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Giving Underperforming Posts a Second Chance with Updates

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again….

Have you ever written a post that you thought would hit the spot with your readers, generate lots of interest and/or stimulate a great conversation and then find it fell flat on it’s face?

I have – in fact it happens all the time for a variety of reasons:

  • Sometimes your posts fall over because other stories break in the blogosphere and hog all the attention
  • Perhaps you just had some bad luck and the right influential blogger didn’t happen to see your post (and spread the word)
  • At other times its because you posted on the wrong day of the week
  • Or perhaps you wrote the post in the early days of your blog before you really had any readers to read it
  • Alternatively it can be simply that your post wasn’t good enough

Many of these unsuccessful posts slide off the front page of a blog never to be seen or thought about again (by your readers or by you) – however, perhaps in time, they deserve a second chance. After all, you’ve put work into researching and writing them and with a second chance in the spotlight they could actually reach their potential and become more fruitful and rewarding to you as a blogger.

Over the last few weeks I’ve experimented on a number of occasions with giving old posts that I felt hadn’t lived up to their potential a second chance. I’ve done this in a few different ways with varying degrees of success but wanted to share the method that was most successful for me (as well as a few others at the end of this post).

Reposted Update

The most successful of my experiments with giving old posts a second chance have been reposting them on the front page of a blog with updates.

I did this a few days back with a post on DPS on Slow Sync Flash. The previous version of the post had been posted back in January when my readership was considerably smaller than it currently is (ie most of my current readers wouldn’t have seen it before) and while it had been moderately successful in terms of generating comments I was never completely satisfied with the post (in terms of what I’d written and/or the traffic it got).

So I updated the post with a few tweaks that made it more useful, attractive and relevant and reposted it at the top of my blog (simply by changing the posting date in WordPress). I also included a note that it was an updated post at the end of the post.

IMPORTANT NOTE – I am able to do this at DPS because I have a permalink structure that does not include dates (ie it is just the BlogName/PostName not BlogName/Date/PostName as it is here at ProBlogger. if you have dates in your permalink structure you shouldn’t use this method as you’ll end up with a new URL for the post which can mean you lose any SEO ranking your previous version of the post had.

The results of this updated repost were significant with a front page appearance on Digg, large StumbleUpon traffic, being featured on the front page of Delicious and link ups from many blogs including a few authoritative ones.

The advantage of this method is that the post not only gets a second chance in the spotlight – but because it’s an established post with some Search Engine Ranking – the combination of the content being updated and new comments being added (SE’s like fresh content), the appearance on your front page and the extra links that the post might generate means that the post will build it’s SEO authority.

The danger of this approach is that if you do it too often with posts that most of your readers will have seen before you run the risk of them becoming disillusioned with you. I don’t have a problem with updating old posts to make them more relevant and useful – but some of your readers might get a bit sick of reading the same old stuff if you do it too often.

This approach works best on evergreen or timeless posts – particularly ‘how to’ or ‘tips’ posts.

Other ways of updating content and giving it a second chance

The reposted update is something that has worked very well for me on a number of occasions. However there are other ways to give an older post a second chance including:

  • Complete Rewrite as a new post - in this approach you simply take the concepts from your previous post and rewrite it from scratch as a new post on the blog. You might make the same posts, update some of your thoughts, add new points etc but end up with two posts on the same topic. I’ve used this approach with some success also. I would generally link back to the previous version so readers can see the progression of my ideas.
  • Update Posts and Link to them – another approach is to update an older post and then write a new post announcing the update with a link to it. This doesn’t tend to work quite as well for some reason – perhaps because the old post still has your old date on it and can be seen as ‘dated’ by many (it’s amazing how people write off old material as being not current or old for just being written a few months back).
  • Archive Compilations – posts that look back at a year gone by and that link to old posts can also be another way of driving people back into your archives for a second look. I tend to do this on special occasions (blog anniversaries, the end of the year etc). It is a gentle way of reminding new readers that there is more to your blog than what they might have seen.
  • Prominent Links to Key Posts – linking to old key posts in side bars, headers, posts or even as ‘related posts’ under your posts can be ways of giving old posts a second breath of life. This is by no means as radical as reposting an old post – but over time this can drive significant traffic back to an older underperforming post.
  • Promoting Old Posts to Other Sites – this is something I’ve had some success with also – but quite accidentally. A month back I noticed a spike in the traffic coming to DPS from Digg. I immediately thought that one of my most recent posts was the one bringing in the traffic – however when I checked out where the traffic was heading I realized it was to a post that was 9 months old. One of my readers had stumbled across it and had thought it digg worthy. Others had jumped on board and as a stroke of luck and with no work on my part I had a hit on my hands as it went to the front page. It struck me at this point that perhaps my archives held other old posts that had not been promoted to other larger sites. As a result I submitted a couple of older posts to a couple of large blogs and to my amazement they were picked up and linked to. I should note that one of the main reasons that I suspect this works on DPS is that I don’t time stamp my posts. I’ve written more on this practice previously (it’s something that will again suit evergreen timeless content more than blogs that are newsy and whose posts need the context of a date to be useful to readers).

So do you update posts? If so how do you do it and have you had any success with doing so?

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.

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Comments

  1. Nicholas says:

    What about implementing a featured section on your blog sidebar or on your main page? I’ve seen a lot of blogs do this, and it has always pointed me to old archived posts that I would’ve never found otherwise..

    What do you think?

  2. BONTB says:

    It happens to me all the times too, I post some post and get kind of disappointed after all , and then I posted it again like weeks or months later and I am happy with it :)

    Or I repost same thing just little bit differently let say with picture and such.

    Me@
    http://www.bontb.com

    TTyL Darren

  3. Andy Beard says:

    There are a number of plugins that allow you to change a URL and have requests to the old URL redirected internally.
    There are also plugins that allow you to promote a post to the front of the queue.
    It is also possibly to just change the URLs, and use a 301 redirect. It can take the search engines a week or 2 to correct things, but there is no loss of Google Juice.

  4. Wolf Stone says:

    Very good Idea…although it will be kinda hard for me to do since my posts are dated !!

  5. Alex says:

    I saw a number of posts about updating old posts but I’ve never seen an extensive one such as this. I’ll definitely update some of my old posts, but I’m not yet satisfied with my blog’s exposure…

  6. ANP says:

    I never say anything new anyway… all my posts are simple re-hashings of things I’ve already said ;)

  7. DPeach says:

    One thing I have been doing recently has been to add a podcast to my blog. My podcast is basically an audio version of what goes into the blog. Not every story makes it into the podcast, and the podcast is not a word for word re-hash of the blog. Rather the podcast is sometimes just a summary of, or much more content than the blog. They are complimentary.

    My point is that I can take a post and expand it if necessary on the other medium. I also do a section of the podcast where I highlight a “classic post” or two. I usually look about a year back and find an interesting post to comment on with the idea to drive traffic to the post. I also put a show notes link back to the original post.

    DPeach
    http://www.mythoughtspot.com

  8. Ian McKenzie says:

    I’ve been doing that a lot with old content published under a earlier and different blogging client. The files have been sitting unconnected in an old web folder. I’ve brought them forward, polished them up and, because of the age and disconnect, given them new titles and URLs. It seems to be working fairly well. Once I’ve finished the process, I’ll delete the old files and block that directory in my Robots file.

  9. Ali says:

    I will surely bring about my old posts now and then. I usually tend to link back to the best of the month.

    I did write quite a few things when I had like 5 readers, as opposed to the 250+ now, that didn’t get noticed. Hopefully as my readership increases I’ll be bringing olden goldies up and again, but not too much as you pointed out.

  10. Zahra says:

    Since my blog is relatively new I haven’t had to deal with that issue yet. I’m still trying to find my voice. I appreciate all the tips you have here. They’ve really helped me formulate ideas of where I want to go with my site. I’m still working on generating content at this stage.

  11. Ken Y-N says:

    My recently-used technique for ressurrecting some of my favourite content was to use five existing stories as the basis of my “Top 5″ post to your competition!

  12. That is another great suggestion, Darren. I absolutely think that recycling old posts is important. The use of sidebars and footers seems to be more and more commonplace these days. Thanks for sharing!

  13. rjlight says:

    Interesting. I was just thinking about some old posts of mine that I thought were so much better than others that got more attention. I was wondering about “replaying” them. I’ve thought about doing a my favorite posts post.

  14. Yes, I update posts, because the time that I invest in them (usually 2-7 writing hours) makes it worth it to me to give them a second chance to shine. Here are my methods:

    1) I find ways to link back to my favorite posts. I actually did this with my entry to the Problogger Group Writing Project. The topic of my post was “Top 5 Hottest Blogger Fantasies” and in writing the list, it just seemed natural to link back to one of my all-time favorite posts I’ve written, which was about Leonardo da Vinci. (This post tied into one of my fantasies.) So, it was really cool to get emails this week from Problogger readers who ended up reading my Leonardo post and being touched by it. :-)

    2) I put links to my favorite posts in my side bar.

    3) Sometimes I blog on bigger blogs than mine that get much higher traffic, and on a couple of occasions I have taken ideas from my favorite posts on my own blog, and have re-worked them to address the audience of the bigger blog. It’s really rewarding to publish on a blog with much higher readership and see the comments and trackbacks start pouring in, especially if the post that I originally wrote for my own blog fell flat. Also, there is indirect traffic that comes to my own blog from my author link on the bigger blog.

    4) Re-work posts and turn them into articles for online article submissions. Not all blog posts are suitable for online article submissions (the articles need to be more formally written and kind of timeless with minimal links), but when I write a post that is “article-worthy” I’ll take some extra time and re-write it so that it’s appropriate for article submissions. The article is reaching a completely different (wider) audience than my blog post, and it has the potential to get picked up for publication in an ezine. I think I’ve had pretty good success with this, since at least one of my articles was picked up by an ezine with a big subscriber list, which resulted in a jump in RSS subscribers to my blog.

    BTW–I always hear folks fretting about duplicate content with the online article submissions, but the submission service I use allows me to create unlimited variations of certain elements of my article (title, intro paragraph, resource box, and various sentences within the article) so that potentially each publisher will each receive a unique, well-written version of my article.

    5) Another thing I do is re-work some of my more detailed comments that I leave on folks’ blogs to be entire posts on my blog. In fact, this comment right here is taking on “post worthy” proportions ;-), and I may just end up turning it into a post on my own blog! :-)

  15. Ahmad says:

    Great post Darren. I had through this many times. my post didn’t get any attention of my readers at all. I don’t know why. I manage to get traffic about 300 visitors daily. i will implemented your thought here to my blog.Thanks.

  16. Sure, a lot of readers appreciate updated re-posts because they either didn’t get it the first time or didn’t know it existed at all. A lot of my favorite bloggers do it; sparingly, of course, which I think is crucial, too.

  17. Ashish Mohta says:

    I keep track my posts with respect to the news. If the news has changed I update with the according to the links. Its a good idea to bring back the posts actually. But we need to make it real good. One more thing is It can help many bloggers who are doing now well but there old posts are never seen. So they bring back the old posts with good images and modfications.

    But there is one problem. The comments if there are any, has to be modiffied or not?

  18. SusieJ says:

    I go over my stats each month, and I update my sidebar with a list called: Top Posts, and I list the top 4 or 5. This does generate quite a bit of hits. I did not know you could update a post and change the date. (There is no date in my permalink structure.) I linked to them, but didn’t think about just changing the date. This is a good idea.

    I also use StumbleUpon, and have noticed there is a cycle of hits on older posts.

  19. Rob O. says:

    I’ve found recently that providing links to older posts in other blogs comments does indeed payoff. After reading about this trick on another blogging tips post a few weeks ago, I began been using this as a means of drawing attention to older, really meaningful (to me, anyway) posts that never really got the exposure I’d hoped they would. And sure enough, it does seem to be bringing some of my older entries back into the light of day.

    Another trick I employ frequently is “deep linking” within never posts to older blog posts that are directly relevant. For example, I have an entry that’ll be going live tomorrow about the postage rate hike. In it, I’ve referenced back to an entry I did just prior to the last postage bump called "Postage Rates Just Went Up – But So What?", in the hopes that readers will click thru to that older content while reading the new post.

    One odd thing I keep noticing is that one page in particular – a post titled "Pretty in Pink" – that seems to always be in my top 10-15 visited pages despite the fact that I’ve never directly backlinked, deep linked, or done anything else specfically to promote that page. And “pink dolphin” is almost always a top search phrase as well. Makes me wonder if that has some kind of sexual connotation that I’m unaware of…

  20. Toni says:

    I have never done this- but may look into it! Thanks for the tip!

  21. Rob O. says:

    I’ve been in the habit of “deep linking” back to older posts for some time now but I’ve really made a concerted effort to do even more of that in recent months.

    I’ve also been using Armen Thomassian’s recent trick that he covered in his 1 Stupidly Simple Tip That Will Boost PR and SEO article for a couple of weeks now and I’m already seeing some payoff from that.

    I’m kinda with Sharon Sarmiento in that some of my blog entries were real labors of love that I drafted, then reworked, and refined still more before ever posting them. So, I just hate when I see those favorites not getting as much notice as I’d hoped or generating any comments. So, I try to find ways to link back to those posts so they’ll see a bit more light of day…

    Now the bizarre thing that I haven’t been able to figure out is that I have a post from back in Jan. ’06 called Pretty in Pink about a group of Indo-pacific Humpback dolphins in the Pearl River Delta, between Hong Kong & Macau, that are bubble-gum pink-colored that shows up in my top 10-15 visited pages nearly every month despite having never done anything to specifically promote that page. I’ve never deep-linked back to it. And the phrase “pink dolphins” shows up as one of the top 10 search terms nearly every month too. Maybe there’s some sexual connotation to that phrase that I’m unaware of? I just wish I knew how to get some of my more favored entries to get as many hits as this little post has garnered…

  22. Rob O. says:

    Eeesh! Sorry about the double post! Didn’t seem like the 1st one went thru…

  23. I’d prefer reading in my native language, because my knowledge of your languange is no so well. But it was interesting! Look for some my links:

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