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:
- 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!
- 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’.
- 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?