12 Steps to Moving Old Blog Posts: When Where & How
We need to move old blog posts off an existing site, but can’t quite let go of it. Enter WordPress.com!
Background: I have worked a lot of migrations into and out of WordPress. This week a friend with a 10 year old blog needed some new options.
Her website gets tens of thousands of visitors a year, used to be tens of thousands per month.
The site had faded a bit, but was still solid, full of evergreen content.
Part of what was needed was to move the old content from way back that no one needs, seeks, reads, shares or uses now.
How do we get rid of old blog posts safely? How do we do this well?!
Even more, how do we writers and bloggers cut our emotional ties to our content and clear the garden of the content weeds that have turned brown and died like last falls corn stalks?
One Solution – Move it off site -> WordPress.com (free)
Moving very old content from a WordPress.org site to a (free) WordPress.com site is one answer. Maybe you do not need that content, but you might not be ready to delete it entirely.
You’ve written your hearts out and these old articles are part of your legacy.
They are also dead weight on your new content. you have evolved, changed, and shifted. You are not the same person you were 10 years ago and neither are your readers or the world.
Or are they?
Well, if you move your old content to WordPress.com, it can live a second life without distracting you from your current work.
You can always bring it back again too!
Below is a step by step guide, more of a process that you could choose to follow or build off of and grow to solve your specific challenges.
If you try these AND if you come up with something I missed…
I wrote this with a specific case in mind, then tried to rewrite it to be more universal.
I’d love to read your solutions in the comments, and/or If you agree, I’d love to add or augment some of those with attribution in updates here too!
What are some of the types of things that might need to go?
I encourage getting rid of old posts that are out dated and cannot be rewritten or updated. If they can be updated, then put them into some kind of schedule to do that or hire a VA maybe to do that. There’s a plugin called Edit Flow that might help with managing the articles that need to be updated/rewritten.
Delete the rest that isn’t worth keeping.
This can include things that fall into a ‘thin content’ category. These can be the posts that say Happy New year or pick a holiday greeting.
Sometimes its the little blog post that is something of a diary entry, not an insightful entry, but something that was just sharing an experience that however many years later, doesn’t matter too much.
Some diary like items do matter.
When those posts get deleted, the images that were attached as featured images, will become un-attached. These will stand out in the media library and can be easier to sort and delete too!
Wrapping our heads around deleting/moving our old content off of our website.
The right Mindset to let go of old content.
Before we just go delete or migrate old content away, we need to get our heads straight and walk through a safe and effective plan.
At the outset, this is something that will need a few goals set such that it doesn’t get to be too involved or something.
There’s no perfect answer.
However, if its broken up into a few steps/stages it might help.
Steps to remove or move old blog posts
So its time to get rid of old content & blog posts
Here are some steps I recommend considering. Ideally, read this list first, maybe print or copy it into something that you can edit. The steps may or may not be in the order you need. You might want to add a few more. If you add more, I’d love to hear about the additional considerations you came up with to move your content off your site.
STEP 0 BEFORE EVERYTHING BACKUP YOUR CURRENT WEBSITE!
Step 1 Identify Old content that brings in substantial traffic!
Do not Delete these or move them!
Step 2 Identify sources of ‘effective’ long tail traffic
Consider keeping these too!
Step 3 Organize non-performing blog articles into a New Category
Step 4 Export via WordPress Admin – everything in the Step 3 category
Optional Step 5 Edit the URLs in the body of the posts in the xml file
Step 6 Import the XML file into your new WordPress.com account
Redirect or not….
Step 7 Turn on and Run a 404 log
Turn on and Run a 404 log such as redirection. This just tracks the new 404’s you get. Some of these will be bots, others will be actual people.
Step 8 – Delete/Trash and empty the trash
Delete/Trash and empty the trash on the articles from Step 3, find them with the new category you created.
Step 9 Monitor 404 logs weekly then monthly
For the first month monitor the 404 log weekly. After that its a good practice to monitor your 404 logs at least once a month.
Why do we monitor 404 Logs?
We are looking for signs of problems or trouble or surprises and useful information.
Are there hundreds or thousands of people not finding an article? If so consider putting that one back on your main site!
Is someone trying to hack into the site testing plugin or theme or wordpress vulnerabilities? Consider blocking their IP and taking other security actions to harden WordPress.
Are you getting lots of 404’s on articles that you do not want to keep and if yes, what do you do with those people? Consider redirecting the articles that create the most 404’s.
You could set up redirects for the top 10 each day or something either (10 minutes of work each day)
Following the 80/20 rule, by the end of the week, you’ll have covered the important articles and Google bot will figure out the rest, if they matter or not.
Step 10 Category & Tag review
Review the categories and tags on your main site.
Delete any that now have ‘0’ articles in them. Later review 404 logs on these and consider redirecting them to related categories or tags, or just let it go.
Don’t redirect these to the home page)
Step 11 Build a better 404 page
Odds are you might need to build a better 404 page at some point.
Your site can benefit from a 404 page that showcases some of your best remaining content. There will be more 404 visitors after all of the actions above.
A better 404 page can help convert them to viewers and show them where the good stuff is now.
Or let them go, its ok. 🙂
We want the right visitors for the right reasons, not hundreds or even thousands of people showing up for the wrong reasons.
Its sort of like throwing a house party. Its awesome when great guests show up.
Its often not awesome when an extra hundred party crashers show up and trash the place…
In this scenario sending Googlebot the wrong feedback, like bouncing… Well, it’s better for them to never visit at all rather than bounce
Step 12 Review those 404’s again and again
This is a repeat. Please do keep an eye on your 404’s.
Once a month go back and review the 404 logs again. Redirect the top 5-10 as needed to wherever seems right. 404 Errors can even be a source of inspiration to consider writing brand new articles covering the topics people start searching for in the future!
Moving old content is a Process!
I might know what you are thinking, ‘Moving old blog posts off of a website is a lot of work!’
It can be super simple, just hit delete!
It can be more involved if a site owner wants to preserve and optimize their results.
It requires a balance of rational choices with some emotional choices like letting go of old articles. Even for the uber practical person, there is often a ‘sunk’ cost invested in that content.
We might need to confront the past where the articles worked great and delivered results…. until they didn’t. Rewriting that content should be a consideration, but when they are spent that’s it. Its time to move on and let them go, and do new amazing things with our website.
That’s going to possibly include moving that old content to a new site as a temporary or long term solution. It might include deleting them from the current site and managing redirects. It will probably include visiting your current 404 Page and looking to see if it is up-to-date! (note to self, time to do that here!)
As I mentioned above, If you try these steps AND if you come up with something I missed…
I’d love to read your solutions in the comments!
If you agree, I’d love to add or augment some of those with attribution in updates here too!
Common Questions to set up WordPress.com, 404 pages, Redirects & more
Where do I start in creating a new 404 page?
Here’s a nice article with a couple dozen designs of 404 pages. Some are just fun or funny or nice. Others are more interactive and guide visitors to the content. You be the judge and see what works for you.
OptinMonster (not an endorsement for their service) has a great article on turning lost visitors into customers.
What is a 404 Page?
The HTTP 404 Not Found Error means that the webpage you were trying to reach could not be found on the server. It is a Client-side Error which means that either the page has been removed or moved and the URL was not changed accordingly, or that you typed in the URL incorrectly. source
What plugin has a good 404 Log?
My favorite for years has been Redirection. It costs nothing. It has an excellent 404 log. It works great with Yoast and other SEO plugins and also with most hosting platforms too.
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