31DBBB Day 21: Breathe Life Into an Old Post

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

43 Responses to “31DBBB Day 21: Breathe Life Into an Old Post”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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)!

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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. :lol: 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.

    • Oooh missed that – welcome to the proper world of URL ownership ;)

    • 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?

  10. 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.

  11. By the way, I'm out for the rest of the day. My family and I are going hiking for our day off. I'll catch up with y'all later tonight or tomorrow. Peace!

  12. I often make grammatical corrections, and I have updated old posts, but I always write "UPDATE:" and add the additional information OR write a completely new post and link to the old one. I think updating is useful, but I agree that it depends on your purpose, how old your blog is, your subject matter, etc. Today's topic is one that each one of us will have to address according to our unique situations.

    I'm spending the rest of the day with my family. Have a blessed day!

    My blog post today was a book review (opinion post!): http://jenniferjanes.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/boo

  13. Every once in a while I will revise old posts. Mainly because I am embarrassed by those early posts a couple of years ago.

    I did revise (or rewrite) a post which I have scheduled for tomorrow. I found that when I went to revise I completely redid it because of how much my writing has changed. But that is cool. We are all in process. I will probably read the revised post in a few years and think, "yikes, that needs revision."

    My post for today is memorial day related, http://unrehearsedadventure.blogspot.com/2010/05/

  14. I have been posting for nearly two years now so this lesson makes good sense to me. Thanks for the good job Chris. This makes sense because my intial blog posts were not titled, etc. Also, though I love to do fresh things, looking back at 40 years of sermons, lessons, and writing (when I moved a couple years ago) I see that I definately have themes that mark my minstry and concerns for the Body of Christ. I've learned, clarified, update applications, and illustrations, but God keeps bringing me back to the central messages. So, in most cases I would post a new post liked to the past, unless it is merely grammar etc. This lesson is definitely productive.

    With blogs I have done the same as my general writing. I seem to catch a little more attention when a post's content are revisited. As most of my posts have to do with truth bites or truth applications, I seldom find I have changed an opinion. If I start telling God what-to-do then I have slipped back into myself and have to repent, refocus and renew my day by day, minute by minute listening.

  15. Just read what you all said and thinking I'm going to go look through my blog to see what I can do, whether it's editing a post, rewriting one, or whatever. I do tend to update posts a lot when first published because I catch an error or something I should have linked.

  16. Hope everyone has a great day today. Like many of you we are leaving in a few minutes to celebrate with friends and family.

    Paul, I just want to say that I think this process has been great for many if not everyone that has participated. Just from a visual perspective I have been on several of the blogs that have been reviewed and the changes that are taking place are great.

    As for me, I have developed some great relationships and have immensely benefited from some of the great writing that is taking place on the other blogs. The insight and writing has been better than some of the well known blogs I follow.

    • Amen Larry! I've thoroughly enjoyed this project too, and for many of the same reasons! Thanks for voicing your feelings on this!

  17. I feel that "breathing life into an old post" is similar to cleaning or organizing. Things like setting up dating your blog layout, making sure old links still work, and going through old posts to see if your views have changed or if there maybe it needs to be updated or maybe you didn't finish a series or something. I think it can be productive or counterproductive just depending on the blog, and what it is that needs changing.

    My reasons for blogging and such have changed some since I started blogging, still trying to find my niche and some other stuff but it's slowly getting there.

    I've updated old posts, more like updating posts I had just written. I tend to find things I should have linked, a typing error, or something after it's been published so then go back and fix it. This is the first time updating posts that have been written for over 2 days.

    I found one post that needed a title change, gave an update on something I just realized I haven't in awhile, and added related posts to that one. Didn't find any that could have broken links, poorly written, or anything. So that's how I fixed old ones, I did go through them all to see if maybe there was something I should change.

    Posts for today and yesterday (yesterday's goes with today's holiday)
    – Blog Layout Update – http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/blog
    – Remembering our Nations Foundation -http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/remembering-our-nations-foundation/
    – Memorial Day – one day and every weekend – http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/memo

    Something I noticed when I changed the title on one of my posts was that the url link stays the same. So the post title from before will still be in the link.

  18. You are right that our blogs need modification and corrections after some time. However it should be done with care as some of us believe in consistency. One may not have confidence in a blog whose content is not consistent. By the time you revisit you see an entirely new content. However it is still good to change obsolete and inaccurate contents.

  19. I have done this several times already. My "blog" started out as an email devotional. I have about 200 of these "posts".

    When I am running low on time or know that I am going to be out of town, I will take one and re-do it. Sometimes it's just a simple re-wording. Other times it's to clarify something that I missed the first time I wrote it.

    I think it's an awesome way to learn about yourself and a way to gauge how far your writing has come.

    Great job Chris.

  20. well, I decided to breath new life into a post. Kind of reworked it a bit.
    The first time I posted I concentrated on the fear factor now I concentrated on the benefits, kind of: http://synapticlight.com/volunteering-the-video-t

    • Hey… great job Phillip! I can appreciate how you turned the focus from 'fear factor' to 'benefits'! And I think that you did a great job with the points that you made! Keep up the great work!

  21. Not a philosophical question: If I tweak an old post (in a forest?), but no one sees it, will it matter?

    I can see the benefit of tweaking if an old post is still getting traffic. As I reviewed my old posts, I was pleasantly surprised that some of them are actually pretty decent. I've tweaked some of them before, and while it satisfies the obsessive side of my personality, it did little else.

  22. Going through old posts I found that there is a history. I have found that most posts are written in terms related to a specific context. So, I prefer the idea that if you are going to make major changes to a post a new post ought to be written with reference made to the old post.

  23. Reading over old blog posts is always a treat. :)

    Hebrews 13:16
    Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

    Luke 6:38
    Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

    Believe those words and head on over to http://www.hybridhondas.com. and please click on a link or two. It costs nothing. By doing this you'll be helping a fellow brother out so he can continue helping others.

    Please spread the word to other brothers and sisters.

  24. I've never done this! I am actually scared to go back and re-read my old posts. I am scared that I will cringe at what I read.

  25. Good post Chris. I don't know that anyone could breathe enough new life into Arnold to make his look like he did in the first picture again.
    Similarly, some old posts just need to fade away. Others can be resurrected to new life by adding content, changing opinions, or updating for a new audience.

  26. 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)!

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