Writers in the Storm

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April 30, 2014

4 Tips for the Care and Feeding of Dead Blogs

Sierra-Godfrey-180x180by Sierra Godfrey

Remember when you started your blog? Maybe you were an unpublished writer and fellow unpublished writers followed your trials with you, cheered you when you got an agent and a book contract, and then became readers. Maybe you’re still unpublished but your focus has changed. Maybe your career was already in full swing, but you started your web presence with a free blog.

However you began your presence on the Web, you might have a bunch of reasons for moving your blog now—you might have a new shiny website with incorporated blog, or maybe your old blog was hacked, or maybe you just want a new way of blogging. Once you have your new home on the web, you’re good to go, right? You can delete your old blog, right?


Let it live. You need that old blog to increase your online profile print, and you need it to stay up because readers who have gone away or have bookmarked your old blog will come back, sometimes months later. And you don’t want to be unfindable! I know a NYT bestselling author who had a fairly informal blog that was well-followed by lots of other writers –and agents, too. Then he built a brand new author website complete with a new blog. Unfortunately, he deleted the old one and I didn’t know it until I check in months later--and couldn’t find him. I didn’t know he’d transitioned, so he was just gone. He’d built a huge following of writers on his old blog, and he effectively lost that following when he moved without a trace.

So, you know to keep that old blog.

There’s a little bit of management that goes with old blogs, though. You can’t just leave an old blog by itself. Here are four things to keep in mind once your old blog goes dead:

1. Put up a notice saying you’ve moved.

If you don’t say you’ve moved then no one will know to go to your new blog! Don’t expect people to figure it out. Spell out the URL. Set your big “I’ve moved!” post so that it’s top-most post. Put your new URL loud and clear – in the sidebar, at the top, anywhere that people will see it. People link to old posts and you might not even know it. Incoming traffic to your old blog might not see your “I’ve moved” post so make sure you put your announcement in other places too—maybe a pop up box or in the sidebar. Update your footer with your new URL.

You might even consider editing your old posts with a note at the bottom that you’ve moved and list your new URL.

2. Turn comments to off.

Don’t leave your comments open because spammers know when blogs aren’t being tended to and they descend like a swarm of Dementors. Spammers know that leaving nonsense posts with their website URL in the comments scores them a trackback URL – which raises their Google ranking. It’s insidious. Lock them out.

3. Strip out time-dependent content

Do you have a graphic saying you’re part of a 2011 debut author’s group? Take off anything that might fool visitors into thinking your blog is dead rather than merely in hypersleep. Even better: strip out your sidebar content (keep your tags and archive posts though).

4. Consider repurposing your old posts.

Take some time to go through your old posts. Maybe you want to keep only the best ones, maybe you want to list the most-visited ones. As blogger Sarah Van Barger puts it, “When I started blogging, I’m not sure that SEO was even A Thing and if it was, I surely didn’t know about it. While my content was good, my titles were too quirky and mysterious to inspire much click through and all my photos were saved as “008138ejplorb.jpg.” This was also the age when people used any old photo they found – regardless of copyright and I wasn’t any different.” Sarah recommends finding your best posts and finding a good, legal image for them. She says you should rename the photo as something SEO-friendly – ”woman-using-computer” not “9109282joli.jpg” and that if you named your post something ‘clever’ the first time around (like song lyrics), rename it something obvious and Googleable. Another idea from Sarah is to offer your old blog posts as guest posts.

Hope that helps. These things are all part of managing your online profile and presence—I know, snore-fest stuff, but important when you’re trying to wrap your arms around what it means to be the fabulous author that you are.

Have you transitioned a blog? What worked for you? Any lessons learned you can share?

 About Sierra

Sierra writes fiction that features strong heroines who grow from the challenges they face and always get the guy in the end. A graphic designer by day, she lives in the swampy yet arid wastelands of the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. She has zero will power when it comes to chocolate. In fact, she is the inventor of mix-less trail mix — just leave the chocolate chips.

You can find more of her sass at www.sierragodfrey.com.

22 comments on “4 Tips for the Care and Feeding of Dead Blogs”

  1. Wow, Sierra, I've never seen a post about this, and I'll admit, I'd never thought about any of it!
    But once you laid it out, it all makes perfect sense.

    And, as you well know, it's very timely - because WITS will be moving to our brand-spanking-new website!

    People, Sierra is an amazing designer - but I don't need to sell you on her, because our new website will! Coming soon!

  2. I did a transition from Blogger to WordPress a few years ago, and pretty much did what you said: migrated my posts over but left my Blogger site up with a post about how to find my new blog, and how to follow me there. Now that I've read your post I'm going to make sure I turned the comments off! 🙂

    Thanks for this very interesting and helpful post!

  3. Thanks, Sierra ... Loved this post. Must admit that I knew a couple of these, but I have a question about one point. My blog has been active for five years this October. When I changed the title my readership dropped. How can you retain your readers from the"old" blog or currently revised blog??

    1. Unfortunately, that's the topic for a whole new post! It's a tricky business keeping your readership and the truth is that you will always lose a percentage of readers when you move. However, you need to keep in mind the bigger picture of why you moved and who your readers are. In the case of WITS, who will soon be moving to a new website with its own URL and new design, we hope people will know that the new website will offer a much better experience -- and they'll want to migrate in order to keep enjoying the great posts here.

      In your case, your readers likely identified well with your previous title. It could be that confusion resulted as to the name change, or people weren't sure if it was the same blog. I don't know how drastic the title change was or what the context is, but a few things you could do are:

      - put "Formerly known as XYZ Blog" as part of the title for some time
      - heavily promote the fact that you changed the title so that people know the blog hasn't been sold, hacked, or otherwise changed in authorship
      - Ensure consistency in posts and graphics so that the overall look remains the same

      Hope this helps.

  4. Wise words. I've been part of site migrations that took popular, low-tech sites and made them into unpopular polished, high-tech sites. High-end sites do not convey community and don't seem interactive, and interactive is what people want.

    1. Great point Eric. High end sites CAN be interactive, but I think it's easy for people without a sense of marketing (designers AND site owners) to get caught up in "making the site slick" and forgetting all functionality. Blogs are all about interactivity-- otherwise, they're just websites (blogs= websites that are interactive with readers; websites = informative, not always interactive).

  5. Wow, thanks for this info. I have two old blogs that are still up. I'll add the new URL in the sidebars. Great idea. And stripping the unneeded sidebar stuff is a great idea, too. At least I did one thing right by publishing the last post on those blogs telling folks to please go to my new site. Still lost most of my followers, but I figure, hey, it will build back up over time. No point in stressing about it. 🙂

  6. Great advice, Sierra! Thanks for the tips. I'll hang on to them for when my turn comes to move.

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