How many email newsletters, blog alerts, RSS feeds, and other content streams do you subscribe to? How many do you read every day? One? Two? None?
Chances are you don’t read all five blog posts CMI publishes every week. Our analytics show that most of our subscribers don’t. We’re not mad – we get it.
Maybe you were extra busy one day. Maybe the topic or headline didn’t line up with your information needs the moment the email landed. Maybe you never saw the article at all. It’s easy to miss even great articles when so much comes at you from so many sources.
That’s why the CMI editorial team experimented with republishing a couple years ago. Michele Linn wrote a post to explain the republishing strategy in 2017 that still lives and still gets traffic, though less than it once did.
True to the original experiment, I’m building on her piece to add a few nuances we’ve learned since then and add some fresh examples to the discussion.
Why we republish blog posts
We republish articles to remind our audience of good advice that’s still valid and relevant. We get more mileage out of the pieces with less effort than writing a post from scratch. It’s a win-win for our team and our audience.
- Refreshes the content catalog. CMI content goes back to 2008. Some pieces that still get search traffic must be updated to remain useful. Republishing also allows us to refresh the content and get it in front of readers who are new to the CMI audience or who missed it the first time around.
- Maintains or improves search ranking/results. Sometimes an old post ranks in search and, therefore, drives a lot of traffic. Before it experiences declining CTRs, high bounce rates, and other problems that jeopardize our ranking position for a keyword phrase, we create a new version – updating text as needed and using the current date in the URL. When it makes sense, we redirect the old post to the new post (more on this in a bit).
- Fills the editorial calendar in advance of busy times. In April, most of CMI’s editorial team was busy with the ContentTECH Summit. During that time, we maintained the blog publishing schedule by republishing several posts. We do the same in September when we attend Content Marketing World.
Again, republishing older articles (even with adding updates) is faster than writing (and editing) posts from scratch. Three articles in our April republished content quickly made their way to the “current hits” widget, which shows the most popular articles published in the past three months.
- Highlights something new. When Chief Content Officer evolved into a solely digital experience in April, we wanted to give our blog audience members – who might not be CCO subscribers – a chance to experience the magazine content.
We took this article on robot-assisted writing from the April issue …
and republished it on the CMI blog …
and created a CTA inviting readers to explore the new CCO.
Why we republish instead of updating the original URL
CMI’s blog URLs include the year and month of publication. Ouch. Even if we add the most brilliant new advice, on-point examples, and “10x”-ed content, the URL on the SERP still shows the original publication date.
Would you click to read the article with a 2019 date or a 2016 date? (If you said both, stick with me, I’ll get to that – and answer the questions this raises about duplicate content and redirecting posts.)
It makes the most sense to give the articles a new URL to reflect the current date.
How we pick posts to republish
CMI’s process for republishing remains similar to the way it worked when it started two years ago.
We identify which posts drive more conversions to our email lists. We check traffic and social-share performance (I typically look back a full year). Content audits are useful for finding republishing candidates.
Recently, I expanded the performance review time frame from the past year to the past few years. Looking at which posts were popular during 2015 and 2016 surfaced a few new gems. (To do this, I set the date range in the relevant Google Analytics reports to focus on 2015 or 2016.)
Michele suggests keeping a running list of posts to republish in your editorial calendar. The system involves tracking the following info:
- Name: Headline from the original post.
- Author: Permission from author to republish the post (and whether they want to update it).
- Publication date: We typically wait at least a year between the original and republished post.
- Notes: Detail how extensive the changes may need to be.
Now, to some questions I know you have.
Should you republish posts without updating them?
We have done this, but only if the information and advice are still accurate and relevant. We check (and update) links, titles, and other details to ensure the republished piece is currently accurate. An editor’s note is added at the top to explain it’s a republished post in which the content is the same.
How do you decide when to redirect?
To redirect or not is a blend of art and science. Here’s a recap of the CMI process that Michele shared:
- Redirect the original URL to the new URL when the original post gets little traffic from search (science) or the information is no longer relevant or accurate (art).
- Keep the original URL and publish an updated post with a new URL when the original post gets substantial traffic from organic search and the information is reasonably current. Add an editor’s note at the top of the original URL to direct people to a newer version of the post if they want it.
Here’s our decision-making grid followed by some scenarios:
Click to enlarge
Scenario: Original post gets little search traffic
Redirect the old post to the new post and follow this checklist:
- Create a new title: No.
- 301 redirect of the 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 “By Popular Demand” in the cover image: Yes.
We republished this piece by Ann Gynn even though it didn’t attract much search traffic and didn’t perform as well as expected when it ran in 2017. The advice was still solid and timely for the CMI audience.
In 2018, we ran it the first weekday after Content Marketing World 2018 and redirected the original post. The new version, which included an editor’s note and “By Popular Demand” in the image, outperformed the original. (Note: We deviated slightly from our documented process by updating the title.)
Scenario: Original post gets a lot of search traffic
With posts that attract a lot of search traffic, we tread lightly to avoid negative effects. We typically create a new post with minimal updates (or none at all).
Here is the checklist 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.
- Include “By Popular Demand” in the new cover image: Yes.
In our original piece about republishing, Michele shared this article, Editorial Calendar Tips, Tools, and Templates, as an example for original posts with a lot of search traffic.
We republished an updated version of Jodi’s piece in 2016. In 2017, we republished another updated version, incorporating “Back by Popular Demand” in the cover image, a new title, and an editor’s note pointing out that previous versions ran in earlier years.
Scenario: New post with redirect from original but outmoded post that still gets search traffic
We treat our guidelines as just that – a way to guide our thinking. We occasionally vary from the documented path when we think it helps our readers.
For example, we found a 2012 article that ranked for the term “content calendar” and attracted a lot of visitors but didn’t reflect our current standards for depth, practical advice, etc.
I wrote a new content calendar article and redirected the original, outmoded post. We could have left the old post live, hoping the new one would overtake it. But we felt it just didn’t serve readers to keep it.
As we find older posts that attract search traffic but no longer meet our audience’s needs today, we’ll continue to replace them.
Scenario: New post on theme of popular original post
Though this scenario isn’t republishing, I include it because it is an option to consider when evaluating which articles to republish. I put it in the category of ideas to steal from yourself. It reminds us to build on content ideas our audience loved in the past.
When we write new posts using the central conceit of a popular older post, we don’t label it as an updated version (i.e., Back by Popular Demand). But we give a nod to the original piece in the new text.
Here is the checklist for 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 or add a Handpicked Related Content box to point to the new article.
- 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.
We ran this Stephanie Stahl article filled with great storytelling examples in 2018.
Its popularity led me to write a new post with more examples. I used the format of Stephanie’s headline because it worked:
What about duplicate content?
We sometimes keep an older post live even when we republish an updated version. That raises the inevitable question: Don’t you worry about duplicate content penalties?
Our SEO consultant feels that ContentMarketingInstitute.com is such a big site that the amount of truly duplicate content is small enough that it won’t matter. And some SEO experts say all the concern about duplicate content is largely misplaced anyway.
What’s your take?
I’d love to hear from you. Do you notice when we republish content? How do you handle republishing and updating blog posts?
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute