Zombies Attack! What to Do When Older Stories Rise Again on Your Dashboard

February 13th, 2013 by David

As a member of the Chartcorps, I have the unique privilege of walking our newest Chartbeat users – aka our newest data nerds –through their dashboards for the very first time. My favorite part of this experience is witnessing their first-look reactions to their real-time data, which often involves several "whoa, that's interesting" moments.

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The Spiking Dead

A common “whoa” moment is when old "zombie" content pops up near the bottom of your Top Pages list on your Chartbeat dashboard. When I say zombie content, I’m referring to stories you published anywhere from three days to three years ago (and beyond) – i.e., content that’s back from what you thought was the dead. These types of stories tend to appear more frequently than you might think, and despite the scary name, they’re great strategic opportunities to keep readers engaged with your site content. I’m sharing my top zombie-handling recommendations for how you can increase the engaged time on these reappearing stories, which is a quick look at the actual attention/quality time your readers are spending with that post, and how to position these stories to drive traffic deeper into your site.

Check yourself...err your links

Chartbeat - gizmodo.com 1 zombie

The first real step is acceptance – it’s pretty normal for users to be browsing older articles. If you see a zombie story trending in your Top Pages list, click over the story (you can get there directly from the dashboard by clicking the name of the article while you're in the page view) and do a thorough review of your zombie story's links: Identify: Check out where your zombie story is currently linking out to – where are the story's suggested links driving your audience? Update: Do you need to switch out those links on this story for more recent content? If a three-year-old story is getting traffic, you want to make sure that its links are relevant to today's audience – make sure they’re pointing your readers to fresh and engaging content.

If there’s traction, get aggressive

Great, you jumped on updating those links. But what if this zombie story is gaining some serious traction? Say a recent toy recall brings a ton of readers to your months-old post detailing your concerns about this potentially dangerous product. How do you act on this new traffic? This would be an ideal time to dig up any extra content you had laying around that didn't make the first cut. Got some more pictures you can share? How about some video you can quickly edit together to give your visitors what they want?

If you've got the time and this zombie is really attacking your dashboard hard, why not write a follow-up piece? Throw a link to the update at the top and bottom of the old article (or if you’re in Chartbeat Publishing, use the Scroll Depth tool in the Heads Up Display to figure out exactly where in the piece your audience is starting to wander off).

 Whatever you decide to do with your back-from-the-dead stories, just remember to act quickly – those zombies won't last forever. Have you ever successfully wrangled a zombie story? Share your strategies in the comments below.