Spring-Clean Your Blog in Five Easy Steps

From your sidebar to your comments section, these tips will help you clean up your blog in just a few minutes.

The first day of Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes the annual ritual of airing, dusting, and decluttering our homes. While you’re in cleaning mode, why not devote a few minutes to streamlining your blog, too? (Note: if you live south of the Equator, these tips are still valid!)

This isn’t just about appearances (though those matter), but also about traffic — a clean, attractive, easy-to-navigate site is one readers are more likely to visit again. Here are five things you can do in the next ten minutes to see immediate results.


#1 Unload your unused widgets

The problem: Widgets are a great tool for organizing your content and customizing your blog’s look. Overstuffing your sidebar (or other widget areas), though, can make your blog look busy, disorganized, and less professional.

What you can do: Look at your sidebar as if you were a first-time visitor. Which widgets are essential? Which ones are you least likely to click? Is there any obvious redundancy there — for example, a Blogs I Follow Widget and  a Links Widget? Remove any widget that doesn’t serve a clear navigational or visual purpose, or consider tweaking its visibility settings so that it doesn’t appear on your homepage.


#2 Declutter your social sharing buttons

The problem: The sleek new sharing buttons we introduced recently make it easy for your readers to spread your content across multiple platforms. Displaying every single sharing button, though, can be visually distracting, and giving readers too many choices might make it less likely they share your posts.

What you can do: Think strategically about the buttons’ lineup (you can change your selection from your dashboard, by going to Settings  Sharing). If you’re a personal blogger, do you really need a LinkedIn button? If you write longform posts, is a Tumblr button crucial? Limit yourself only to the top three or four places where your content is most likely to be shared. Having less options might actually help your visitors decide to click on the button, as they’ll be less distracted by too many irrelevant choices.


#3 Remove the cobwebs from old drafts

The problem: Your publication frequency has stalled, while your dashboard is littered with unfinished drafts, idea fragments, and unused media.

What you can do: Mine your drafts to plan your next three posts. You could finish a post you’d forgotten about, or combine material from several drafts into one post. You could even write a new post based on a photo (or other files) you’ve uploaded, but have yet to touch.


#4 Sort out your tags

The problem: You’ve been tagging your posts inconsistently (or not tagging them at all). This makes it harder — if not impossible — for new readers to find your content.

What you can do: In your dashboard, go to Posts → All Posts, and look at the Tags column. If your posts have no tags, add some (no need to go into each post individually — just click on “Quick Edit” and add them in, separating each tag with a comma). If any post has a total of more than fifteen tags and categories, remove several of those — exceeding that number makes your posts invisible in the WordPress.com Reader. If posts about similar topics are tagged differently, edit them to add consistency, as this will help readers find related content more easily.


#5 Scrub your comments section

The problem: You’re clearly doing something right if you inspire people to leave their thoughts on your posts. An unmoderated comments section, however, is counterproductive. It makes you look like a less-caring host, and might discourage some visitors from sharing their thoughts.

What you can do: Go to the Comments section of your dashboard, and review all the comments from the past few weeks. Delete all those that are non-substantive, or only serve as a plug for your visitor’s site. Consider adhering to an even stricter standard, like deleting reblogs with no added content, or changing your commenting settings to add more control.

Enjoy your cleaner, brighter blog! If you’re looking to go beyond cleaning into remodeling, check out our customizing tips, or try out a couple of new themes.


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Ben Huberman

76 Comments

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  1. Basil Rene

    Great tips! Thank you!

    Like

  2. The House of Bethan

    Great, useful post. Thank you.

    Like

  3. Aaron

    Excellent things to do! I plan to also change the color scheme of my site and lighten the heading font. I used a “Chunky” font for the winter, and plan to use a “lighter” font choice for the spring and summer. :-)

    Like

  4. wwwander

    Your Spring-tips were very welcome – I have already applied some of them! Thanks!

    Like

  5. anomadlife

    Definitely something I need to do, but just dreading sorting through my thousands of tags!

    Like

  6. Christine Goodnough

    One thing I would encourage is that everyone ADD a Recent Posts widget. I’ve visited blogs where you had to click ‘Previous post’…and click ‘Previous post’…and click ‘Previous post…’ if you wanted to know anything about what the blogger wrote before today. I like to see at a glance the titles of their last five posts so I know if their other content will interest me or not.

    Another thought: If bloggers go back and edit the Tags on some recent posts, why not also spice up some titles if needed and be sure they accurately reflect the post’s central point?

    I advised one man yesterday to change his Archives to a drop-down menu because he had a long line–30 months I think–in his sidebar. I did the same for my Categories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ben Huberman

      Thanks for the additional tips — very helpful! I particularly like the idea of going over titles to make sure they do a good job channeling the essence of your posts.

      Like

  7. Pradipna Lodh

    The blog is excellent, but I did not get the third point.

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      It’s aimed for those among us who start many drafts that we then let languish in our dashboards, unpublished. It’s a good idea occasionally to go over them to create material to publish.

      Like

  8. timethief

    It’s so easy to accumulate clutter and you are my hero for publishing this excellent advice. May I also suggest that broken links checks and editing to update popular posts with new information ought to be on our spring blog cleaning list?

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      Broken link checks are a great idea — it’s a small detail, but it can be so frustrating for a reader to click through only to find… nothing.

      Like

  9. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

    Thanks for reminding me about all the unfinished drafts that are stuffing up the closets in my blog. Time to rummage through them and either use them or throw them out! (Wonder if there’s a “Second Hand Store” for drafts?)

    Like

  10. The DIY Show

    Right on time!! I’m in the process of revamping or as you say Spring Cleaning!!! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  11. Mara Eastern

    There is one more idea that hasn’t been explicitly mentioned in this (very helpful!) article — disabling pingbacks and trackbacks. I don’t how you guys feel about it (and I’d love to hear your opinion!), but I recently disabled these because I was unhappy with the dozens of automated pingbacks to my Daily Post responses. Now I think it’s much better.

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      I think that’s a solid choice if you want to exercise stricter control over your comments section, especially if you’re part of a very active community, like the one at The Daily Post.

      Like

  12. mscharlies

    Wow, thanks for the tagging tips, I was much in need of a spring cleaning!

    Like

  13. Gloria

    Yes, this is excellent. I will be removing old-draft-cobwebs today. Thank you!

    Like

  14. Michael W. Wright, DMin

    Getting clean and decluttering feels so good!

    Like

  15. Bun E. Hill Publishing

    Awesome tips! I jut did all of this and also got rid of the posts from my early days of blogging. Now I have a clean blog just in time for spring.

    Like

  16. Andrew Beasley

    Like the article, but the 9 sharing buttons on the piece undermine it somewhat ;-)

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      A solid observation there! We, too, are constantly tweaking our blog’s appearance and features.

      Like

  17. nancyc

    Are those round social media buttons available for putting in the sidebar of our blogs?

    Like

  18. whichwaynow101

    Done it! Helpful. Thanks.

    Like

  19. SmallHouseBigGarden

    you wrote: “If any post has a total of more than fifteen tags and categories, remove several of those — exceeding that number makes your posts invisible in the WordPress.com Reader.”
    Just so I know I’m understanding this correctly–if I have 8 tags and 8 categories in one post, that particular post will NOT show up in the Reader?

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      Yes — you’re correct! This is an anti-spam security measure: since so many spam accounts tend to attach numerous frivolous tags to their posts, we hide those with more than fifteen (tags and categories) in total.

      Like

  20. Catholic Men Chicago Southland

    Excellent information, thank you!!

    Like

  21. newworldmom

    Love the tips, thank you …. Happy spring cleaning everyone!

    Like

  22. jpeggytaylor

    Some really helpful pointers there – thanks! I did recently have a sidebar de-widget session but there’s definitely other stuff I could do to look at. I know I’m a bit heavy handed on tags sometimes so I need to check if I’ve gone over that 15 threshold! Something else I’m busy working on is giving my About page a bit of an update too.

    Like

  23. Cecile

    Excellent points – thanks! I LOVE WordPress !!! It’s pretty easy to learn how to use – even for this grandmother !! One thing I don’t understand is RSS – I’m gonna have to learn about it ’cause I do know it’ll help me get more traffic on my blog !!

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      RSS is just another way for your readers to receive your posts — you can find out more about how to let visitors subscribe to your blog by visiting this support page.

      Like

  24. amstincan

    Great post. Thanks for the tips!

    Like

  25. thebritishberliner

    Very useful especially the clearer tagging tips. Thank you!

    Like

  26. David Horton

    But how do I remove sharing buttons?

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      In your dashboard, hover over “Settings,” and click on “Sharing.” You’ll see all the available sharing buttons, which you can drag and drop to activate (or deactivate) as you wish.

      Like

  27. Rucha Tatke

    Thanks for this! Since my blog is new I don’t have too much clutter but this definitely reminded me to make sure all my posts were tagged!

    Like

  28. Russian Universe

    Thanks for useful ideas! I’ll trim some widgets.

    Like

  29. Envirothink

    Very useful article, Ben. Thanks for the reminders!

    Like

  30. Delano Maloney

    Thanks for these, especially the comments and tags ones.

    Like

  31. Angela Gonzalez

    I recently did some spring cleaning and simplified my blog, but you gave me some more ideas to clean it up even further. Thank you!

    Like

  32. Jon R.

    Yet another great, useful and most helpful post by WordPress. You guys are awesome! It really shows just how much you care about your users. I’ve only been doing this since January but without the amount of advice from posts like this and other community members my blog wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is right now in such a short amount of time.

    I just re-did my tags on all my posts as well as took off a lot of buttons. I actually thought giving all the options to people to share on whatever they use was a good thing but I guess not. I mean, I don’t even use most of them and the ones like facebook and twitter can do pretty much everything the other ones can, not to mention they are the most popular. So it makes sense to de-clutter the others, especially if your blog doesn’t really fit those sites.

    Like

  33. notakarentheworld

    Great tips! I love reorganizing my blog just a tiny bit from time to time to keep it from getting stagnant. Always fun to play around with different settings.
    Will keep in mind what you said about the tags though!

    Like

  34. belindq

    My first thought when I saw the post title was a guide to clean up the old posts. Although it was not what I expected, this post has very good advice. Going to start #2 and #4 when I finish my upcoming blog posts.

    Like

  35. John Hayden

    I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to find the best theme, use different fonts, and generally improve the look of my blog. But I’m beginning to think it’s time wasted. My views are declining. Everyone apparently is reading on the Reader. They never get as far as my actual blog, and I don’t get credit for the views. What difference does it make what my blog looks like? I know other bloggers are having the same experience.

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      Hi John,
      It’s worth clarifying that whenever someone reads your post in the Reader (i.e. when the post modal pops out, letting the user read your post in its entirety, rather than just the snippet), your blog still gets the view. This was designed precisely to avoid a situation where Reader views compete with your in-site views.

      As for the design question, I’m sure people’s opinions will vary, but I’d still argue that haveing a well-designed, clean site makes a big difference. Given that a healthy chunk of readers find blogs via means other than the Reader — social networks, search engines, links on other posts, etc. — many (the exact portion will vary by site) still see your actual blog, so making sure their reading experience is positive is still important.

      Like

  36. angelvancouver

    I would like to de-clutter the archives section of my blog. How do I shrink posts by months into a single year for posts more than a year old?

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      Hi Angela, I’m not sure there’s a quick, direct way to accomplish exactly what you’re looking for. One thing you could do that’s pretty close, though, is use the Archives Shortcode. If you paste the following two shortcodes into a new page or a Text Widget, you’ll see the posts from the last 12 months grouped monthly, and the all your posts grouped by year:
      [archives type=monthly limit=12]
      [archives type=yearly]

      Like

  37. Subroto

    I am new to wordpress and blogging.
    Suggestions like this one have been very useful.
    Thanks.

    Like

  38. lorenwolf

    A great article. Thank you. But I do have one question. How can i delete the older revisions of each posts? Every time I make a change to a post before I publish a new revision is created. It seems that those older revisions are taking up a lot of space.

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      You can’t delete revisions — they’re stored precisely in order to allow you to revert to an earlier version if you ever needed to. There’s no reason to worry about space, though, since you can write as many posts as you want, containing as many revisions as you want, with your free WordPress.com account.

      Like

  39. Y. Prior

    Really awesome tips — and the one that I liked most (because it applies to life too) came with the tip to streamline our share buttons….

    “Having less options might actually help…” I knew it applied to life — and now I see it applies to blog share buttons. :)

    Like

  40. rishiichowdhury

    I am new to blogging so the tips are great.Thank you. :)

    Like

  41. mgm75

    Which widgets are essential? Which ones are you least likely to click? Is there any obvious redundancy there — for example, a Blogs I Follow Widget and a Links Widget? Remove any widget that doesn’t serve a clear navigational or visual purpose, or consider tweaking its visibility settings so that it doesn’t appear on your homepage.

    Because I now use one of these tablet-friendly themes (Syntax) the widgets on my sidebar now appear at the bottom so I make most of them appear only on relevant posts too. My two GoodReads apps (my bookshelf and the reading challenge) only appear on posts that are in the book review category. My signup widget and search box are the only ones that appear on every page / post

    Like

  42. A Writer Inspired

    Great timing on this one, Ben. I just recently applied these tips and the blog looks great. I also added a landing page in front to make things easier to find. I love it!

    Like

  43. Shawny Lou

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been debating whether or not I have too many widgets, but every time I consider removing some, I talk myself out of it. Same goes for the social sharing buttons. I was afraid I’d “cheat” myself out of readers if I removed widgets or social buttons, but now I’m confident it’s what needs to be done. Guess I should’ve listened to my gut weeks ago. Thank you again!

    Like

  44. avivsky

    Hi ben, thanks for the suggestions. I’m concerned that editing the tags of existing posts will have them resent to the blogs followers (email or rss). Or does changing tags not do that?
    Thanks
    aviv

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      The posts won’t be resent when you change tags — adding or removing a tag is like making any other edit after publishing a post. It’s visible to whoever comes to your site, but it won’t trigger the sending process to your subscribers.

      Like

  45. Trish Blair

    So helpful, thanks!

    Like

  46. DSW

    A timely reminder – particularly points 1 and 3. Our site is intended to be a collection of security tech, but not social networking icons. These shall be weeded out forthwith!

    Like

  47. talesfromthemotherland

    This post was particularly helpful (though yours almost always are!) and easy to understand. Thanks for the help!

    Like

  48. treedomltd

    I am very new to blogging and just running
    my first blog, these tips are very helpful, thanks!

    Like

  49. Jennifer's Journal

    Hi, Ben. These are great tips that i will be using this week. My question: because I subscribe to my own blog, it shows up in my Reader. Sometimes my tags run over fifteen and i can still see it in my Reader. Does this mean everyone who subscribes can see it there too?

    Like

  50. Stef

    This was really helpful! I do have one question, though: Let’s say I use the exact same tags and categories – but I use 9 of each. So, I have a total of 18 tags and categories – but only 9 unique ones. Will my posts be excluded from the reader? Or does this meet the “less-than-15″ quota? [I did read the Tags vs. Categories documentation online, but didn't see an answer to this question.] Thanks! {And if I need to ask this question in the forums I can; but I imagine others reading this post might have this same question, too.} :)

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      I never encountered this situation, but my understanding is that the duplication won’t matter — since the overall number of tags and categories exceeds 15, the post will not show in the Reader.

      Like

      • Stef

        So if I have to choose between Tags and Categories, which one should I pick? (I.e., which one will show up as a searchable “bucket” in the Reader?)

        Like

        • Ben Huberman

          Both tags and categories show up in Reader topic pages. The difference between the two is more about the internal organization of content within your own site — categories are best used to group together loosely related content; tags allow you to zoom in on specifics. You can read more about the differences between the two in this support page.

          Like

  51. Jennifer's Journal

    I misunderstood, thinking all along that the fifteen tag limit was for the tags only, not including categories.

    Like

  52. alifetraveled

    I’ve updated/edited my sidebar widgets and footers more than once since I started using WordPress and there are a couple of comment tips that are useful as I update my blog again, but it would be so much easier and useful if when we add a new post and preview prior to publishing, that we are able to see the entire layout of post including, title, headers, footers and sidebar at that time so that we can update all the extras at the same time. It’s my peeve that I can’t preview the entire ‘page’ at once just as a reader would see it. It would really be helpful in designing our blogs. Any chance this will be an enhancement?

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      Thanks for the feedback! We’re constantly working to make previews easier, faster, and more comprehensive, and having the ability to preview changes on the page as a whole is a great goal to strive towards.

      Like

  53. Wordscroll

    I want to give you a huge hug! I have been wondering for about a year why the traffic had suddenly dropped off my blog. I didn’t realize that to be included in the reader, the tags had to be 15 or less. My readers stalled at the same spot my tags had increased beyond that. Today I posted with the proper tags and within about an hour received 4 new follows!! I can’t thank you enough for giving me the missing link!

    Like

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