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The Why and How on Repeating Content on Your Blog

Many bloggers come to a point in their blogging after they’ve been at it for a sustained period of time where they need to make a decision about repeating content and posting on topics they’ve already covered. Here’s a recent question from a reader who wished to remain anonymous:

“I would like to get your opinion about content repetition. When you have an audience that is always changing, it would seem that you would need to cover some content again. I realize that basic information can be linked to static pages but otherwise, what kind of rule do you have to regulate content repetition.”

This is the type of question that many bloggers come up against after they’ve been blogging for a while. It arises out of a number of realizations including:

1. Running out of new things to say – in some niches a blogger gets to a point where they realize that they have begun to exhaust their own expertise on their blog. This is particularly common on ‘how to’ type blogs (it’s easier to keep fresh content coming on a ‘news’ related blog where there is always a breaking story.

2. On blogs with a high rate of attracting new readers – as is mentioned in the question above – when you have a blog that is constantly visited by new readers it can be a challenge to direct them to content that will help them that you’ve already covered.

As a result of these two situations bloggers come to a point where they are faced with the choice of covering topics that they’ve already posted about on their blog.

For some bloggers this is a big hurdle to overcome on a number of levels:

  • guilt – some bloggers feel guilty about it and feel like they’re somehow cheating or short changing readers.
  • boredom – others find that going over ground that they’ve already covered can lead to them as bloggers getting bored and feeling un-stimulated.
  • reader expectations – Some longer term readers will react negatively to these ‘repeated’ topics.

So what’s a blogger to do about Repeating Content?

I am sure that different bloggers will settle on different approaches when it comes to repeating topics on a blog (and I’d love to hear some of these in comments below).

My own approach is that I definitely do go over old ground on my blogs.

The way I justify this (if it needs to be justified) is:

1. As my blogs attract a lot of new readers I feel that repeating some of the basics is actually doing a service to those new readers.

2. I am constantly learning more about the topics that I blog about and as a result my own ideas and knowledge is growing. While I cover the same ground as I have previously I do try to add extra value and updates on what I’ve been learning for longer term readers. In a sense I see repeating topics as a way of updating my blog.

Alternatives for Repeating Topics:

There are a number of ways that a blogger can go about repeating past topics on their blog. Here are a few that I’ve done:

  1. Repost Old Posts as Fresh Posts – this is what I do on Digital Photography School. In these cases I occasionally will go back to old posts and rewrite or update them and then change the date of publishing the post to the current date so that it appears to readers as a new post. This means that any outdated information on the post can be removed and that you can actually get a little extra search engine juice to the old post as it is appearing on your front page again. Important Note: this only really works if you have a permalink structure that doesn’t change depending upon the date that you publish the post on!
  2. Update Old Posts and Announce the Changes in a New Post – if you have an old post that is dated or now inaccurate there’s nothing wrong (in my mind) with going back to that post and reediting it. If you don’t want to republish it as a new post simply write a new post with a link back to the old one saying that you’ve updated it. This drives people back to the old post. When making changes to old posts I would usually highlight where on the post I’ve made updates so that readers are aware that what they are reading is ‘fresh’.
  3. Write a 2nd Post – this is generally what I do here on ProBlogger. My approach with this is to tackle the topic afresh as though I’d not written the first post (in many cases I don’t even look at what I’ve previously written until I’ve finished the new post as I don’t want to simply repeat it word for word). I attempt to find a new way to approach the topic, new insights, new examples and even write it in a different style/voice.

A Few Other Tips on Repeating Content

  • Mix it Up – whichever method you decide to use to repeat topics I would strongly advise that you mix the ‘repeated’ content up with fresh content. Don’t make every post that you do a rehashed version of an old post but give your longer term readers fresh content and topics also.
  • Guest Posts – another way to bring freshness to things that you’ve already covered is to use guest posters to cover the old ground. I’ve done this recently on DPS and it’s worked really well. For starters it means I don’t get bored by covering ground I’ve already covered but it also brings freshness from a reader perspective.
  • Highlight Key Posts for New Readers – one of the reasons some bloggers feel obligated to cover old ground is that new readers keep asking them questions about things they’ve already covered. One way to combat this problem is to create prominent gateways back to key content that you’ve already covered. Link back in your sidebar or navigation area to ‘best posts’ or ‘beginner’ content so that new readers have ways of finding the key things that they need.
  • Acknowledge The Reader Life Cycle – it is a difficult thing to hear that a reader has decided to stop reading your blog because they don’t find it as useful as it once was and that you keep repeating ‘old stuff’. What I’ve come to realize is that most blog readers have a ‘life cycle’ and in many cases will grow out of your blog (particularly if your blog is a ‘how to’ type blog. They come to you as beginners and lap up everything that you write about but in time they learn and grow. They might lose interest in your topic or simply become proficient in it (partly due to your helping them). At some point they realize that they don’t need your blog as much as they used to and begin to ‘move on’. This can be hard to watch as a blogger – but it is actually natural and not worth beating yourself up about. Sure – do keep trying to connect with your long term readers but at some point don’t be surprised if they move on.

Do you repeat content? If so, how do you do it?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Philip Voice says:

    Hi Darren

    I am faced with a lot of the problems that you detail above.
    Horticulture has so many topics I know I will not fall short of a new angle or theme.

    I will however get to the limit of my knowledge, experience and skill set at times.

    The dilemma I am faced with at the moment is that I have started a new garden network and a lot of my material on my main blog is relevant.

    However, I do not want to cut and paste it and to wade through over a thousand posts and re-write them or even just a one line pointing post is really tricky.

    I know that in time, a lot of the subjects I have covered will appear from expert sources on the network but it will take a lot of time.

    I just wish I had the network facility on the main blog when I first started!

  2. Shanel Yang says:

    It’s a bit unconventional but I am adding up to 20 or so links at the end of each of my posts that I think the readers might find interesting — most of them are closely related to the post but not always. It’s labor intensive but if it helps the readers, I’m happy to do it. It seems to be working to b/c page hits have doubled since I started updated each of my posts like this over the weekend. E-mazing! Guess they found my “Archives” too cumbersome. I don’t blame them. : )

  3. My blog has a few ideas that are really key to the blog and as such always need reiterating.

    To do this I try to cover them from slightly different angles and provide links back to the older posts covering them in other ways.

    This provides a new way for existing readers to understand the topic and gives important information to new readers.

    Currently I haven’t had to do this much but that is my approach.

  4. writer dad says:

    Stories have been told and retold since long before Homer was singing “The Odyssey.” As long as we deliver the information in a new and meaningful way, it will be well received. If we just rehash, then we’ll be rightfully called on it.

  5. writer dad, great point. I totally agree.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I know I repeat content, and sometimes I even check to see how long it’s been since I last said something on a particular topic to make sure I’m not repeating myself too much. But sometimes old content is where inspiration strikes.

    I just try to make sure the perspective is fresh. Maybe a new resource, maybe a new tactic, whatever it is that is making me think on that topic again.

  7. sirj says:

    I’m hoping this will save my site, as skateboarding news fluctuates on a week to week basis.

  8. Home Biss says:

    Darren,

    You really know a lot about blogging. Your knowledge, experience and passion are incredible!

    Thanks for making me feel that I’m not wasting my time with blogging.

  9. XIII says:

    Depends on the subject. With regard to blogging about blogging; what’s new and hot today could be bad practice a year from now. So I guess it depends on relevance.
    Personally I hate blogs that just regurgitate.

  10. Blake says:

    Interesting ideas, though I’m still in the beginning stage of my blog. I find that most of my new content is more valuable than the older content, so I’d rather just give new content. I do, however, try to include links back to older posts when those older posts are relevant to the current topic.

  11. Dmitry says:

    I think repeating content is actually a really good idea in some cases. If you post valuable thoughts, ideas and concepts on your blog, following up on those posts with updated information, different angles or just fresh content keeps those ideas in the air and growing further — which in turns adds more value to your blog, and more important, you as the author.

  12. Mike Nichols says:

    Darren, your post is very timely for me. I have a lot of static “Resource” material, and there’s quite a bit of important information buried in it that I know my readers don’t see.

    I’m thinking of excerpting some of this information as new posts. For example, I have a 5,000 word article on Panic Attacks that includes suggestions for self-help when you do have one. I could excerpt those suggestions into a new post that would be of interest to many readers.

    I have to keep reminding myself that many of my readers are new, and have not read my Resource material like their rich uncle’s will!

    Thanks again for a thoughtful, valuable post!

  13. I haven’t been doing this long enough to have this issue just yet but I feel I’ll be in the, “repeat when necessary” side of things. It’s not only good for the new readers but it’s often important for a refresher now and again as well. Great post once again!

  14. Dana says:

    One thing I think you neglected that I believe I first read here on Problogger is that sometimes, readers enjoy rereading an old post that is very good. Goodness…even Rush has his “Thanksgiving Address” which doesn’t vary much from year to year so far as I know.

    I do it more with holiday related posts, or if I am going to be away I will sometimes let readers know that the week I’m gone will be a sort of “best of” week. Those who want to re-read can, but there will be fresh content up for anyone who is “just passing through.”

  15. Kelly says:

    Yep. I think it has to be done. I struggle because I problog for other people in the same/similar field and want to post similar content for them that is relevant. I’ve had to strive for full transparency. I don’t want them to stumble upon a similar post and squeal “not original!”. If I need/want to repeat content from one blog to another, I ask permission and let them each see the other’s post (slightly changed) before publishing.

    I will definitely rewrite content for my own blog. I would probably rarely just repost the identical post but update it (and that is likely the reason for reposting anyway).

    Thanks Darren!

    Kelly

  16. Thanks for your insight and suggestions Darren. This is an area I’ve had lots of trouble with in the past, and I’ll definitely be putting these ideas to use in the future.

    I’m one of those “How-To” bloggers most of the time.

  17. Andre Kibbe says:

    You might want to try looking at your old posts and seeing if there’s an ommission in the content that can be expanded into a new post.

    For instance, if you have a list article with the top 10 whatever, but during the writing you actually thought of 11 items (or realize a new item in retrospect), you can either use that to kick off a “10 More” post, or write a post based entirely on the one item, assuming there’s enough detail to mine from it to merit a post of its own.

  18. moneymanager says:

    well
    darren don’t they say,older the wine is , tastier it becomes,
    thought provoking article,although i am yet to start serious blogging, but what i get from your article is that every topic irrespective will always have something new to add. due to the dynamic nature of the medium,
    so got to see the thin line

  19. Davina says:

    I’ve only been blogging for about 8 weeks so I haven’t repeated content yet. I have just finished a post (not live yet), where I have linked back to a couple of older posts to highlight the point I’ve made. I could see myself visiting older posts in the future and rewriting them using a different perspective. I love editing and proofreading so this actually comes naturally.

    One neat idea that just came to me could be to trade posts with a fellow blogger. You write about one of their older topics in a new voice and vice versa.

  20. Certain types of repeated content are extremely useful. I’ve jotted down a bunch of things on my calendar to repeat each one of them once a month:

    * The top 10 most frequent posters. I make a custom-locked post just for them.
    * The top 10 topics. This helps me track what I’m actually writing about the most, vs. what I plan to write or readers request.
    * Pimp-A-Friend: I pick a different friend each time, and explain why everyone should be reading their blog; but the header text stays the same.
    * Favorite Community: Again, I feature a different one each time, with the same header text.

    The most successful communities I frequent also have cyclic posts. One welcomes new members and posts the com’s rules and usage guidelines once a week; it’s a high-influx community. That one has also posted writing prompts, calls for critiques, and “What have you written this week?” posts on a weekly basis. On my blog “Gore’s Challenge,” one of my repeating posts is, “What have you accomplished toward making America’s energy 100% renewable?”

    Basically, repeating content should speak to the core theme of the blog, track important information, and/or deal with things that change rapidly.

  21. Kent says:

    Thanks for this post… this could help me a lot, especially for beginners like me.. I don’t know what to be done of having a good content in my blog, thus, repeating content is one of the things to do in attracting readers to view and read my blog.

  22. Alex Fayle says:

    I’ve just relaunched my blog and have two years of useful archives in a second blog. I’m considering doing a weekly “a year ago” and “two years ago” on Saturdays and Sundays (days I don’t usually post).

  23. Thanks for this post Darren. I have ‘sneaked’ in a few past articles from my newsletter onto the blog when there hasn’t been time to write anything new – and felt guilty about it! After reading your post I feel a lot better about doing that.

    I also find your comment about the ‘life cycle’ of a reader a timely reminder that people move on when they outgrow the information available. This could really raise the bar in terms of content!

  24. Sire says:

    I do not repeat the same post on a particular blog but as I run several blogs I will post them on other blogs, making sure to change keywords etc to get the best SEO benefits on each post. Many a time I can revisit old posts because new information has arisen and on these occasions I link to the old post rather that with the new information.

  25. If you feel guilty, you could always ask your readers if they would like old content highlighted/rewritten.

    I get asked similar questions all the time from new readers who have not been through the archives so it should work for me. Cheers Darren.

  26. Chris says:

    I’m just looking at this exact problem right now – I have a group product review page that could do with updating to include some newly released items.

    My intention is to refresh the original post and change the published date to bring it to the front page again (my permalinks fortunately allow this).

    I don’t see a problem with this – it brings the new information to the front of the blog to hopefully be seen by new visitors, keeps all of the backlinks that have built up over time so search engine visitors are more likely to find it, and saves repeating largely similar chunks of information.

    The only problem I can see is where it renders comments invalid – if someone has commented on a part of the post that is no longer there it might raise some awkward questions from newer visitors. In that case I’d craft a new post and refer to the old.

  27. Paula says:

    I really like the idea of changing the date to bring the content back to the forefront of your blog. I guess if a blogger does feel a bit guilty doing this they could always indicate at the beginning of the post that it is updated content.

  28. L-Jay says:

    I think a perfect way to repeat without repeating is to have a ‘featured’ post section. This way new readers will have a chance to ‘dive’ into your website. A lot of my content is ‘evergreen’ so when I build up my blog (as it is brand spanking new!) I will find a ‘random featured post’ type plug-in that will cycle through my older posts.

    BTW – does anyone know of a good ‘random featured post type plug-in’ that I can look at? lol.

  29. vekin says:

    Hi!

    I really appreciate that you cover this topic. I was always concern that one day I would run out of resource and had to stop. Even though I still don’t want to “re-post” the topic, at least you shake me out of guilt of “repeating” the topic. Thanks!!

  30. Dollface says:

    My blog is fairly new, so I have not yet come across this problem. However, in the future, I imagine that I would merely write about another facet of a topic if I ran out of things to write about. For example, my blog is mostly about current events & women’s issues. So if I write a post about abortion, in the future I might invite someone with a different viewpoint on the subject to post an article, or I would focus on a different (but related) aspect like adoption, stem cell research, etc.

    Thanks for the post!

  31. Hi, Darren!
    Great post and very useful tips.
    I do the same with my blog. I like to update old posts. I rewrite them and refresh them.

  32. Darren,

    I always appreciate your knowledge in areas that frustrate me at times. Though I’m not a professional blogger only a full time business marketer and own an advertising agency, I too have a hard time not wanting to duplicate my posts and trying to find good quality items to blog about.

    Thanks for your tips, I have you on my blog list now.

    Patrick Sheffler
    PS Millionaire Mentor

  33. Nicole says:

    I like your 2nd and 3rd option. Updating an old post may be a good way to help new readers while also giving the long term readers a little “refresher” on that old post because we cannot kid ourselves here….who would remember every single post on a blog? At least, that’s why I can understand how your “2nd post” option and updates can work well.

    Now, even though I agree with your options on how to handle old posts, I get pretty lazy with my blog and would probably just take a few days to go through it and add links to the older posts when writing newer posts that are related to the topic in some way. In this scenario, the new readers can find out what they didn’t know already by following the links in the new posts and the longtime readers will still have something fresh.

  34. eunice says:

    I was rather silly; when I first started to blog in early this year, I published 100 over posts (all painstakingly done with lots of travel photos and own travel stories) but I didn’t market them, until I realised a traffic surge to a particular topic that I posted (Sichuan Earthquake). Only then, I began to interact with other bloggers and more visit my blog and leave comments.

    I always wanted to repost the older 100 over posts that have no comments at all but have been hesitating to do so like what you have mentioned in your post. Now I think I know what to do. Thank you very much! =)

  35. Bonie says:

    thats my big problem too :(

  36. Keral Patel says:

    I do have this problem as most of the topics I had already covered in early stages of my blog. So I am sometimes writing part 2 of the posts and extending some other knowledge that I gained in the meantime on those topics. If there is nothing that I can add on those topics then I try and rephrase the post and post it again for new comers who can benefit from reading those posts.

  37. My blog is becoming like a wiki, not because others can edit it, but because I link back to old posts all the time, if they’re relevant. Of course, as I learn more about my subjects (photography and personal development), I’ll have to do repeats covering certain topics in more detail, but I have plenty of ground left to cover and things to learn and write about.

  38. I manage an official product blog for AOL that balances new feature articles with answers to questions and steps on finding particular functions, and I come up with the same questions time and again.

    Our solution was to create a FAQ in our AOL support portal area that we link to in the Resources blogroll at the top of the site.

    The tool we use also tells us what people are searching for most, and that gives you an indication of the content saturation tolerance :)

    I also respond via comments or even direct emails.

    For a help-related blog like mine, overcommunication is probably safer in the long run. It’s definitely a challenge for the news-oriented site, however. I like how valleywag.com embeds static links for hot stories, and reuses graphics and headlines when old gossip gets fresh again on the same topic. That helps manage expectations.

  39. My blog is to young for this repeating content dillema, bt it certainly will grow up. Hope this tips will stay somewhere in my mind till that time)
    And I liked the idea about ‘ The Reader Life Cycle’, I have used to read very intresting and useful blogs, which then went out of my Google Reader

  40. Annie Wong says:

    Excellent topic and I think many bloggers including myself do that as a result of lack of time to look for content to blog. I always try to jot my ideas down for new topics when I run out as well as writing them before hand and save them as a draft before and when I run out of time I’ll just post the ones I’ve saved with minor changes.