Based on Podcast Episode 234
Today I want to answer a question I get regularly from listeners: How do you relaunch a blog that’s died or become dormant?
I’ll lay out two scenarios for relaunching a blog, and then give you 11 things to consider during a relaunch.
Last week a ProBlogger reader asked for advice on how to relaunch their blog, which had been dormant for the past year. (They took a 12-month break from blogging.)
This is something many of us bloggers have to deal with at different times. There have been times where I’ve put my own blogs on hold – not ProBlogger or Digital Photography School, but other blogs I’ve put on hold that I may need to relaunch one day.
So it’s something I’ve thought about numerous times, and talked other bloggers through it as well.
Maybe your blog became dormant for family reasons. Maybe a health crisis forced you to put things on hold for a while. Or you may have simply lost the motivation or passion to keep the blog going.
Whatever the reason, many blogs have a period where they slow down (if not stop completely).
The first step in reawakening your blog is to thinking about where you and your blog are at right now. There’s no one piece of advice I can give you here, but assessing how you and your blog are will help you to determine what to do next.
And then you need to answer three questions about yourself.
1. Why did your blog become dormant? Why did you stop blogging?
These are important questions to answer, because it will help you avoid the same thing happening again down the track.
2. What are your dreams and goals for the blog?
It’s really important to revisit them, because they may have changed since you first started blogging. Getting back to your ‘Why?’ will help you become more realistic about what you do this time around.
3. Do you want the blog to have the same topic or focus?
You may think your blog is great, and that you want to just keep doing what you were doing. But you may also want to tweak things a little bit. (I’ll be talking about pivoting your blog soon.)
Having answered those three questions, it’s now time to answer some questions about your blog.
4. How long has your blog been inactive?
The answer to this question will help determine how you relaunch it. If it’s only a month then you can probably get back to blogging pretty quickly. But if it’s been a year or more, the strategies you use will probably be different.
If your blog has been dormant for five years you’ll probably want to do some redesign, update the archives, or even change the technology you use.
5. How much traffic does your blog still have?
Dig into your Google Analytics account (or set it up if you don’t have one) and work out if you still have any traffic.
I looked at one of my old blogs the other day and discovered it was still getting a thousand visitors a day. And they were all coming in from Google.
Is your blog still getting traffic? Where’s it coming from – search engines, social media, other sites?
Do you have a post or page that’s still performing really well? A lot of bloggers with dormant blogs tell me they have one post in their archives that’s going really well. Knowing what that post or page is can really help as you think about moving forward. It might be a good starting place to do some analysis, do some updating, and think about leveraging it in some way.
Of course, if you don’t have any traffic you can skip this question.
6. How many followers do you have on social media?
Do you have social media accounts set up? How many followers do you have? What platforms generated the most activity?
7. What about your email list?
You can ask the same question about your blog’s email subscribers. How many does it have? Are any of them new, or are they all years old?
Knowing about the health of your social media and email subscribers is important. Are they warm? Has automation kept those subscribers and followers warm and connected, or have they gone cold? The answer will shape your strategy for warming up your list again.
7. Is the current domain still relevant?
This question is probably only relevant if you’re thinking of changing your blog’s topic or focus.
Okay, so we’ve asked you to answer questions about yourself and your blog. Now it’s time to answer some questions about your niche.
8. What’s the current state of play in the niche you’re operating in?
If it’s been a couple of years since you blogged, you might want to find out what other people are doing in your niche. Who are the big bloggers? Who are the big social media influencers? What are other bloggers doing at the moment? Have they changed tech? Are they using different types of mediums? Are they all doing podcasts now? Are they all on video? Where’s the action happening for them in terms of social media?
This can help you work out where you should be doing things. Of course, you shouldn’t just copy what everyone else is doing,. But you may find a gap or an opportunity you could take advantage of. It can help you decide how you should be engaging with people in terms of social media. You may even find an emerging trend in your niche or industry that you could latch onto.
In the photography space for example, over the last four, five years, we’ve seen the emergence of new types of cameras, of drone photography. If I was relaunching my photography blog today, one thing that I might do would be to have a blog that really focuses on the new types of cameras, the new types of technologies, drone photography for example, mobile phone photography because things have changed over the years. Understanding how your industry, your niche has changed is really important as well.
Hopefully, in asking some of these questions about you, your blog, your niche, you begin to get a bit of an understanding about your relaunch.
Hopefully, one of two scenarios is emerging.
First scenario, you will realize that you were already on the right track with your blog and something just interrupted you. The blog was relatively healthy and you just want to get back to it. This is obviously the easiest scenario but still, there is some advice that I would encourage you to consider.
Pay Attention to Your Content
Firstly, pay attention to the content you’ve already published that’s still working for you or that has worked in the past. This can shortcut the re-growth of your blog.
Start with posts that are still getting traffic and update and republish them. Put a new date on them as long as the URL doesn’t change. Put them back up as fresh content on your blog and leverage it to get some new subscribers.
Write some follow up content on those topics. Repurpose your good content into a different medium. Take your old written content and do a video, or an audio post. Also, think about ways that you could expand upon your good content. If you’ve got a category that’s really working for you, focus more upon that category if it’s still getting traffic.
Pay Attention To Your Archives
Just don’t start writing new content all the time. Actually, I think one of the emerging trends I’ve noticed in a lot of bloggers recently is that they’re paying as much attention to their archives as they are to new content. Go into your relaunch writing some new content but also updating your archives. Alternate every new post that you publish with updating something old.
Pay Attention to Your Readers
Warm up your old followers, subscribers, and readers. If you have a dormant blog, you’re gonna have a cold reader, a cold email list, a cold social media following. They’re not as warm to you as they were in the past. They may still think highly of you, they might still remember you, but they might be a bit frustrated that you haven’t been updating. They may be wondering if you are still alive, or if you are still healthy, or if you’re still interested in them and their topic. They may be feeling a bit abandoned. You may need to just think through how do you warm them up again?
If it’s been a long absence, you might need to explain your absence. Maybe this might be a time to do a video post that tells the story of your last 12 months. You may not want to go into great detail if it’s been a health thing but that may actually help to connect with your audience. If you can tell your story, that sometimes can warm people up.
Now is a good time to create something to give your readers as a gift. If you create an opt in for your new email subscribers, send it to your old subscribers as well just to say thank you for sticking around.
This would be a good time for you to launch a series of content that’s going to get your readers to do something, some sort of a challenge, or content event. These types of content are all about not just teaching your readers or not just informing them but actually engaging with them in someway. Using live video, more images, or something that’s a bit more personal in terms of the medium itself can help warm up your readers again too.
The key thing is if you just need to get back to blogging, you really just need to get back to blogging and you need to start creating content again. The best thing that you can do in relaunching your blog, particularly if it’s just picking up where you left off, is to be as useful as possible to your readers. That’s the first scenario.
The second scenario is that in answering the questions to assess the current state of play for your blog, you realize that you need to change direction.
Perhaps your blog became dormant because you lost the passion for your topic. Maybe you stopped because the niche changed or the blog wasn’t working in some way. To just start up again in the same way that you ended it is probably going to end up leading to the same kind of results.
Particularly, if you’ve been blogging for a few years, you’ll probably find that things in your niche have changed quite a bit. For you to just go back to blogging in exactly the same way may not connect to its readers quite so much. You need to change things up to get different results from what you were doing in the past.
In most cases, if you’ve had a break in blogging a pivot is a good idea.
There are four different ways that you might want to consider pivoting your blog by changing your:
Change Your Topic
You might want to completely change your topic, or just make some smaller evolutions or iteration of your topic. There are a few different ways you can do this.
If you want to completely change your topic you’re probably better off to start a new blog completely rather than relaunch it. Maybe you had a photography blog and you want to start a blog about blogging. Maybe you had a fashion blog and you want to do a blog about travel. Unless you had a domain that’s kind of relevant to both topics, you’re probably more thinking about a new blog and you might want to check out our Start a Blog course to do that.
But in most cases, the pivot that people make is actually more of a tweak. There are a few ways that you can tweak your topic to bring you new life for your blog.
Narrow Your Topic
I’ve used this example in the past, but Donna Moritz who we talked to in Episode 117, narrowed her focus. She used to have a blog that was on all things social media that was not really that different to all the other blogs on everything to do with social media. Donna decided to really focus her blog on the topic of visual content in social media talking about things like infographics and images.
As a result of that, Donna became known as one of the key people that had expertise in visual content for social media. Her narrowing her focus made her stand out from all the other social media blogs.
Ask yourself if there’s a category in your old blog that should become your focus when you relaunch. You can then become the expert in that particular field. If you have a category that still getting lots of traffic you could narrow your focus on that category and it becomes your thing.
Broaden Your Topic
The opposite approach can also be taken. If your previous topic was too narrow and you may need to broaden it. I’ve seen bloggers do that quite well too. They might have had just a blog that was about printers and they got bored with that topic and broaden that out to other related technology topics.
Change Your Perspective – Voice
Perhaps your topic is right and you’re still interested in it but maybe you should explore using a different voice. I talked a little bit about voice in Podcast Episode 213 so I’m not going to go into great depth here, but in that episode, I reference five voices that Jeff Goins says that you can use for any topic: You can be the professor who teaches; the artist who brings out the beauty in their topic: the prophet who tells the cold, hard truth and busts myth; the journalist who is curating and gathering ideas and putting them together in stories; or you could be the celebrity, the one that everyone wants to know your opinion.
There are five voices but really, you can come up to any voice of your own as well. You can be the companion who journeys with people around a topic, you can be the mentor, the entertainer, you can be the reviewer, the curator, the storyteller, the guide, the teacher, the thought leader. All of these are different voices and you may actually want to try and bring out couple of those into your blogging. This is one way that you might want to consider pivoting your blog.
Change Your Perspective – Intent
Another way to change your perspective is by changing the intent of your content. If your blog was about bringing your readers the latest news in a niche you could pivot to be more of an opinion blog. You’re still talking about news but you’re bringing your opinion into it. That’s a slightly different intent, and a slightly different voice that you bring to your blog. If your blog previously was one of storytelling you could bring in some more reviews. You can completely change your voice or just tweak things a little.
An example of this was my original photography blog which used to be a review blog. Back in the day, 2004, I had these camera review blogs. I was reviewing cameras. I got completely sick of it. I got burnt out. It wasn’t something I was passionate about and so I decided to pivot that blog and to start teaching people how to use their cameras. This was, for me, a big change. I changed my domain, I changed the older content and really that’s when Digital Photography School was born.
For me, it was a big pivot. But you might just want to tweak your voice. Maybe it’s about adding in new types of posts to sit alongside of the old types of post. It’s really important to think this through before you relaunch your blog.
Change the Medium
If you previously had a written blog, you might want to relaunch it using more video, audio, or more visual content. This could be a complete shift. You could change from having a written blog to having a podcast or a video blog. Or you might just want to add the new medium into what you’re doing. Like we do on ProBlogger, every week we publish a blog post, a podcast, and a live video. You could just wanna change the mix of mediums as well.
Change the Audience
Focus on serving a different demographic. This is something I’ve seen a number of bloggers do over the years with real success. Similar to narrowing your focus, instead of just having a blog that brought everyone in your topic, you might want to focus in on being a topic blog for a certain demographic.
Instead of just being a travel blogger writing general travel advice, you might reposition your blog as travel advice for retirees, or for families, or for single women, or for gay men. If you think about your topic for a particular audience, this makes your content much more useful for those people.
It may sound a bit dangerous. You’re narrowing your potential audience down but it’s going to make it so much more attractive to anyone from that demographic and your content is going to be able to be more focused as well. In turn, this decision will probably impact your blog design and branding as well.
You can pivot in one of these areas or you can pivot in a few. You might want to narrow your topic and narrow down to a particular demographic, change your medium slightly and use a different voice.
You will also find as you pivot, sometimes that will give you a bit more passion for what you’re doing as well. You’re not just getting back to the same old thing you used to do, you actually get something new to learn and that can keep you fresh as well.
Once you’ve worked out, if and how you’re going to pivot, you’ll probably need to consider quite a few other factors. I’d recommend taking our free Start a Blog Course to make sure that you’re across all of these considerations and are relaunching your blog with a strong foundation.
After going through the process of deciding you will relaunch your blog here’s 11 other things that I’d be focusing my attention on as I was relaunching my blog (most of which are actually contained within the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Course).
1. What are your goals and objectives for your blog going forward?
Don’t just think about the topic, but what are you trying to achieve with the blog? What do you want it to lead to? Are you trying to build income? Are you trying to open up opportunities like landing a job or a book deal? Having this really thought through, what is it you are trying to achieve will help inform the content that you create and the way you design your site.
2. How will your blog change you readers’ lives?
For me, the key to success for blogging, having a blog that is gonna change people’s lives. Having a dream for what you want to achieve with your blog is one thing but what is your dream for your readers? What’s in it for your reader? Get laser focused on that.
3. What content will you create?
A blog without content is not a blog. Many bloggers, this is actually why the blog becomes dormant. It’s because they struggle to come up with new ideas. Before you get back into blogging, spend as much time as you can on generating ideas for content. Map out the next few weeks, the next few months, the next few years. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers recently mapping out a year of content ahead of time. This is particularly important if the reason your blog become dormant is because this was a struggle for you.
4. Build your archives up and build upon your archives.
If you’re not changing domains and are simply starting your blog again with minor changes, think really carefully about your previous content. Do an audit of what you have in your archives and once you’ve done that, be ruthless about deleting anything that is not serving your readers anymore.
Identify your top 10-20 posts that are still getting any traffic and make them more visually appealing, make them more scannable, optimize them for search engine optimization. Think about the calls to action that you have to get new subscribers. Think about could you do a follow up post? Could you add a link to further reading? Could you repurpose that content in someway?
5. Plan Your Editorial Calendar
You’ve brainstormed the ideas but when will you publish them? How often will you publish? What mediums will you use? You might want to come up with a weekly format. For example: Monday could be a blog post article of tips; Tuesday an audio post; Wednesdays link post to someone else; Thursdays is a review that you do… It really doesn’t matter whether you publish everyday but actually think about the types of posts that are you going to publish. Put topics alongside them in a calendar and suddenly, you’ve created yourself an editorial calendar. It’s so important to do that particularly if you struggled with keeping your blog going in the past because you had issues around planning.
6. Analyse Where Your Readers Are Coming From
If you’ve already got some readers coming in, do some analysis on where they’re already coming from. Also begin to think about how am I going to grow my readership? That’s really important as you launch your blog, as you relaunch your blog to think about could you do some guest posting? Should you be interacting in forums or Facebook groups? How can I be useful in these places? What other influences in the niche do I wanna network with?
7. What social networks will you focus on?
Things have probably changed in your space. We’ve had Snapchat come out. We’ve had Instagram come out. We’ve had all these different social networks come up perhaps since you previously were blogging. Do they present some new opportunities? Have people moved from one network to another in your particular niche? Identify the one or two that’s gonna be your primary focus. Make sure you’ve registered all the accounts that you need to. But then, come up with a little strategy of how you’re going to use those social networks going forward.
8. Start creating content
I would be focusing upon pillar content first. This is sort of that evergreen content that is going to be really, it’s what the rest of your blog is going to be built around. It’s your pillar content. It’s that evergreen content that you’re gonna refer to time and time again. It’s what you stand for. It’s your core teaching.
On Digital Photography School, it’s my post around aperture, shutter speed, ISO, these key components of photography. As you relaunch your blog, go back and look at the previous pillar content but also are there new pieces of content that you need to write first. Think about that evergreen content because that evergreen content is the type of content that’s gonna payoff for years to come. Deliver as much big value as you can with your early posts.
9. Think about your list
If you’ve previously collected emails, how are you gonna warm that list up again? How often are you going to send emails? How are you going to use that list going forward? How are you going to get new emails as well?
10. Figure out your blog design
Blogs look different now to what they used to look like. Do you need to update it? Do you need to change that logo? Do you need to lay it out differently? Is your blog mobile friendly? It’s so important these days, most people are looking at your blog probably on their mobile phone. Is it viewable on a mobile phone? You may need to give things a refresh in that particular area.
11. How are you going to use your time going forward?
This, again, is one of the reasons that so many bloggers become dormant, is that the blogger is struggling with juggling life and their blog and all the things that come along with having a blog. Actually thinking about how much time do I have that I can give my blog and what am I going to spend that time on?
We all have a limited amount of time and we are much more productive when we think ahead of time about how we are going to use that time. Make a list of what you need to do, and look at the available time that you’ve got, whether its one hour a week or whether that’s 40 hours a week and begin to prioritize the things that need to happen and plug them into a calendar.
This is what I do. I have a weekly template. I know on Monday mornings that I’ll write content. On Tuesday mornings, I’ll record a podcast. I know when things are going to happen and as a result, I’m so much more productive. Even if you’ve only got two or three hours a week to do it, you can fit a lot in if you’re sensible and proactive about planning and arranging your time.
Ultimately though, the success of your relaunched blog is going to be determined by what you do over the coming months and years. It’s the accumulation of the content that you create. It’s the accumulation of the value and usefulness that you deliver and the engagement that you have with your readers. Prioritize those things first. Content creation. Promoting your self, engaging with your reader. Creating value. They are so important.
To help you with this process, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog course is designed to help bloggers to kickstart their blogs whether they are new blogs relaunching a blog, or established blogs. If you are putting a lot of effort into relaunching your blog, this course will help direct that effort and make sure your relaunch is a success.