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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blog Post Updates - Effective Pattern?

As part of the Tools Set 2009 series, my first post was Browser Keyboard Shortcut Basics. I was a little surprised that this didn't come up as one of the more popular items recently when I did my Top 20 Posts for Q1 2009.

Now I've got a couple of additional things to add to this information, and it raises a question that I often face:

What do you do when you have an update to a prior post?

I feel like each of my options have drawbacks:

1. Update the original post and create a new post with a link back

Originally, I was going to do this. Just go back and update the original post with the additional information and create a post to say to go look at that for the information.

The advantage of this is that the original post becomes an increasingly rich source of content on the topic. If you want information on that there's only one place to go.

The disadvantage is that people who subscribe to my blog will not see the information in their RSS feed or in the daily email. They have to click. And my belief is that they will not click unless the information is really valuable. Thus, it somewhat gets lost.

The other disadvantage that is completely self-serving is that each post I create has a chance to serve as bait for organic search traffic in the future. I'm pretty sure, but not 100% sure, that long term traffic would be higher by having two posts with different titles than a single post with more links to it – but it only has one title. There are a lot of variables, but since the title and URL are so important for Long Tail Search Engine Optimization, I think having more titles is generally better.

2. Update the original post and create a new post with the additional content and a link back

This is a variation of the above. I would do the same thing, but would also include the new information in the new post as well as in the original post.

The advantage of this approach is that subscribers will get the new content in their feed or email.

The disadvantage is that if I later need to update the topic, then I probably should update both posts – the original and the update post. Otherwise, update posts will be wrong.

Likely, the update post will not be as good for SEO since links will probably go back to the original. However, this is probably in the middle.

3. Put the new information in the update post and add a link to the original post

In this case, I only put the new information in the update post and I edit the original post with a link to the new post.

The advantages here are that subscribers get the new content in their feed or email and that I only have one copy of the new information running around.

The disadvantage is that content on a topic will be scattered around on my blog. If you want to find browser keyboard tricks, you likely will have to visit several posts. My gut tells me that this is not nearly as satisfying for search visitors. It also means that there's additional work to keep track of all the different posts on a topic.

What do you think? Is there another Effective Pattern? Which option would you say is best for me (not too much work) and my subscribers and my search visitors?


bclark said...

I add the update info in to the first post and then set its publish date to the day of the update, moving that post to the top of the list.

not sure if it is any better/worse than any other thing but it is the first post, acting like a new one.

Nick Sharratt said...

The choice for me me simple because the main blog i keep only has limited visibility inside the organisation so SEO isn't an issue with anyone visiting the info doing so either by referal or Rss. Hence I'd update the original to have a 'definitive source' for myself/anyone and a quick new post linking back to the older post.

Perhaps the issue is how search engines do their optimization and if people didn't 'play games' trying to manipulate the results, then the way they do the optimization would end up evolving more intelligently. Instead we see the emergence of unexpected consequences through feedback loops between content creators and search engine designers which doesn't actually benefit anyone. In this case I suggest the ideal would be the circumstance when you could ignore SEO and just 'do the right thing', which would also be best for people searching in future, easy enough for current subscribers too (your worry they might not follow the link if it doesn't seem interesting enough for them is just discretion and benefits them too).

So from a position of not having the same headache, I'd say do what you think is right from an information management perspective (single source) :-)

David Hopkins said...

I would be inclined to post the 'update' or 'new' information to a new blog entry with strong references to the original post, then go back to the original post and either update the entry with link to new information/entry and/or put the update as a comment (then stop further comments to that particular entry).

Always a difficult one to work out, and it gets difficult to find post updates on someone else's blog as we will all do it differently.

Tony Karrer said...

bclark - If I change the date and time, I'm assuming the permalink doesn't change? And it somehow reappears in the RSS? I may have to test it.

Nick and David - I believe you came out on different ends of this.

Now I'm even more confused.

Robert Kennedy said...

Well, since I'm newer to this, I have not thought about this too deeply. If I update a post in a minor way, then I simply update it and publish it as is. If the update is a major change to the post, then I create a new post noting that its a continuation or referencing the prior post through a link of some sort. I probably just don't have enough traffic to make this confusing for me just yet :-).

Dave Ferguson said...

Tony, you're the internal-linking-est guy I know, so this is a much bigger problem for you than it is for me.

What I do when I have an update to an old post: I update it.

That's it.

If I said last November that house prices would rise, and they didn't, I feel no need to travel back through time and make myself look smart. I might correct a true error, but not unless it came to my attention.

I rarely think anything I post is sufficiently valuable that someone's life will be less rich for having missed it. Even more true for something I posted two weeks, two months, or two years ago.

You must have some data about what people view and where they go after viewing page X. Does it support what your gut (a highly unreliable organ, in my expertience) suggests?

There's also perspective. If you have a "top 20" for the quarter, that means nearly one post in three is in the top. That trend will result in over half of them ending up in the 90th percentile.

Travis Smith said...

I add the update info in to the first post and then set its publish date to the day of the update, moving that post to the top of the list. I have thought about changing the title slightly by adding "Updated" or something.

emapey said...

As I continue learning about the topic, I just update the post if the new information doesn't deserve its own new blog post