Darren Rowse of ProBlogger posted a few reader questions around the issue of when to update existing content rather than create a new post. I commented at the thread but wanted to share my full thoughts on the subject here as well.
The relevant questions were as follows:
- Is it good practice to continue to make improvements after I’ve hit the magic publish button?
- If so, should it be obvious to readers that’s what I’ve done?
- What about simply re-wording a sentence or changing the order of content around?
- Should new related ideas always go in new posts, or be added as “updates” at the bottom of existing ones?
Blogging is constantly about making improvements or corrections, striving to produce better quality content and become a better blogger; part of this is communication. We use our blogs to communicate our thoughts and ideas to our readers - often in order to start a discussion. It is only natural, therefore, to want to provide the latest and best information we have to had so that the discussion can be enhanced. How, though, is this best presented?
Quantity, not quality.
We normally see those two words the other way round but, in the context of updating existing content on your blog I believe that you have to look at how much is being updated. We must consider if an update is merely a one point addendum or whether it warrants a new post of it's own - the quantity of the update is therefore most relevant as we can assume that the quality of the update is not being questioned or there would be no incentive to provide it.
A brief update of one or two sentences or a link to a relevant post on another blog is normally best handled as an update to the post itself. Anything larger is probably better served by a new post to prevent the original becoming cluttered. It will also be more productive with regards to enhancing the conversation as more people are likely to see and read it.
Changing a post, as opposed to adding to it, is a difficult topic as has been alluded to in the comments on the ProBlogger post. I would tend to agree with a lot of what has been discussed there but to clarify here are my own preferences:
- editing typos should always be done and need not (usually) be communicated back to the reader
- if a typo changes your fundamental point (e.g. typing does instead of doesn't) it should be corrected with a note of explanation, using a strike-through if necessary
- rewording content should generally not happen, especially if it changes how the post reads
It is always a good idea to go back over your old content to see if you can add extra value or even if the surrounding landscape or your own position has changed. We are continually being re-influenced by everything we consume or experience, we may therefore change our opinions accordingly. These circumstances would always warrant a new post which goes over your original position, explains your new one and what has caused the change.
Comments and surveys
As I have mentioned previously a good way to expand on a particular topic is to use comments as the basis of a new post whether they are other peoples comments on your blog or your own comments somewhere else. The comments on any post are just as (if not more) important than the the original item and it is the conversation that we all value. Using comments to further discuss as issue is one of the reasons why we are all here.
Sometimes it may not be relevant to update a post with new information but you may also consider that it does not warrant a new post on its own. Under these circumstance it may be a good idea to start a poll or survey to garner even more opinion to either support or argue against your new idea. Sites such as SurveyMonkey or PollDaddy are good places to start.
There are no fixed rules and each change or update should be based on its own merits but the one point I would stress is that, with the exception of simple typos, you should always inform the reader.