Content Recycling: How to Never Run Out of Content Ideas Again

Content marketing is a great way to build an online audience, generate traffic and strengthen your brand. But keeping a regular posting schedule can be challenging. You have to come up with ideas for new blog posts all the time - and then you actually have to write those posts, as well. It's no small feat.

What if you could get the benefits of content marketing without all that hard work?

What if, instead of coming up with new content ideas all the time, you could just recycle your old content and use it to gain more traffic and backlinks?​

More...

Recycling Squared

The idea of recycling old content has been around for a long time. One might even say that this same idea has been recycled many times over the years.

The basic premise is that you can take one piece of content and easily spin it off into different forms of media, such as:

  • The contents of a blog post, pasted onto slides = a slideshow.
  • Reading out the slideshow while recording the screen = a video.
  • Taking just the audio part of that video = a podcast episode.
  • Copy-pasting a bunch of blog posts together and saving it as a PDF = an ebook.
  • And so on...

The idea is popular because it appeals to our laziness. Who wouldn't like to get 5 pieces of content (and 5 sources of backlinks/traffic/shares) for every original idea they come up with?

​And of course, we want to be able to get this benefit with minimal time investment. Maybe even zero time investment and have a VA do the content recycling for us, how about that?

As you can tell, I'm rather cynical about the content recycling concept. The bottom line is that all of these recycled forms of content are rubbish.

A video of someone reading out a blog post over a lame slideshow is not a good video. It's not the kind of thing you'll find in your trending and recommended videos on YouTube. Low-grade re-purposed content just isn't what you, me or anyone else likes to consume, gets excited about or shares.

What About High Quality Content Recycling?

Alright, if this quick-and-dirty content recycling makes for rubbish content, what about putting more effort into it? Can't you still take your existing content and turn it into a good video or a good slideshow or podcast episode?​

Yes, you can.

And when you set out to do so, you'll find that it requires roughly the same amount of time and effort as making a new slideshow, video or podcast episode.​ If you're working on making really high quality content that matches its medium, having a basic idea and outline of the content itself is a relatively small part of the work.

While you can recycle your content ideas and translate them to different media, if you want to do it right, it's just not a sexy, simple, quick shortcut anymore. And it's certainly not something a $1/hour VA will do for you.​

The Real Solution: Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

Now that I've ruined the idea of content recycling for you, let's look at a solution. Specifically, a solution to the problem of not knowing what content to create. If you find yourself running out of ideas for content, the solution is not to look for a quick fix.

The good news is that applying a content marketing strategy will quickly lead to you having more ideas for content than you know what to do with. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at a few useful strategies:

STRATEGY #1

ToFu-MoFu-BoFu

No​, this has nothing to do with Tofu, the Asian Soy product. Instead the terms stand for:

  • Top of the Funnel
  • Middle of the Funnel
  • Bottom of the Funnel​

Think of every potential customer you have and think of how close they are to making a buying decision.

Someone who's at the very bottom of the funnel is already well informed about what they need, about what your product does, what it costs etc.

Someone who's at the very top of the funnel is not well informed. They may have a specific need or a problem, but they don't know about possible solutions and they don't know about your product or service yet.

Finally, people at the middle of the funnel are, well, in between those two other groups. They are aware of their need and aware of some possible solutions. They may know a thing or two about what you offer, but they don't have enough information or trust to make a buying decision yet.​

ToFu-MoFu-BoFu Example

We can use the Thrive Themes audience as an illustrative example:

  • At the top of the funnel, we have people who have an online business and use WordPress. They want to create a business/conversion focused website, but they don't know about Thrive Themes yet.
  • At the middle of the funnel, we have people who are well informed about conversion and marketing strategies regarding list-building, selling online and so on. They have heard about Thrive Themes, but aren't sure how exactly we compare to competing solutions.​
  • At the bottom of the funnel, we have people who are well informed about conversion optimization and marketing and have a basic understanding of what Thrive Themes offers. They may have purchased an individual product, but aren't sure about whether to become a full member, yet.

Note: Am I Doing it Right?

There's no right or wrong way to define your ToFu, MoFu and BoFu audiences. For example, we could shift our ToFu further towards the top and include anyone who has or wants to have a business online.

The important point is to have an idea of what differentiates people in these three groups from each other. Your definition doesn't have to be perfect and it doesn't even have to be very precise, for this strategy to work.​

Putting it Into Practice

Once you've got your ToFu, MoFu and BoFu audiences defined, you can ask yourself this question: "what do they need, to move further down the funnel?"

The answer is going to be different for each group. For example:

Having a more defined idea of whom exactly you are creating content for makes it much easier to come up with content ideas. Simply asking the question "what do ToFu/MoFu/BoFu people need, to move down the funnel?" will spark new ideas right away.

You can also think of it from this perspective: what do people in each group need to learn, in order to be able to appreciate and understand the value you offer?

You can use this approach to come up with content ideas and you can also use it as a check, to make sure you are servicing all three groups on a regular basis.​

A similar concept to this is the Awareness Ladder, which you can learn more about in this post.​

STRATEGY #2

Casting a Net

This strategy is useful as a discovery tool. The idea is to "cast a net" and see if you "catch" anyone in it.

To start, ask yourself the question: what related topics could people in my target audience be interested in? Or: what could I teach or write about that could lead someone to discover my products in a tangential manner?

Casting a net works best if you already have at least a small audience. You can create some simple content on a tangentially related topic and see what kind of response you get.

If your audience is enthusiastic about the content and share it, that's a good sign. You can then use analytics or the Thrive Leads content marketing report to figure out if new visitors who are drawn in by this content also convert further down your funnel.​

Examples of Casting a Net

On this blog, we created a few simple posts about website analytics. This was an example of casting a net. Our products aren't directly related to analytics, but someone's interest in analytics shows they care about data, precision and are probably wanting to improve the numbers they see. It's not a stretch to imagine that this kind of person would also be interested in conversion optimization and in the A/B testing and reporting features in our products.

This experiment failed - people weren't particularly interested in these posts, so we stopped writing about this topic.

On the other hand, we've published some very well received content about Facebook advertising strategies​. Since they resonated with our audience and brought in new traffic, it's likely we'll revisit this topic in the future. The results from this net casting also led us to guest post on the AdEspresso blog, since we had some evidence that their audience could be interested in our products.

Putting it Into Practice

Here are some practical steps to follow:

  1. Create a list of topics that people in your audience could also be interested in.
  2. Create some content on those topics (without investing too much time and resource, to start with) and gauge the reaction.
  3. If there's a positive reaction and the content leads to conversions as well, start exploring the new topic further, with more content.
  4. Seek out guest posting and cross-promotional opportunities, based on the newly discovered topic.

To generate ideas for related topics, you can use tools like Hashtagify.me and BuzzSumo.

STRATEGY #3

Teach & Ask

This is a deceptively simple strategy, which goes like this: create a piece of content that teaches something useful. Then, ask your audience for feedback.

  • Did they find the post useful?
  • What questions do they have?
  • Can they put what you teach into practice? If not, why not?​

This kind of feedback will open up an endless well of content ideas an possibilities. And the best part is: you can create a new piece of content which answers one of the questions you received and then ask for feedback and new questions again.

You can repeat this endlessly. You'll be a reliable and hugely valuable source of answers to your audience, while never running out of content ideas again.

Marcus Sheridan is a huge proponent of this approach and he's used it to great success.​ And you don't have to spend a lot of time looking at the Thrive Themes or ActiveGrowth blogs to figure out that this Teach & Ask approach is central to the way I do things, as well.

Teach & Ask Examples

You can look at the posts on the Thrive Themes blog to see that in most cases, the call to action at the end of a post is for people to leave a comment and ask questions. Examples of content that are based directly on comments or questions we've received on previous posts are too numerous to name, on this site.

Putting it Into Practice

There's one big hurdle to implementing the Teach & Ask approach the way we've done it here: you may ask for comments but not get any.

We've cultivated a dialogue with our audience from the very beginning, so it's "normal" for us to get many people commenting on our posts. However, there are many sites where this doesn't happen, even if they get a lot of traffic.

While comments are an important source of feedback for us, they are not the only one. Other ways to get feedback and questions are:

  • Sending a survey to your mailing list.
  • Inviting your email subscribers to click "reply" and send you questions.
  • Getting on 1-on-1 phone calls to interview people in your audience. You can even do this if you don't have an audience yet. Just invite people in niche groups to get on a call with you or create some targeted ads to reach people in your market.
  • Adding a feedback widget to your site (we like to use Hotjar for this).

If you don't have an audience of your own, you can check out Answer to Public for questions people are searching on Google, surrounding your topic. Another great source of insight and feedback are Facebook groups around your topic.

STRATEGY #4

Evergreen Posts

This is an add-on strategy to any of the approaches above. You can use it to... repurpose your old content.

OMG!

Did I just say you can repurpose your old content? After all the ranting above? What the heck!?

Yes, I did. Evergreen content is cool and doesn't follow the usual "recycle old rubbish content" approach.​

Evergreen Post Examples

One of our highest-traffic posts is this one about why homepage sliders are terrible.​ It was originally a relatively short, written post.

Seeing how successful the post was, we decided to update it about a year after first publishing it. We created a video to go along with the post, added more examples, more case studies and more data. We also updated some of the screenshots that had become outdated and added some more information based on questions and objections we'd seen in the post's comments.​

This update resulted in a 55% boost in organic traffic (see image) and more than doubling of social shares (the count is currently at 1.2K).

It's likely that we will update this post again in the future, to keep the momentum going.

A Note About Quality

Watch the video we added to this post. It makes a good illustration of my point about quality, further above. As you can see, this is by no means a simple or quickly done video.

And now think about what would happen if we'd just added a simple, reading-the-blogpost-out-loud kind of video and then republished the post. How would people have reacted to that? What would that have communicated about our brand?​

Putting it Into Practice

Here's how evergreen content works: periodically, go through your analytics and figure out:

  • What content is bringing in the most traffic?
  • What content has a high conversion rate? (the Thrive Leads content marketing report is great for this)
  • What old content was popular at the time and is still relevant or newly relevant?

Content that matches any of these criteria is a candidate for an evergreen refresh. Look at the post and ask yourself what you can do to update and improve the post. Typically, you can do one or several of the following:

  • Update a post with new data, new case studies and new references.
  • Update the information, screenshots and instructions in a tutorial to keep up with changing technology.
  • Add new candidates to a list of resources or products (e.g. new products that weren't available yet when the post was first published).
  • Enrich a post with new information (e.g. by doing more research, interviewing experts on the topic etc.)
  • Add new content in a new form of media (e.g. adding a video to a written post or vice versa).

When you've updated the post content like this, you can bump it to the top of your blog (by changing the publish date to the current day) and re-market it. You can send it out to your mailing list again, publish it on your social media channels again etc.

This brings new life to an already successful post and it can increase your search engine traffic, bring in a second wave of social shares and spark new discussion and comments.​

Over to You

What are your thoughts on content recycling? Have you tried it? Did you get good results?

Also: check out the strategies above and let me know if you have any questions about implementing them. Is there one you'd like to learn about in more depth?

Leave a comment to let me know!​

Shane

Author: Shane Melaugh

Shane Melaugh is one of the co-founders of Thrive Themes and in charge of marketing, content and product strategy. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome WordPress themes & plugins, he likes to geek out about camera equipment and medieval swords. He also writes about startups and marketing here.

38Comments

Frank S Reply

I do love the video. The effects and the humor put it towards the top. Thrive Themes is the only company I subscribe to that I actually look forward to receiving an email from.

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thank you, Frank! Glad you like the tone we struck in this one. :)

steinv Reply

Hi Shane.
THis was a useful post. I kinda knew most of it already, but “kinda knowing” doesn’t mean much. Being properly aware of knowledge is what counts, of course. You’re good at making that change.

Apart from this praise, my main purpose of writing a comment is a warning about a problem in this text. The start is listing suggestions for recycling content, but the suggestions are ironic. That point actually didn’t dawn on me until you spelled it out. Maybe I have a bad hair day or something, :-) but I was very close to closing the window while concluding that this was too primitive info, just marketing. I’m among those few who actually read more than the heading even in Facebook posts, meaning I have some stamina, so my guess is that several of your readers have done just that. Closed the article with the wrong conclusion. I think you can fix it quite easy. Just spell it out a bit earlier that it’s irony or make it more clear, even for the gullible, that it’s humour. I think I’d consider putting one more item in the list of rubbish recycling methods. That item might be: “Seriously? Nope. This list is just rubbish, of course.”

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thanks for your feedback!

    You make a fair point – the article has to be read down past the first few paragraphs, to grasp the main idea. The video only has to be watched about 10 seconds in to get the same message, though. I think the text turned out this way because the main piece of content here is the video and the written post supplements it.

    But it’s a good piece of feedback and I’ll pay more attention to this in the future.

Its a cool Blog Post. However, I am highly dissatisfied with Thrive Leads. I feel like there are so many things that don`t work… like editing content… that has to be done via the source code? Anyway, the Blog Post is good.

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    I recommend that you use the built-in visual editor to edit content in your Thrive Leads forms. If you’re having trouble with that, please let us know in the support forum.

Great article, Shane. Would you advise a mixture of all 4 strategies or find out which works best and stick to that one?

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thanks, Ali!

    I’ve used all of these strategies to some extent, often mixed in with each other. For example, when writing a “casting a net” post, you can still consider whether the target audience is ToFu, MoFu or BoFu.

    But to answer your question more specifically, I would recommend that you focus on one strategy at a time, to start with. The most powerful one for me has always been Teach & Ask, so you could focus on that first and once you get the hang of it, you can start refining it by adding or testing the other approaches as well.

This post really resonated with me. The quick-fix recycling ideas always left me wondering if anyone is actually that lazy about their BUSINESS. I already hated teachers reading out their slideshows at school, and I definitely hate it when online marketers do it.

One area I struggle with is implementing some of the strategies you described for my niche. I write about food and cooking for busy families, so it’s hard sometimes to apply certain techniques. I recently started writing about meal planning in addition to posting recipes, which my audience seems to like (prior to that I tested some more general parenting topics and grandiosely failed, ha!). But they are HARD to get feedback from. And it’s hard to come up with ideas to repurpose content, other than tacking a recipe video on every popular post. I so want to figure out some content marketing strategies that work within the food industry, because I’m sick of relying on advertising dollars. I do have product ideas, but I’m scared they won’t sell because I’m not reaching any kind of marketing potential!

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thank you for your comment, Nora!

    What you describe with testing content about parenting vs. food prep is a good example of casting a net. :)

    You say that your audience is very difficult to get feedback from. Can you elaborate on that? What methods have you tried, in order to solicit feedback? What happened?

    One way to think about getting feedback is in terms of “friction”. You want to make it as frictionless and effortless as possible for your visitors to give you feedback.

    That’s why a single-question poll on your site, which requires no form filling or logins can be very useful. It’s also why spying on or posting questions in Facebook groups can be so good, because people are already hanging out there and having discussions, so they don’t perceive it as any extra effort to post there.

A very timely post! Just yesterday I was searching for posts on how to repurpose my Facebook Live videos…

I must say that the first second of the video got me thinking “what just happened to Shane?? He sounds weird today…”. You got me there :)

I have a question regarding the last strategy, and it’s about SEO. Not surprisingly, my most popular posts receive most of their traffic from organic search. When you update them with new content and even changing the post’s date, how does that affect SEO? Or, put differently, what things should we be careful with in order to not mess with SEO on that post?

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thanks for your comment!

    The short answer is: I don’t worry about SEO anymore. When I update a post, all I care about is making it better and more useful for human readers and whether Google is on board with that or not is secondary to me.

    The longer answer is: as long as you mainly ADD content to the post, it’s very unlikely that there will be any negative repercussions in terms of SEO. If you completely rewrite a post and change the title, that would likely change what terms it ranks for and where it ranks. But if you take a post called “Why Sliders Make Your Website Suck” and you add more content to it, add a video and the post is still called “Why Sliders Make Your Website Suck” and it’s still about why sliders are terrible, then there’s no reason to expect you’ll lose any of your search engine rankings.

      Thanks for clarifying Shane, makes total sense! And also got me thinking that if I really need to change a lot in a post (instead of only adding more content) then it’s probably time to write a new one about that topic :)

Tony Reply

NAILED it on so many levels there Shane & team.
Great intro to the video and the ‘have a rant angle’ which I’ve never seen from thrive was really very humourous…

Keep ’em coming buddy

I think there is also a case for intelligent repurposing. After all, an interesting fact is that the same ideas put forward in a different medium are perceived as ‘new.’

Of course, I don’t mean just taking a blog post and reading it aloud in front of a camera. That is a dumb move.

However, if you take the same information a successful post contains and create an arresting video or podcast with it – that’s a smart strategy.

There are also ways of re-purposing content AND adding perceived value at the same time. For example, you can use material from your blog to create courses or use them to create a valuable book.

I agree that you can’t just go ahead and string published articles together to make a book or create a course. You need to tweak, adapt and rewrite or recast your content to make it fit the new mold.

I think we need to think clearly about why we need to ‘repurpose’ content. The main problem is the conventional blog format where the newest content is visible, and older content gets pushed down or rendered invisible on a website.

I’ve been blogging since 2008, and I know that some of my best work is buried somewhere deep in my blogs. The question is not just how to transform older content by using another medium, but it’s how to introduce new readers to top posts written way back in time.

Luckily, Thrive Themes has rushed to the rescue…!

With the help of Thrive Themes, I’ve veered away from the standard blog format and embraced a magazine-style look, using the theme Performag.

This move has helped me to ‘repurpose’ some of the older treasures on my blog. I’ve already noticed that on my website WritetoDone.com, older posts that I have featured on the homepage are getting traction once again.

To ‘repurpose’ some more of my hidden content, I’m about to launch a new look with Performag on my other big blog, GoodlifeZEN.com in the next week.

I’m doing this not because I’m lazy, but because I don’t want readers to miss out on good, evergreen content.

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Hi Mary,

    I agree that smart, high quality repurposing of content makes sense. And as you can see in this post, the “Evergreen Post” strategy is basically that and it’s something I’ve done on several of my websites, with great success.

    The reason I took this ranty angle on the topic is that I once again came across a post (on a very popular site, to boot) that talked about the lazy, rubbish kind of content recycling. The kind that simply appeals to laziness and the promise of a quick fix, instead of having anything to do with good content marketing.

    So, I wanted to provide a bit of a counterbalance to that kind of thing. :)

Albert Tan Reply

Hi Shane,
Quality content repurposing takes more time than “mere content recycling”. Since the content is already there, you don not need to crack your head thinking of new content.

As for your 4 strategies, they are all broad strategies. would you be writing in more details especially for Strategy #3 Teach & Ask? for example, how to conduct an interview, how to do a proper survey etc.?

Lastly, I would like to add that we could source content ideas from popular forums like Reddit and Quora. I have written two long articles on how to get untapped content ideas from these two sources.

If you would like to read them, I could post the links here.

Thanks and cheers.

Albert Tan

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thanks for your comment, Albert!

    Teach & Ask is definitely an approach I could go into more detail on. Could be a candidate for a Thrive University course, even. :)

    I’ll chat with the marketing team to see what we can do to expand on these strategies.

      Albert Tan Reply

      Shane.
      Thank you. Eagerly waiting for your next content on Teah & Ask.

Hi Shane, great post! Your blogs have been really useful to me recently, especially the one about writing shorter emails and this one.

I’m gonna let the ToFu, MoFu, BoFu idea settle in my mind for a while. That’s a great way to remember it. Thanks!

This is actually a really good point by steinv.

When I first read the list, I didn’t think ‘this is obviously a joke / list of not-to-dos’, but I instantly assumed we were referring to high quality recycling.

My assumption was that your point must be to re-purpose in a high quality way, adapting for the medium and the audience each time.

So either way, a bit of confusion about the clarity for different audiences.

The strategies you go on to outline are great.

So maybe more of a ‘These ways won’t work, but read on to find out what will’ intro message would be beneficial.

Hey there,

kickass article as usual! May i ask what kind of comment plugin you guys are using here? Is it integrated in thrive content builder already?

Greetz from Germania

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Hello Sascha,

    We’re using the default WordPress comments on this site. We’ve just slightly modified them to our needs.

Another great post, Shane. I do repurpose my content, but not in a lazy way :) For example, I’d transcribe a good Periscope broadcast into a blog post. And sometimes, use old blog posts for broadcasts.

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thanks for your reply, Esta. I think this kind of translation of content from one medium to another depends a lot on how it’s done. A word-by-word transcript usually makes for poor written content, for example.

George Reply

Another great, and useful, Post. Thanks!

While reading Strategy #3 (“Teach and Ask”), I found myself anticipating a tie-in with the new “Thrive Quiz Builder”. Just a thought :)

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thanks for your comment, George!

    Yes, Thrive Quiz Builder can definitely be used for this. Especially since you tend to get much higher engagement on a quiz than in comments.

Tibor Szucs Reply

Thank you, this is a brilliant post. I’ve just noticed that one of my posts got a huge traffic during a short time. Now I’m sure I’ll update this post.

I think that webinars are also great tools to create content, which can be reused in a lot of ways. They’re also good for teach and ask.

Wow! Great, and useful, Post. Thanks!

Hi… A couple a minutes before I would go to sleep, I checked my email and I found that I didn’t read this post. So, I decided to watch the video instead of reading. I realized that today in the evening for a couple of hours, I was so tired to write a new post and I decided to follow what you said in this post; content recycling from a post that I wrote before to buy my thrive themes membership. I did it, but with this advice from you, next time I am going to have more ideas in my pocket. Thank you Shane…P.S. You were on time because you published the post on Friday and I read it on Monday, I had saved a lot time today lol

MamaRed Reply

Oh my lord Shane…I’m rolling out laughing on this one. I’m a repurposing “specialist” (or whatever name is right given the time of day!). I’ve ranted and raved about the “just string some posts together” for ages and ages.

AND I’m a huge fan of repurposing, strategically and with intention for the good stuff that provides value. There are times when having a video for a particularly valuable piece of content hits the sweet spot for multiple audiences…like your stuff where you have a video AND text.

There are times where rechunking the content makes sense (a form of repurposing, at least the way I teach it).

On another note, I just got off the phone with a terrified client discussing the right way to repurpose, so reading this right now was awesome!

I got my start in doing “repurposing” for huge companies who have tons of money and tons of staff. It’s taken me a while to come up with a structure and process that works for those of us who don’t have those resources.

I call it “Repurposing…on Purpose™” and use a food analogy to help people stock their content pantry with lots of nummee ingredients and a recipe box with recipes to use the same ingredients many ways.

Your post just became one of ones I’m sharing so people, god help me, don’t do this 5 second throw crap against the wall stuff.

As always, love what you’re up to and I will no longer create a website for a client unless they agree to use your products. Nope. Not gonna do it!

Thanks for sharing such great stuff! You and your team rock.

MamaRed

(P.S. Please tell Hanna that I said “hey there.”)

    Shane Melaugh Reply

    Thank you for your comment! Happy to know that you enjoyed the humorous approach we took with the video. :)