Cleaning content – Upcycle, not recycle

Upcycle content

A few weeks ago, Forbes published an article by Steve Olenski titled Content Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret about how no amount of content marketing will improve sales if the product or service is what needs improving.

Whether you agree or not (I personally don’t think it’s so clear cut), it was interesting that the article failed to mention content marketing’s other dirty little secret: recycled content. This was particularly amusing given that most of it was plucked and paraphrased from an earlier article Olenski wrote, titled When It Comes to Social Media, Companies Need to Look In Before Looking Out. This doesn’t come from my astute powers of observation; Olenski actually states he is paraphrasing an earlier article.

This isn’t the part where I go all vigilante and declare that what Olenski did was wrong. On the contrary, I obviously read his articles and found them interesting enough to reference. But it got me thinking about recycled content and what purpose it truly serves.

With the world now recognising the power of content marketing, we’ve seen a deluge of content on the internet – some of it really bad content. This is partly because content gets recycled without any thought to its original value. Businesses, particularly SMEs, don’t always have the resources to constantly create content, but I would argue that there’s a way to reuse content without polluting the internet with useless versions of the same old junk. Content should be upcycled, not recycled.

STEP 1: SPRING CLEANING

Whether you’re updating your website content or simply trolling through old blog articles to come up with ideas, you’ll need to do some spring cleaning. This means looking at each piece of content and considering the following:

Was it any good in the first place? This one might seem obvious, but everyone’s been guilty of bad content at some point. Before you consider upcycling it, take a whiff and see if it stinks. If it does, keep it in the archives or toss it, just don’t let it breed.

Is the main theme still relevant to your target audience? If yes, you may be able to upcycle it, if not, get rid of it. Highly topical content can lose its relevance rather quickly, but topics that provide essential information to your audience should not only be kept, but could provide further inspiration.

Does it attract a lot of visitors to your website? It’s worth looking at your analytics and determining which topics and sections on your website get the most traffic. If a particular blog post generates a high number of visitors, there may be more elements of the same topic you can explore.

Once you’ve finished sorting through your content, you can move on to step 2.

STEP 2: EVOLUTION

Highlight it

This isn’t exactly upcycling, but I thought it worth a mention. Excellent content can sometimes get buried under a mountain of average content, making it more difficult for your audience to access. If you’ve noticed a specific piece draws a lot of attention (no doubt because it answers a vital question for your audience), then be sure to give it pride of place. Creating a subsection called ‘favourites’ or ‘most read’ can be a good way of doing this.

Update it

Does that old newsworthy item have an update you can write about? Would your audience like to know how certain developments have affected your industry since you last wrote about them? You can use the original content as an introduction and build from there.

Repurpose or transform it

No doubt you’re proud of that giant whitepaper you’ve written, and well you should be for the amount of research you put into it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could give all that data a longer shelf life? Turn it into an infographic. Just don’t be too upset if the infographic generates more engagement than your whitepaper – visual content does have that effect.

Did your CEO once write an article for the blog? Tell her to get camera ready and use the topic as a springboard for a short video interview. Your brand will seem a lot more human, and your audience will appreciate putting a face and a voice to the name of the person in charge.

These are just a couple of ideas for transforming your content so that it can evolve with your business, but there countless other ways to upcycle content. How have you upcycled your content?

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