Content Recycling

How content recycling works: more content, less effort

When it comes to planning content, we usually think of brand new ideas. The content archive is usually overlooked. That's a shame, because your existing posts offers various opportunities to create fresh content with a manageable amount of effort. How exactly does content recycling work and what do you need to pay attention to? I'll explain that in this article.

Whether we're talking about your website, your social media channels or your email newsletter, they all benefit from fresh content. Because if you want to establish yourself in the minds of your own customers and target groups, you have to appear regularly. However, this becomes a challenge when it is just one task among many and resources are limited.

At the same time, it is no longer enough to simply have a presence. There is far too much information and entertainment on the web. So you need interesting, relevant, well-made, useful content. But where should it come from?

Currently, the answer is often: Let the AI do it! Write a detailed prompt, add a few basic details and a few seconds later you have another article. Sounds good and I regularly try out tools like this. However, the quality of the results usually doesn't convince me. The texts are interchangeable and anemic. They lack personality or a special perspective.

I see the current generation of AI tools primarily as assistants. Then they can be very valuable. I'll come back to ChatGPT & Co. below. For an introduction to the topic of AI texts, you can read my series of articles on the subject:

Another option for efficient content marketing goes by the name of "content recycling". There are other terms such as content reuse, refresh or upgrade, which all mean something similar: How can I reuse existing content for my content pipeline?

Content recycling: the possibilities

Let's first take a closer look at what can fall under the term content recycling.

Update and revise

In the simplest form of content recycling, you take an existing post and bring it up to date - both in terms of content and style. For example, the tone of your content may have changed in the meantime. Perhaps you have even switched from "you" to "you" or vice versa.

With a little mental distance, you are also much more likely to notice where you should add more information or which parts of your content are not as successful and clear as they could be.

Upgrade and expand

If a piece of content has already shown that it is well received by your target groups and the topic is important to you, then you can expand on it in a targeted manner. Could you explain an important term in more detail in an info box? Would it be good to visualize a statement with a graphic or a video? Would you like to offer a checklist as a PDF for download?

These and other additions can take an already good post to the next level. And this can have a noticeable effect on your search engine rankings: Google & Co. often appreciate it when websites keep their content up to date and improve it.

Such content also has a major advantage over a completely new post: it has already collected backlinks and reactions on the social web. So it is not starting from scratch.

Adjust the date of the contribution

If you edit and expand content more extensively, it's a good idea to update the date of the post as well. This signals to both your readership and search engines that it is up to date. Simply changing the date without improving the post, on the other hand, does nothing for SEO.

Develop further content

Do you already have a successful post or content? Then you can build on it. One option, for example, is to explain individual points from it in more detail in another post. Or you may find that the special format of this content is well received and use it as a template for further publications.

An example: You describe something step by step in a how-to article and illustrate it with suitable screenshots. If you find that this form of presentation is popular, you can transfer it to other topics. This way, you already have a template and the second article in the same format will usually be easier for you. Or you can delegate this task to another person.

Splitting extensive content

Maybe you've gone to the trouble of creating a white paper or even an e-book. See our examples here. You may have recorded an explanatory video. Then think about whether you can split this extensive content into several small pieces. For example, the e-book could become a blog series or highlights from the explanatory video on YouTube could become "shorts".

The important thing here is that this new, smaller content still stands on its own. They must therefore be useful and helpful even if you are not (yet) familiar with the comprehensive article.

Merge smaller content and texts

Merging is more common than splitting. For example, you may find that you have already created several blog posts on an important overarching topic - why not collect them in an e-book and offer them for download? Or how about an email series on the topic?

Here you just have to make sure that the individual pieces of content also work well as a collection. Pay attention to content repetitions and duplications, for example, as well as the logical structure. You may therefore need to adapt the content once and add transitions so that the end product looks like a unified whole.

It may therefore require additional effort. However, this is still less than if you had to create everything from scratch.

Convert content

This point is what is mainly understood by content recycling: How can you prepare existing content for other channels and platforms? Here are some concrete examples:

  • You take your YouTube video and publish the audio track as a podcast and the transcript ends up as a post on your blog.
  • The most interesting tips and facts from a guidebook article become Instagram Stories.
  • You post the ten most important findings in small bites in threads.
  • A graphic from the text also ends up on Pinterest.

It is important that you prepare this new piece of content in a way that is suitable for the platform. So take a look at which format works particularly well. An extreme example: You will certainly choose different formats for TikTok and LinkedIn .

Content recycling step by step

In order to repurpose existing content in this way, you first set out to find suitable candidates with a content audit. As part of this, you record all content as completely as possible and assess whether you want to keep, improve or delete it. For example, you look at how many views the content generates and what role it plays on your website.

Even content that doesn't have many views can be important because it brings in a particularly large number of new subscribers to your newsletter. So take a close look at the evaluation.

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With this information in mind, take the ideas presented here and consider which content is suitable for recycling in the next step. Another tip: make sure to include the review of existing content in your regular to-dos, as well as the planning of new content.

AI tools for content recycling

As mentioned at the beginning, ChatGPT, Google Gemini, Claude and others are not yet ready to make human writers generally superfluous. But they are already useful as assistants - especially when it comes to content recycling. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Submit your detailed post to ChatGPT and ask the AI to pick out the most important statements from the text and formulate them as social media posts
  • Let the AI write a summary or teaser for your newsletter
  • Ask the AI what thematic gaps it sees or what other elements you could add to improve a post

AI tools may only be creative to a limited extent. Some would argue that they have no creativity of their own at all. But regardless of this debate, they can stimulate your creativity. At least that's what they've done for me.

Other content recycling tasks can also be transferred to AI tools. Text-to-audio tools, for example, have become much better. Unfortunately, the particularly good and natural voices are often only available for English. In German, it sounds as artificial and robotic as ever. But it's only a matter of time before the offerings here improve. Examples of this are PlayHT and ElevenLabs.

Is content recycling worthwhile?

Anyone hoping that content recycling will increase the number of content hits is often disappointed: even if you build on an existing piece, you still have to do some work. My examples above have certainly shown that. 

Updating, expanding or converting content to a new format still takes time. It is possible that it will be faster than if you start from scratch. After all, you already have the source material. But that shouldn't be your only motivation.

In fact, content recycling has other advantages:

  1. Your content archive remains fresh, up-to-date and relevant. If you ignore your existing content, it will become outdated over time. It will then be outdated in terms of content or no longer suit you in terms of style and approach. This is a problem because every piece of content can potentially be the first contact a person has with you and your company. In other words, every piece of content is also a landing page.
  2. The old content has already shown that it suits you and your target groups in terms of content. So you already know that it's worth working on. That alone is very valuable, even if content creation doesn't become significantly faster.
  3. You save yourself the effort of brainstorming and conception. This effort is often underestimated. After all, creating content is not just about writing the text or recording the video. You first have to decide which topic you want to tackle and how. In this case, you have already done this work and can build on it once again with content recycling.
  4. It helps you with other tasks such as social media marketing and email marketing. This is especially true when you create further variants and formats for different channels and platforms from one piece of content. So you see your post as the starting point for a whole series of publications: an article on the website, several posts on Instagram, a series in the email newsletter, etc.

In this article, I have mainly talked about how you can apply the concept of content recycling to existing content. But there's another site side to the coin: planning for it from the outset. In other words, before you even start creating content, think about how you can still use it.

In this way, you take a proactive approach to your content planning and ensure that you get the best out of a single idea. In my experience, it is much easier to plan and implement content recycling straight away than to have to think about a topic again months later.

Your questions about content recycling

What questions do you have about content recycling? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about new posts on the topic of online marketing? Then follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

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