5 Lessons I Learned about Content from Redesigning a 10-year Old Blog

Over the weekend, I re-launched the DIYthemes Blog with a new design based on the Social Triggers Skin.

Naturally, the design is mobile-responsive and optimized for speed, and I was even able to reduce the amount of custom code needed to run everything by over 90%!

But there’s something far more interesting about this redesign…

A huge part of the effort had nothing to do with CSS or pixels; instead, it was about going back through all the old content and repackaging it in a more useful, more organized way.

Today, we’ll look at the some of the lessons I learned from this experience. These are all things you’ll want to copy to improve your own sites!

1. Smart content curation with categories

There’s nearly a decade of content on this site—over 275 posts and pages—and we’ve covered a wide range of topics in that time.

We’ve always used categories to organize our posts, and while I definitely recommend this strategy, there’s some serious wisdom and perspective to be gained when you look back on 10 years of content.

In this case, I realized our old categories could be trimmed and tweaked to provide better organization and information for visitors.

More specifically, I went back through every post on the site, assessed the content, and then applied category labels to create rich, connected archives. (I also renamed some old categories to make them more relevant, and I deleted a few others.)

For example, check out our awesome new Marketing Your Website archive, which contains insights from some of the biggest names in internet marketing.

Also note how that archive page is not paginated—every relevant link is right there on one handy page. This makes it so you can use your browser’s “find” feature to easily locate whatever you’re seeking.

Pro tip: Categories make way more sense when they are applied after you’ve created a lot of content. When you create categories before having content to categorize, you are simply guessing at the topics your site is likely to cover.

2. Add unique content to category pages

Thesis adds special options to WordPress you can use to customize and enrich archive pages on your website:

Thesis archive options

Thesis adds options to your WordPress archives so you can customize them for both search engines and visitors!

I used these options to create enhanced archives like this one about customizing your design.

Once again, note how this archive is not paginated. Thesis allows you to select how many posts you want to show on each archive page, so I set this one to a large enough number to display all relevant posts on one page.

As you can see, Thesis’ archive options are handy for providing finely tuned, customized resources for your visitors!

But that’s not the only benefit—enhanced archive pages are also great for SEO.

3. Create resource pages with no distractions

Resource pages are the ultimate curation tactic. They’re easy to make, search engines love ’em, and your visitors will, too.

All you need to do is identify related content that can help your audience, and then construct a resource page to highlight this content.

Here’s our resource page covering WordPress SEO for Everybody; notice how I have presented this in landing page format with no sidebars and no distractions.

Note: Official Thesis Skins from DIYthemes include a Landing Page template that’s perfect for resource pages like these!

4. What to do with deprecated content that still ranks well in search engines?

This is a really cool topic that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.

The DIYthemes Blog has been around for almost 10 years, so this is a big issue for us. Lots of content on the blog is outdated but still ranks well in search engines.

I certainly don’t want to mislead potential customers who discover Thesis through these old pages, but I also don’t want to delete these valuable “search assets.”

So…what to do?

First, stick those old posts in a Deprecated category.

Second, add an alert to each deprecated post and send some link juice back to a more relevant location, as seen atop this old article.

In this case, I simply linked deprecated posts back to the blog home page, which I know contains the most relevant information about both Thesis and web development.

Now, visitors will know these posts are deprecated, and they’ll also know where to go to get the latest and greatest information.

5. Limit comment delivery

Comments are a great way to interact with your readers, but they aren’t free—they increase page load times, especially if you show avatars.

And on blogs that have received thousands of comments through the years (like this one), most of the older comments are irrelevant, misleading, and may even deter new customers.

Because of this, merely closing comments on old posts is inadequate. I don’t want new visitors reading outdated or incorrect information, and I certainly don’t want to slow down their browsing experience by serving a bunch of garbage I don’t even want them to read.

Now, after 180 days (which is how long comments are open on this site), I no longer serve the comments section on posts.

This is extremely easy to do with Thesis display filters, but if you’re using a different WordPress theme, you may not have a reasonable way to do this.

Never forget—you’re always building something bigger!

When you’re cranking out blog posts, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact you’re always creating something much bigger.

The article you write today might be useful, but when you combine that article with a few other related ones, you’ve got something far more valuable.

Once a year, make it a habit to go back through your content and thoughtfully consider the overall organization and categorization.

See if you can repackage your archives and turn them into a series of epic resource pages that visitors and search engines will love!

About the author: Thesis creator Chris Pearson is obsessed with optimizing the web and making sure every last detail receives the attention it requires. Follow DIYthemes on Twitter for the latest tips and info on building truly awesome websites.

16 comments… add one
  • Hi Chris,

    Good points, all, and your first point particularly. The number of blogs I see with a hundred categories, 75% of which only contain 1 post is ridiculous..!

    Another point: people who are starting out often don’t realise that the WP menu system enables them to create nav menu tabs linking direct to categories – just yesterday I received a question asking how to give site visitors quick access to poems they occasionally published as posts. Using the category menu type in a drop down under a main menu tab of ‘Blog’ or, as you have done, have a secondary menu listing the categories, makes content organisation so much easier.

    Cheers,

    Martin.

    • Chris Pearson

      Great point—the WordPress menu system is definitely non-intuitive for new users.

  • Chris is the font size following the rules of your GRT calculator?

    The Gotham font is not included as standard in the skin.

    Keith

    • Chris Pearson

      Keith, absolutely! All typography and spacing in this layout is calculated off a base font size of 18px and a line height of 29px.

      You’re correct that Gotham is not included with the Skin by default; it’s a premium font from my friends at Typography.com.

      I added both Gotham and Sentinel (the headline font) to this Skin by using the thesis_fonts filter.

      I also calculated and supplied character constant values for both fonts, which help Thesis determine more accurate sizing and spacing.

  • rick

    Hey Chris,

    how do you use thesis display filters to remove comments after 180 days?

    • Chris Pearson

      Rick, each official Skin from DIYthemes wraps comments in an HTML Container.

      Some Skins use 2 separate containers for posts and pages, while other Skins only use a single container in both cases.

      The Social Triggers Skin is in the former camp. On the Single template, it includes an HTML Container called Post Comments that has a Display ID of post_comments.

      Thus, the associated display filter for this Box is thesis_html_container_post_comments_show.

      I use a simple PHP time comparison to see how old a post is, and if it’s older than 180 days, I run the following code to prevent comments from displaying:

      if (is_single())
      	add_filter('thesis_html_container_post_comments_show', '__return_false');
      
  • Hey Chris, this is great stuff and the tips are great!! We do a lot of redesigning and these tips will be really helpful for my staff and I.

    Thanks..keep the tips coming!!

    • Chris Pearson

      Glad you enjoyed this article, Rick! Thanks for reading today.

  • Vivek Parmar

    All these are useful points and many web publishers ignore the importance of categories. Categories play a major role when your website grow big.

    As @Martin stated above that many web publishers have only 1 post in the category..just want to know that is there a way to merge category without deleting it or using 301 redirect?

    • Chris Pearson

      Vivek, check the search traffic for categories you might want to delete. In most cases, these pages receive so little traffic that it makes no difference if you delete them.

      In the event you want to change a category that either [1] receives significant search traffic or [2] has a lot of external links, your best bet is to use a 301 redirect.

      • Vivek Parmar

        Hi Chris!

        Thank you so much for all the help. Will make changes according to it.

  • Ron

    This is really useful Chris, thank you, you must have been reading my mind about what to do with categories that are now looking a little unbalanced 🙂

  • Thanks for the suggestion, I have already removed two categories from my blog those have only 2 posts… and surprisingly they were there from last two years and I have never acknowledged them, how dumb I was…

  • Pradip

    Nice post.

    Specially loved the content repackaging series ideas.

    Thanks for the ideas.

  • Dhrubo Mukherjee

    Categorised content always create more attention from audiences. Personally, when I surf different blog pages I love to read content which is relevant to my industry. Comments are also important but too much anything is not good. So I am agreed with you.

    Redesigning a content is an art. It also needs some serious efforts to get the best outcome. But the most important step is to determine where you need to trim a tweak your content which is getting enough traffic.

  • Useful and interesting article. Thanks

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