Something absolutely horrible happened to me a few weeks ago. If you’re not a blogger, you might not understand how devastating this is.
I’ve been spending time trying to clean up all the things I’ve neglected over the years with my blog. Most of it involves updating blog content for Google. I’ve been removing dates from posts and checking for link errors. All the thrilling stuff you can find in Google Webmaster and your Search Console.
When everything went wrong
I was taking my time with my “repairs” until one day, I had this message pop up in my inbox.
Suddenly, I felt like I had just been called into the principal’s office for something I didn’t do.
This email basically said that I was accepting payment for links, something I never do and something I always and strongly advise other bloggers against doing. I was ready to fight.
Until I started looking at my content.
Guess what? I was in the wrong. I had so many links that should have been flagged as “nofollow” but weren’t. Some of the links were just obvious omissions. Others were from content that was so old that I didn’t even know what “nofollow” meant at the time. And others were simply links that I hadn’t considered.
So while I did commit some of the violations that Google accused me of, it wasn’t on purpose. Unfortunately Google doesn’t care if you meant to do it or if you simply forgot.
So what does it all mean?
If you ever receive this email, Google will tell you exactly what they mean and what you can do about it.
As a blogger, you should already know what number 2 means and if you don’t, here’s a great article to tell you exactly when and how to use <nofollow> on your links.
As a blogger, you should also know what number 1 means but just in case you’ve forgotten, it includes links to any brand, site, or product that has provided you compensation in any way. This could be actual product for review (even though money hasn’t changed hands), sponsored posts, and even affiliate links. Look for anything that brings you any sort of material gain.
I wanted to be absolutely certain I was in compliance with Google before I resubmitted my Reconsideration Request. So I decided it was time to review all of my posts. All 1267 of them.
Updating Blog Content for Google, or reviewing 1267 posts
If you think reviewing 1267 posts is a quick process, I am here to tell you that it most certainly is NOT. I received that email from Google in the evening of August 28th. Just today, September 14th, I was able to submit my reconsideration request. That’s a full two weeks that I had to spend on top of all of my other work and travel to review and rectify and outstanding issues.
Besides learning that I was sloppy with my links on a lot (like a LOT) of my posts, I learned quite a few other things that might be worth sharing if you haven’t reviewed your content in a while.
1. It’s never too late to fix bad links.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of things that can make a link “bad.” It may link to a site that no longer exists – this happens to a lot of my blogger friends who decide to quietly leave the blogging world. Or it may link to a temporary brand campaign that is over and done with.
If that’s the case, I will just delete them. I may have to make some contextual adjustments too but it’s worth the time to get rid of the dead links.
2. Watch for videos that get pulled or go extinct.
I have so many videos embedded in my content that just don’t exist anymore. Some of them were brand videos that have been pulled. Regardless of the why, I need to replace them with current versions or delete and make contextual adjustments.
3. Content has an expiration date.
Unless it’s in a contract, sponsored content does not have to live on forever on your site or mine. I’m proud of most of my sponsored content and don’t plan to remove any of it but some of the links and videos, like mentioned above, are outdated. I need to remove some of the outdated portions of the content and leave the rest intact.
4. Old Twitter parties and giveaways are moot.
Remember that great review I did where you gave away a pair of shoes? Nobody wants to come to my site and see that I gave it away THREE YEARS AGO. Time to delete that old giveaway stuff and leave the review intact.
And posts designed to promote Twitter parties for a specific date, reason, or campaign? Just like Elsa, I need to let it go. Those posts deserve a full-on delete.
5. Visual content is king.
There’s no better way to refresh an old post than to add new images to the content. If you’re anything like me, I used random images from the internet in the beginning (again, claiming ignorance here) that I had no rights to use. While I’ve corrected some of them, I need to correct all of them.
I also found that over the years I switched themes so that I could offer a wider content area. That means my photos are typically 800 px wide. In the beginning, they were barely 500px. Time to add bigger, higher quality versions of the photos. And time to re-embed many of my own YouTube videos with a proper width.
And while I’m at it, I could use some Pinterest-friendly images on my Pinterest-worthy posts. Adding that to my list.
6. Time to start paying attention to SEO.
Some of you are geniuses at SEO. I am not one of you. But I was smart enough to instal the Yoast SEO plug-in a while ago. I’m pretty good about all of my slugs, meta-description, focus keywords, alt-tags and all that other stuff that gives me the “green light.” But I’ve only been that way for about two years.
With over 7 years of content, I should have higher traffic numbers than I do and I need to take advantage of the years of content that sits on my blog virtually untouched. Because nobody can find it.
If it’s old but good, I need to fix all the SEO things. If it’s old, good, and still very relevant or evergreen, I may even modify it for SEO and republish it.
7. Featured images matter too.
In the beginning, I didn’t understand nor care about featured images. They weren’t relevant to my free, crappy Wordpress themes. But they matter now, if only for aesthetics. At the end of each of my posts, I link to several other related posts and if they’re old enough, you’ll simply see an out-of-focus Wordpress logo instead of an image from the post. Not very enticing but that’s a quick fix.
8. What the category is going on?
You know Google cares about categories, right? At one point, I think I had over 50 categories. I still have too many but I’ve culled it down. I just need to recategorize a lot of my posts so that they make sense.
Is a post really about Food + Drink and Cars and Pets? Probably not. There are probably some elements of each in that post but I’m better served (and so is the reader) with simply picking a primary category.
9. Typos are forever.
One of my weakest areas is editing my own work. I’m so pleased to have written that I usually just hit the Publish button without even proofreading it. And it shows. I have stupid little typos and grammatical errors stretching back years. It’s never to late to make yourself appear to be a better writer.
10. It’s all been worth it.
Besides all the mistakes I’ve made along the way, it has warmed my heart to see some of my favorite people and campaigns and memories come to life again. And all those corny videos I’ve made along the way? Totally worth it. Because now I have these moments of my family over the years that I might not have had otherwise.
What comes next?
Would it have been great if I could have done all of these things while reviewing all 1267 posts? I did correct a few things here and there, especially if it was really egregious. But my primary goal was to get back into Google’s good graces. I’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if I’ve been able to do that.
But now that I’ve figured out what needs to happen next, I’m going to start. I’ll work through a few posts per week (maybe 10?) and within a few months, I’ll have a sparkling clean site (in theory).
Think of this as a cautionary tale. Take some time and revisit your content over the next few weeks. Think about updating your blog content for Google. Make sure you’re in compliance and then go back and make your old content new again!
I can’t believe you got through that many posts in 2 weeks!! Major props. I’ve been sloooooowly going back over old content but I have such a long way to go. With you in that process if you ever need to vent!
I couldn’t believe it either but when Google says jump, you say how high. I’ve been so sloppy over the years but sometimes it’s fun to go back and say, yeah, I wrote that!
Hi Fadra. Reading this because I’ve always wondered what you are supposed to do with old blog posts. When you say that you moved dates from the posts, do you mean in the url as well? And if the date was already in the url won’t that screw up all the other links that went to it? What you did sounds important for many. I’m not sure the agony is worthy if for a personal blog though.
That’s a GREAT question. I knew so many people that removed the dates from their posts and it made it almost seem like they were trying to deceive the reader so I left them in. BUT… I recently was reading up on SEO that said that if Google sees the date in your URL and it’s old, they might decide your content isn’t relevant enough to show up in search results. That got my attention. I was worried about screwing everything up but I followed this article and related tutorials very closely: https://yoast.com/change-wordpress-permalink-structure/ and I have to say that I haven’t had any issues with links or redirects (but you have to follow their directions!).
I need to do all of these things. I’m saving this post as a reference for myself so I can check off all of these things.
You and me both! I can tell you that it’s very overwhelming so create a system for yourself and keep track of your progress. My goal is to do it before the end of the year.
I really need to do this as well. I have over 3500 blog posts from the past 6 years. I’d like to think I haven’t made these mistakes over the past few years, but you bring up some very good points. It’s probably time to go back to the beginning and start seeing what I can let go, fix, or improve upon.
Thanks for the great advice.
I never thought I would advocate deleting content but after seeing some of this old stuff, it’s time to let go and clean it up! Plus it gives me a new appreciation for some of the things I’ve written over the years.
Very true. I’ve already found at least 3 blog posts I can delete and 1 that I can turn into 2 new blog posts later this year. Thanks.