Content doesn’t have to be original to be great

by on 27th October 2016

Being creative rarely means starting from scratch; more often than not the best ideas build on previous work. Alongside the release of our latest resource, Creative Ideation for Digital Marketers, we look at different ways to build something new and improved out of existing work. As well as reviewing how others have managed to do this to great effect, I wanted to share with you how these ideas have been working for our own content marketing.

Make it longer

Quick tip #1 - Make it longer

A simple way to repurpose something is to find the longest listicle and write a more comprehensive piece on the topic. You can always see their “10 Best” and raise them twenty more. As long as your points add value, the new content will add context to your page and help it perform better against the less in-depth article.

We used this expansion idea within our own site when reviewing the Highcharts Generator Tool. It was originally published in a minimalist state, free from distracting surrounding content, under the assumption that a pared down tool was all people were after. This initial idea has been proved wrong: since adding explicit help notes and example charts, time on page has increased by 42% and the bounce rate halved.

Bring it more up to date

Quick tip #2 - Bring it more up to date

Time Out use this tactic to great effect across their entire site. Updating the “Time Out Hot List” keeps both return visits and dwell times high and is a simpler task than creating brand new content from scratch.

We brought much of our own content up to date earlier this year after undertaking a comprehensive content audit. Taking the time to rewrite blog posts and core pages has led to increased engagement and dwell time overall across our site.

It’s also helped us foster a culture of iterative improvement within the agency. Will rewrote his article on Ad Planner Alternatives within days of major updates to Google’s Keyword Planner. Bringing this post up to date made it the most relevant resource on the topic at the time and it continues to drive traffic.

Improve the design

Quick tip #3 - Improve the design

Well designed experiences are far more engaging than information presented in its raw form. As a proof point, compare and contrast our old case study index page to the existing version:


I know which one I find more engaging…

Make it more thorough

Quick tip #4 - Make it more thorough

The pressure on marketers to produce large quantities of content can sometimes lead to under-researched pieces seeing the light of day. Take advantage of this by adding context, meaning, or richer examples to build on the foundations of a good idea.

One of the simplest ways we’ve found to do this is crowdsourcing information from across the agency. Richard had the seeds of a great idea for blog post on online graphic novels that blossomed into a truly inspiring article after he asked all agency staff to send him their own personal favourites.

This exercise took him no time at all, yet he received some brilliant examples, cut his research time in half and discovered some beauties he wouldn’t otherwise have come across. The result: a gorgeous piece of inspiration produced in less time than it would take one person to search within their own frame of reference.

Improve the headline

Quick tip #5 - Improve the headline

If you only get one shot at improving a piece of content, aim squarely at the headline. The reasons people choose to read and share content are often visceral, subliminal even, so make your point directly and always be compelling.

Dani has done this really well within our own site. As an example, she changed “The 4 P’s of Content Marketing” to “How to make and position great content“.

Change the perspective

Quick tip #6 - Change the perspective

Conference managers know this trick well: invite a speaker or two from outside the sector to talk about things from their own point of view. These slots will often draw the biggest crowds because a tangential position is (almost) always interesting.

Pete‘s perspective on web development is rare, as he looks at everything from an SEO’s point of view. His recent posts on Progressive Web Apps and Universal Angular 2.0 have been eagerly read by both communities.

Change the format

Quick tip #7 - Change the format

If an idea has worked well as a long form blog, how about adapting it to suit a different audience? People consume content in very different ways – often changing the format will make your ideas far more accessible to a wider group of people.

We’ve trialled this with our own content by interviewing two of our best digital PR consultants about the secrets to successful outreach and producing this as a short film, rather than a text-heavy blog.

Never plagiarise

Quick tip #8 - Never plagiarise

Whatever spin you try and apply to it, plagiarism is never a good thing. If someone has had a great idea, then quote them directly and add something new.

Always give credit when credit’s due

Quick tip #9 - Always give credit when credit's due

Keeping true to this theme, we’re building on the original ideas of Brian Dean, who calls this the “Skyscraper Technique“.

We’d love to hear your ideas around being creative, adapting content and improving on original formats, so please do add to the comments section below.


  1. There’s very little content online that is original, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I agree that repurposing content has a place as long as you are improving on the original idea/concept. It’s like re-making a movie or “borrowing” a riff from a song, if it’s helping you to create something even better then I say go for it.

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