Two concepts drive the strategy outlined in this article. First, no one method of categorization is superior to another. Second, let the tools do as much of the work as possible. Each of the following scenarios embraces these concepts. All you have to do is decide which scenario best describes your blog to eBook status.
Before looking at the scenarios, let us review the two concepts and briefly discuss comments, images and attachments.
You can segment your content based on any of the following criteria:
- Publication date
- Post type (page, post, attachment)
- Any attribute, really
So, pick whatever combination makes sense. Keep in mind, though, your prep work will be easier if the combination includes only existing elements. Retrofitting your content may not be an option if your blog is still active; you don’t want to risk messing it up for your visitors or SEO.
A good idea is to create a rough outline of the eBook. Consider the posts or pages that will go into each section. Perhaps your current blog taxonomy—tags, categories and other groupings—will help you decide. WordPress.org has a technical discussion of Taxonomies.
Obviously, WordPress itself is the best tool you have for preparing your content to make the trip from blog to eBook. Be sure you understand how the built-in WordPress Export tool works (and its limitations!) If you have a huge blog, consider limiting the amount of exported content. You might even plan ahead by deciding to perform multiple exports.
WordPress Posts Menu
Using the Posts menu, add categories and tags to your taxonomy as needed. By adding these ahead of time, you can use the bulk editing tools for pages and posts.
Add categories and tags via the WordPress Posts Menu
WordPress Bulk Editor
The bulk editors are great time-savers. Not only can you filter your posts, you can also select the ones you wish to edit. In this instance, editing is limited to a few attributes, such as categories, tags, author and publication status.
Select posts to be edited
Bulk editing multiple posts
You don’t have to mess around with the bulk editors. In fact, if your blog is still active, you may want to defer categorization until after you have exported the posts you want in your eBook. Don’t take risks with your visitors’ experience.
Again, if you have a huge blog, consider doing multiple exports to reduce the size of the export files. With the right file managing tool, you can work with multiple export files as easily as you can with a single, massive file. (Of course, the recommended tool is Retrievem!)
One of the neat things about the WordPress XML file format is that it can be used to create other types of files. For example, if you can get your blog information into a spreadsheet, you can play around with the titles, grouping, filtering and sorting them by categories. You can create new categories, rename others and generally treat your blog as the actual outline for your eBook!
(A future how-to article will show you some ideas for using spreadsheets to organize your blog to eBook projects.)
Comments, Images and Attachments
Comments are what make a blog post come to life. You may wish to recapture some or all of the engagement related to the posts you add to your eBook. Of course, you get to decide whether to include images but, if you plan to add sourced material, be sure to keep track of the attributions. As for attachments, you will most likely be deciding whether or not to link to them.
Thanks to the WordPress Export tool, the technical bits will be available. Depending on your skill with other tools, organizing these extras will be easy, challenging or impossible. You must consider how much time you are willing to spend to recreate the blog. If you have teaching content, you’ll probably want your eBook to faithfully reproduce your lessons.
On the other hand, if you have a bunch of essays where the images were just added for the sake of esthetics (or catching eyeballs), you may not need the images.
Let’s consider some likely scenarios. Your blog may be active, undergoing changes or dead. Your desired eBook will either replace or supplement your blog content. That’s six possible scenarios. Your situation may not be among these six but the ideas should still be helpful.
Scenario 1: Active Blog, eBook to Supplement Posts
Creating an eBook is one way to deal with the invisibility of older posts. This is different from the eBook-for-email address offer, in that you’re culling existing content. That is not to say you couldn’t offer the eBook of old posts as an inducement, especially if you provide a good amount of time-saving information.
The more common strategy I have seen is to offer the eBook for sale to those who either wish to save time or just want a tangible collectible from their favorite author. Transparency is the key to making this work. Just be upfront about the choices available to the reader, especially if the content is being sold.
Whatever your motivation is for keeping both formats, your preparation should include adding a blurb to each post that will be going into the eBook. Think of it as advertising. At the very least, you’ll want to mention that the post is part of a collection. Add a link to your eBook download and you’re set!
A plugin that provides shortcodes for text snippets will be very handy for such blurbs. I use WebSimon Tables, but you could use anything that works for you.
Scenario 2: Active Blog, eBook to Replace Posts
I am not going to give advice about SEO. I don’t care about it, so my actions may seem reckless to those who do care. This scenario is the one I defaulted to when my previous web host crashed and burned. (Okay, I botched an upgrade and hosed my site.)
Whether you remove old posts all at once or little by little, the most important thing you can do is to decide to redirect the permalinks, rather than delete them. That blurb from Scenario 1 would be a good target for such redirects.
You’ll also want to think about customizing your 404 page for those links you decide not to redirect. Link rot can fertilize eBook downloads if you let wandering visitors know what happened to old blog posts. Be sure to include a link to the eBook.
At last! My own wacky 404 page
Scenario 3: Evolving Blog, eBook to Supplement Posts
Again, consider your SEO ramifications before going nuts with categories. Your best bet is to defer preparation until you have an offline copy of the blog. Presumably, evolution simply means that you won’t be taking pains to keep interlinking old content. Or maybe you’re just lazy and don’t feel like embarking on Scenario 4…
Scenario 4: Evolving Blog, eBook to Replace Posts
I suspect that you’ll need to do some homework, whether or not you care about SEO. As with Scenario 2, think about how you want to handle the old permalinks. But, unlike replacing posts that may have been topically relevant, find out what you can expect from visitors encountering evidence of unrelated links.
This is one time where those bulk editing tools can come in handy. You’ll basically have three classes of categories, tags and other groupings:
- The New Stuff
- The Good Old Stuff
- The Bad Old Stuff
Try to categorize the old stuff in such a way that it can be hidden from the readers who land on your blog looking for the new stuff. You can use plugins to hide categories from the various list pages generated by WordPress. List pages include Archives, Categories, Tags, Search, etc.
To hide your own pages, take a look at Page-List, for example. Once you understand how it works, you’ll be able to evaluate similar plugins for posts.
Scenario 5: Dead Blog, eBook to Supplement Posts
This is kind of silly, except where you may consider your blog to be inactive rather than dead. Perhaps the blog was the delivery medium for a course. If you no longer offer the course but still wish to share the content via eBook then consider these ideas:
- Use the course outline as-is for your eBook chapters
- Tag obsolete posts so that you can filter them out later, either to ignore or update
- Create an “ignore” category and assign it to posts you want to skip
Scenario 6: Dead Blog, eBook to Replace Posts
All of the ideas from Scenario 5 can be used here. In addition, think hard about ignoring posts if your blog is going to be deleted. If you don’t already have an archive of old blog posts, you should at least store the posts as saved web pages. You never know when you’ll want to refer to them.
You should be ready to tackle your eBook before you even log into your WordPress site. Once you have a basic outline, you’ll have a better idea of how to prep your posts and pages. Don’t be too quick to add categories and tags. Also, be careful about handling old permalinks and discarding old content in its original format.
The safest bet is to defer all planning until you have a local copy of your blog. It means more work, but you won’t have to look for an Undo button! The Export tool built into WordPress makes retrieving your blog content a snap, no matter how you prep them. If things go wrong, just download another copy.
Original Method: WordPress Backup Files
(While writing the last post in this list, I discovered a better way...)
New Method: WordPress Export Tool
Raw Content Retrieval