Header “Pile of Lego” photo credit: musicmoon@rogers.com, (CC BY 2.0)

Blog Cleanup

Blogs are our online homes. We try to keep them neat and attractive enough for visitors, but we hope that no one is curious enough to open cluttered drawers or see the dust balls under the bed or, worst of all, wander into the “junk room.”

I wrote my first blog post five years ago this month. Since then, I have published 635 posts both here. If I include that first blog (Everyday Intensity), much of which I’ve folded into this one, the total is over 900 posts, and over 1200 images are in my blog media library.

The problem is that, along the way, I was not very good about internal blog organization. At the beginning, I didn’t understand the difference between categories and tags. I did not always name image files in ways that make them easy to find. Sometimes I used featured images; sometimes I didn’t (depending on what blog theme I was using at the time).

The result is a bit like a room-size pile of Legos that need to be sorted by size and color. It is a mess I love, because I really do love blogging (as much as I love Legos), but a mess nonetheless.

Where To Start When You Don’t Know Where To Start

For my five-year blogging anniversary, I am unveiling a new magazine-style website design (it’s live now—take a look!). However, to make the new theme and design truly effective, I have a lot of cleanup ahead of me. If I think too much about all that work—checking each post for broken links, proper image citations, feature images, teaser text, useful categories and tags, not to mention theme-specific features and SEO—I despair of ever finishing and become too paralyzed even to begin.

The answer? Gamification, or at least the idea inherent in many video games of starting in the middle, at whatever point looks interesting and seeing where that takes me, rather than following a pre-determined, linear list of step

Here’s how it works: 

Each day I check my WordPress.org dashboard to see what posts and pages people have visited, and I start with one that I know I haven’t cleaned up. For example, today someone visited the post “Lakota Culture, Part 2: Winter Counts” (thank you, dear reader, whoever you are!).

1. I go to the post and check that all of the links and videos still work (in this case, they do).

2. Then I make sure that I have properly cited any images. The image for this particular post is in the public domain, and clicking on the link takes me to the source page. Just to be extra diligent, I decided to add a caption indicating that the photograph is a public domain image.

3. This post didn’t have a feature image, so I need to add one. Why? Because  my new website design features more attractive and easier to navigate category pages that use feature images. Here is what the Winter Counts posts looked like on its category page (Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide) originally:

Category Page

Notice that there was no photo, there was no color background for the description, and the teaser text was simply the first lines of the post itself (which sometimes works and other times is better to change). Also notice that the next post, “One-Room Country Schools,” does have a photo but no color background.

Often for feature images, I can use an image already in the post, but in this case, the image isn’t big enough for a crisp header image. I head over to Flickr to see if there are any Creative Commons images of Winter Counts, and I am in luck! I insert the image as a feature image, credit it in the text of the post, and code a blue background color for the description. I add a hand-crafted excerpt to take the place of the automatic teaser, because the first lines of the post repeat information already available in the title information.

Here is what the post link looks like now on the category page:

Category Page, new

Much better!

4. I also check the categories and tags. This post’s category is fine, but I decide to add a tag for Lakota to make it easier for readers to find similar posts later, once I add the same tag elsewhere.

5. At this point, I can choose another post visited today or click through to others marked “Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide” with the goal of cleaning up the entire category (maybe “One-Room Country Schools”) or maybe do a search among my published posts for “Lakota” to tag and clean up all of those. One relatively small category I have finished cleaning up is AWP Conferences, in case you want to see what that looks like.

It is not a fast process by any means, and I expect that I won’t be finished for a month or so, but the end result will be a site that is much more reader-friendly. I write here about my progress and any tips I discover along the way.

What blog cleanup techniques work for you? What questions do you have about blog cleanup? Share them in the comments!