Updating Old Blog Posts

Digging In Deep Updating Old Blog Posts For User Experience And SEO

Let’s see what we can learn from this blogger’s crazy idea to update 300 blog posts. I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing and, more importantly, what I’ve learned in the process. My hope is to help other bloggers avoid some of the mistakes I’ve been fixing as well as understand some of the factors we need to consider as early as possible when designing our blogs.

Three years, 300 Posts and over 10,000 Comments – Thank You!
This is the 300th blog post published on Hot Blog Tips and I want to thank everyone that has participated in any way; reading, sharing, commenting and even guest posting. It’s been an amazing journey and it’s just the beginning.

I just spent A LOT of time editing almost every blog post, and let me tell you, that was an insane project. As with so many of my projects, things got a little carried away and I ended up editing almost everything I could see wrong with them. In fact, I am still in the process of creating new “full size” featured images and custom YouTube video thumbnails (Something I should have been doing from day one).

What I’m Not Talking About

A year and a half ago I talked about Creating Authority Pages With Regular Updates” (VERY important post that I still practice and preach) but, as important as I believe that is, I’m not referring to regular post updates in this article; today I’m talking about cleaning up and, hopefully, avoid that clean-up task for some of you.

I want this post to help prevent others from making these mistakes to begin with and perhaps offer a few solutions for those of you in the same boat.

Strange Characters And Symbols

Last year my blog crashed and I had to use a database backup to restore everything and that caused strange little symbols to appear all over the place. I’m not sure what the issue was, something to do with the UTF-8 character set. (If you’re having the same issue, see this post). I actually manually removed each strange character (’ and  and others) one at a time. That wasn’t fun at all – I wish I had found that post before I invested all of that time.

Strange Characters And Symbols

Blog Categories

I wanted to reduce our number of blog categories. Like most bloggers, I created a mess when it came to tags and categories for each post.

I was so frustrated by the number of tags (not to be confused with meta-tags, which I haven’t bothered with in years) earlier this year I actually deleted every single one of them. Short of the navigational aspect for readers, there’s almost no beneficial use for tags anymore.

Like I mentioned above, I reduced the number of blog categories significantly to categories to primarily Blogging Tips, Blogging & Beyond, Traffic / SEO, and Social Media. I say primarily because I have a couple of “special use” categories such as such as Podcast, Video Archives, and Archived. These “special use” categories, as I call them, make it easy to omit them whenever building a new menu.

The Video Archives category is used like a page where we’ve featured our many video posts. The Podcast category is similar and important for exporting audio to iTunes. I’ll get into the “archived” category next.

Outdated and Irrelevant Posts

The other “special use” category is Archived. I didn’t want to delete old outdated posts so I “Archived” them using the category as well as a special notice above each post explaining that the content on that post was outdated and only there for archival reasons.  So any menus that are created for our blog will omit every post that has been archived.

The other thing that separating “archived” posts into their own category does, is it allows me to omit that category from our blog search feature so outdated posts won’t show up when searching within our blog. (Thank you Rob Cubbon).

I have also no-indexed those posts to help reduce bounce rates and from leaving a bad first (and probably only) impression on first time search traffic.

Broken Links

I’ve written a lot about broken links and how tough it can be to stay on top of these but I tried to check each “potentially bad” link manually and ended up removing over one hundred bad links.

Related Broke Link Posts:

Bad Internal Linking

Internal linking is an important part of what we do as bloggers but doing it wrong can be very bad. I sent this out to our VIP List a couple of weeks ago (you can actually read it here)  but back in the day, when bloggers had to chisel content out of stone, it was common practice to link back to the same post we were writing using a keyword or phrase. For example, I might link to this post, on this post, using the phrase “Updating Old Content”.

Bad Internal Link

That internal link did nothing for the reader and was there just to help the search engines rank that post using those keywords. Whether it worked or not is up for debate. It certainly doesn’t work now; not with Google’s updates for the last couple of years.

Typically, internal website links will not cause you any sort of trouble.
~ Matt Cutts

I’m not sure how Matt defines “typically” in his quote above but here’s my experience…

I believe that not only do these spammy internal linking tactics no longer work; they also hurt your ranking. While editing old posts and removing those links that linked back to that same post, I began to notice something: the PageRank of every one of them, I mean every single one, was a big fat zero.

Now we know browser PageRank is about as dependable as a coffeepot made of paper, but it was enough to make me look a little deeper. It turns out that these posts were indexed but were the lowest positioned content on this blog.

A photo of a bunny rabbit taking a nap might show up on Google before one of my blogging tip posts using those spammy internal links for the search term “blogging tip”. Well, maybe not that bad but its bad enough to generate zero search (referral) traffic from Google.

Good Internal Linking

As I removed what I consider bad internal linking, I added good internal links to many of the posts. Many of us use a “related posts” plugin and I have yet to find the perfect solution when it comes to automating something like that. So I took advantage of the opportunity while doing all of this editing and cleanup to manually include related links on some of the more common posts and topics (See section 4.3 of The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites).

What I did was I made a simple text document of the more popular (better) posts for topics like Google Hangouts on Air (HoA), Google Plus, and Twitter. Then, below each post, I added the relevant links in the form of Related Posts. Those links may quickly lose their strength as the posts age but, even if I never update a single one, it won’t cause any harm as the blog grows.

Related Post Text

Correct Image Directories

Has this happened to you? You find a new WordPress theme that’s so good you decide to make the switch – and all of the work involved in the new look. You get everything just right, only to realize later that you still have work to do. You see things like the background image, blockquote graphics and icons no longer work. I’ll call these themes-specific images for lack of a better description.

For example, my last theme used a nice blockquote image blockquotethat I wanted to keep. No worries, that’s just a small matter of updating a little CSS. BUT, now I have to dig around in the old theme’s image directory, find the image, and upload that into this theme’s image folder, right?  Well, maybe but I think it might be better to use images like that in universal folder. For example:

blogurl/images/blockquote.png
Rather than
blogurl/wp-content/themes/current-theme/images/blockquote.png

Now with the next blog redesign or theme change, we can keep the CSS that pulls the image from a directory that’s actually still accessible.

Minor Editing

I’ve talked about updating older content for authority posts in the past but that wasn’t what this project was about. So if I could quickly update a post to make it more relevant, I did. If the post would require too much editing, however, it was archived as out of date content like I mentioned above. I wasn’t interested it rewriting a bunch of past content; life is simply too short and getting shorter by the day.

A Note Of Caution – Theme-Specific Short Codes

I want to wrap things up by offering a little advice when it comes to theme-specific features and codes. For example, right now the theme I’m using has some cool shortcode features like inserting audio clips and shadow-boxes. I know from experience that I probably won’t be using this same theme a year from now so what happens with those short codes if the new theme doesn’t support them? Nothing, and that’s a problem. That’s just something to think about; avoiding themes or plugin specific shortcodes or features could save a lot of editing time late.

Short codes to avoid

Hot TipHot Tip: if it’s too late and you’ve already been using theme-specific shortcodes for a while, this plugin (ShortCodes UI) might help when you decide to change themes. A better solution would be to have those same shortcodes built into a custom theme if you’re going the route. And, of course, the best solution is simply to avoid using any theme-specific shortcodes – ever.

Hot TipHot Attention/ShadowBox Tip

The theme I’m using right now has it’s own shortcode for a shadow box and it works flawlessly. Again, the problem happens later when we switch themes.

The Solution; Either code it in manually (very simple) or use a plugin. I used to use a plugin to create attention boxes like but it hasn’t been updated in over two years so I won’t link to it. I may create a post later with the html for different boxes if it would help anyone. In fact, I will so look for it soon.

Here’s the HTML for this box:

Using Featured Images

Ugly Featured ImagesThere’s no real standard as far as size and theme use for featured images so they can get in the way of updates. My old theme didn’t display the featured image at all on blog posts so I manually embedded a copy in each post. This latest theme does display the featured image so every post (remember, 300 of them) had very ugly double image (pictured). Not only that, my old standard was a 300px image on the top right with text wrapping to the left. This new theme? A whopping 780px image (pulled from the featured image) above the post. Now, not only do I need to remove every embedded image, I have to resize or create a new (much larger) featured image for every post.

{Skippable} This work, my friends, didn’t start until several days ago so I still have a long way to go with creating new image. To complicate things even more, I’m using a multimedia theme that allows me to replace the “visible” featured image with an image slider, video, podcast, SlideShare, map, quote, or even just text. So the featured image is still required for other reasons but I decided that video and podcast thumbnails needed to be created for each of those. It’s an insane amount of time and effort but I really love the results. I should have been using custom video thumbnails to begin with anyway.

Showing Off {Still Skippable}

I’m lovin’ the new simplistic look of our most recent theme change. By taking advantage of the things I mentioned above, I’m confident that our content will be compatible with any future premium WordPress theme we may switch to at a later date. I also believe that by avoiding theme or plugin specific features, a developer will find creating a custom theme much easier.

Now, the showing off part, a screenshot before and after of just one post (Notice the multi-media shows above each post – that would be replaced with the featured image by default on most premium themes should we change later):

Theme Before and After Screenshot

So What Do We Do About Using Featured Images?

Okay, enough about me, what should we do about featured images? Well, we do need them; too many sites use the featured image when linking to our content to ignore them. Personally, I’ll never go back to a theme that doesn’t insert/embed the featured image, or at least have that option.

Second, images are more important than ever so I’m going to stick with larger featured images. The new images I’m creating/resizing are 800px wide. This, obviously, is a personal choice and the biggest drawback is filesize and I’ve gotten pretty good at optimizing images.

Let’s Recap – The Three Biggest Takeaways For Beginner Bloggers

We covered a lot here so I think it will help to recap a few of the more important lessons:

  1. Topics/Categories: Strategically plan your blog topics (post categories) with the reader in mind. Keep it as simple as possible and everything should be just a couple of clicks away. Navigation should be consistent and easily understood by everyone that visits your blog.
  2. Post Tags: If you decide to use tags, use them very sparingly to group topics together. Again, keep your reader in mind, tags do not play a role in SEO, so don’t even use them if it’s not going to simplify things for your readership. (One exception might be a related posts plugin IF its using tags to match related posts). Again, just to be clear, I’m referring to post tags, not metatags, which are even more useless than post tags.
  3. Avoid Theme-Specific Short Codes:  Your WordPress theme today might be set so you can use the shortcode [share] to pull up social share buttons wherever you like but if your next theme design doesn’t support that, you’ll end up with [share] all over your blog. The same goes for plugin-specific shortcodes by the way.In fact, I was using a WordPress plugin that showed (embedded) a video by adding a “V” into the video URL (httpv://). Now that the plugin is no longer needed, I had to go around and remove that “V” for the video to work.

Thank you So Much

Again, I truly want to thank everyone for your support. I’m having a blast with this blog and that wouldn’t be true if it weren’t for the community support I enjoy. Without you, I’d have to find a boring hobby or start going to the gym or something. 😉 I hope this helps, take action today and blog on.

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