How to Give Your Best Blog Posts New Life (Even When Your URLs Don’t Cooperate)
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.
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.
Content Reuse: Behind the Scenes With CMI
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Select Organic Search and then Landing Page (under Primary Dimension).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: How To Get More From Existing Content With Historical Optimization
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute