I recently read a post on Hubspot, looking at the tactic of reusing older blog content to attract extra traffic and links. 

In a nutshell, older posts are updated and republished as new. This means they benefit from promotion on Twitter, in emails, and the attention that comes with being the latest post on the site. 

I'd come across this idea before but had dismissed it. However, while I have a couple of reservations about the tactic, I was interested enough to experiment so we've been trying this tactic over the last month. 

Republishing older posts: pros and cons

These are the stated benefits from recycling content: 

  • Attract extra traffic for little extra work. While we have updated and edited these posts, it is less work then creating new content. 
  • Attract new backlinks. While some of these older posts had good links, over time these can be broken and republishing can help to add new links. 
  • Resurface content that is useful for our audience. We have a good back catalogue on Econsultancy but, thanks in part to less than optimal site search and navigation, some good posts are hard to find. 
  • Create more time to produce fresh content. Using older content helps us to keep traffic flowing while we work on newer articles. 
  • Create new leads. These older posts were linked to newer related reports, training courses and events, allowing us to create leads. 

My concerns about reusing content: 

  • It's 'cheating'. This is a personal thing, but it does feel a little too easy to do and, as someone who believe in creating original quality content it doesn't always sit well. 
  • Some may view it as misleading. We have labelled the articles as republished, updated versions but it's possible some may miss the notes. I don't think this is a serious issue, as the content is useful and, let's face it, we wrote it in the first place. 
  • It messes with the order of the blog. Everything (at least until we started this experiment) is there in chronological order on the blog, so you can see the development of this blog from the very first post nine years ago, to today. In truth, that probably only bothers me. 

How we repurposed old posts

The Hubspot article contains some useful tips on this, and I won't repeat them here. Here's what we did though. 

Select some candidates for repurposing

I decided that we'd confine this to posts that were at least a year old, to ensure that they're not too fresh in the memory. 

Using Google Analytics, we looked at some older posts which were still relatively popular, but not too popular. 

For example, seven of the ten posts here are older than a year (only 2, 3 and 9 aren't) and are still doing very well.

They're good examples of evergreen content and don't need any extra help from republishing. 

So we scrolled a little further down the list, looking for the good stuff that doesn't bring in quite the same amount of traffic (these stats show roughly 12 months of sessions). Maybe posts bringing in respectable but not amazing numbers (we weren't that scientific). 

Others, for obvious reasons, don't merit republishing. The cookie law is less relevant now as it was then, when people were keen to see how sites were implementing cookie notices. Other posts were tied to an event, such as the '25 years of the web' article. 

The one I chose here is, I think, still relevant to our audience, while I also thought it was an article which didn't originally perform quite as well as it should have. Here it is

We chose another ten or so articles, based on the same criteria. 

Recording stats

Before we hit the republish button, we recorded some key stats so we could measure the results. 

Unfortunately, as the site has been redesigned since these posts were originally published, the social shares counts are out, though we can piece this together using other tools. 

We were primarily interested in: 

  • Backlinks. Using Majestic, we noted the number of backlinks prior to reposting. The backlink numbers generally ranged from 60 or so to 200, though this one had 13,000 backlinks (I need to find the secret and bottle it). 
  • Pageviews. How many new views would these posts attract? As they were, theoretically anyway, proven posts, they ought to do well. 

Anyway, a Google doc records these numbers. 

Disclosure

We added a note at the foot of the posts to advise that it was an updated and republished version of an older post.

We don't want to deceive people after all. This was also the approach used by Hubspot, and I think it's a reasonable one. We also asked guest writers if they were happy with us refreshing their older posts.

I don't believe we are deceiving people, merely resurfacing older content which the audience will either appreciate or not. Besides, in the case of posts like that on ecommerce product pages, an update is useful. 

Problems

When we first pressed unpublish and then republish on a post, we received this error message. I thought we'd broken the blog: 

For some reason, our backend can't handle changing of publish dates so well. It works, but the error message appears anyway. 

Comments 

We did wonder whether or not to delete older comments as this does date posts, though for reasons of transparency, and the fact that many of these comments are very insightful we decided it was best to keep them. 

The results

For the Ecommerce product page article I highlighted in the earlier screenshot, we originally had: 

  • 33,421 pageviews. 
  • 2 backlinks. Majestic does show there had been seven links over the last five years, but five had obviously been broken. 

Publishing anew brought another 30 new links, as the Majestic data shows: 

It also brought in 7,898 new pageviews, which is a good amount. For context, this would put it in the top 10 new posts on most months. 

To add to this, I can see from Google Analytics that it sent traffic to the other posts and pages linked to in the article. I'd estimate it sent another 800-1,000 views to related Econsultancy content. 

It wasn't as popular as when it was very first published, as we can see here, but I'm happy with the results. 

This wasn't necessarily the best result either. One article attracted 1,000+ additional backlinks and an extra 12,000 pageviews. 

The other results

I don't want to reveal all of our traffic secrets, but a ballpark figure from ten refreshed posts would be: 

  • 2,300 backlinks generated (according to Majestic). 
  • 56,000+ pageviews. 

To add to this, the posts generated traffic to related content through links in the articles and content recommendations.

Leads are harder to pin down, as we tend to move customers offline to sell subscriptions. I can, however, see that these posts generated traffic to our paid content. 

The verdict? 

In terms of links and traffic generated for the effort expended it certainly worked for us. 

Refreshing a post took perhaps 15 to 30 minutes on average compared to maybe three to four hours to create a detailed post from scratch, so it's definitely an efficient use of time. 

However, I'm still undecided on whether to continue the tactic, or perhaps to reduce the frequency. One thing is that we can't do this forever, as we have a finite number of posts to repurpose. 

I'd like your opinion here - do you see this as a valid and valuable tactic? Do you feel that we're cheating in any way? Is it useful to read updated posts? Would you like us to stop it?  

I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on this... 

Graham Charlton

Published 14 August, 2015 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (13)

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Matthew R, Marketing at A Company

I saw this very post "31 things I need to see on your ecommerce product page" when you reposted it. I somehow missed it first time around. I have to say I did see your disclaimer and I didn't feel cheated, it is as relevant now as it was before. A quick scan through the article to see what ideas there were that we are missing on our page. Worth the 10 minutes of my time reading it, so I would say it was worth the 10 minutes of your time reposting it.

The choice of articles you have reposted seem wise, there is a method, for sure. The frequency will be hard to judge. If I were to regularly see posts that I remember reading before, then in time I would begin to be frustrated that I wasn't reading something fresh. You will need to carefully watch for this.

But ultimately, any reading means wading through the 99% of ideas you've seen before, or do not apply to your business, looking for that one golden nugget that will add value to what you are doing. There is nothing to say that one golden nugget that will help your reader will be an original idea, it might well one that is buried in your back archives.

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Matthew, thanks for the comment, great to know you appreciated the post. I take your point on frequency, it could be overdone and we have a finite number of posts.

Perhaps one post per week from the archives might be a good frequency in future.

over 2 years ago

D Scott Prindle

D Scott Prindle, President, Chairman, CEO at dsprindle.com

Wondering? Would a 301 redirect of old article pass the seo juice to the new repost and take care of duplicate content issues?

Why would it make sense to leave both indexed as separate articles. We have clients with 4-5 year old posts showing on their blog page which makes the site seem old and not relevant. By reposting with a current date it becomes fresh. A redirect of the old post to the new seems to take care any links to the old post and tells Google to ignore the old and consider the new as the relevant page.

What are the flaws in my thinking?

over 2 years ago

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Murphy Ng, Programmer at Sabah Tourism Board

I have a travel blog and I do republish older blog occasionally. Same as you, at first I thought it was "cheating." Anyway, the posts that I chose to rework were really outdated and received little traffic. I rewrote and improved the content (with a lot of effort) and titled them with more interesting headlines. The result is very encouraging, not only these posts get significantly more views (two of them become pillar content), their search ranking also move up. Even book is commonly republished as 2nd, 3rd... edition, so as long as we do this for the benefits of our readers, they wouldn't mind?

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@d Scott - in our case we're using the same page and just refreshing the content and date so the redirect point doesn't apply for us.

over 2 years ago

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Jim Hunter, Consultant at VersionUX

Done sparingly, I think it's quite a good idea. As well as garnering extra traffic for good content I also think it highlights the 'evergreen' nature of 50% of digital. The talk of change and technology tends to dominate in the industry but the general thrust of CRM, good design, UX, email marketing have persisted for many years.

over 2 years ago

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Robin Lewis, Ecommerce Operations Manager at A Retailer

I'm sure I wasn't alone in noticing that some of the titles of the blogs seemed a bit familiar in the emails, but I still clicked and in the main, I found the re-purposed articles as interesting as I had the first time. If nothing else, they refreshed my memory on various subjects.

I don't think there's any harm in re-pushing old content as long as it's useful. It's always going to be relevant to someone, whether they're new into the industry, or refreshing their knowledge.

As Murphy points out above, books are commonly republished, so why not blogs?

over 2 years ago

Jim Cullen

Jim Cullen, Director at Web Sense Marketing

I don't see anything wrong with this providing its evergreen content. Is it any different to re-posting the same content on social media (esp Twitter) to maximize your coverage?

over 2 years ago

Geraldine Jones

Geraldine Jones, Director at Every Word Counts Ltd

As a fairly recent subscriber to the E-consultancy blog (*hangs head in shame*) I have absolutely no problem with your re-publishing policy. It brings posts to my attention that I definitely didn't see the first time around and probably wouldn't otherwise have discovered. Although I do sometimes click links to other related articles - so have found some older posts that way - I don't have the time to search through a back catalogue of 9 years' worth! As you and others have said, the key things are transparency, relevancy and frequency.

over 2 years ago

Sean Owens

Sean Owens, MD at Willows Consulting

Dangerous in my view, has to be used very sparingly. Users have incredible memories and if you do this more than 1 or 2 times a year with little or no excuse then you risk loosing cred from loyal followers. The exceptions are seasonal related posts. Like Christmas or Spring etc.

over 2 years ago

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Iain Surman, Online Marketing Executive at TEAM (Energy Audting Agency Ltd.)

I think you have a valid point, in some instances you can republish your blog if like you say it meets certain conditions. It is something we are looking to do where I work as some of the authors no longer work here, the content is a little old now and therefore we feel these old blog posts could do with a bit of a spruce up and republish.

over 2 years ago

Mike Humphreys

Mike Humphreys, Online Content & SEO at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports

Republishing articles is something we do on my company blog, but only when it is in our customers' interest. As an outdoor retailer, our readership and content is markedly seasonal, so some articles get refreshed and 'bumped' to the top to reach a new audience and shared again when we come into certain times of year. Others are refreshed and republished if they're relevant to current affairs, or annual events. For ourselves and our readership, it seems to work.

over 2 years ago

Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones, Digital Manager at Freestone Creative

Exercise the right to be forgotten on that page and then your content will be as good as new :)

over 2 years ago

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