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How to update old website content by republishing and refurbishing

Republishing and refurbishing is the ideal way to breathe new life into old content on your website. Maximize qualified traffic and improve the content experience on your website by learning which content to republish and refurbish and how to integrate it into your content workflow.

A bit of theory before we get into it: What is “content”? One could argue the answer is as simple as: Content = contents + format.

If we agree on this equation, you could try to – instead of creating new content all the time – change up the variables “contents” or “format,” aka republishing and refurbishing.

What is republishing?

Republishing refers to making edits to existing articles and reposting them. For example, a while ago, I wrote the practical guide to “Republishing.” Since then, I gained more experience and a few details changed, so I took my own advice and used the blog post as the basis for an updated article on the subject.

In doing so, the article stays up-to-date and the quality of the information becomes even better, plus Google may reward the updated content with better rankings.

What is refurbishing?

Let’s keep going with the example of this article: I didn’t just come up with this topic suddenly and write the article from scratch. I had already held seminars on republishing. I could even talk about it in the German podcast I do with Kai Spriestersbach or even write an eBook. Maybe I can come up with an infographic for Instagram or another platform. The advantage with all this: I don’t need to research anew in order to display the content in a different format since I am already pretty deep into the topic.

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Figure 1: Curious: Apparently there is no good infographic surrounding the topic republishing. Who will be the first?

Now you see what I’m going on about: with republishing, the content of an article is updated. Refurbishing is about transforming that content into different formats and therefore making it available on different channels.

Both measures have similar goals: gain the maximum of authority in a topic area with minimal effort. Sounds a bit like content marketing, eh? Republishing and refurbishing might as well be its centerpiece. Let’s dive in step-by-step:

What content is NOT suitable for republishing and refurbishing?

Generally speaking, any topic that you, as an expert, want to gain maximum authority in is suitable for this approach. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Current events & news are only relevant for so long. There’s little potential in updating them.

  • Product information, sales copy and everything else that just points towards profit should be kept up-to-date. However, being an expert shows itself more through advice, consultations, and technical information.

  • Entertaining or comedic content live off of momentum and the medium used. They are – most of the time – not really suitable for other formats or repetition in a few months.

So what’s left? Mostly technical and informative content that is interesting and competent. Articles, white papers, how-to’s, and product overviews. For specialized B2B areas or in very technical, complex areas with high innovation tendencies, republishing and refurbishing is a great way to provide “fresh content.”

Why not just create new content regularly?

Oftentimes, a great misunderstanding leads to marketing departments creating new content all the time. There, the thought is that new content ensures the website is “up-to-date” for visitors and Google. But that’s not entirely true: From the visitor’s perspective (and Google’s), the content should, of course, be up to date, but not contain random news.

It’s all about keeping the topical content valuable and relevant. As long as you don’t suspect that your visitors look for current news on your homepage, you should focus on fewer, more relevant current articles rather than having lots of random notifications.

Content for republishing

Here are some ideas for content that you should definitely update in the upcoming weeks:

  1. Traffic champions: Find your evergreen content, or the pages that users visit most via Google Analytics or Google Search Console. If you pick the URLs that are responsible for 80% of clicks in Search Console, you can find your most important pages (see Figure 2). It’s simply good manners towards your visitors to keep that content up-to-date.

  2. Most important topics (read: keywords): your most important topics or keywords and the respective URLs should be reviewed regularly. Even if they don’t belong with the traffic champions, they are important – it’s essentially brand building at this point.

  3. Social media stars: Take a look at articles that perform well specifically on social. Friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram sometimes like very unusual articles. Maybe this hype can be repeated?

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Figure 2: The most important pages (in yellow) account for 80% of your clicks in Search Console. It only takes 10 minutes to find out which ones they are. For pages with high traffic but low CTR (in red), you can still improve a lot if you adjust your metadata.

Now that was evergreen content. Time-related adjustments apply to these articles:

  1. Editorial updates or additions: Especially when it comes to technology, B2B, and trend tropics, the world keeps on turning. That’s why it is crucial for experts in the company to make sure that all recent developments can be found in your content. You don’t want to be considered outdated…

  2. Articles with threshold keywords: From a simple SEO point of view, keyword-URL-combinations that have recently achieved positions 11-20 in the SERPs should be on your updating-plan. Here, the work will pay off the most. The URL has already worked its way up for this keyword but doesn’t receive a lot of clicks because users are too lazy to look at page 2 in the search engine. So Google likes your content, and this alone is a reason to improve it with content repurposing. Maybe it’s even enough for page 1.

  3. Loser keywords / URLs with declining Google Search Console Traffic: It’s similar with keywords that placed, let’s say, on position 4 – and now dropped to 12. This is – in most cases – a signal from Google that your content has reached its expiration date. Therefore: update! In my experience, it’s the most important and profitable signal for republishing. Even if you only take care of your loser keywords, you are going in the right direction!

  4. Content with bad CTR: Google Search Console shows the daily click rate of URLs in proportion to its position. If you rank for position 3 but only receive a click rate of 5% – something is wrong. In this case, it’s advisable to compare search intent and page content.

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Figure 3: Here you can see the traffic for a URL on my page Contentman: In the beginning of July, I simply couldn’t ignore that something wasn’t quite right. I updated the article, and voila!

Content for refurbishing

When it comes to “translating” content from one format to another, there are different rules. Here is an overview of the channels this applies to:

  • Written website content: Multiple pages containing technical content can be summarized into a white paper. A how-to could be turned into a case study. But beware: This can be confusing for search engines. If the topic is addressed multiple times in different articles, this won’t lead to multiple rankings but keyword cannibalization. Redirects can help avoid this.

  • Additional infographics: Turning the content of your how-to into a nice infographic makes it usable for social media and other pages, and the article itself will get updated through the use of a refurbishing element as well.

  • Explanatory videos: The same goes for videos. With the additional benefit that your brand can appear on the world’s second-largest search engine – YouTube – as well. You can find more information on what sort of content you can use for video marketing in this article.

  • Ebooks, apps, podcasts: App stores, the Kindle store, and of course podcast marketplaces are great channels for complex content. Even a well-run blog can – with appropriate effort – be turned into a small ebook.

  • Seminars and webinars: Of course all this collected knowledge can be shared at conferences or in webinars as well!

Remember: Although refurbishing is great for building brand awareness in different channels such as app marketplaces or in the Kindle store – it will only make a bad impression if it’s half-assed.

What I want to say: Content is its content AND format. Even if the content is exceptional, it will look awful if it is shared by a bad presenter, or it is turned into a book with lots of spelling and grammar mistakes.

Because it’s impossible to even mention all these formats here, I will focus on pure remodeling on your existing site from this point on.

Republishing: Here’s what you need to do

Assuming this is about text content, and SEO plays a big role, the following procedure is a tried and tested option for republishing:

  • Check for purpose: Does the content really match the topic or the keyword? Does it answer the question behind the keyword? Is there another piece of content that is a better match? Or is a new article more appropriate?

  • Check optimization with a tool: A semantic TDF*IDF check (which checks, if your competitors use similar wording) shows, which terms or topics are missing from your content. Oftentimes, a good editor will know what to do after such a check.

  • Check content optimization: The Google search results are usually a good indicator for which search intentions hide behind a topic. By now, you should know what to write on.

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Figure 4: You can almost always quickly tell by the search results where a topic is headed. Here you can see that “content marketing” became a topic for classes and maybe papers, and that it is also outsourced to agencies. Oh, and many were looking for examples of good content marketing - enough material for an update. Right?

  • Text optimization: Finally, it’s time to optimize text and content. It’s definitely not enough to simply correct spelling errors and switch around the syntax a bit. There needs to be an obvious change, such as an additional paragraph or heading. Ideally, the intro, conclusion, and headline still match the article.

  • Use new media: Maybe there is a graphic, a YouTube video or an image that can be added.

  • Add links: Since the last update, your entire website might have changed a bit, and new content or pages were added. Can you add some more links to your content now?

  • Optimize meta data: At least the meta description can be adjusted, maybe even the title tag. What about open graph tags and TwitterCards? With an “UPDATED” tag you could document that the content got updated.

  • Link anew: The now “fresh” article should be thought of when linking internally. It belongs on the homepage again, and maybe new links should be added to other URLs (that might be newer) as well.

  • Outsource content? In the end it is worth thinking about whether there is an important portion of your content that could be made into an entirely new article.

I know this sounds like a lot of work. But if you look closely at those 9 points, you will see: This is all just a small part of the time that a new article would take. In the time it takes to create a new article, you could probably republish five new articles. That’s worth it!

With refurbishing, of course, a new content piece (or even a series) is created. This is more comparable to the creation of an article. But here’s the trick: The information is already there, so the time to research is basically zero. This could save a lot of time for complex topics.

How to start republishing & refurbishing content?

In my experience there is – despite offers from copywriting agencies – no sensible workflow when it comes to republishing and refurbishing. Here are some ideas to solve this:

  • Recurring editorial meetings: As soon as there are more than one or two people taking care of content, regular content planning is necessary. In an editorial meeting, the need for new articles and updates can be aligned with time and budget.

  • Weekly ranking and URL traffic analysis: If you take a look at changes in keywords in your SEO tool on Monday and compare which URLs have lost Google traffic, you will be able to work effectively and efficiently the rest of the week.

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Figure 5: Track changes in your keywords in Ryte's "Keyword Changes" report, under Search Engine Optimization, and stay on top of your performance in SERPs.

  • Area of responsibility: It is useful if different team members are responsible for different topics and everybody makes sure that their area of responsibility is up-to-date. This makes sure that there’s not too much content in one area.

  • Long-term commitment to copywriters or copywriting agencies: Of course, text is updated best by the respective author. This only works if you continuously work with the “producer.”

Republishing and/or refurbishing really makes a lot of sense: Your existing pages improve and become more comprehensive. They turn into better search targets and are better at answering user search queries. Isn’t that great?

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Published on Jan 14, 2021 by Eric Kubitz