When I first started sifting my blog archives, I asked myself only, “Which posts need to go?” But the more I re-read, the more I began asking myself, “Which posts need to stay?”
As writers, it’s easy to view the written word as sacred. We can’t bear to think of deleting a single post we’ve published, let alone shutting down an entire blog or website. But when I think about the sheer multitude of words I have written, it’s almost overwhelming. And I know that with that many words, there is surely some chaff that could be separated from the wheat.
I’ve been busy sorting my blog archives as part of a spring #bloganization (blog + organization) project. And as I’ve done so, I’ve been trying to prayerfully consider each post with these questions in mind.
1. Is this post still relevant?
The internet is all about relevancy. We remove the dates to make our posts appear fresh. We create cornerstone content landing pages to bring our posts back to the light. But none of that does any good if our posts are not truly relevant. Not every post can be monetized, and not every post will be likely to go viral two years after it is published. But if a post is truly timeless, it will be just as helpful and applicable for your readers today as the day it was written.
When I run across a post that’s nothing more than an advertisement for a Cyber Monday sale or an eBook bundle that’s long over, I can simply delete it. However, if the post has value on its own, without the mention of the sale, I often try to rework it for current monetization purposes to take advantage of the pins it has already received.
2. Does this post stand alone?
Unless your archives have done well on Pinterest, they probably don’t see the light of day except for when they appear in your related posts section or in a featured slider. When an old post pops up in your post footer, will it make sense out of context of your other posts from the month in which it was written? When an old post appears in Google search results, will it be helpful to the person who reads it? When an old post gets Tweeted by a “Tweet old posts” plugin, will it be helpful to those who follow the link? An evergreen post, just like a tree, will be able to stand on its own long after it was written.
Many of my posts from my “friends and family” blog might have made sense when read in order each week by my faithful readers, but now they reference circumstances past and inside jokes forgotten. If someone found one of those posts now, they would probably only be confused. I want to keep in my archives only what can be truly helpful to my readers.
3. Would this post be better suited to a compilation post?
Sometimes in retrospect it’s easy to look back on a section or series of blog posts and realize it could be summed up in one or two posts instead of many times that. If you feel much of the content of a specific category is only mediocre, and that not every post in that group is still necessary, consider reworking it into a compilation post. Glean the best bits from each post and create a truly stellar post you can be proud of.
My friend Rachel was part of a 30-day housecleaning challenge for which she checked in her blog each day. When she asked me what to do with all those posts in the midst of her #bloganization, I suggested she move them back to drafts and create a post with “5 Things I Learned from a Housecleaning Challenge”.
4. Could I keep only my five favorite posts in this category?
Bloggers can tend to be locquacious. Not only that, but we partcipate in weekly link-ups that require us to churn out posts even when they aren’t our best work. It’s often helpful to look at an entire category or tag of posts and consider them as a whole. Do you really need every single post you wrote on that topic, or could you keep your five best and no one would miss the rest?
When I started looking at my archives, I realized I had a chunk of posts that were nothing more than a numerical listing of blessings for Ann Voskamp’s #1000Gifts link-up. I asked my #bloganization partner Rachel Zupke what to do about it, and she suggested I choose 5 favorite. With that perspective, I was able to quickly narrow down the posts I kept from that category.
5. Should this post be hidden in my private archives?
For many bloggers, early blog posts were detailed, newsy chronicles of daily life. They are fun for family members and avid fans to read. And the occasional newsy day-to-day post has its place on many blogs. But if the style of your blogging has changed, you may not want all those old and very personal posts to remain anywhere but in your private archives.
Many of the post in my archives are a fun personal diary of my early married years. They are significant as a journal of the memorial stones in my life, not to mention my children’s early sayings and antics, but they are not relevant to current readers of my blog. I’ve made them private so I can go back and read them and see the entire chronology of my blog without cluttering my public archives.
6. Would my children want their friends reading this post?
Mommy bloggers often make a name for themselves by the hilarity with which they recount their children’s antics. And yet, as bullying becomes ever more common, archived blog posts by mom could become bullying fodder in future years. Whether or not you use your children’s names on your blog, the stories you share about them on your blog could come back to haunt them some day–in school, or at a job interview.
My blog quickly became a scrapbook of sorts of my children’s early years. I recounted everything from first steps to potty training milestones to babyish phrases. The grandmas loved it, but I wasn’t sure my kids always would. The older they grow, the more aware I’ve become that I’m writing posts about future adults, not just cute kids. I’m trying to filter the stories I share so that my children would be proud to have one of blog posts I’ve written about them read at their high school graduation.
7. Is this post full of grace?
There is a place in the blogosophere for unequivocal posts. Truth must be brought to this online “marketplace of ideas”. But as Christians, we are accountable not only for our words, but for how we say them. We can’t un-write words we wrote in the past, but we can un-publish blog posts and diminish their potential to cause hurt or confusion for future readers.
Sometimes, I cringe when I re-read the dogmatic posts I’ve written in the past. Those posts have their place in my private collection to keep me humble and show me where I have grown, but they aren’t what I want my new friends to find when they first come to my blog. I want my archives to be filled with posts that honestly reflect my journey, but also posts which accurately represent who I am today.
8. Is this a post I want future readers to find in my blog archives?
When bloggers turn published authors, it is often because an agent noticed their blog. But not every blog post would be something you’d want an agent to happen upon. Not to mention that fact that few bloggers with a publishing contract would want some of the posts in their archives to go viral once they became famous.
If I think of my blog as the place to showcase “the best of” rather than every word I’ve ever written, I find it easier to sort through my old posts. If I can cull my archives to the point that each post remaining is one I’d be honored to have read by the people I most respect, then I have done my job.
9. Does this post need a follow-up post?
The posts that inspire a lot of feedback or questions are the perfect posts to write a follow-up or FAQ post about. Even if you’ve been active in the comments, you can still serve your readers by giving them a follow up post. Make a list of any posts you think you could elaborate on in another post. Let your archives inspire future content!
My friend Trina had a post go viral about healing cavities through oil pulling. She kept so busy answering questions in the comments as well as via email and social media that she decided to do a follow-up addressing all the FAQ from the original post. Not only did she serve her readers by answering their questions, but she saved herself a lot of time responding to comments, as well as creating more evergreen content for her blog.
10. Does this post have potential as future eBook content?
Many successful eBooks began as a series of blog posts. Browsing your archives is great time to start brainstorming potential eBook topics. If you already know what topic you want to write on, keep an eye out for your most popular and evergreen posts on that subject. They might be the perfect framework for eBook chapters. If you find something that belongs in an eBook, copy and paste it into a Word document while you’ve got it open. Once begun is half done!
My mastermind group leader Trina Holden is always reminding me about the importance of eBooks. Not only for residual income, but for the ease with which readers can consume content. I’m contemplating focusing my efforts on an eBook instead of another #31Days series this year. Is the beginning of an eBook hidden in your blog archives?
How about you? Have you ever sifted your blog archives? What criteria do you use for determining which posts go and which posts stay?