Producing high-quality content on a regular basis is very time-consuming and/or expensive. Nevertheless, content marketing is at the top of the agenda for many companies.
But every company has the resources to implement its content strategy sustainably? Or is that also possible with less effort…?
Because quality is defined by various aspects. We don’t always have to create new content, there are enough alternatives to recycle “old” content. However, we should rather talk about old ideas that we redesign in a creative way.
Through “Content Recycling” we achieve new user groups and expand our audience by using additional formats and distribution platforms, but building on existing content. The range that this generates is just one of the advantages.
But let’s start at the beginning…… or do you prefer to get down to business straight away?
Do we prefer to invest in new content or in the maintenance of existing content?
In order to find out when it makes more sense for you to reuse the existing content or to create completely new content, you have to do one thing above all: Analyze your existing content and evaluate it in terms of its ROI and your content strategy.
Depending on the goal you have set yourself, these criteria may vary. Typical examples are:
Traffic: What content has brought the most (qualified) visitors to your site in the past? Here the Pareto principle plays an important role, see below.
Rankings: Which content is visible in the search engines for which search terms or search phrases and questions (ergo at least listed on the first result page) and how high is the click rate? Optimizing content with mediocre performance can be a quick win, see my article on historical content optimization.
Backlinks & Shares: Which content received the most (and high-quality) backlinks or was shared the most, for example via social media? To what extent can these serve as a model for other content?
On page Engagement: Sometimes the goal is to activate users directly on a page. For example, with the intention of clicking a link, filling out a form, or maybe just giving feedback. It’s definitely worth taking a look at the pages that do it well and those that don’t do it well.
Leads: Is there content that has particularly high or particularly low conversion rates when it comes to lead generation? Both cases are possible starting points for content recycling.
Acquisition/Sales: Content marketing is often linked to direct sales goals – either with the content as a product or content as a platform to advertise products (see e.g. these e-commerce examples).
For much of my content portfolios, I have the Search Ranking, as a key factor influencing organic traffic, and the click rate in the Search Results (CTR) selected. Of interest to me were those contents that are visible in the search but are not clicked on (solution: optimization for featured snippets) and the reverse case, in which I expect an immediate increase in traffic through a better ranking with at least the same CTR can (Solution: Content-Refurbishing). Once my new product is ready, I will also add the “Conversion” dimension and run the analysis again to determine which content sells my product the best.
Two-dimensional Content Analysis
In this analysis, you should not only pay attention to successful contributions. You can learn from them and use them as a basis for derivatives, but above all, you should look at those whose performance you can possibly increase “with a few simple steps”. This is often cheaper than the new products and also improves the quality of your entire content portfolio as well as the demand for new content (keyword: 10X mindset). In most cases, it is more the complex formats such as e-books or presentations and the associated landing pages whose “value” you can increase through refurbishing and recycling.
What is the value of my content?
Whether you want to recycle old content or produce new content, when planning content, it’s important to define the expected return on investment in a tangible, at the best monetary key figure. You can do this, for example, by using Mirko Lange’s topic scoring concept or using a comparative calculation. To do this, you determine the potential traffic value and compare it with the theoretical costs for advertising based on click prices.
When producing new content is more profitable than content recycling.
Experience has shown that there are some content formats or page types where content recycling is less worthwhile. These are mainly news items that simply lose relevance over time, as well as entertainment items that often live in the moment and on a specific medium.
Depending on what your content strategy looks like, it makes more sense to produce new content with such content formats. This allows you to close thematic “gaps”, discuss current news or create new forms of entertainment (who laughs twice at the same joke…?!). The Postillon, for example, probably couldn’t do without new content, although republishing could be a tried and tested tool from time to time.
I feel the question is still in the room when the revision of Existing content is profitable compared to the production of new ones, but I’m afraid it’s too individual to give a general answer here.
Portfolio in Content Management
Continuously increase the value of content through structural, content, and design optimization.
If you have decided against producing new content, you now have the choice between different revision approaches. They all have certain underlying principles and processes that I want to explain to you before I show you the differences.
Content recycling is based on proven principles and processes. Know them and use them! The first principle is the Pareto Distribution, also known as the 80/20 rule. This states, for example, that 80 percent of the results are achieved with 20 percent of the total effort. Or to use a marketing context: we make 80 percent of our sales with 20 percent of our products or 20 percent of our content responsible for 80 percent of our traffic.
Our products are the content we produce. So let’s focus our attention on the 20 percent that produces 80 percent of the results (that’s the 20 percent in the top-right corner).
Build, Measure, Learn – More than just a methodical loop
The second principle is the Lean Startup method by Eric Ries. “Do, measure, learn” is the motto. This practice-oriented approach benefits us in content marketing above all because little time is required for planning and conception or is “wasted”.
The artificially created need for a “strategy” – whatever that may mean in a particular case – is just driving us crazy anyway. Or as Garrett Moon puts it:
It has made us believe that we need to be doing more than we can handle to promote our business and build our audience.
“Strategy” is defined anyway as fundamental, long-term behavior to achieve goals. Nothing else is the Lean Startup method, because we work according to a fixed scheme:
Hypothesis-based content creation: We produce content that we believe works because…. Of course, we take our goals and our target group into account, but we also have the 20 percent of the Pareto principle in mind, so we may publish a kind of MVP in the form of “minimum viable content” for the first time.
Data-driven content analysis: We validate our hypotheses using specific KPIs (traffic/clicks, user behavior, interaction/conversions, etc.), which we collect using suitable measurement data from Google Analytics & Co. It must be clear to us when our content is successful and when not – i.e. whether the effort was worth it or not.
Continuous Learning: We derive concrete learnings and suggestions for improvement from the results, which we take into account in the next “loop” and thus increase the chance of success.
It should be said that strictly speaking, other principles are also involved here, above all the Iteration – generally formulated as approaching a solution by repeating it several times – and so-called Chunking. See also the article How chunking supports the processing of content on usability.ch.
The Content Recycling Process
When recycling existing content you actually proceed in a similar way to the production of new ones. The only big difference (and advantage at the same time) is that you already have the first performance data in your hands, which you can use as a basis for your optimization measures.
Recycling, but the process is basically the same for the other approaches that follow.
6 steps of a typical content recycling process:
- The relevance checks it is about checking whether the content fits the user’s search intentions and whether the information contained is up-to-date. You should also make sure right from the start that content continues to contribute to your strategic and operational goals.
- In the market analysis, the focus is on the competition. Tools like SEMrush or thruuu.com provide you with important information about keyword rankings or the link profile of your competitors. From this, SEO-specific requirements for the revision of the content can be derived.
In addition, I recommend classic (qualitative) user research methods such as on-site surveys or (customer) interviews to identify content, i.e. thematic potential.
- At the data check, all user behavior information is examined for both positive and negative anomalies. Of particular interest are, for example, the length of stay, the bounce rate, clicked elements, and the scrolling behavior of your visitors. Is there any content that performs above or below average? Are there user segments that behave differently? What can we learn from this?
At Hypothesis formation, as the term already suggests, is about the formulation of one or more hypotheses. Although this is not yet common in content marketing, it is extremely helpful in order to be able to better grasp and implement the planned changes and the expected effects. And then to be able to evaluate correctly based on data.
The Content Revision is based on both the insights and the previously defined hypothesis. This step is about the actual revision of the selected content – but always with the option to restore the original state should the performance deteriorate due to the change.
The last (and first) step is the Success measurement. It serves to validate hypotheses and provides clarity as to why which changes have had a positive or negative effect. You can use the documentation of these results as reference values for future optimizations.
What is the difference between recycling, republishing, repurposing & Co.?
There are numerous ways you can efficiently (re)use and monetize your content. Which approach is the best depends on what content you already have in your hands and what or who you want to reach additionally.
When Content Republishing contributions with largely unchanged content that have disappeared deeper and deeper into the archive over the years are republished. This can be useful, for example, if an “old” topic regains relevance and interest in your target group increases.
My advice Store your content carefully and use this opportunity to offer your target group exactly what they are looking for within a short time with little effort (again) interest. Having an up-to-date content inventory is pretty useful.
Content Refurbishing (or remastering) is the slightly enhanced form of re-publishing existing content, with only minor adjustments being made. Mostly this concerns the updating of outdated data or sources, the optimization of texts based on a semantic analysis (keyword: WDF*IDF), or the revision of the visual design.
Of course that serves in the first place Line of freshness and general credibility, but also helps in defending your Google rankings, conversion optimization, and maintaining your own reputation. Always take the time and polish your content to a high gloss. Your target group will thank you!
Content Recycling stands for the most common form of content recycling, namely the transformation of existing content into new formats. For example, this can be the summary of several related blog articles into an e-book (or even a book, see portfolio management in content marketing) or the dubbing of an article for a podcast. Similar to the bundling of individual contributions into a large one, a correspondingly large content asset can also be broken down into so-called micro-content in a modular manner. This represents the actual core of content recycling – always with the aim that it can be recombined.
Content Redistribution stands for the process that is required to actively promote both old and “newly” created content/formats. In addition, the redistribution reinforces the effect of the actual content revision.
Content Repurposing is discussed again and again and cannot be defined quite so clearly in this context. The reason for this is that the understanding of it is strongly influenced by the topic “purpose” in the sense of the attitude of brands on a certain topic on the one hand and on the other hand by a “reason why” underlying the content.
My definition of repurposing is: “Repurposing can be understood as realignment of individual content, on the one hand, to correctly reflect one’s own changed opinion or attitude or to address a new target group or other needs of them.”
Content Restructuring describes the structuring of a website with a focus on internal Linking to thematically similar content offers (blog articles, white papers, newsletters, tools, etc.). We should also optimize the findability of individual content, for example using the search function or filter options.
Six “Re” for smart content marketing
All six terms aim to maintain the value of content and even increase it in the long term. So you have to produce less content and at the same time, you can make better use of existing content.
In order to understand the meaning of the six “Re” for content marketing, we make a short but important digression to holistic theme worlds as a holistic approach.
The change away from individual keywords and towards holistic theme worlds
Just a few years ago, everything revolved around search engine optimization keywords Since the Hummingbird Update 2013, however, Google’s algorithm can also analyze entire phrases and not just simple keywords. With the RankBrain update two years later, Google managed to understand the context of the search queries for the first time. Thanks to machine learning, the intelligent algorithm optimizes itself and regularly changes the way in which our content can be found in the search engine.
Pure keyword-driven texts have long had their day and the focus is on authentic, interesting, and user-centric content. The primary goal of content is no longer necessarily visibility in search engines, but also branding, and positioning.
This results in new requirements not only for individual texts or pages but the entire website in its (content) structure, usability, and user experience – see also my explanation of various structural concepts in content marketing. At this point, I want to pick up on “Topic Cluster” again and elaborate on it in the context of content recycling.
Topic cluster for more structure, easier operation, and better user experience Experience
The term “topic cluster” comes from English and basically describes the bundling of thematically related (existing) content or the compression (through the new production) of content on a specific topic.
The structure is similar to that of a mind map and consists of at least one core topic (“pillar content”) and several sub-topics that are served in the form of individual content (“cluster content”). The connections, especially through hyperlinks or other control elements, provide the necessary structure and findability and link all related content with each other. The core topics (in my case: content, marketing, and design) can be presented in the form of so-called “pillar pages” – or in a blog post, but structurally this makes no sense at some point. How exactly you design such pillar pages in terms of content and visuals is up to you. This can be a very compact format like a linked table of contents, a typical blog feed, or a very detailed treatise on the topic with links to deep dives. This gives your website and especially your content a clear structure so that both Google bots and your visitors will find it easier to navigate through your website.
Here are some suggestions and content recycling ideas for implementation:
Curate content, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Weekly or monthly roundups with the best contributions on a specific topic are read with pleasure and shared via social media because the information density is very high.
You could do the same thing with your own contributions, but at longer intervals, please. For example, by critically examining which articles have been particularly well received over a year and which have not… Such a look behind the scenes is not only interesting for you.
Create a slide deck for SlideShare based on an article, podcast, or video (or directly LinkedIn) and direct the viewer to your website via a call to action in order to find further information there, for example (keyword: conversions). A step further (see below) you could also use such a presentation as the basis for a webinar, video, or maybe even an infographic.
Publish more detailed posts on LinkedIn – no full Constant blog posts, because you ultimately want to link to them for further reading, but you should give your readers direct added value. According to a study by OkDork, it can be almost 2,000 words.
LinkedIn Performance Analysis.
Post micro content from your posts on social networks (e.g. headlines, key statements, quotes, questions or lists). The chance that some of your followers simply didn’t see the post is relatively high. And those who are interested will want to learn more and access the full article.
It is It’s not a shame to promote an article (or podcast episode, video, etc.) several times in different (!) ways. The results of an analysis by CoSchedule speak for themselves, at least with regard to the generated clicks:
Transform your best content into a whitepaper or e-book and use such an attractive offer to generate backlinks or social shares (keyword: pay with a tweet) in return. This creates additional buzz in social media and strengthens your rankings. Alternatively, you can also use such formats for lead generation, for example by combining them into an e-mail course or placing them behind a form. In order for this to work, however, the value of your content must be clear to the user!
- Bundle articles to an email course and offer it in “snack” form. Especially with articles as long as this one (3,000 words and more), this can be quite attractive for one or the other reader. At konversionsKRAFT, for example, in addition to an article about neuromarketing, we have also created a suitable e-mail course.
- Write guest articles for other blogs, where you can use your own content as a basis. Or published posts that you have written for other blogs on yours too, provided the person has no objections. Additions or changes are also possible in this context.
- Score or film your content and distribute it via iTunes, YouTube, and Co. But don’t forget to visit your website at the end. Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina does this in a very personable way just after the intro of a video:
It gets really smart if you first offer planned video content exclusively in the form of a webinar and thus before publication collects a few leads after the recording on YouTube.
In our opinion, the maintenance and use of existing content should have at least the same priority as the production of new content – and with a view to the planning and production process, it should go hand in hand. As the level of maturity and the number of content increases, the ratio may shift even further in the direction of the different “Re” of content marketing in the long term.