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When to Sunset Your Blog

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BlogAs a frequent speaker on social media, marketing and blogging (and a blogger myself), one question I come across on a recurring basis is when someone should “give up” their blog and just be done with it. You’ve probably come across a blog like this, if not your own, in the past several months. Basically, the way it works is that a blogger starts out with grandiose ideas of writing daily about this-and-that, tweeting out their posts, sharing content on LinkedIn, and creating lively discussions that lead to dozens of comments and follow up posts… In reality, what really happens is you write a few posts for the first month or two, maybe add in a couple shares, that dwindles to a post a month, and then after a year blogging it seems like just another item on your ever-growing to-do list that is put off indefinitely. Months go by and the best you can wrangle up is a retweet of an interesting news story you saw on Yahoo.com.

So what do you do? And, how do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel versus “keep on trucking”?

If you have encountered this situation, you are not alone.

According to HubSpot.com, “companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5X more traffic than companies that don’t blog at all.” And it’s fairly consistent – the more you blog, the more traffic that comes in. And yes, quality plays into this equation too. But what happens when you throttle back and your blog gets stale? Can that have a negative affect on your personal brand or company? The answer is YES! Companies that have a blog that is not updated frequently, and personal bloggers that go long periods of times (multiple weeks) without posting can start to hurt their personal brands. The biggest issue is it looks like you are no longer active, so visitors assume you may not be in business, or you may have abandoned your blog… or simply lost interest. What does losing interest then say about your brand?

We’ve always opined that it’s important to have a solid blogging strategy BEFORE you start. Map out a reasonable, attainable commitment level, such as “3 posts per week, with one post being commentary about a current event”, etc. Whatever your strategy is, the point here is that you need one before you start blogging. And, it needs to be realistic. It’s better to exceed your goal as you go along then to set yourself up for failure right out of the gate.

When I first started blogging on my site, www.DanSoschin.com in January 2011, my goal was to post at least once per week. That seemed attainable. It turns out that I was able to crank out nearly 200 posts, about four times as many as I had expected. Since then, things have tapered off a bit… and with the birth of my first child pending later this summer, there’s a big question mark looming over me as to whether or not I will be able to continue writing. I sure hope so.

But back to my main point here. When do you throw in the towel? I’ve come across a lot of blogs that just don’t have much content. There might be a couple posts and then six months of nothing. I’ve even seen blogs listed on resumes or business sites that have only a handful of posts spanning years. This isn’t the type of impression you want to make on a hiring manager or potential client, so at some point you have to choose a path:

  • Try again
  • Stop blogging altogether

Trying again

Most folks facing the decision to jettison their blog will first try again. This is a perfectly reasonable strategy that I’ve enacted on several blogs throughout American Public University System. We have a number of faculty members and departments that operate blogs on a wide range of topics from homeland security to career tips. When we have encountered sites that lack content and frequency of posting is below our acceptable/established threshold, we’ll typically hold a meeting or conference call to discuss the issue among all our stakeholders. We’ll ask the following questions and/or review data points including:

  • Are stakeholders still interested in blogging?
  • Is the blog fulfilling the original objective?
  • How much traffic has the blog received?
  • What is the quality of the traffic?
  • Is the blog growing its readership?

If we determine that there still is interest, we review the minimum criteria and objectives and obtain a reaffirmed commitment on the part of the stakeholders. From there, we make sure there’s an established, concrete and well-understood objective. This can be as simple as “a certain number of posts per week, for the next 10 weeks”, etc. You might find that creating an editorial calendar is more appropriate, depending upon your stakeholders. And finally, we establish an “expiration date”. In other words, if we are unable to meet our objective (of the posts per week, or whatever else we establish), then we make sure everyone understands the consequences – that we’ll be shutting down the blog.

Stop blogging altogether

Sometimes, shutting down makes more sense. If your organizational priorities shift, objectives have evolved or stakeholder bandwidth evaporated, blogging might not be right for you anymore. And that’s okay too. As I established earlier, having a blog that’s publicly available with little content, outdated, is one of the worst possible things for your organization. So, if you are done with blogging, and you’ve achieved that conclusion because you have addressed the aforementioned issues, then you need to aggressively move to take the site offline. There are a couple ways to do this, and I’ll map both out below in brief.

  1. Just pull the plug
    In this scenario, you have very little content and it’s not worth saving/archiving. Just take the site offline. If you are really worried about the content, this option is not for you. See #2 below.
  2. Archive, redirect and pull the plug
    In this scenario, you might have had a good run – maybe a couple years even. So you have solid content, but you just don’t want to keep it going (or you can’t keep it going). Whatever the reason, you have assets that provide value to your business. The first step here is to find a new home for the content. That may be a directory on your website for folks to browse. It could also be another blog. At American Public University System, we had a blog run by our Career Services Team full of great career development advice such as interview tips, job fair logistics, and so on. We also had a really robust career development portal, OnlineCareerTips.com. OnlineCareerTips.com had become a huge site, complete with it’s own weekly newsletter and syndicated content from Forbes, Kiplinger and the Washington Post. Since the sites were related it made sense to combine them, but retain the OnlineCareerTips brand, since it was more widely established. After a few stakeholder meetings with the Career Services team and the OnlineCareerTips staff, we decided to provide the Career Team with contributor access and profiles to the OnlineCareerTips site, and move all their historical content over to the site, categorized appropriately. The final step was to ensure the back end system redirected users from the old site to the new one in case visitors had any old links bookmarked. The end result is a reinvigorated brand, buoyed by additional content and archives. It’s less work managing one site versus two, even though we have the same number of contributors.

So, when is it time to sunset your blog?

Getting to the answer is simple:

  • Determine if your current blogging activity meets your original mission
  • Evaluate the relevancy of your mission
  • Understand the commitment of your stakeholders
  • Create a revitalization strategy that includes an ultimatum
  • Determine an appropriate exit strategy

Paul Simon once said, “everywhere I went, led me somewhere I didn’t want to be.” If that’s you and blogging, maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Above all else, remember that blogging should be fun, and if not, it should at least provide value to your organization. If it doesn’t, it might be time to focus on another project and sunset the blog altogether.

By Dan Soschin
Online Learning Tips, Technology Contributor

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