One Killer Content Marketing Trick: Use Old Content in a New Way

, August 1, 2014

Content marketing is tough.

When you’re expected to churn out fresh, engaging, informative and powerful content every day, you’ll come up against some times where it’s just not coming. You have zero ideas. You have no content pipeline. You are completely empty.

What do you do when you’re supposed to be doing content marketing, but lack the content to do it?

The Biggest Content Marketing Challenge: Producing Content

I understand this concern. In my Advanced Guide to Content Marketing, I admitted that “one of the biggest struggles content marketers have is producing enough content.” You’re expected to have content — good stuff — but where does that content come from?

Here are some of the challenges to coming up with content.

  • It costs a lot. If you outsource your content creation, you know that good writers aren’t cheap. And if you do your own writing, you know that it takes a lot of time. It’s normal to spend four hours on idea generation, research, writing, copyediting, graphics and posting for a single longform article. Time is money. Writing is often considered a luxury, or something to be done in one’s free time. It’s hard to consider writing a blog post to be “billable hours.” Content — however you do it — costs.
  • It’s hard to find good writers. Another problem is finding people to do the work. Really good writers are hard to come by. The conventional web agency — a group of designers, developers and marketers — usually don’t have a full time writer. For offshore companies marketing to a U.S. audience, there’s also the problem of finding a writer with the facility of a native English speaker.
  • It’s hard to produce a lot of quantity without sacrificing quality. Some content marketers, in a headlong rush for quantity have kicked quality to the curb. This is a huge mistake. Producing lots of content doesn’t mean that you can produce junk content. But this is a real struggle. How do you create an avalanche of output, and still have time to copyedit, proof and fact check every line? I’ve discussed before that “not just any content” is going to work. It’s not just content that’s king. It’s quality content that’s king.
  • It’s hard to come up with topics. This is the toughest nut to crack. Where in the world do you come up with ideas? Topics? Titles? From Content Marketing Institute’s “What should I write about?” to CopyBlogger’s “Find More Content Ideas,” everyone is asking the question, but no one has solved the problem. There’s no such thing as a silver bullet for coming up with great ideas.

I’ve been transparent about these challenges. I want you to know that I understand. But I also have a solution. No, it’s not going to solve all your content needs. After all, it’s just one trick. But it’s a pretty darn good one.

In one line, it’s this: Use old content in a new way.

The Killer Trick: Use Old Content In a New Way

Content spinning? Wait a second. You’re joking, right?

The whole idea of “reusing old content” is synonymous with content spinning. That technique is about as old as the Internet itself. And it’s pure spam!

I’m not suggesting content spinning. I’m not proposing a spam technique. Don’t worry.

There is software available that allows you to write one article (sort of), and spin it into dozens of other articles. You write a single article and get a ton of new, fresh articles with just the click of a button!

Look at this landing page:

landing-page
 

 

If that feels like a spammy technique, that’s because it is a spammy technique.

In a rant against content spinning, Orbit Media says it clearly: “Content spinning is bad for all kinds of reasons…It doesn’t work…It’s not future-proof…It’s awful writing.”

I am not proposing content spinning. At all.

Old Content, New Purpose.

I’m actually suggesting that you use your old content as an inspiration and a jumping off point. I’ll get into the details in just a minute.

First off, here’s why I’m suggesting that you give your old content a new purpose.

  • It has appeal. If you choose the most popular of your old topics, you can be certain that it appeals to your audience in some way. They like it.
  • It is evergreen. Old content that still gets links, visits, tweets and shares is content that has enduring power. You know that this topic or issue will continue to receive attention.
  • It is relevant. Anything readable has to be relevant. If your old content retains high amounts of organic traffic with low bounce rates, then you know both search engines and readers consider it to be relevant.
  • It’s appropriate. Have you ever wondered, “Is this topic right for my niche?” When looking at old content that has high traffic, you already know the answer to this. It’s a resounding yes. The old blog article that rakes in organic search traffic month after month is an article that is perfect for your niche.

Let’s face it. Be honest for just a minute. There are a finite number of topics in your niche. You’ve got to revisit the good old stuff. You have to repurpose it for fresh content marketing material.

How to Find the Right Old Content to Repurpose

First off, you need to find the right old content that you are going to use for a new purpose.

The process is pretty simple. Just find the most-visited blog articles. These may receive traffic from referrals or from searches. Do a little Analytics digging into your Site Content to find out which of your articles receive the highest rates of traffic.

GA-content-drilldown
 

Select the top five or 10. This is your starting material — the good stuff you’ve had on your site for a long time. It has strong appeal, continued relevance and persistent quality.

Let’s repurpose it.

How to Use Old Content in a New Way

There are tons of things you can do with your old content. I’ll just provide a few ideas to get you started. Read this list, then let your creativity take you where it will.

Use your existing research, and write it from a different angle.

A popular post can be written in a fresh new way, simply by taking a new angle on the research. This is a great way to add value to your readers by providing information on the same topic. By restating it and repeating the principles, they will remember it. Plus, you get the higher engagement and relevancy that old popular topics can gain.

Here’s how this might work. I have an article from several years ago called “How Not to Market Your Startup.” I see that it has high engagement and popularity. I have an audience that includes startup marketers. They could benefit from more information on this topic.

quicksprout-startup-article
 

I can write a new article, “Seven Smart Startup Marketing Techniques.” I can use the same research.

Point 1 of the old article is “Useless splash pages.” Within that section, I explain “how you can create an effective splash page.” By reversing the angle of the article, I have a new way to present old information.

It’s still fresh. It’s still relevant. It’s still engaging. It’s still high quality.

Create new articles from the comments.

If you’ve chosen your top-visited content to repurpose, it probably has some comments. These comments are gems for more content on that topic.

Look at your old article, then scroll down to the comments.

  • What comments sparked the most discussion? Is there one commenter who started a big argument? Was there outrage over particular questions? People love a good controversy. From late night show hosts to daytime talk shows, it doesn’t get interesting until there’s some raging argument. Your blog is the same way. Find spots in the comments where people got emotional or upset. This is fodder for a fresh article on an old topic.
  • What comments come up repeatedly? Are there comments that ask the same question or touch on the same topic? You don’t want to leave these unanswered. Revisit, repurpose and reengage on that topic. You already know that it’s something that people are curious about.
  • What comments are most intriguing? Do any of the questions or comments sound interesting? Blog commenters add a lot of value to your content. They’re giving you free feedback, fresh insights and powerful tips. Use these as a springboard for fresh content.

Here’s how I might use comments as a source of repurposed content.

Steve commented on my article about the ten must-have features of a content marketing campaign.

article-comment

 

He brought up some good points. I understand where he’s coming from, and I want to help him. So, I think — What challenges is Steve facing? What does he want information on? I come up with some ideas:

  • Fourteen Content Marketing Mistakes That Will Get You Penalized
  • How to Speed up the Content Creation Process
  • Nine Ways to Marketing Your Content for Free

Here’s another comment:

arun-article-comment

 

Arun explains that he wasn’t aware of internal linking. That gives me an idea — Write an article on internal linking, so people know exactly how to do it right.

Those are just two comments on one post. That post has dozens of comments with lots of questions, lots of discussion and lots of engagement. I can create a ton of fresh content based on that single piece of popular content and the comments it elicited.

Expand different sections into new articles.

You’ve probably heard me sing the praises of longform content. I think that the most effective articles are long articles.

If you have long articles already, you may have sections of popular old blogs that are waiting to be expanded even more.

Take one of these sections and turn it into a new article. Again, you know that this is an interesting topic. You already have some research. Expand it, accordion-style, into a fresh piece of content.

Let me provide an example, using my four-year old article on marketing startup tips.

In the article, I have a section on creating an effective splash page. There are five techniques for doing so. This is a new article waiting to be written. I have my outline. I have my title, “Five Tips for an Effective Splash Page.” I have my focus. Now, I just have to write it.

Turn it into an e-book.

The point above told you how you can turn a section into an article. Maybe you can turn an article into a book.

If you have an old blog post that is really popular, can it be expanded five or 10 times? Chances are, it can. With some extra research, a few more subpoints and a nice introduction and conclusion, a blog can become a book.

One conversion expert I know recently did this with the topic of shopping cart abandonment. He realized that the issue of shopping cart abandonment was so expansive that it warranted an e-book all its own. 12,000 words later, he has an e-book.

Creating an e-book is also a way to add variety to the types of content you provide. Which leads me to a few more ways of differentiating your content….

Turn it into a podcast.

If an old piece of content is a great article, can it also be a great podcast? Why not?

Use your popular blog article as the talking points for a podcast, or even a series of podcasts. The amount of research and preparation will be minimal because you essentially have all your notes ready.

Spiff it up for verbal communication, and you’re ready to start a podcast.

Create an infographic.

I’m a huge fan of infographics. They drive links, improve engagement and make the world a better place.

Why not turn your old content into an infographic?

Admittedly, not every bit of content is suited for infographic repurposing. Granted. But you’d be surprised at what types of content can work for infographics. Infographics aren’t just for data and statistics.

This animated infographic, for example, has just a few numbers. It’s more about explanation than it is about metrics.

howgoogleworks
 

An infographic is little more than a sizzling visual presentation of information. It’s probably not going to be 1,000+ words. Just add some visualization to the information in your old article, and you can unleash an awesome infographic with massive linkback potential.

This topic, How Google Works, in the infographic above could just as easily be an article, too. And that’s another way to repurpose old content. If your popular old content is an infographic, try turning it into an article.

More methods for more content.

These few methods are just the start. You can come up more ways to repurpose old content, like hosting a webinar or Google hangout. Produce a case study. Interview an authority. Analyze the statistics on your popular article, and create a new article on the statistics.

There are plenty of benefits to repurposing old content. The more content you produce on a topic, the more authoritative you become on that topic. The more content you produce on a topic, the better search traffic you gain for relevant keywords. The more content you produce on a topic, the better your related product conversions will be.

Your old content is your new currency. Use it, and you’ll start to experience massive benefits.

 

What are some other ways you can use your old content?

 


 

Neil Patel is an entrepreneur and digital marketing expert. He is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, and blogs at Quick Spout. You can reach him on Twitter.

  • MixStrix

    Neal Patel, thanks for the long-form post full of useful methods and best practices! Most of this is about NEW content, just wanted to mention UPDATING existing content. Does refreshing evergreen link-attracting content work in your point of view?

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Some great food for thought. I struggle every day with coming up with new content. Especially since I write primarily about Facebook and Facebook marketing. After 4 years and writing over 400 blog posts it gets challenging to not repeat yourself over and over. Thanks for the tips!

  • Martin Day

    “Orbit Media says it clearly: “Content spinning is bad for all kinds of reasons…It doesn’t work…It’s not future-proof…It’s awful writing.”

    True, most automatically spun content falls into this category but the sad fact is that that killer article that you write and then publish will only benefit you so far and if the article is to be widely distributed it will fall foul of the duplicate content police and you may not get any credit at all depending on which copy of the article the search engines decides is the original.

    Articles can be spun effectively, providing the time is taken to ensure that each spun version is of a high quality. The reason spun content gets a deservedly bad rap is that for too long the search engines couldn’t distinguished between a good original article and one that had be formed by a program that had merged three random articles together and spun the heart out of it creating a article that was unreadable by a human but nectar to a search engine robot.

    Unless you are writing original content for a single source, then spinning an article well will give a massive return on the time invested and improves the articles power to attract traffic and it also means that when that article is plagiarised, which it will be, only one version of the article is compromised.

    “It was a cold day in June when I last saw Mary”, “It was some years since I had seen Mary.”, “I remember the last time I saw Mary was back in June” are all equally valid sentences that may help prevent an article from being suppressed by the duplicate content police.

    I have often spent a week crafting an article, then spent a further week spinning it to ensure that each spun version reads well before it is published. It is not a quick process but it does give each article more legs than if I were to publish just one version.

    Having written extensively on certain topics I know that there often comes a time when you have said all there is to say and the only option is to say the same thing differently. If you are in that boat then you might as well go the whole hog and not only follow the advice given by Neil but also maximise each article’s strength by spinning it as well. Just appreciate that it takes skill and time to do it well.