4 ways to bring new life to old WordPress blog posts

If you want to create a content heavy, sticky website then a blog can feel like the wrong tool. Overtime some of your best content can get buried. Fortunately there are 4 ways you can breath new life into these old posts.

Who came up with the format for blogging? Whoever it was, they are an idiot! To be fair, they probably never envisioned blogs being used in the way they are today, but that is not the point :-)

The problem with blogs is that they are time based. You write a post, it appears on the homepage and then overtime it is replaced by more recent posts and is sentenced to the black hole of your archive.

Admittedly somebody might stumble across the post via a search engine. However, generally speaking it has vanished.

This is a shame for a couple of reasons. First, it maybe a great post. The world should know if it is. Second, it means users only ever see one or two pages of your blog and are gone. Not what you would call a sticky site!

Google Analytics bounce rate graph for Boagworld - April 2009 - 74% bounce rate.

If like me you run a blog, the chances are you have an unacceptably high bounce rate.

What then can be done? Well, I have implemented four strategies that appear to be working.

1. Theme Posts

The first approach I had some success with, are theme posts. It is an idea I pinched from ProBlogger. They describe theme posts as:

Posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme.

Essentially, you pick a subject you have written about on a number of occasions. You then create a single article that highlights the various archived posts on the subject.

For example, not long ago I produced a theme post on web copy.

An example theme post from boagworld

This essentially draws the users attention to archived content that would not otherwise be viewed.

2. Related Posts

The second approach I use to reduce my bounce rate, is showing related content at the end of each new post.

Again this highlights content in my archive, but also provides the user with a next step once they have finished reading. This is the moment when they are most likely to leave, so anything you can do to keep their interest is worth trying.

Example of related posts

If you are a WordPress blogger then related posts could not be easier to setup. There is an excellent plugin called Similar Posts that will have you up and running in minutes.

Similar posts admin screen

3. Embedded tags

The problem with related posts is that users do not always spot them. Research shows that if you want users to see a link it is best embedded within the content itself, not in a sidebar. One way of doing this is through inline tags.

Blogs have supported tagging for a long time now but they have traditionally been displayed either as a list or a cloud, separate to the main content of the post.

Inline tagging turns occurrences of a tag word into an active link that takes the user to a list of other posts tagged with that word. This is especially sticky, but also has SEO benefits.

An example inline tag

Of course there are two problems with this approach. First, it requires you to have tagged all of your posts. Second, you need a way to turn these tags into links.

Once again a WordPress plugin comes to the rescue. This time it is a plugin called Simple Tags. This incredibly powerful plugin allows you to do pretty much anything with tags. Among its many features it will turn a tag into a link. However, more impressively it will automatically suggest tags for every post in your entire blog.

However, one tip before you try this. Tag as many of your posts manually as possible in order to give the plugin some tags to work with.

Then in settings make sure the Tags Database checkbox is selected. This means the plugin will use your own tags as a starting point, and significantly improve the quality of the tags it creates.

Simple Tag Settings

Simple Tags offers a whole range of additional features including:

  • Tag management
  • Mass editing of tags
  • Better tag clouds
  • Tags for current post
  • and more!

4. Redesign your homepage

My final piece of advice for making your blog stickier is to redesign your homepage.

Traditionally blogs show an arbitrary number of the most recent posts on the homepage. However, this does little to expose content in your archive. Once a post falls off the homepage it is gone for good.

Your homepage should highlight a variety of posts. The Boagworld homepage displays teasers for the 4 latest posts as well as a number of my latest podcasts and 5 of my most popular posts.

The latter is achieved using another WordPress plugin. This one is imaginatively titled Popular Posts.

Configuration screen for popular posts

As with Similar Posts it comes with a host of configuration options including how many posts to display and a number of filtering tools.

Any other suggestions?

Without a doubt these four suggestions have made a significant impact on my bounce rate and page views per user. However, there is always more that can be done. Add your suggestions to the comments below…

  • This is brilliant! Installing embedded tags right now.

  • I agree, showing related posts as well as tags can help users find your older content. Post categories work as well. Theory goes, if a reader enjoys a post you wrote about WordPress, they’ll probably want to see what else you’ve written on WordPress, so these are a great way to get options in front of them.

  • I think you have covered all possible things to bring life to old posts. I think the “Similar Posts” thing works much better because I usually browse blogs reading posts and scroll to bottom and see what similar posts the blog has got.

  • There is another idea which is similar to related posts on Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/). Half way through a post, she’ll include a short list of posts from “One year ago”, “two years ago”, etc. I didn’t really get it at first. It’s quite random and I still don’t really understand the appeal, but my wife (who’s also a food blogger) loves it. I’m not sure if there’s a plug-in for this or not, but it is a WP blog.

  • Great, i hav to try these plugins!

  • Another effective approach: Design Observer (http://designobserver.com/) includes random archive posts as thumbnail images in their header. And they change when you refresh the page.

  • My blog is meant for multiple authors and I treat it more like a forum than a traditional blog, so I sort all posts by which has the most recent comments. That way the current stuff (most commented) will pretty much always be on top, but archived stuff that someone stumbles upon can still get a bump to the top of the pile if anyone comments on it.

    I was lucky, though, since there was a plug-in specific to my theme that did this for me.

    My site: http://www.askmeabout.us

    The theme is P2 by automattic, and the plug-in is called “Sort by Comments”

  • I really like this. It sort of makes me slap my head and say “obviously”. But it so so easy to forget the house keeping that makes these sites more accessible to people. I’m off to write a roundup!

  • This is definitely a different approach for blogging. Giving you readers the opportunity to find more content is excellent.

    There is a thought that is knocking around in my mind though. While making content readily available is great, a blog should be what ever you want.

    I’m not saying this post is wrong, in fact I agree with Paul, to a point.

    If you want your blog to be an archive of information thats great. Something that lasts, and help people, great. But many blogs are journals. They are about the day to day, not art, tutorials, suggestions or even thoughts. They are daly logs.

    I guess my point is that the way we design our blogs depends on what we want them to accomplish.

    Blogs have definitely evolved over time and are used more like repositories than journals many times. But we can’t discount the day to day approach, the original idea behind blogging, which is not dumb or idiotic.

  • Very relevant topic! On his blog, had to find a way to output at home and change the default theme BranfordMagazine. It is for this. Now users at home will be able to see not 10, and 330 news in 11 categories.
    Maybe not the most successful version of WordPress, but this is the case approach.

  • I came to this conclusion myself also…especially concerning galleries.

    I have therefore implemented some features in http://fan-tas-tic.com, like most/least related, random and individual category and tag related posts in the gallery footer…

    Otherwise your always serveing the same (popular) posts over and over…

  • Thank you so much, I really liked the tip about the “Related Posts”.

  • The more ways you offer to find content, the better. The 4th most visited page of my site nadelspiel (yes, I admit, I am not only a cat-blogger, but even worse, I am a knit-blogger as well ;) is this page
    where I give an overview over topics and where I show a tag cloud in alphabetical form (it’s using Simple Tags).
    The site receives 63.000 visitors monthly (according to Google Analytics) and shows a Bounce Rate of some 10-14%.

    Kind regards from Austria,

  • I really like the idea about Theme Posts. Never did it. Now I am going to. Thanks a bunch!

  • I had started my blog with a few articles on making of graphic novels. When the posts started getting buried into the latest blog posts, I simply consolidated these articles into a few web pages, and put them on the website under a menu. I am going to do the same for a new cartoon series I have started on the blog.

    Thus new menu items/categories can be created on the website for older articles on blog to keep them alive and running.

  • Excellent insights on getting good SE rankings :)

  • Hi Paul, nice post. I’m fairly new to blogging but do relate to the point you made at the start. It seems that whatever I write seems to disappear after a few days. I had seen the “related posts” function but never tried it. You’ve given me some great ideas, thanks.
    Katey Kay.

  • Hi Paul, nice post. I’m fairly new to blogging but do relate to the point you made at the start. It seems that whatever I write seems to disappear after a few days. I had seen the “related posts” function but never tried it. You’ve given me some great ideas, thanks.
    Katie Kay.

  • Anonymous

    Well, you really have a lot of idea about wordpress, I guess
    I can learn more of it from here. Anyway, I also use wordpress for a couple of
    month in blogging and I’m happy with it.

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  • Thanks for the advice, I will implement them on my blog asap