9 Ways To Reclaim Your Breakthrough Content Ideas From Old Posts

Content Ideas Header Ever play 20 questions? This is like that. Just with fewer questions. If you’ve written a blog post, something must have inspired you to do it—love of the topic. Looming deadline. Desire to grow traffic. It could be anything. Have you really poked and prodded those old posts, though, and seen if there was more you could squeeze out of them? Much of the time we write a post and think, “There, I wrote about that topic. Done!” and move on to looking for a new idea. We talk a lot about reworking and repurposing content, but maybe you need a mechanism to help prompt you to see your old blog posts in a new light. Find your favorite blog posts, and let’s go through some questions about them. Time to kick off the dust and see what new content ideas are lurking in your old blog posts.

9 Ways To Create Outstanding New Content From Old Posts via @JulieNeidlinger

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Content ideas question one

Question #1: Was Your Post A Good Idea?

You may have loved writing the post, but did it get the traffic and traction you’d hoped for? Did people comment and share it on social media? Are you looking at your CoSchedule dashboard and seeing dismal stats? If the post seems to have bombed, it doesn’t mean the topic was bad, but that your idea was the wrong approach. Or, it might mean that your traffic back when you wrote the post was smaller than it is now, and your new audience might not even know it exists.

If a post bombed, there is a lot to learn from it for new content ideas. #bloggingtips

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Answer: Yes, it was. People loved it.

Perhaps your post was highly successful in all the usual measurements, getting:
  • High traffic
  • Lots of social shares
  • Plenty of social proof
  • Active comments section
  • Several bloggers linking in from their own blog posts
If that’s the case, good job. But keep reading this post. You're still not done with that idea even if your initial post was successful the first go-around.
Action: Go to the next question.

Answer: No, it really wasn’t.

If your post just didn’t seem to work the first time around, great news: Not that many people apparently saw it! You can rework the post entirely, and bring that topic back to the top of the pile. For those readers who might stumble on your old post, use a 301 redirect (not a canonical redirect, which is for search engines) to send your readers to the new one. You keep whatever traffic that old one may have received and funnel it to the new post. If you’re worried about using a 301 redirect, don’t be. It isn’t going to hurt you very much. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, you’ll lose only a “tiny little bit” if you use this technique.

Don’t dwell on the old post. Point people to the new content you’re about to create.
Action: Move on to question #2.
Content ideas question two

Question #2: Do You Have More You Want To Say?

As much as you may have written in that first post, are you dying to talk more about it? I know I have my favorite topics that I like to write about, and each time I sit down to write about them, new ideas pop into my head. Often, we can talk about a topic repeatedly because:
  1. There are changes or updates that affect the original take on the topic.
  2. You’ve learned some additional information.
  3. You’ve changed your mind.
  4. Reader feedback has made it clear you need to flesh out more of the topic.
  5. You feel like you just want to write more, or could say it differently.
Take a look at your favorite posts, especially your older posts. Do these five criteria fit?

Answer: Yes, I could definitely talk more about it.

This is the best place to be. Not only do you have a foundational post to refer to when you write about that same topic, but you also have reader feedback and reaction to respond and refer to as well.
Action: Move on to the next question, or write the new post.

Answer: No, I’m done talking about it.

If you feel like you’ve written the pants off of that topic, you probably won’t get much more out of trying now. I’d encourage you to use your editorial calendar, though, and add a note in six months or a year to revisit that old post. You might have more to say about it then, even if only to point out how that topic hasn’t changed for you.
Action: Add a note to your calendar, and see question #9.
content ideas for reader benefits and more coverage

Question #3: Is It A Topic That Readers Could Benefit From More Coverage?

Whether you want to write more on it or not, your readers may need you to. You’ll know if readers want more coverage by how and what they’re saying on social media (in response to that post) or in the blog comments section.

Answer: Yes, readers seem to want to know more.

More than once we’ve written blog posts that respond directly to comments readers have made on this blog. Comments that lend well to additional blog posts follow a general pattern.
  • I don’t understand.
  • I disagree, and here’s why.
  • I don’t think this would work for me.
  • Here’s my specific situation. Would this work for me?
  • This is so helpful. I especially like the part about _____.
New blog posts on that topic will explain what readers didn’t understand. They might show how to use an idea in several real-world scenarios so readers can identify better with how it applies to them. And, when someone picks out a part they really like...that’s a gold mine. Go into more detail.
Action: Move on to the next question, or write the new post. Contact readers directly (like I did for this post) and ask them more questions about their comments to get even more ideas.

Answer: No, there isn’t much interest.

If people didn’t share the post much and readers didn’t seem to respond much, or only responded “great post!” it’s time to reconsider the original idea.
Action: Head back to question #1.
content ideas question four

Question #4: Could You Write About It In A Different Style?

There are two styles at work in every post: your writing style, and your readers' learning styles. This provides you a huge variety of ways to write blog posts based on the same ideas. You may prefer to write in the style(s) of:
  • Teacher
  • Insider
  • Outsider
  • Expert
  • Newbie
  • Observer
  • Cryptographer
  • Convincer
Your reader may prefer content that fits their propensity for:
  • Visual learning
  • Numbers and data
  • Lots of text
  • Social references (quotes, links, etc.)
Action: Write the post or head on to the next question.

Answer: Yes, I could mix it up a bit.

You’ll naturally have one you prefer to write as, but you can force yourself to take a different style. Take your topic idea. Choose a different writing style. Wrap your head around what that will sound like. Then choose a learning style. For example, you may write as if you were a newbie relying on lots of text. The next time, you might write as an expert using lots of data.
Action: Move on to the next question, or write the new post.

Answer: No, I really prefer to write in my strengths.

You know what? That’s perfectly fine. Writing is enough work without writing in weaknesses. If you don’t think you can write about the topic from a different approach, don’t worry about it. You have every right to maintain a consistent tone and style on your blog.
Action: Move to question #7.
content ideas from re-editing posts

Question #5: Could You Re-Edit It And Clean It Up?

Sometimes those older posts are pretty good structurally, but they need some cleaning up. This is especially true for those massive lists of links that are such great attention-getters (“100 Best Apps For Finding Great Restaurants!”) but that age poorly.

Answer: Yes, with some clean-up that post is still viable.

When it comes to cleaning up a post, your focus should be on:
  • Improving writing and grammar. (Yes, you’ve gotten better as a writer since then.)
  • Finding and removing or replacing dead links.
  • Updating references and data to reflect the current state of affairs. (e.g. “guest blog like crazy!” to “Matt Cutts said guest blogging is dead!”)
  • Redoing images to fit a more current look. Remove any that might be guilty of copyright infringement. Canva and other free blog graphics tools might not have been around when you wrote the original, but they are now!
  • Adding expertise you’ve gained since you wrote the original post.
You could rewrite the post but keep it similar in approach. Or, you could reference that old post and talk about how things have changed since then.
Action: Clean up that old post, repackage it for now, and publish it new. Use a 301 redirect if the posts are highly similar. Move on to the next question.

Answer: No, that post is a dog and no cleanup will help.

Fair enough.
Action: If the post is really bad, use the 301 redirect technique of question #1 to point it to a newer and related post on your blog (if you have one). Move on to question #9.
content ideas question six

Question #6: Could You Break It Into Pieces?

If you’re doing long form posts, especially, you probably have a lot of content there that you couldn’t go into the greatest detail because, you know, 3,000 words.

Breaking your original blog post into pieces means you can do that deep dive and turn one blog post into five.

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Answer: Yes, I could go into more detail.

By breaking your blog post into detailed parts, you have the potential for creating a powerful series of content. That can be used in email autoresponder courses to help generate email sign-ups. It can be used as an ebook later. Hopefully you used a good outline and headings, because that will help in breaking up your post logically.
  • Headings: Your headings and subheadings might be the basis for an expandable blog post.
  • Numbered items: Your numbered items within that body content might be the basis for a list post.
  • Questions: If you write and use questions in your body copy, find them. Can answering those questions be a post of its own?
  • Data: Any place you have data, charts, case study information, etc. is a possible opportunity to expand and explain how and why. In long posts, data is often used as a proof. Going into detail is when you explain how you arrived at that data in the first place.
Action: Write your new posts or head on to the next question.

Answer: No, I don’t have any more detail to share.

Perhaps the post was poorly structured, rambled, or carried all the detail you could possibly extract on the subject. Either way, it doesn’t seem a fit candidate for divvying up into smaller parts.
Action: Move on to question #9.
content ideas question seven

Question #7: Could You Write About The Post Itself?

We all like a little behind the scenes. If you have a post that was successful or got a lot of buzz, would you be willing to talk about that experience? This is particularly valuable if you are in the content marketing niche. Other content marketers like to find out how you create your content.

Answer: Heck yes, I’d love to share the experience.

Pulling back the curtain to reveal what happened behind the scenes of a popular old post makes for a great story. In this type of approach, you’ll reveal:
  • Your ideation, writing, and editing process.
  • Social, comment, and direct email responses from readers (generalized, to protect their privacy).
  • The struggles, laughs, and raging deadlines you had.
  • Your reaction when the post became popular.
  • What you learned from the experience.
The last one, summarizing what you learned, is a very popular blog post approach. How many headlines have you seen that say “I did ____ and this is what I learned.”
Action: Write the post, or move on to the next question.

Answer: No. I don’t think anyone would care.

I have just the site for you: Click here. Even if you don’t have a viral post or some massive 8th Wonder Of The Blogging World, your readers are probably still curious about how you work. But, if you insist no one would be interested, OK.
Action: Move on to question #9.
content ideas question eight

Question #8: Could You Rewrite It As A Guest Post?

You’ve done the research and the work. Why wouldn’t you extend it as a guest post? Guest blogging is still a fantastic way to take your content and get it in front of new readers.

Answer: Yes, I’m into guest posts and this would work.

The first thing you have to do is make certain that what you will be writing will fit the host blog’s guidelines. If they want only previously unpublished posts, you’ll need to rework it significantly so that your old post is not the same as the new one. Secondly, you’ll want to write your guest post to fit the host blog’s audience. It might not be the exact same as yours as far as their learning style or how the host blog wants posts written.
Action: Write the post by reviewing question #6. Or, move on to the next question.

Answer: No, I don’t do guest posts.

That’s fine. Not everyone does.
Action: Move on to question #9.
content ideas question nine

Question #9: Can You Turn It Into A Different Format Entirely?

If you absolutely cannot write on a topic again, you’re still not off the hook. It’s now time to repurpose your blog posts. You have reached the point where you need to see your written content as visual content, or send it elsewhere to keep doing some work for you. This means you’ll take your blog post and turn it into:
  • Infographics
  • Slide decks
  • Social sharing graphics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks
  • Webinars
  • Syndication
  • Email autoresponder course
  • Printable worksheets
That list is by no means definitive. There are many ways to repurpose content forms.

Answer: Yes, this post would work well in a different format.

Each blog post has an ideal repurposed format, depending on the type of post it is. We’ve identified 10 easy blog post approaches in the past, but there are so many more.
  1. Data: Blog posts with lots of data will do well as infographics, ebooks, and slide decks.
  2. How-to: Blog posts that are written as how-to posts will do well as videos, slide decks, webinars, email courses, and ebooks.
  3. Interviews: Blog posts that are interviews will do well as social graphics, with the best quotes pulled from the post for each graphic you create. If you can get the original interviewee back, a podcast would work, too.
  4. Lists: Blog posts that are lists do well as social graphics if the list items are memorable (one item per graphic). They also make great slide decks.
  5. Case studies: Case studies are great topics of conversation in a podcast or video.
  6. Stories: Blog posts heavy on narrative and “what I learned” work well as podcasts, ebooks, and videos.
  7. Reviews: Blog posts that review products or services often have a shorter shelf life and aren’t as evergreen. Used quickly enough while still relevant, they make a great video (especially if you demo the product). Updates on an earlier review are always possible.
  8. Checklists: These types of blog posts work well with ebooks, infographics, and worksheets.
See what you can make of your post. By creating these alternate forms of your written content, you’re pointing people back to the original post in a new way.

Answer: No, I’m done.

Time to get started brainstorming and find brand new ideas. You’ve worn out the idea and squeezed the last drop of content out of it. Good job! Don't forget to get your own map of these questions to simply

How To Turn Your Old Blog Posts Into Amazing #NewContent Ideas

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About the Author

Julie R. Neidlinger is a writer, artist, and pilot from North Dakota. She has been blogging since 2002 at her Lone Prairie blog, and works as a freelance writer and visual artist.