonfiction writers, but all nonfiction writers fall into the wider category of “writer.” Also, I liked some of those posts, wanted to keep them, and since it’s my blog, I get to decide that evenif they didn’t always meet my criteria! 🙂
Overall, all of my podcast show notes survived, but I removed close to 300 posts that no longer served a current purpose or reached my current audience. My blog now feels lean and mean with 97 focused posts.
The Final Tech-y Step
Because my site is listed in Google Search, I did take two somewhat “techie” steps.
First, I updated my 404 page to let visitors know that my site had undergone a major overhaul, and I added a link to the blog page on the 404 page.
Second, I resubmitted my sitemaps to Google Search and requested that the blog be re-indexed. It took a little over a week for my whole site to be reindexed from when I made the changes. If you’re on Google search, just go to search.google.com, and login. You’ll see Sitemaps in the lefthand column. Click there and click on your post sitemap. When it shows up, click on the three little dots in the right hand corner and click on remove sitemap. Then, go back to the main sitemap page and add the new one. Google will reindex your site.
Why this matters to nonfiction authors?
Not only do you want your blog to be useful, educational, inspiring, comforting, and/or entertaining to your readers, but you also want that for your book.
Both of Anne Handley’s questions are also key if you want to write any kind of nonfiction. In fact, I talk about them in-depth with my clients. We discuss questions like:
- WHY do you want to write your book?
- Why YOU?
- Why is this message important?
- What’s the purpose of your book?
We also dive into the audience piece which is a huge part of any book proposal.
- Who is your ideal reader?
- How can your book help them?
- How are you going to reach them?
Your blog is a great place to start keeping your readers in mind while you develop and organize your ideas and build your platform.