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?​


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:



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.​


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 and BuzzSumo.


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.


Evergreen Posts

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


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!​


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.