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31DBBB Day 21: Breathe Life Into an Old Post

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This is day 21 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers.

Arnold, before and afterThere have been a slew of movies recently which are remakes of older films, or complete reboots of entire movie franchises, and more are in the works. Batman Begins, King Kong, The Taking of Pelham 123, Karate Kid, Footloose, Clash of the Titans, and Conan the Barbarian are just a handful within a long list of remakes which are being produced for lots of reasons:

  • Special effects technologies have improved
  • Cultural ideals and mindsets have changed
  • The story wasn’t well told the first time
  • It was a good movie, but it’s so deeply buried in history that younger audiences probably won’t dig it up on their own
  • We’ve learned that mullets weren’t a good idea after all

If you’ve been blogging for a while, then chances are that you have an old post or two that could stand to be remade. Perhaps you’ve learned a thing or two that puts a different slant on what you wrote. It could be that your writing skills have improved or that you happened to write the initial post in hurry, so that it’s just not that well written. Or maybe you wrote an opinion post, and your opinion has changed.

Whatever the case, there are lots of good reasons to go back through your old posts and update some of them. Here are four quick tips for revamping your posts:

  • Write a better title. Sometimes just coming up with a new and better title can spark new interest in a post. Many successful bloggers believe that the title is the most important element of your posts, since that’s what grabs or loses the initial attention of potential readers.
  • Rewrite the opening lines. Now that you’ve learned about writing an elevator pitch, apply that strategy to individual posts. The opening lines will either convince people to keep reading, or dissuade them.
  • Correct typos, bad grammar, and broken links. I’m sometimes amazed and embarrassed when I go back to an old post and spot grammatical errors that I completely missed when I wrote the initial post. Bad grammar, bad spelling, and bad links may tell your readers that you’re not a careful person, so you may not have thought through what you’re saying.
  • Give it a makeover. Just redesigning the look and feel of a post can make it more readable. Try breaking up large paragraphs, adding a picture, or adding subheadings. Books are frequently republished this way, even when their content doesn’t change.
  • Add depth. As you learn more about subjects which you have already written about, it’s a good idea to go back and update those posts with new knowledge and depth.

Just as remade movies are bringing in droves of both old an new audiences, an update of an old post can bring a wave of readers to your blog.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does this assignment feel productive or counterproductive to you?  Why?
  2. Have you or your opinions changed much since you started blogging?
  3. If you’ve ever updated an old post, what sort of response did you receive?

The Extra Mile:

  1. If you’ve never done so, go back through all of your old posts and re-read them.  You may notice corrections that need to be made.
  2. If you know of a good example of an old post that has been updated well, please share both the old and the new post here for others to read.
  3. Please be sure to visit people’s updates that are posted here, and offer your feedback.
  4. Tweet, share, and bookmark this post.

Chris Branscome decided to see what would happen if he could pray once every minute.  Read about it at The Prayer Experiment, or better yet, join in the Experiment yourself!  Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisBranscome

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    43 Comments

    • That good advice Chris. I do like to be original, but its crazy to lose what is already in my archive. Chances are it will find new audiences, but with a bit of a touch up it could do better than before. Your whole idea of reviving stuff using new technologies and resources, also applies to the static aspects of the blog site – we must always try to stay with new developments and keep relevant because the wired world is changing so fast that we can be left behind quite quickly and easily.

    • Good post Chris.

      I already do this but possibly not often enough. Because I work in technology things move rapidly whereas a blog post effectively stands still. What I think is an excellent product today may this time next year be totally useless or vice versa.

      Just to be 100% clear – you're talking (and problogger I guess but I haven't read today's section) about effectively creating a new post and not just editing the old one "in situ" ?

      • Actually, I think it's both, with more of a leaning toward modifying posts "in situ." Of course, doing that means that you'd have to alert people that an old post has been updated. He does mention posting a rewrite as a brand new post, but only for those who wish to preserve the history and evolution of their blog.

        • The reason I seek the clarity is that surely the old post wouldn't attract any fresh SEO to it? Or do I miss the way that works?

          For me it isn't about the SEO aspects though so would happily direct the reader to an older post but still I'd rather leave whatever in place for history sake and create a brand new item taht links back.

    • 1. I think this is a productive exercise but takes a measure of discipline. I think I am like most folks and my head is down focused on the development of old content.
      2. My blog is just a few months old. What I find changing the most right now is not my thought on the content that I write, but the results that I want to accomplish by blogging.
      3. I have never updated a post.

      I will go back through my limited archives this week and see what turns up. I don't have much content right now so I may be limited to improving some titles or opening lines.

      Just FYI for the group. Nolan Bobbit is supposed to be preaching 3 messages today. He took a break from posting to help prepare for it. Please remember him in prayer.

      My post for today is: http://larrywestfall.com/memorial-day-a-day-to-re

      • #2 is a great point. My blog is also very young and I know exactly what you mean. I wonder how many other people here are just getting started with blogging.

    • As a songwriter, I'm aware of the temptation to always keep modifying a song you've written, to always be hearing new riffs to throw in, or changes in instrumentation, and a I think this temptation is inherent in most creative endeavors, including blogging.

      To use another movie analogy, George Lucas is infamous for updating Star Wars 4-6 several times, to the great annoyance of many of the movies' fans.

      Personally, I'd lean toward preserving the old posts when they are more creative in nature, and even when they aren't, unless the rewrite means fixing false statements or poor grammar, punctuation, or bad links.

    • Chris I did comment earlier, but I seem to be having problems with lost comments. Anyway, may I just say that your observations are very valid and a good reminder to reuse what we already have in our archives. However, the same principles could apply to static content and the need to keep that up to date with changing trends in cyberspace.

    • I am one of those people who Darren referred to at the end of this post who is very reluctant to modify a post that's already been published. Why?

      1) It can confuse readers. If someone reads a post a second time after it's been changed, they could be left wondering, "I don't remember him saying that before??? Was it changed or did I miss it?

      2) It can take comments out of context. If people commented in response to the original post, by changing the post you could be taking out part of what those comments were referring to, if not directly perhaps the tone.

      If there are major changes, I much prefer to write a new post and add a link to it at the bottom of the old post.

      If there are one or two small but significant changes – if I got a fact wrong or I wrote about a problem with a website which has since been address – I will usually leave the original info in the post and add a paragraph that starts with "EDIT (date/time):" and includes the updated info.

      My post today…

      A Memorial Day Memorial
      http://www.liveintentionally.org/2010/05/31/a-mem

      • I think I understand that approach better by adding EDIT and then including ones changes there. The thing is, unless we change something quickly then almost certainly the mighty google has already cached it amy way.

      • Great points Paul! I like the idea of reposting an old post with some updates, but this task make me think about Day 11 (come up with 10 post ideas). I think that the biggest take-away that I get from this one is to use the Day 11 mind mapping techniques, but not just with newer posts. I think that all content, old or new, can be approached from the same mindset.

        I can already think of several older posts that I've done that I can breathe new life into but letting them spawn whole series of new posts. I think that I'll spend some time this week doing some mind-mapping with old posts and getting them on my editorial calendar (Day 12)!

    • 1) Fairly new blogger and a "redo" is not something I am interested in. Maybe revisiting a topic, but not rewriting a blog. When preaching, this is certainly not something I would try…

      2) The only opinion that has changed for me is that people actually do read my blog. I am amazed at the feedback. At "fellowship" meetings, other ministers will comment on my blog, even though they never comment online.

      3) Never updated and probably never will.

      New post for today: What memorials do you have? http://ronniespoon.blogspot.com/2010/05/what-memo

      • yeah, I find it difficult to redo stuff, especially if it mean repetition – it makes me feel sick inside.
        But there is value in this, and it might not be so bad if there were a few months between the do and redo.

      • I agree. This particular assignment seems geared more towards a crowd that might have a longer list of posts to choose from. I'm looking at a history of maybe 3 months, and even my very first post seems a bit too new to really do anything with.

    • hmmm, certainly an opportunity to improve upon something when you's lost as to what to post about. Or maybe it is something that needs to be scheduled, every week?

    • I can think of a few posts I'd revise, but most of them I probably wouldn't. Like Paul says, I'd probably write a new post instead. Then, if appropriate, I may link back to the old post and vice versa. One thing I've seen people do is to add a new section to their blog that's labeled *UPDATE*. Sometimes they post it in a different color, too. Or sometimes people insert lines in a different color or font.

      The post(s) I'll probably update have to do with the commentary I posted on 1 Corinthians when I first started blogging. There were some things in chapter 14 that I've recently learned more about. At the time, I left them up in the air with a promise of a future post when I'd found more information.

      BTW, I've taken the leap and gotten my own URL. It's http://www.journeyintotheson.com . So now I've discovered how much I really don't know about WordPress and had to order a couple of new books. 😆 Anyway, if you're following my blog, hop over and take a look and change your links, etc.

      Blessings, Cindy

      • Jealous about the URL! I'm hoping to do that soon, once I clear this busy time and will be able to update regularly.

      • I like the idea of putting things in a different color, I've seen that too. But with just .wordpress.com you can't do that. What's different between the free version and having a domain? Are you able to do things like change font colors, font sizes or styles, and add stuff to your sidebar that's in javascript?

    • I think this assignment can be productive for those who have been blogging for awhile. I've been writing regularly on my blog for less than a month now, so it seems a little foolish to go back and update an older post. However, there have been times when I have come across new information. Typically when this happens I write a new post, explaining what I have found and then link back to the old post.