Content Repurposing: How to Identify the Best Content to Recycle
There’s no question about the benefits of creating and curating high-quality content on your business’ website. Whether you’re writing blog posts, articles, whitepapers – or creating video, audio, or images – you already know about the importance of generating traffic and leads through informative content.
But for many content creators, the figurative inkwell sometimes runs dry. When it’s time to supplement existing content, repurposing content is a great strategy.
Recycling content will give your business the opportunity to reach a new audience through media methods that didn’t speak to the same target demographic.
Similarly, if the original content didn’t really take off, repurposing could give it a new set of wings. When recycling content, it’s important to pay attention to detail and ensure you strategize with care.
Later posts in this series will delineate how to undertake the process of repurposing content, along with tips to make old content shine like new.
But let’s start at the beginning: how to identify the best content to recycle.
The first step to a successful repurpose is to look through your archives and figure out the best candidates for recycling. There are a few aspects to look for, but when searching, it’s best to focus on finding your evergreen content.
What is evergreen content?
If you’re well versed in content marketing jargon, you’re probably already aware of the term “evergreen content.” What you may not yet know is how important this type of content is for your overall marketing strategy – especially when it comes to repurposing.
The two criteria to look for are timelessness and high quality.
Content that is timeless remains relevant for months, or even years. True evergreen content may have been written as far back as 10 years ago, but if it still provides information that’s applicable for the present – or even the future – it’s timeless.
An article titled “What You Need to Know About Mobilegeddon” proved useful right around the mobile-friendly Google update back in April of 2015, but it’s getting less and less relevant as time goes on.
That’s okay, but it’s also critical to make sure these time-sensitive articles or blog posts are interspersed with the kind of content that’s going to last.
Consider, for example, this post by Chris Coyier, published in 2009 on CSS-Tricks.
This is a perfect example of timeless evergreen content.
It’s an industry expert’s take on a topic that will likely always be relevant: the relationship between a client and a web designer.
Additionally, the title, header, and first two paragraphs are enticing enough to make the reader want to keep scrolling.
The post presents a conflict:
The client wants to invest in a job, but the expert doesn’t think it will pan out. The expert has received conflicting advice. Now we, the audience, want to know what the writer ended up choosing to do and how it panned out.
This brings us to the other component of evergreen content. Quality.
No matter how compelling your subject matter, if it’s not created in an engaging way, it’s not going to stand the test of time. Content that doesn’t engage won’t drive traffic, and that makes it a poor choice for repurposing.
On the other hand, high-quality content is still the king of the SEO world.
Consider the findings of a recent panel at the Content Marketing Insider Summit. According to a study from TrackMaven, content output per brand increased by 78% in 2014, but content engagement decreased by 60%.
Interestingly enough, brands publishing less content – but focusing on quality – receive some of the most consumer engagement.
Types of evergreen content
When looking back at content you’ve already created, there are a few key words and phrases to pick out.
If you’ve done a good job titling your articles and blog posts, this should be easy.
Consider these 3 types of evergreen content:
If you’re describing techniques that won’t change, this is a great form of evergreen content to repurpose. Even better if you can make it all-encompassing – this exhaustive list of how to market an event in 75 different ways is a great example!
Frequently Asked Questions.
A FAQ page that provides guidance to industry newcomers will often stand the test of time. The same is true of a terminology and jargon guide. I really like this social media marketing FAQ from Buffer.
An article that breaks down the basics can be golden. For example, something as simple as “What Is SEO?” is built to last, because as long as SEO exists, there will be first-timers in the field.
Repurposing content: it’s a popularity contest
The true power of repurposing evergreen content was shown in an experiment conducted by Buffer.
The content creators behind this industry experiment wanted to see what would happen if, instead of publishing any new content, they focused on repurposing older content for the entire month of July 2015.
They carefully tracked their analytics and found that while traffic dipped a little, the numbers weren’t highly significant. Also, that traffic from organic searches actually increased.
Check out the stats:
This experiment’s success was based entirely on the fact that Buffer went straight for their most popular content. Identifying popular content is actually fairly simple; it all comes down to looking at your data.
Buffer started their experiment with a search on Buzzsumo, which immediately provided a ranking of the site’s content based on social media shares. Buffer was then able to break the data down further to decipher total social shares, along with which individual social media
sites had the most shares.
They created a Google spreadsheet with the help of Google Analytics, which you can view here.
The results: popular content drives traffic. If you’re looking for the best content to recycle, let your audience speak for you. Readers know quality when they see it, and your data will show these reader-driven responses.
Popular content – even if it’s “old” – will continue to gain ground, as shown by a Hubspot study on optimizing the past. When looking at their site’s data, they found something that may be surprising:
With so much traffic and so many conversions being generated through older posts, the choice of content was simple.
A note of caution, however: you need to analyze your data as a whole, rather than just focusing on pageviews.
Google Analytics provides numerous different ways to slice the data, which will help you figure out the big-picture. For example, if your content has high traffic – but also a high bounce rate – it may not be an ideal contender for repurposing. If the content converts, or if it’s widely shared, you know that users are actively interacting with it.
How to identify and use your most popular content
When I am planning content for my own blog, I take all of these tools into account. First, I look at my Google Analytics dashboard to see what articles are getting the most visits recently. This is a good indicator of how well I am ranking for certain topics, since most of my traffic comes from search engines.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool, especially when used in conjunction with other tools designed for content analysis. For my own blog, I have created a dashboard ( click here to get my template) so I can see, at a glance, how my traffic is doing and what content is most popular.
Three of my top five posts are web design tool roundups, and my number one post is timely commentary on the new Google logo – making it easy to tell what my audience is looking for.
Next, I use Buzzsumo to take a look at how I’m doing in the social graph. This is a good indicator of what content I’m creating is more shareable.
To see your most popular content, just type your domain into Buzzsumo.
Here are my two most-shared posts:
From both of these, I can see that my web design tool roundups resonate well with organic visitors while infographics and blog recommendations are great for social media.
This means that an infographic featuring some of the best web design tools, or an expert opinion piece from some of the better-known design blogs could be good ways to bridge the gap.
Most importantly, I am not looking for topics I can exactly repeat – I am looking for topics I can take and put a twist on to have even greater success the next time around!
Alternative strategy: make “bad” content better
While your focus when repurposing content should be on making the most out of your best work, there are a few things you can do to supplement this strategy.
Take another look at your data, and then a closer look at what content didn’t take off. If the bottom of the barrel is just bad, chuck it. Incomprehensible posts and pointless keyword grabs aren’t worth your time.
If you want to see your least-visited content in Google Analytics, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and resort the list by the number of pageviews ascending.
I have to wade through a number of site searches and tags (if you have a really big site you can use an advanced segment to filter these out, but while my site is just a few hundred pages I don’t feel like bothering!).
Immediately a few unsuccessful posts jump out at me:
I guess people didn’t like my posts about mood boards and business cards as much as I had hoped!
But if you genuinely had a good idea that didn’t take off, it may be a worthy candidate for a rewrite. Make sure you ask yourself the important questions.
Does this content provide useful information? Who is this information for? What do your readers need to know?
If there’s a good reason for that page, don’t cut and paste, and don’t shift words around – rewrite it. Figure out what went wrong, and create something new that incorporates strategies you’ve learned or improved on since this piece was published.
Consider the following ways to improve your content:
Include media like YouTube videos or SlideShares
Look at the topic from a different perspective
Making the time-sensitive timeless
Another alternative tactic is to make updates.
Again, these posts shouldn’t be the focus of your repurposing strategy, but it may be a worthwhile endeavor for supplementing evergreen content.
If something has changed between the publication date of the original content and the present date, you may be able to use your old content as a jumping-off point.
Have new statistics been released? Has a new study taken place? If this new information changes your original take away or adds a unique angle, it may be worth revisiting.
You may also have content that caused controversy.
If you previously published something that received a lot of heated commentary consider taking another look. You can get creative. If your perspective has shifted, write an update.
Titling a new post “I Was Wrong About Web Design” is intriguing, because an audience wants to think about what your opinion was, what your opinion is now, and whether they agree.
It’s a great invitation for interaction.
Final thoughts: keeping it fresh
In future posts in this series, I’ll offer actionable steps for repurposing content once you’ve identified what you want to recycle. One of the most important things to know, however, is that repurposing content isn’t the same as spinning it.
Maintaining high quality means you need to do more than simply rewrite the same subject matter with enough variation that search engines won’t flag it as duplicate content. (But the new content definitely should pass a Copyscape test!)
Rather, you’ll need to rework and tailor your content to different media outlets by creating items like slideshows, videos, podcasts, or infographics.
Google monitors freshness as a search factor, and one of the ways to stay current is to enact these updates. Repurposing content is an ongoing project, and it’s up to you to strike the best possible balance between recycling and creating new content from scratch.
For more on how to repurpose your content, check out the rest of the articles in this series: