By Michele Linn published March 10, 2017

How to Give Your Best Blog Posts New Life (Even When Your URLs Don’t Cooperate)

best-blog-posts-new-life

Are you looking for ways to get your content out there while saving time? If so, have you considered republishing your best-performing posts?

This past year, we experimented with republishing our best posts on CMI. Thus far, the results are impressive. The republished posts perform well in terms of traffic, social shares, and email conversions. Additionally, they save our editorial team time. 

Our republished posts perform well in terms of traffic, social shares, & email conversions. @MicheleLinn Click To Tweet

Of course, republishing posts is not a new idea. Many sites use this approach.

However, we have had a specific challenge at CMI: Our URLs contain the year and month of publication. This means we can’t simply update posts and republish them with the same URL as many sites do. (If we were to build the site from scratch today, this date-specific URL is not the approach we would take, but this is what we have to work with.)

We need to decide if we want to do a redirect so we have one version of the post or have multiple versions. Yes, our parameters are a bit more complicated, but we have found that documenting the guidelines has been super useful. We hope that sharing our republishing guidelines will be helpful to those of you who are dealing with a similar issue.

TIP: Include your republishing guidelines as part of your editorial calendar so the entire team has easy access.

Republishing basics

Before we dig into the “how,” let’s quickly look at why this is something you may want to do.

Republishing your best content simply makes sense. Not only does it save your team time, but you’re publishing content you know your audience wants.

Republishing your best #content simply makes sense, says @michelelinn. Click To Tweet

You may worry that people will be upset if they see the same article twice, but let’s be honest: Most readers are not reading everything, and even regular readers may like a reminder of good ideas.

We have never received a complaint about republishing an article. On the contrary, these posts, which we label “Back by Popular Demand,” are often top performers of the month.

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Find the best posts to republish

Start your process by finding the posts you want to republish. This is typically easy to do if you are tracking your email conversions. I also look at traffic and social shares to see which posts are exceeding expectations, but “conversions to email” is my top metric. I look at this information from the past six months to one year.

Additionally, we have (slowly) been auditing all of our blog posts. This has brought a treasure trove of information, and I have found older posts no longer getting traffic that are still useful.

My list of posts to republish is part of my annual editorial plan, but you can keep a running list in your editorial calendar. For each post, I track the following info:

  • Name: I use the headline from the original post.
  • Author: I always ask the author for permission to republish the post.
  • Date of publication: I typically wait a year between the original and republished post.
  • Other notes: I note how extensive the changes may need to be.

This last component begs the question — do republished posts always need to be updated? The short answer: no. We have tried it multiple ways, from making few updates to doing a bigger overhaul, and the results have been similar.

You also want to consider how you want to schedule your republished posts on your editorial calendar. Do you want to run them intermittently as part of your regular editorial, or do you want to run them during a specified period such as a holiday, the summer, or a big event when your company may be offsite? (We ran a week of Back by Popular Demand posts during Content Marketing World.)

To redirect or not to redirect

If you have dates in your URLs, this next section is for you. It’s slightly complicated, but I guarantee it will help you work through the details of how to deal with your pesky URL issue.

In short, you have two options:

  1. Redirect the URL from the original post to the URL of the new post. This is the option if the original post is getting little traffic from search.
  2. Keep the original URL and run an updated post with a new URL: In some cases, the original posts are getting substantial traffic from organic search. If we redirected the URL of the original post to the new post, we would risk losing the search traffic that post is bringing in.

Here is how to use Google Analytics to see how much search traffic a post is getting.

Set the date for a specified period. I typically look at search volume from the past six months.

Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels

You will see a list of the channels driving traffic to your web pages.

Google-analytics-post-traffic

Select Organic Search and then Landing Page (under Primary Dimension).

Google-analytics

From there, you can search for the original post’s URL by pasting into the search box the text that comes after your primary URL. You will see how much search traffic that post has earned as an absolute number of sessions as well as a percentage of your search traffic.

Your bar or threshold to not redirect a post based on search traffic will depend on your needs and scope.

Let’s look at how to handle some specific scenarios.

Scenario: The post gets little search traffic

While many of our popular posts are search magnets, that isn’t always the case. Some of our Back by Popular Demand posts were rediscovered during our audit and others received traffic from social and internal links.

This is the simplest scenario because we can do a redirect from the old post to the new post. Here are the actions we take for these types of posts:

  • Create a new title: No
  • 301 redirect of original post: Yes
  • What to do with the original post: Redirect this URL to the new post.
  • What to do with the new post: Add an editor’s note to say this post has been republished. (An example is in the image below.)
  • Include “Back by Popular Demand” in the cover image: Yes

We recently republished this popular post from Joe Pulizzi. Because it was widely shared on social but didn’t have much traction in organic search, we simply redirected the older URL to this post; added “Back by Popular Demand” to the image, and included an editor’s note.

An old post widely shared on social but w/ little search can be redirected to new post, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet

cmi-back-by-popular-post-example

Example: One Thing is Killing Content Marketing and Everyone is Ignoring It

Scenario: The post gets a lot of search traffic

Another category of Back by Popular Demand posts includes those that get a lot of search traffic. We don’t want to negatively impact our search traffic by redirecting the original URL, so we need to create a new post, even if the post requires minimal updates or none at all.

Here are the actions we take for this type of post.

  • Create a new title: Yes
  • 301 redirect of original post: No
  • What to do with the original post: Add an editor’s note to say this post has been republished and include a link to the updated (new) post. (See example below.)
  • Include “Back by Popular Demand” in the new cover image: Yes

This popular post from Jodi Harris didn’t need much updating, but we wanted to resurface it because the information was so appreciated the first time it was published. This original post is a search magnet, so we didn’t want to lose its search value. Here is a screenshot of the original post with an editor’s note that points to the updated post.

Original-post-editor's-note

Example: A Content Marketer’s Checklist: Editorial Calendar Essentials

The updated post is below. As you can see, the new post includes “Back by Popular Demand,” in the cover image and has a new title.

Original-post-updated

Example: Editorial Calendar Tips, Tools, and Templates

Scenario: New posts on the same theme

Another type of post we run are new ones that have the same theme and construct as the original popular post. We update these year after year.

Because each post is new content, it’s not technically a Back by Popular Demand post. We proactively plan for these posts in our editorial calendar — and we update the earlier posts to point to the newer versions.

Here are the actions we take with this kind of post:

  • Create a new title: Yes (but stick with the same construct)
  • 301 redirect of original post: No
  • What to do with the original post: Add an editor’s note at the top or add text in the post to point to the newest version.
  • What to do with the new post: Incorporate into the text (not an editor’s note) that this is an update on a theme and point to the previous version(s).
  • Include “Back by Popular Demand” in the cover image: No

For instance, we have run versions of our stolen marketing ideas post in 2013, 2015, and 2016.

Original-Joe-Pulizzi-post

Example: Original 2013 post from Joe Pulizzi: Stolen Content Marketing Ideas

I rediscovered his post during the site audit and decided to re-use the construct for a holiday post in 2015. As you can see, the title is similar, and I reference Joe’s original post in the text. Since these posts are variations on a theme, not updated or revised posts, we decided not to include “Back by Popular Demand” in the cover images.

Michele-Linn-2015-post

As the 2015 post performed well, I used the construct again in 2016, but this time I “stole” my ideas from our Content Marketer of the Year finalists. As you can see, we referenced the previous posts in the text.

Michele-Linn-2016-post

I’d love to hear from you. Are you republishing blog posts as part of your strategy? What have your results been — and what lessons have you learned along the way?

Now that you know how we do our Back by Popular Demand posts, why not make sure you get them? Subscribe to the daily or weekly digest CMI newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

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  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/sydnicraighart Sydni Craig-Hart

    This post is incredibly helpful Michele! Thank you. I especially love how you detail the action steps you’re taking for different scenarios. We have 8 years worth of content on our blog and are just beginning the process of auditing our posts and determining what can be re-published/re-purposed. So the timing of your article is perfect! I’d love to hear more about how you’re approaching and documenting your auditing process. Can you share details about that?

    Thank you!
    Sydni

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Hi Sydni,
      I’m so glad this post reached you at a good time. Our auditing process has eveolved as I’ve learned more, but’s it’s not something I have documented as well as i should have. But here is a good post to get you started:
      http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/12/content-inventories-audits/.

      • https://www.linkedin.com/in/sydnicraighart Sydni Craig-Hart

        Thanks very much @cminstitute:disqus ! 🙂

  • http://thomashallett.com Thomas Hallett

    How do you deal with having duplicate content on the site? Do you use the canonical tag? For instance, if you re-publish a similar version of a post on a new URL, isn’t there a risk that you could be diluting your search ranking for that topic if the old page already ranks well but you get lots of links to the new page too?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      We talked about the duplicate content issue with our SEO person when we developed our guidelines. Because we have so much content and a lot of the posts we republish have lower search volumes (hence we do the re-direct), duplicate content has not been an issue for us.

      • http://www.thetravellingfool.com/ The Travel Fool

        So your talking about a new post not updating and republishing.

        • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

          They are new posts that have minor to more substantial updates that we republish. In some cases, we redirect the older post to the new post (so only the newest version of the post exists) or we may have 2 versions of the post if we want to keep the original version. Does that answer your question?

  • Tamara Kaye Sellman

    Or, you could just rewrite the content fresh and link to previous content in the text of the blog. SMH This seems like wayyyyyyyy too much work to “save some time.” But I’m a writer and I don’t struggle with actually producing content. If this is a struggle for a company, maybe they should just hire a decent writer and stop banging the analytics drum so hard. Good content will always win and it won’t require some sort of bypass of Google’s algorithms or strategy to outwit search engines. K.I.S.S.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Hi Tamara,
      Re-writing the content is always an option, but we have some content that has worked so well that as written that we want to get it in front of a new audience. This process has saved us a lot of time when we have already covered a topic in a way that works — and the results have been really positive for us.

      Our goal isn’t to bypass Google’s algorithm but rather be cognizant how we are republishing content so we’re not negatively impacting search rankings when we have posts that do well in search. As mentioned, our system would be simpler our URLs did not have dates in them, but these steps are working for us. I appreciate the comment!

  • http://www.thetravellingfool.com/ The Travel Fool

    If the post gets lots of search traffic, why would you change the title since that is one of the reason it is getting organic search results?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Great question. We’ll rename a post if multiple versions of it exist as we don’t want 2 posts with the same title.

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  • https://animaker.com Arvind Kesh

    Great article Michelle! I was planning to republish a few of our very good articles(with very less traffic these days). Now I have ideas ?

  • http://www.niksto.com/ Emmerey Rose

    Great tips Michele! These are very helpful. I wanna know when is the right time to republish an article? also, do you suggest republishing even those articles that aren’t getting much traffic?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      We typically wait at least a year before republishing a post, but there is no set guideline for this. When you choose what you want to republish, I would consider what is converting well. These pieces also often get traffic, but not always.

      • http://www.niksto.com/ Emmerey Rose

        Aha, Thanks Michele!

  • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

    Both posts actually are bringing in a similar amount of traffic at this point, in terms or overall traffic and traffic from organic search. When I use SEMrush to see which keywords are bringing people to the posts, it’s a different set for both. So both continue to do well in this case.

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