Intelligent Content Recycling

Search engines – and humans, too – reward fresh, unique content. Content teams struggle daily with the Herculean task of supplying enough new, original content to keep these consumers happy. The result is that “content recycling” has lately come into vogue.

There’s definitely a right way to do content recycling, and plenty of wrong ways.

Wrong ways include:

1. Using automated article spinner software to robotically re-word pre-existing articles

Robot spinners fell out of favor when Panda came along, but they’re still out there for lazy and uncreative content marketers to try out. The sole aim of this software is create articles that are “different enough” from the original to “fly under the radar” of the search engines’ duplicate content filters (the “poor man’s version of this technique is to paste the article text into Google Translate for a foreign language, and then retranslate it back into English). While skillfully spun articles likely won’t earn your a penalty from Google, they’re not going to endear you to your reader and, after all, reaching humans is what the content game is about, isn’t it?

2. Omitting date stamps from blog articles

Many social media influencers make the mistake of failing to include date stamps in the articles they post on their blogs. This subtle dodge lets them repeatedly “blast” (via auto-schedule tools such as HootSuite) their social media channels with social posts that are fresh, but whose targets are not. Unfortunately, when an article was published is often as important as what the article is about. For example, the contents of a “Top 10 WordPress Themes” article published in 2011 would be radically different from one published today. Omitting date stamps from articles can present a huge disservice to readers who actually rely on the article contents. Whenever I see a blog article lacking a date stamp, I hit the back button, because the lack of this crucial clue instantly causes me to distrust the content that follows. Calling all social media influencers: please don’t attempt to recycle your old content in this underhanded way!

3. Word shuffling

 Shuffling words around manually is the lazy person’s way to recycle content. Yes, it might pass muster with the engines’ duplicate content filters, but doing this adds zero value to the reader.

Here are some better ways to approach the problem:

1. Revisit the topic

Tech and marketing/tech are fast-moving, and even evergreen-style articles can become obsolete very quickly. If you’ve cultivated a good stable of reliable industry sources, revisiting topics with the latest news in mind can result in a brand-new article that adds lots of value without extensive added editorial effort.

2. Deconstruct and rebuild

“Deconstruct” simply means reverse-engineering a given editorial product (usually creating an outline from the complete master draft), reducing it to its intellectual foundations and rebuilding it from scratch. This process not only forces you to use different words; you may wind up creating a better article that’s both broader and deeper.

3. Incorporate other voices

 ay you’ve written a great article backed up by great data. Publish it, but don’t stop there: open it up to third parties whose views may or may not support your thesis by using the article as an invitation to comment. While you might not always be pleased by the feedback you’ll receive, recycling content in this way can provide you a way to “own” a given topic, if, that is, you’ve made a sincere effort to serve as a conversational moderator and not simply a partisan.

4. Rewrite with insight

If you must rewrite something, don’t just shuffle the words around, renumber your bullet list, and search/replace the adjectives. Instead, use a different editorial voice. Also, look for points the original author made that he or she might have hurried over that could benefit from more in-depth discussion. Similarly, eliminate and replace any laborious prose committed by the author with words that carry the point with less verbiage. Spice it up and make it better.

5. Make the new article native to a different platform

SlideShares, PDFs, eBooks, and podcast/video scripts can present viable additional containers for your content. While you’ll usually have to edit the original article to accord with the particular requirements of these platforms, such intelligent recycling can work very well and carries virtually no risk of alienating either search engine or human reader. LinkedIn’s Publisher platform is another service worth investigating; I covered it in a prior ClickZ column.

Just like paper, plastic and metal, the recycled content should bear little resemblance to the original, but the raw materials are preserved.

*Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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