Consider this scenario: you’re fighting off a bout of writer’s block when suddenly a great post idea pops into your head. You hit up Google to do a little research and discover that your idea has already been covered…in detail…by several bloggers. It’s been done to death.
With the wind now quickly deflating out of your blogging sails, do you give up and rack your brain for a new topic?
Nobody would blame you for doing so. The blogosphere constantly trumpets the “original content” tune. There’s no point in rehashing a topic and beating an already dead horse. Is there?
Sure, there is.
But isn’t that kind of, well, wrong?
Why? Because it’s unoriginal?
The Internet is full of unoriginal content. Try Googling “blog proofreading tips.” You’ll find dozens of articles offering proofreading advice. Nearly all of them cover the same seven or eight tips. Some posts offer a few unique perspectives, but in general, the blogosphere is saturated with proofreading advice.
While amazed by the number practically identical posts, I don’t hold any disdain for any of those bloggers. Do you think their regular readers complained much? I doubt it.
There are valid reasons to rehash content on your blog.
Keep your readers around longer
Some big grocery stores in the U.S. will dedicate half an aisle to hardware and household items (tools, light bulbs, duct tape, etc.). Why do this when other stores like Home Depot or Lowes sell the same stuff at lower prices and with more variety? After all, people rarely go to the grocery store with the sole intent to buy a light bulb.
The store hopes that you’ll remember that your living room light is out while you’re shopping for your food. They want you to opt for the convenience of being able to buy a bulb right now without having to go somewhere else. They make a tidy profit on the bulb, and keep you in the store longer hoping their displays and sample tables will convince to you to buy more food before you leave.
In the same way, you can offer rehashed content as a convenience to your readers in a voice that they recognize and trust. This will keep them on your blog longer, reduce your bounce rates, and increase your attractiveness to advertisers.
The key is to make sure readers (especially new ones) can find it. If you’re rehashing a saturated topic, chances are your post won’t rank high enough in the search engines to draw much organic traffic. Make sure your posts are well cross-linked, ensuring the content can be found in many places throughout your blog.
Save time when you’re in a rut
Sometimes you’re just at a loss for something to write about. Somehow you need to get the juices flowing because staring at a blank screen trying to come up with an original topic isn’t getting it done. You’re worried about meeting self-imposed deadlines to keep traffic flowing to your blog.
Is it really okay to use content from other blogs and put your own perspective on it?
Sure. In fact a popular consumer electronics store in the U.S. does something just like that in their television department.
The “house brand” analogy
Best Buy sells all the major brands of televisions: Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, Vizio, etc. They also sell their own house brand of TV, known as Insignia.
Why would they do that? There are already dozens of great brands in their store. Why would they compete with and risk upsetting their suppliers?
Two words: more profit.
You see, Best Buy doesn’t really make their own TV. They don’t perform all the research, development and manufacturing that the big name brands do. They buy parts designed and built by the other brands, and hire a factory to put them together.
Sometimes they add their own little design tweaks based on buyer feedback, as in the case of their spill-resistant portable DVD players. Essentially, though, they’re creating a TV on the back of someone else’s labor.
Because Best Buy doesn’t have to do any of the R&D legwork, their profit margins are higher on the Insignia TVs.
Combining the Best Buy analogy with the proofreading example, you could write an article by compiling all the proofreading tips you find and commenting on each one based on your experience to make it your own. You didn’t have to produce the tips on your own, but at least you put it in your own brand or voice.
The art of rehashing
Now that we’ve established the legitimacy of rehashing content, here are some guidelines for going about it.
If you don’t need to, don’t do it
Already brimming with plenty of original ideas? Then don’t waste your time rehashing content. Unique, well-written articles will bring in far more traffic than rehashed content. In addition to not bringing in organic traffic, unoriginal content won’t inspire other bloggers to link back to it or share it on social media. If the content is commonly found elsewhere, you’re not likely to get a lot of engagement in the form of comments either.
Easy does it
How much of your content should be rehashed? I can’t give you an exact percentage, but it should not dominate your blog. It should be the dressing, not the salad; the ketchup, not the burger; the pepperoni, not the pizza; the…you get the point. Otherwise, you risk losing your blog’s identity.
Keep it relevant
You should always keep your readers in mind, and consider if they will find the rehashed content useful.
If you’re blogging about model airplanes, a post on SEO tips will put off your readers. Do it too often, and it’ll just look like you’re stuffing your blog for the sake of content.
Don’t use spinners
Put at least some effort into it. Forsake software spinners, which depend mainly on automated synonym substitution in a lazy (and lame) attempt to make your content appear original. They won’t get around Google’s duplicate content penalty, and worse, it’s plagiarism.
Instead, get to know the subject you’re writing about so well, that you can write from the heart, ensuring your voice shines through. Produce an outline based on the articles you’ve read, and then write based on the outline. Switching back and forth between your editor and the web pages you’re referencing tends to make your writing sound too similar to your references.
Finally, you should acknowledge where you got your information and link back to the content that served as your research.
I know it can be cumbersome to link back to a lot of articles within the text, especially if you’re referencing several list-type posts. It’s fine to simply link to all of them at once in a References section at the bottom of your post.
If you don’t give credit, and someone calls you out for it, it can damage your reputation, and bye-bye readership
I’m writing this in reaction to the many redundant posts I found a few weeks ago when I was researching proofreading tips. While I mentioned in a recent post what I thought were the two best proofreading articles I could find, I also came up with my own ideas based on my own experience.
But it did get me thinking. Couldn’t I have just summarized a bunch of those posts instead? Sure, I could have. It was just my choice not to—I liked the challenge of finding a new angle.
So while unique and inspiring content is the cornerstone of any successful blog, it doesn’t mean you should skip writing about topics relevant to your blog’s niche simply because your readers can find it elsewhere. Just be aware that with less risk and effort, comes less reward.
What’s your feeling? Am I off base? Is rehashing okay? Have you done it?