Your abandoned blog is now it's the hands of spammers, crackers and all sorts of ‘nice' Internet folks. It's tough to fight the urge to pull your hair off and scream at yourself for letting your hard work rot that miserable way. I know how it goes because I've been through all of this — it makes you hopeless and ready to throw in the towel.
But Is it really the end of it? Has time come to throw everything away and start fresh?
I'd say– NO. Recall the story of the phoenix, a mythical bird that came back to life from its own ashes, more beautiful than it was ever before.
This is no time to get ready for a funeral. This is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
I'll show you how in 10 easy steps that I've made myself to recover my long-forgotten blogs. :)
Step #1 – Clean Up The Messes
The first thing you do when you buy a second-market car is– to clean it up and repair all that needs to be repaired. At this point in time you should really focus on getting rid of all the spam, then update your CMS and lastly fix anything that may be broken – links, pages, plugins, images, etc.
I know some bloggers might tell you to update your CMS as a first thing, then update your plugins and only then clean up the spam. But I would advise against that: usually spam overloads your database and slows down the server, and upgrading and updating are such delicate tasks that you can't afford the risk of file corruption, memory exhaustion and any kind of PHP error out there that screw up your already tough work.
Do the chores first— then you can upgrade your environment!
- Use browser inspection tool to scout for errors on your web page.
- Use Screaming Frog (free version) to crawl your website and find broken links
Step #2 – Check The Rankings
Check them all, but pay special attention to your position in the SERPs across multiple search engines. The world of web search likes fresh content and websites that receive constant traffic and mentions, so your blog might have retrograded in the SERPs since the date it was last active.
Use Alexa.com to see how much traffic is coming in. If you have analytics installed you can monitor the trends for a selected date range. You can do this with Piwik, OWA and Google Analytics. Other (free) tools that save you time and energies are Woorank's website analyzer (Lite), Bing's Webmaster Tools and Open Source SEO Tool at AppHarbor.
Why care about the rankings?
You have to make sure your blog still gets found by users. They might just be zap visits (bouncers), but they are still people who think your blog can be interesting enough to pay it at least a short visit.
Ranking assessment tells you a lot on the health of your abandoned blog and how much work you will need to bring it back to its old glory. Don't skip this step.
Step #3 – Lay Out A Recovery Strategy
Not just for the rankings, but for the blog itself. Sorry for pointing that out, but I've seen bloggers focusing more on rankings than on the blog they run and that's— well, not a healthy choice if you want your blog to shine again.
Here are three tips I used to recover my blogs:
1. Recover comments and get in touch – Find old comments and approve anything legit in your spam queue, then get in touch with the webmasters. They'll see that you are alive and receptive and they will come back on visit. This is a chance to loyalize new readers!
2. Network with old readers – Bring back to their old interest in your blog. This might take some time and more contacts, but it's surefire way to get your old readership back and earn more readers through word of mouth.
3. Email your contacts – Maybe in the past you have engaged in conversations with your readers or friends you made online through your blogs and the media associated with it. Go grab those addresses and shoot them an email asking how they've been and letting them know your blog is back to life! Some addresses may no longer work, some contacts may not reply at all, but you're going to get some feedback anyway.
Your recovery strategy shouldn't be only about your content, though. Make some room for your blog's design, old contacts and SEO results. More about these other factors in the next Steps.
Step #4 – New Design
Hire a web designer or make the template yourself, but make sure you get rid of the old theme, as it might have been associated to the abandonment of your blog. This is a natural psychological reaction to habit and it takes place when users repeatedly see the same design until it becomes one thing with your blog. A new design ‘wakes up' your reader's attention and helps them see more and better in your content, but you can help them connect better if you apply the principles of the psychology of web design and add focus and reading patterns to impacting colors and user surveys.
In any way, having a new design warns Internet users that your blog is living a new life and that you care about user experience.
Step #5 – Content Audit
Check your content and see if you can improve it. Don't make the mistake of deleting everything and starting over: your old content is part of your blog's history and there might still be readers that lookout for it. If you didn't skip Step #2, you know which old posts are still getting traffic, mentions and backlinks, so don't remove them or you'll end up with frustrated users that won't come back and a lot of 404 errors.
Don't remove your old content — update it! Add new links and resources if it helps ranking it better and attract new readers. There are a lot of techniques to bring your old posts back to golden age, from re-sharing them on Twitter and Facebook to linking them in your guest posts. Matthew Woodward did this as part of his SEO Audit – click here to see exactly what he did.
Step #6 – New Content
It's obvious that in order to revive your blog, you have to update it. Write new fresh content, engage with your readers as soon as they peep in, comment or subscribe to your newsletter. You can even repackage your old posts as a PDF e-book or a presentation with a commentary of your newest tips on the topic.
Another strategy you can use is to accept guest posts every month. You will get more readers from the guest writer's pool of visitors, while you get the writer more traffic from yours. Guest posts provide your readers with different viewpoints and expertise that will keep them engaged and coming back for more.
Show people and search engines that your blog is alive and kicking!
Step #7 – Social Media Activity
Create social media accounts for your blog and start promoting, but don't stop to that. You know, social media users don't like sales pitches and they might just ignore your efforts. Instead, focus your posts on their needs:
- Tell them you're back to work and ask what new stuff they want to see in your blog.
- Add free tips with every promotional message you post — be it a couple of tips right there on Facebook or Twitter, a link to an external (helpful) resource in your niche and a few questions to trigger followers' feedback and get them engaged.
Make your posts useful to people looking for an answer. On social media like on web search, users seek solutions to their specific needs. Make your blog that solution, whether it's through your old (revised) content or your new posts. That will also increase your linkability rate, which brings us to the next Step.
Step #8 – Monitor Your Results
It might get rough at first, as the blog regains its popularity slowly over time, but monitoring your traffic and conversions weekly is crucial to keep track of the ‘resurrection' process and to assess your strategy.
Traffic and engagement cannot be recovered overnight. It takes time and work on your part to make it work. Derek Halpern at DYThemes suggests you improve your blog conversion rate via opt-in forms, resource pages (or posts with useful article round-ups) and reduce “clutter”. Use a clean layout, keep your blog posts to-the-point and your blog earns plus points in reduced bounce rate and return visitors.
Sometimes improving your results takes the development of a new product or service or entertaining feature to attract new readers beside your old referrals. More about it in the next Step.
Step #9 – Make It Special!
Offer a freebie or a service free of charge. It will be an asset for your blog and will make it stand out. Differentiating yourself from the crowd is perhaps the hardest task for a blogger, but it can be done provided that you keep working at the best of your possibilities. Slowly, the efforts will pay off.
A few ideas
- Develop one topic you write about often into an e-book you can distribute for free on your blog.
- Setup a monthly contest and invite your readers to participate. You can get creative with prizes and you can take advantage of social media for word of mouth.
- Create an e-newsletter to provide your readers with extra valuable content and involve them in any interactions you think will engage and loyalize them.
- Create a free e-course via email or web-based with a forum where students can interact.
This content has the potential to go viral and get you hundreds of backlinks, too. Don't underestimate the power of special treats– readers are known to love being spoiled. ;)
Step #10 – Keep It Alive
Don't let it die again! Keep vigilant over your blog, set up your calendar to make some time for it during the week. If you use WordPress, you can even install Editorial Calendar or a similar plugin to write and schedule your posts so that you can cover the month homogeneously.
Recoveries are hard work, but keeping your blog healthy requires constant attention and dedication. The danger of leaving your blog behind at certain times may be high, procrastination may hit your board and writer's block get in the way. Don't let these issues put your blog in a grave again. If you set realistic goals instead of overdoing yourself and cannibalizing your time with too many tasks, you'll find out that it's doable and that you can actually keep your blog alive by scheduling weekly small, easy tasks.
I did it with my blogs. Now your turn. :)