How to Keep Your Blog Posts from Dying in Your Archives

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.

Safe Deposit Boxes in a Vault - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/dlewis33, Image #2718835

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/dlewis33

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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:
    Where does social media fit into your strategy? Here is a simple, 3-part model I have found helpful. Re-post: http://bit.ly/bv7WfP

    Why is keeping your word so important, even if you don’t have a contract? Here are 3 reasons. Re-post: http://bit.ly/aWmiRA

    Okay, you’re working more hours than you would like. Here are 10 reasons why you aren’t done yet. Re-post: http://bit.ly/axXXKT

    I believe that the essence of leadership is expressed in one word: SHIFT. It has 3 different components. Re-post: http://bit.ly/9vJBkW

    As a leader, how do you create alignment in your organization? Here are three strategies. Re-post: http://bit.ly/d8nLlh

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Question: What other techniques have you found useful in making older content relevant?
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  • http://www.validleadership.com James Castellano

    Use a hyper link to reference an older post that is relevant to the current blog topic.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is an obvious one I should have referenced. I do it all the time. Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://www.geloofinjewerk.nl/about Leon de Rijke

    I often create a series of posts and link back to the first in the series. When I want to link to a series I wrote a year ago I'll include a link to the first post in the series.

  • http://paulsanduleac.com Paul Sanduleac

    Use a Related Posts plugin.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great suggestion, too. I use Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

      • http://PaulSanduleac.com Paul Sanduleac

        I use the same, but looking for something advanced, something that would give me the opportunity to style it more.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      I agree. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin seems to create the most relevant results and is quite popular for WordPress users. However, YARPP lacks the dynamic posts image capability. As a result, I prefer to use LinkWithin at least until YARPP includes the image display in it's suggested results.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

        I want to check this one out. Thanks for the lead!

      • http://www.MissionMusings.ca Michelle Porter

        Wow, thank you so much! What a simple, yet effective way to add interest and further reading options to my blog posts!

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/haymama Bridget Haymond

    This is so true Mike. I have been re-tweeting some of my older posts that are still relevant, and those who enjoy them do retweet them. I specify in my tweet that it is a re-post, but had never considered that the date might put people off. I will definitely check into moving it to the bottom of the post.

    As always, thanks for the great insights!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Let me know if you can't figure it out. If you are using self-hosted WordPress, it's pretty easy.

      • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

         Michael, I know it’s been a year since you replied here, but I’m not seeing how to move the date to the bottom in the single.php file. I use the Standard Theme for WordPress. Thanks much.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          You actually have to edit the single.php file and move the code that displays the date to the bottom of the page. If you don’t know PHP, don’t try this! Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/garethmul @garethmul

    As a recent follower I've appreciated those links back to earlier posts – the frequency is perfect, and the content always worthwhile. I'm probably reaching the end of the 90-cycle and feel that I've had my induction to the community.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Excellent! Thanks for this example.

  • http://striveformaturity.com David Knapp

    I never thought about moving the post date to the bottom. I have removed the date from my permalink but I am going to also try this.

    Also I have been having an automated message on twitter for each new blog post but I like you idea of writing something more catching to the eye.

    I usually don't bookmark other people's posts for later use but this one I will.

    Great post.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, David. I think it will make a difference in your traffic.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/PaulSteinbrueck PaulSteinbrueck

    Great tips, Mike. Three more I can think of…

    1) Optimize your blog for search engines. That means both setting up your blog with a template or plugin that gives you the ability optimize each post and optimizing title, meta tags, description, image attributes, etc of each post.

    2) Do "Best of" posts. A lot of bloggers do a "Top 10 posts of the Year" at the end of December. Some prolific bloggers do a best of the month.

    3) Create tips pages that link to the best posts on a particular topic. For example, on Christian Web Trends we write a lot about church websites, so we created a "Church Website Tips" page which includes links to the most important posts we've written about church websites: http://blog.ourchurch.com/church-website-tips/ A link to that page is featured prominently in the sidebar.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I have tried “best of” posts in the past. I’m not sure why I stopped. I think that would be a great monthly post, reviewing the previous month. Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com Women Living Well

    This is not something I have taken the time to do – but that I've been meaning to do!! I'm writing it on the to-do list right now!!! THANK YOU!
    Courtney

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Great post, Mike. I'll have to try some of your suggestions. One service that I have found to be very helpful for new posts is Scribe. It's a service that ties in with your posts on WordPress and helps you optimize titles, descriptions, and keywords. As an experiment, I've been trying it on some of my older posts that were not optimized well and watching my Google stats to see how they do after being optimized. The early results look promising, but Google can be somewhat unpredictable when updating existing posts. Scribe is free for the first month and is reasonably priced after that. (scribeseo.com)
    The other thing that comes to mind is to create a permalink structure that is not date based. My current permalink structure is month and year based and is a dead giveaway for when the post was created. It's really hard to change a permalink structure once a blog is up since it will affect existing Google links, so this might be a consideration when a blog is created.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The permalink advice is really important. You have to use a customized format for this in WordPress, but it is pretty straight-forward. My daughter set up a new blog last week, and this is exactly what I advised her. I wanted to do the same for myself, but with almost 900 posts and 225,000 incoming links, I was afraid I would frustrate a lot of readers who clicked on a link in a search engine, only to get a 404-Not Found error. I could create 301 redirects on all those pages, but I thought this would bog down performance.

      If any one know of a simple way to make this change without losing my incoming links, I am all ears!

      By the way, I joined Scribe a few weeks ago. I have yet to really delve into it, but I am eager to do so.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

        I agree, Mike. It seems like there should be a way to create a new permalink structure in WordPress for new posts, but leave the existing one in place for archive posts. Maybe a plugin??

  • http://twitter.com/apichea @apichea

    Thanks for this post – I would have never thought to "re-post" older posts. I try to do weekly and monthly recaps (drawing attention to recent posts), but haven't done anything that would "bring back" the older posts. I will definitely have to add this to my blog "to-do" list.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    Thanks for the advice. I'm going to try moving the date and re-promoting on Twitter and Facebook from time to time. I've not been blogging that long, and it can be a little discouraging when it looks like no one is reading.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I know it can be discouraging. That's why I think you have to find a writing purpose that is something other than traffic. If you are faithful to write regularly, you will eventually attract a following—assuming you are writing stuff that people want to read,

      • Anonymous

        I’ll second that–I look at blogging as multitasking: reaching an audience (however limited) while practicing writing and keeping the Journals I would keep anyway.

        Question: I’m taking time to look at Social Oomph, and as best I can tell, the queue function (dripping the posts at regular intervals) is available only if you upgrade to the paid version. Or am I misreading?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Are you talking about your blog or Twitter? Your blog should have the ability to schedule posts into the future. WordPress does. I use SocialOomph to schedule Twitter post into the future. I use these for calling attention to old blog posts I have written. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MichaelDPerkins MichaelDPerkins

    To be honest, I hadn't thought of a landing page or "showcasing" popular posts for new readers. I really like that idea.

    The only thing that I would recommend is having an explanation for the blog's title. My blog is called "Untitled" and I had too many readers send emails asking if I had just forgotten to put it in.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I see this problem a lot. I think it is important to go through all your blog’s settings systematically and make sure that all the defaults are set the way you want them.

  • Carol York

    A-ha! I always wondered how you were tweeting re-posts while you were "offline" for work stuff. Thanks for all you do to share knowledge. It doesn't always apply to me, but like the Word of the Lord, I'm sure it's meant for at least one person or more to hear at this moment…

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Now you know my secret!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BLichtenwalner Ben Lichtenwalner

    Great suggestions Michael. I only have one additional item to suggest:

    Create posts tied to recurring events (Holidays, annual conferences, seasons, etc.). A post that is connected to recurring annual, or more frequently cycling events are relevant each time that event occurs. For example, I created a post on servant leadership and our nation's independence – relevant each year, around 4th of July. Posts tied to seasons like the rebirth of Spring or philanthropy in the holidays could also work.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Great idea. Thanks!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chrisvonada chrisvonada

    Just started experimenting with this and appreciate the great advice Michael.

    One thought… I'm thinking that I'll use some of my most popular past material on days/weeks where I'm tied up with other commitments or on vacation

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Twittering a link is fine, but I would avoid re-posting it in a new blog post. Google will penalize you if the content appears in more than one place. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/paulthinkingoutloud paulthinkingoutloud

    Great analogy between publishing and blogging. Not everybody is an expert on everything however, and many blogs will travel the same routes with repeats of various themes, or even pet peeves. This is an excellent opportunity to run internal links to your own previous posts, or you can refresh the content by paraphrasing your own previous posts and have them run on days you have no other new material. You can also try including a link in a comment if you see someone blogging recently on a rather distinctive topic you may have covered a year ago.

    Another strategy is to make sure that each item is sufficiently tagged, including words which help define what's written, but don't necessarily appear in the post itself. (Sometimes these can be too obvious: If the article uses the word "church" a dozen times, try using the tag "churches.") The more unusual the word, or the more selective the subject, the longer it will rank high in various types of search engines. I have some posts that refuse to die because not many other bloggers covered the same items.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Internal links are very important. I rarely write a new post without one or two. I do this primarily as a service to my readers who want to go deeper, but it is also a great way to make your older content more visible.

  • http://www.christianoey.com Christian Oey

    Thanks for the tips Michael..keep ‘em coming!

    Cheers
    Christian

  • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

    This post was very good… the comments below really helped as well!

  • http://www.blaneyoung.com Blane Young

    Thanks for the tips! I am going to apply #6 right now! I think this is a great way to get the greatest return on investment (in terms of writing the posts).

  • http://KarlSakas.com/ Karl Sakas

    "Instead, as a good host, point them to your most popular posts." <– I love the concept of adding a Top list to a special About page, especially as a way to draw readers for good articles that weren't widely read the first time — I'll implement that shortly. You're right, it's part of being a good host.

    I use Argyle Social to promote current posts (usually a morning update and an afternoon re-post) but I hadn't thought to use its scheduling feature to promote past posts. I'll get on that, too. Thanks, Michael!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I'm going to check out Argyle Social. It looks very cool. Thanks.

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  • http://bondchristian.com/ bondChristian

    Start an email list and create an auto-responder sequences that links to your older posts in some logical order. People love this because it adds value instead of leaving it to the reader to dig through posts that seem totally unrelated (outside the general niche of the blog).

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • http://www.newamericanparadigm.com Derek Young

    This was really helpful. I'm still getting started but provided a helpful roadmap for when I get further along.

    Also kinda interesting is that I actually looked for the date at the top as I just added your blog to my RSS feed and was wondering how long ago this had been written. And you're right, because I was actively seeking it, I wasn't bothered by looking towards the bottom. Had that not been the case I'd have never noticed when it was written.

    Now I have to follow you in Twitter to have the older ones brought to my attention. Brilliant!

  • http://www.memoirwritersworld.blogspot.com Ruth Zaryski Jackson

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for a great post with lots of helpful suggestions. I loved LinkedWithin mentioned by Ben Lichtenwalner in comments and have added it to my blog.

  • marcusjlewis

    Very helpful thanks! I have been trying to implement some of these steps recently and appreciate the guidance.

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  • http://jeffmcclung.wordpress.com/ Jeff

    Thanks for this post Michael. I loved the tips, especially SocialOomph.com. I started using it today.

    I liked what you said about not tweeting more than one post a day, but is it OK to tweet the same post twice in one day (in different ways, of course)?

    Also, what times of the day have you found to be the best to post and tweet about it? Currently I post and auto-tweet it at 7am (Pacific time) and manually tweet about it again at 3pm. Do you think that is too much?

  • Mark Conner

    Great idea!

    I went to one of your recent older posts, which was great, but comments were closed …. which made me realize it was an old post.

  • http://shine4himphoto.wordpress.com Nicole

    Interesting tips! I’ll probably have to get some more posts up before I can start using them, but I’ll bookmark this. And now… I’m going off to read one of the other posts you tweeted about in your example!

  • http://twitter.com/dbonleadership Dan

    Great way to maximize your posts. Thank you for sharing.

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  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    I appreciate the clarification.  This definitely gives me food for thought following your post today (2/15/2012).

  • http://bobbymcgraw.com Bobby McGraw

    Great tips! Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/Something2Offer Thaleia Maher

    great blog.

  • http://twitter.com/Something2Offer Thaleia Maher

    Michael, love your blog, but I’ve noticed typos. 
    Create a sidebar list of your post popular posts  1st post should me MOST. Just trying to help out.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Got it. Thanks for your help.

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  • http://www.beforethecross.com/ Mike Mobley

    Michael, this is a great post, thank you!

    Do you know of a way to change the permalink structure that keeps the social counts like Facebook Likes and Tweets?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I am afraid I don’t. CHanging the structure will break this.

      • http://www.beforethecross.com/ Mike Mobley

        Ok sounds good. Thanks for the quick reply as always!

  • http://www.mattham.com/ Matt Ham

    Michael,
    Thanks for this – I’ve been struggling with how often to share my content and repost, etc particularly on days when I’m not doing any NEW writing. I also did a recent survey of my followers and saw where the majority preferred only 1 or 2 new post a week. I’ve been writing a lot and have published up to 6 (I know you say no more than 3) – In hindsight I should have saved off some posts, but I initially used the blog for ‘journaling’ ideas and once they started resonating, I became eager to share. In any case, a huge help!

    Question – once you write a new post and publish it, how many times would you re-share that day? That week?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I share the post twice on social media the first day it is published. Then it gets added to my list to promote on a 90-day cycle or so.

      • http://www.mattham.com/ Matt Ham

        Awesome Michael! Thanks for your feedback. I’m relatively new to your content, but walking down this path, so I need to keep digging and engaging your resources. Thanks for your dedication to helping others!

  • http://www.successharbor.com/ George Meszaros @successharbor

    Great post. I like how actionable it is. You are the second person I read that writes about moving the publish date to the bottom of the post. It makes perfect sense to me. I also your suggestion on Twitter promotion.