Blogging is immediate, particularly for niches that rely on breaking news realtime. Thus it’s easy to forget that readers will visit your blog and read posts months, years, and even decades after they were written. Here are five ways to keep visitors engaged with your content, and prevent them from bouncing after they scratch their heads in confusion over your outdated blog posts.
Cite Specific Dates
Yes, most blog themes specify the date of publication, but as most readers zero in on your content, skimming over the headline and post information for their convenience, you’ll need to be very specific about events and deadlines that are time-sensitive.
“Watch out! The workshop is on September 22, only two weeks away!” is definitely better than just “the workshop will start 2 weeks from now”. Speaking of the post date, another reason why readers would rather see the date information as they read it is their lazy refusal to scroll up just to see the post’s date.
This is definitely easier than it sounds, especially if you’ve written a series of blog posts on a particular topic. Nothing provides great context to future readers than a throw-away link to an older post that explains a particular aspect of a topic in greater detail.
No doubt, this is also an excuse to backlink to previous posts, a practice that’s always good from an SEO perspective, helping search engines identify your authoritative content and direct searchers to more parts of your blog. It’s easy to spend hours on Wikipedia, as it does a great job of providing compelling context that entices users to click on links so that they can learn more about terms that pique their interest.
Techdirt was a great example of this principle in action, as they liberally linked to previous posts to provide context for new developments. Such useful (from a reader and SEO standpoint) backlinking seems less prominent on the blog nowadays though.
Write in a Classic Tone
My pride as a writer notwithstanding, it’s sometimes very tempting to write in the so-called language flavor of the month. It’s easy to see how online dialects like lolcat, l33t, and self-depracating snark managed to become popular and start emulating such an informal style when writing your blog posts.
Consider however that most of these dialects are fads that slowly or abruptly lose prominence, to be replaced by the latest “in” lexicon. Worse, it’s reasonable to assume that readers of the feature will encounter “Oh hai thar!” posts, wonder what’s going on, and go someone else.
Writing in a simple and classic tone facilitates the comprehension of your posts, regardless of when they’re read. You don’t tie your content to a specific period, and make it easier for future visitors to decipher your perspective, literally keeping the door open for repeat visits.
Update Popular Posts
On most blogs, several posts enjoy their status as major attractions. Thanks to a timely mix of sudden relevancy, online attention, and search engine friendliness, these valuable units of content are literally the gateway of new readers to your blog. If they have nothing to follow once they’re done skimming for your message, chances are they won’t bother visiting other parts of your website.
If providing context is a good excuse to backlink to earlier posts, then updating popular posts is a great opportunity to link to later content. Just like how Wikipedia links to articles written at a later date, so should your blog direct readers to more recent items that update your coverage of a particular topic.
Back Up Your Blog Frequently!
A lot can happen to a blog’s database, and it’s personally frustrating to find out about a potentially interesting blog, only to find out it’s no longer available since it fell victim to data loss or hacking (Exhibit A: Ellen Simonetti’s Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant). The lesson? It makes sense to back up the content of a well-established blog regularly. If you don’t know how to do this (like me), it’s easy to hire someone knowledgeable to do this in his or her spare time.
By ensuring that duplicates of your hard work are stored in a safe place, safe from the potential pitfalls of an online presence, you protect your hard work from accidents or intentional acts. My most successful blog is nearing its second birthday, and I definitely wouldn’t want my 1300+ posts to go to waste.
A successful blog is the result of months or years of hard work, experimentation, and focus. That’s why any serious blogger should take steps to ensure their efforts pay off not only in the present, but for the long haul as well. How do you make your blog timeless? Comment away!