Hot Topic: Repurposing Old Content for New Use – Yay or Nay?

Upcycling is all the rage, with DIYers everywhere turning old wood into refurbished furniture, or choosing to repurpose old tires or clothing instead of turning to new raw materials. You may not see the correlation between making drapes into dresses, a la The Sound of Music, and your content marketing strategy, but this doesn’t mean your business can’t reap the rewards of content reuse.

In a recent Moz article, “Learning to Re-Share: 4 Strategies to Renew, Refresh, and Recycle Content for Bigger Reach”, readers were led through the process of how and why they should reuse their web content. Not only does doing this take the heat off having to dream up new ideas for every post, but it makes the most of the great content you already have and puts it in front of your current audience. Boosting your SEO is one of the many benefits that come with recycling content, as well as increasing social engagement. With all the positives that point towards repurposing old content, you’re likely eager to have your content marketing team start combing your archives. Before diving in, we’ll look at some of the controversy and debate surrounding the practice of reusing your old content, as well as best practices on how to effectively reinvent your content.

There is a debate on the ethics of reusing content instead of producing something new. Some find the idea of recycling content a shady practice that functions more as a form of self-plagiarism than an inventive use of intellectual property. For people in this camp, reusing old content is a way of cutting corners that doesn’t add value to the current conversation. While much of the controversy over self-plagiarism exists in academia, it’s ethical and legal concerns can become an issue in any industry.

On the opposite end of the reuse spectrum are those that believe that a person or brand can use their intellectual property in any way they see fit, including republishing or reworking it for a new generation.

Recycled content differs from duplicate content because it’s been altered in some way, making it more relevant for a new audience or a new time. A post from five years ago can take on a new meaning by reinventing it for your current reader base. Popular opinion can change dramatically as the socio-political environment evolves, producing many opportunities to revisit and modernize old posts. Your content strategy team can also use the practice of upcycling your old content as an opportunity to revise your keyword strategy, tailoring it to your current analytics and the site stats from the time of its original publishing. Repurposing content is your chance to improve on what didn’t work last time.

To apply this practice to your own content marketing strategy, try some of the following ideas to find the best way to make use of your existing material:

  • Share your archives – Looking back at your old posts; your creative team will quickly be able to identify what content is dated and which topics remain evergreen. As a starting point, they will look at your most popular posts and start there, asking questions like: how can you capitalize on their success and revise them to be even more relevant and engaging for your readers today? It’s also useful to pay attention to your least successful posts – why did they fall flat? Why did you think they were a good idea at the time and is there a way to make them more significant for a new audience?
  • Flip the script – Which of your pieces are outdated to the point that your brand has an opposite viewpoint now? What content can get a makeover by taking a new perspective? Your content team can tackle an old topic with a new stance to breathe new life into an old piece. Alternatively, they can rewrite an old post with an opposing point of view. For example, a post on “How to Create Good Content” can be flipped and redelivered as “How to Avoid Bad Content.” The points will be the same, but you can put a new spin on an old topic without having to re-invent the wheel.

In creating web content for your brand, there are many opportunities to deliver fresh ideas to your followers, but writing unique content with every post isn’t always feasible or realistic. When you choose to capitalize on your past work, recycling content is an excellent practice to incorporate into your content marketing strategy. If you’re working a new angle on an existing idea, your content will appear interesting, engaging, and appealing to your brand’s current target audience.