If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve likely built up a pretty hefty archive of older posts. My goal for last year was to increase traffic (which, uh, I guess is every blogger’s goal, right?) and I decided to come up with some strategies that would allow me to do that by leveraging the older content from my first few years of blogging. Because isn’t it sad to think about all that content sitting in the archives, hidden away from everyone but your most stalkerish readers?
Yes, yes it is.
(Before you think I’m insulting stalkerish readers, you should know that I’m totally one of those people. When I find a new blog I like, I always go through the recipe index to find what I’ve missed over the years. But most people don’t do this and those old posts might as well not exist to them!)
1. Share them on social media
Okay, this one is obvious. I had been doing this in a haphazard way, but last year, I decided to systematize the process. Every month, I go through and pull the URLs for that month’s posts from previous years and put them in a simple text document. So, for example, this month, I collected all the posts from February 2014, February 2013, February 2012 and February 2011. I discard anything that’s no longer relevant, like giveaways. Then I share these posts on Pinterest and Facebook throughout the month.
For Facebook, I try to stick with posts that have performed well on Facebook in the past rather than sharing every post again. Odds are, if a recipe got hundreds of shares when you posted it last year, it will get a lot of shares this year too. The ones that I anticipate getting the most traffic from are the ones I share on Sunday evenings, which seems to be the peak time for my page. Then with Pinterest, I try to pin every single post on my list. Anything I think will get a lot of pins, I save for the weekends, and everything else, I pin whenever I have a chance. I try to pin one post from Oh My Veggies for every 5-10 posts I pin from other sites. After I’ve shared a post, I delete it from my list of URLs. Easy. I’ve had large increases in traffic on some older posts, particularly a few that I shared on Facebook, by using this strategy.
2. Retake the photos and resubmit them to FoodGawker
I mentioned this in my How I Grew My Blog Traffic post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Did your photos suck when you started blogging? If you’re like 99% of food bloggers, the answer is yes. Retake them and submit them to FoodGawker, Tastespotting and other gallery sites, pin them again, share them on social media again, and get those new photos out there! I’ve been amazed at the difference I see in posts with lackluster (or downright bad) photos and ones with updated photos.
I know this is kind of controversial and some bloggers see it as trying to erase your blog’s past, but if you view your blog as a business, it’s a smart business decision—if someone lands upon a post via Google or Pinterest and it’s not up-to-par, they might leave your blog as quickly as they came. They don’t know that you’ve made progress, they just see what’s on the page in front of them. If the post looks professional, they’re more likely to pin it, share it, or explore your site more. If the post has a picture like the one above (which, yes, is one of my photos from when I started blogging), they’re more likely to gag and close their browser window.
3. Include them in round-ups and recipe collections
I’ll admit, when bloggers first started doing these a few years back, I thought they were kind of lame. But then I started thinking about them differently: my blog is a resource for vegetarian cooking and round-ups are part of that. When I was in library school, one of the projects I had to do for a reference class was curate a collection of resources on a given topic and put them together in a handout that could be given to patrons as a starting point for research on that topic. That’s exactly what round-ups are. They give your readers a starting point—instead of having to sort through eleventy-billion recipes themselves, you’re doing the work for them.
I do two types of round-ups on Oh My Veggies. Every week, I post a traditional round-up that includes recipes from Oh My Veggies and from other sites as well. For round-ups with a larger number of posts, I use a list format (here’s an example) and for shorter round-ups, I use a slideshow (here’s an example). I’ve gotten positive feedback from readers and other bloggers on the slideshows—I use the RoyalSlider plugin, which I like because it doesn’t force the whole page to reload with each slide. (Magazine sites do this to increase pageviews, and therefore ad revenue, but it’s super annoying as a reader, so if you go the slideshow route, I’d say it’s not worth irritating your readers to use one like that.) Week after week, these round-ups are the most popular posts I publish and because they’re so popular, they send a lot of traffic to the old posts I link back to in them. When readers pin the recipes they’ve found in these round-ups, the pins lead to more traffic too.
The other type of round-up is something I’ve just started experimenting with—recipe collections. I see them as another way of organizing my site for readers, like an alternative to my recipe index for people who prefer to navigate by specific topic rather than broad categories like main dishes, desserts, etc. These are set up as pages in WordPress, not posts, so they don’t go out into my RSS feed or newsletter. Some have gotten traction on Pinterest and to be honest, I think they’d get a lot more traffic than they do now if I put in the time and effort to promote them more.
4. Create a section on your homepage for featured categories
For a while, I had a section near the bottom of my homepage that featured older posts, but when I redesigned this fall, getting those older posts front and center on the homepage was a big priority for me. Now, I have old posts all over the place on the homepage—right under the latest post (see above), in a large section near the center of the page, and in a popular/top posts section next to that. If you don’t have the budget for this kind of customization, many themes have options for adding a featured category section to the homepage; if you want to really do something different, you can opt for a magazine theme, which breaks your whole homepage into categories, rather than featuring all blog posts in chronological order.
Another idea is to feature popular posts in your sidebar—preferably with photos and captions, because the photos are likely to grab your readers attention, while the captions are what will prompt people to click. I used to do a popular posts section at the bottom of my site, but no one seemed to click on it, so I got rid of it—if you have your popular or featured posts at the bottom of the page, take a look at Google Analytics’ in-page analytics to see if it’s worth the space it’s taking. I think these sections are much more likely to generate clicks in the sidebar.
5. Republish them
I first started testing this in December—during that month, every recipe I published was an older post that I had rephotographed. I was feeling so sick from my pregnancy that I just wanted to take a month off from thinking about food because even reading my contributors’ recipe posts was making me feel nauseated. I was worried about how readers would react, but I found that these posts did no worse than brand new posts, so now I republish an older post every Sunday, with a note in the post indicating the original publishing date. Sometimes I update the photos or the text, sometimes I don’t. These older posts see a bump in traffic not just the day that I publish them, but they have a sustained bump because of the increase in pins and shares from readers.
Other bloggers keep asking me if readers have been commenting about the posts being repeats. The answer is: NO! I haven’t had a single comment about it, although I’m sure a handful of people have noticed and not bothered to say anything. I think sometimes food bloggers project expectations onto their audience that aren’t really true—first, I doubt anyone pays that close attention to our sites that they remember every single post we publish and second, even if they did, I don’t think any of them are personally offended if we decide to publish those posts again once in a while.
I hate posts that close with a question, but I’m going to do it here: do you have another method to revive traffic on your older posts? Let’s discuss!