I often hear authors complain about how “frontlist driven” the book publishing business has become. Frontlist is the term used to describe new book releases—those in the last twelve months or even the current season. In contrast, backlist is the term used to refer to books that are older than that—basically, anything that is not new.
While backlist sales account for 50–60 percent of all the books sold, they typically don’t get a lot of attention. The reading public and the book-selling industry tend to focus on what is “new and notable,” rather than what is “tried and true.”
As a blogger, you face a similar challenge. Readers are highly focused on what’s new. If you aren’t intentional about it, your older posts will sink into your archives, only to be discovered when someone happens to search for one of the key words used in your posts or metadata. (This is one good reason to make sure that each post is optimized for the search engines.)
About a year ago, I decided to become intentional about promoting my older posts. As a result of the actions I took, my older posts began to account for more and more of my daily traffic. In fact, today it accounts for about 30–40 percent of my total traffic.
Here’s what I did—and what you can do—to give your older posts new life:
- Identify your most popular posts. You can use your blogging software’s statistics feature, Google Analytics, or—my favorite—PostRank.com. This is one way of “crowd-sourcing” your best content. Give your readers a vote! However, don’t be afraid to include some of your personal favorites, even if they aren’t your top traffic generators. It’s worth experimenting. I created a list of my top 100. But even 20 or 30 would be a good start.
- Make sure each post is still relevant. Quickly review each post. Update statistics or references to current events. Try to make the post as timeless as possible. I switched blog designs and found that I had to resize my photos to fit the new format. I did the bulk of this work one Saturday morning. It was well-worth the investment.
- Move your post date to the bottom of the post. Sadly, many readers will dismiss something as irrelevant, just because you wrote it last year. Because of this, you should move the post date from the top of the post (where it screams for attention) to the bottom (where it is less conspicuous). I have not had a single complaint about this. (If you use WordPress, as I do, you can modify the single.php template file. If you use a different platform, the process will be different.)
- Write a Twitter post for each blog post. I created a new text file, listing each of my “Top Blog Posts.” I then wrote a separate Twitter post corresponding to each blog post, using an intriguing question or fact as a lead-in. I recommend keeping the Twitter post under 120 characters to make it easier for your followers to re-tweet. Also, use a URL shortener (like bit.ly) and make it clear it is a re-post. Here are some examples from my Top Blog Posts file:
- Schedule the posts, using an automated system. This is an optional step, but one I recommend. You could just cut and paste from your Top Blog Posts file to Twitter, say, once a day. But if you join a service like SocialOomph.com, you can actually schedule posts as far into the future as you want. In fact, you can upload your entire text file, telling SocialOomph to schedule one post a day at a specific time. I run one a day at 11:00 a.m. With 90 posts, it takes 90 days before a Twitter post to be repeated.
- Include your top 10 blog posts on your About page. This page is more important than you probably think. I recommend using a custom About page as your main link on your Twitter profile page. (Here’s mine, as an example.) You shouldn’t force new readers to go hunting for posts to read. Instead, as a good host, point them to your most popular posts.
- Create a sidebar list of your most popular posts. Many themes, like WooThemes, have this feature built in. It will either automatically display your most popular posts or allow you to populate it with the ones you want to make more visible. Personally, I like to be able to edit the list and rotate it from time to time.
- Respond to those who comment. Engaging with your readers in the comments section of your blog is critically important. People today don’t visit a blog to listen to a monologue. They want to be part of a conversation. Therefore, you should engage in new comments on old posts, as if the post were brand new—it is for those readers. It’s a good way to set the tone and let them know what to expect in the future.
- Don’t over-do it. This is critical. If you are constantly Twittering links to your own posts, people will feel they are getting spammed. I have tried various frequencies and found that one Top Blog Post a day is about right. I have never had any complaints. For a while, I experimented with two a day and received several complaints. So be helpful without being annoying.
The best thing about the Internet is that your content is never unavailable. But that doesn’t mean people will find it or it will command attention. To keep your older blogs posts from dying in your archives, you have to be intentional and strategic.