Building a Better Blog for 2007: Leverage the Past

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Once you’ve reached a point where you have a healthy number of posts, you’ll find that even your best, most original ideas overlap with ideas you’ve posted on in the past. Some people see this as a problem; they worry that they’re out of original ideas. Successful bloggers, however, see it as an opportunity.

Let’s say you’ve been working hard on your blog for six months, and it’s been growing an audience at a rate of 5% a week. At the start of your seventh month, 66% of your audience has never read any of your earliest work, and that’s assuming no audience turnover at all. In other words, every six months, the vast majority of your audience is unfamiliar with your work that is six months or older.

This is an opportunity. You have an audience that you can expose to some of your best writing for the first time. You also have the power to accentuate your posts with additional information, increasing the mindspace of your blog. Even better? You have a great opportunity to get more pageviews from an average visitor.

Here are some guidelines for leveraging your older posts.

Link related points in your new posts to old posts from your archives. If you reference a topic that you wrote about in the past, add a link to it. Often, merely linking the point in your new post directly to the post in your archive is the best approach, as it allows readers to dig in deeper if the topic interests them. Over time, you’ll link together sequences of these, leading people deeper and deeper into your archives. It becomes something of an organic site tour, leading people through threads of thought.

Post surveys of your archives. Every once in a while, you can post surveys of your archives. These posts can be pure retrospectives, providing a selection of links of your best older work to new readers. These are often great posts for the end of the year, or for filling space while you’re on a vacation from your blog.

If you’re using WordPress, try out the related entries plugin. This plugin automatically finds posts potentially related to your current post and appends them, giving your readers quick links to additional writings in your blog similar to the topic at hand. This is very good if your site is full of content-heavy posts, as the tool will automatically find supplemental content (and potential page views) for every post you make.

Maintain a “greatest hits” section of your site. Keep a brief list of some of the most popular posts on your site and link to this archive on every page. This allows every casual reader to your site to quickly find some of your best work. Keep the list short, though, or else you may overload the attention span of casual visitors and they won’t visit anything at all.

Don’t replace new content with old content. Some blogs figure out that leveraging your archives can be an easy way to generate post counts, so they load up their site pointing to old posts all of the time. After a while, it becomes really clear to the audience that these blogs have nothing new to say. In short, leverage your archives, but don’t lean on your archives.

Building a Better Blog for 2007 is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, Search Engine Optimization Doesn’t Matter, or back to the previous one, Guide Your Users.

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