The Art of the Rewrite

The Art of the Rewrite

In a previous article, Finding Niche Blog Content, I mentioned that articles you find often needed to be rewritten for various reasons. In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why and some how-tos of rewriting existing articles to generate brand new, or at least well recycled, content for your niche blog.

One of the challenges of creating a niche blog is gathering search engine friendly content that will bring in searchers to click your Adsense ads or respond to your offers. Here are some hints on how to do this.

The Duplicate Content Penalty

UPDATE: After some additional experiences and observations, I don’t think that this is as big a deal as I once did. Google doesn’t penalize sites for duplicate content across domains although they try to determine the site(s) where the content first appeared and the ones that have the most authority for a keyword.

Google - The Internet RefereeGoogle’s job is to provide searchers with new and unique content that’s relevant to the provided search criteria. If you use an article that’s been published on dozens or even 100’s of sites, you’re not providing new and unique content. So, Google’s algorithms filter out your content and won’t show it unless the searcher specifically asks to see it by clicking the more results link. In this context it’s more of a filter than an actual penalty against your page or site. It doesn’t hurt your site as a whole, only the duplicated page’s position in search results, but it does work against your niche blog goal of bringing in a lot of organic search visitors.

As Sutocu mentioned in a comment on the previous post, on and off site optimization can reduce the chance of being filtered out of the main results. If your site is being indexed well and your link building exercises are being done right you may avoid this filter and be what Google’s algorithm’s pick as one of the primary sites for a particular article. Just remember that the competition for this spot could be considerable in some niches so a rewrite of some degree may be a better option.

If a site is nearly 100% duplicated content, such as a Wikipedia or RSS scrapper site, it is quite likely to come under more scrutiny from Google. They routinely deindex such sites or apply significant penalties to them because they consider them search engine spam. This, of course, is not something you want to happen to your niche blog.

A good way to detect if your changes pass muster is to use Copyscape. This tool will search for duplicate content and let you know if your edits will be considered duplicate or not. It works pretty good even with partial content. For example, if you used a snippet directly from one of your articles to create a social bookmarking entry it will pick this up.

The Minor Rewrite

Making Minor EditsA minor rewrite of a private label article will usually entail swapping a few words with synonyms, correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. if there are any, and emphasizing your keywords. You could also swap around the sentence structure as well but this is optional. You could also introduce spelling mistakes with the goal of snagging searchers who aren’t good spellers.

Here’s an example paragraph taken from a PLR article on selling your house:

Second, your should put a reasonable price, valued by the physical price of your home, environment and location. The better location where your home is placed, the better price you can put. And the better physical condition of your home, better price should be granted. Don’t forget that a buyer needs an achievable price. So the process of the negotoation will determine it.

If you read closely you’ll notice several grammar mistakes, a spelling error, and clumsy wording. These aren’t that important for our niche blog but they do point to areas we can change. Here’s the paragraph with a minor rewrite:

2. Sell Your Home At A Reasonable Price

You should select a reasonable price based on the physical environment and location of your home. The better place where your home is located, the better price. And the greater the physical condition of your home, better price you should receive. Don’t forget that a buyer needs a good price. The process of negotiation will determine it.

The rewrite included:

  • Creating a header title line that emphasized our keyword phrase, “Sell Your Home”
  • Cleaning up a few clumsy grammar mistakes (”You should” rather than “Your should”)
  • Eliminating some extra words that weren’t needed
  • Using synonyms (”put” to “select”, “valued by” to “based on”)
  • Swapping word positions (”placed” and “location”)
  • Correcting a spelling mistake (”negotoation” to “negotiation”)

By doing a minor editing rewrite in a few minutes time you can create a unique article that avoids duplicate filters, emphasizes your target keywords and increases the ‘curb appeal’ of your niche blog article.

I’ve placed both the original PLR article and and edited version in backdated posts here on OpTempo.

Home Selling Advice - Original

6 Tips For Selling Your Home - Rewritten

Take a look at them, run them in Copyscape, see if you can find them in Google searches and see what you think. If you want, do your own rewrite and see how close you can come to the original without triggering Copyscape.

Major Rewrites and Mash-Ups

Major Surgery Is NeededFor some content, you’ll find it better to do a major rewrite or a mash-up. In this case you will be using the original as a guide to write your own content. However, you would avoid directly copying any material from the original.

For example, you might take the 6 points on home selling advice article above, cut, add or combine a point or two, and largely create your own content, roughly based on the original. For a mash-up, you might take 3 points from one article and 2 from another and mix them together in your own words.

While this is more work than a minor rewrite it is usually quicker than writing something entirely from scratch, particularly if you’re not an expert in the field.

Do you have anything to add about duplicate content filters/penalties or article rewriting techniques? If so, leave a comment and let me hear from you. 


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Comment by Y. S.
2008-01-17 16:14:07

Thanks for the tips :)

Does the same apply to copy-rights?

Comment by jfc
2008-01-17 17:06:57

Hi Y.S.,

A copyrighted article could be used as a reference or as a jumping off point for your own article but you should be very careful about how you use them to avoid any trouble.

Comment by Sutocu
2008-01-18 08:42:33

A thorough article!

The truth is, some PLR articles have so poor spelling and grammar that simply correcting all the mistakes can be enough of a rewrite. However, often combining two articles produces better results.

Remember that rewriting can also be used on your own content. That means you can quickly create articles for another site or article marketing.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-18 09:21:52

Hi Sutocu,

Akismet didn’t like this comment but allowed your one on the other post. Odd.

That’s true about the spelling and grammar on many PLR’s. Most I’ve seen haven’t been that good. Some read like they’ve been run through a synonym generator (they probably have been).

Article marketing is an interesting area that I’ve looked at some but haven’t really gotten into. I’ll have to investigate it further.

Comment by RT Cunningham
2008-01-18 15:50:20

Hi Frank,

Don’t forget that you can take some of your old stuff and rewrite it as well. I took 5 lackluster posts and created a single good post out of them. I then did a redirect from the 5 to the new one. Guess what? None of the old ones even appeared in the SERPS and the new one went to the first page.

Just an idea to munch on.

Comment by jfc
2008-01-18 17:05:40

Hi RT,

That’s a good idea too, provided you already have the old articles sitting around collecting digital dust. I did a few retreads from other blogs and some forum posts of mine here when I was doing my 200 post blitz back in October.

The redirect angle is interesting. I’ve always heard that deleting or redirecting WordPress posts is bad. How you did that might be a good post for your blog at some point.

Comment by Y. S.
2008-01-21 10:17:32

You might find this interesting:

What are your thoughts?

Comment by jfc
2008-01-21 11:56:52

Hi Y.S.,

I do have two comments on that article.

Scrapping is different from rewriting though. Scrapping is an automated activity that takes a feed and regurgitates it in a new location with no changes at all to the original text, either partial or full. Some people occasionally cut-n-paste a full article but this isn’t as common. Of course, this isn’t a good activity for several reasons.

A minor rewrite, which I strongly recommend you do NOT do with someone else’s copyrighted articles, would involve making small wording and formatting changes to an original article as illustrated with the PLR article above. To borrow a movie industry example, Eddie Murphy did a minor rewrite of Art Buchwald’s script for Coming to America and there was a lawsuit over it.

A major rewrite or mash-up takes ideas found in the original article or articles and mixes them with the author’s own ideas and style to produce a different article. For example Cloverfield bears a lot of resemblance to Godzilla but there are considerable differences beyond just the basic concept of the story.

Comment by Y. S.
2008-02-06 15:26:07

I found an interesting article that may be of help to a lot of bloggers and small website owners.

12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know:

You haven’t posted for sometime, I hope everything is alright.

Comment by jfc
2008-02-07 12:19:25

Hi Y.S.,

Akismet doesn’t like you for some reason. I found your comment in the filter. Try posting again or on another site and see if it gets filter too. If it does, contact them to get them to correct the false positive.

Thanks for the link to the article.

We just closed on a new house last week and we’re trying to get moved to it. This has kept me rather busy at home and probably will for the rest of the month.

Comment by Y. S.
2008-02-07 19:34:12

“Comments with links are automatically moderated” isn’t this why?

Comment by jfc
2008-02-07 20:11:16

Hi Y.S.

That puts them into the local WordPress moderation queue, not the Akismet filter. If the filter snags a comment, I don’t even get an email about it but if a comment goes into the moderation queue, I do get one.

Maybe that link you gave had a spam flag on it. People do get pissed off and flag stuff they don’t like as spam when it really isn’t.

2009-05-08 18:48:56

Timely article for me, I am at a writers block and just need to keep going! I know that some of my posts are too similar and are not being indexed, but I hadn’t thought of the re-write using elements from several unranked pages to come up with one new good post!

Comment by jfc
2009-05-10 10:23:41

Hi Penny,

I’ve changed some of my views on duplicate content since I wrote this. To see why, Google on the lyrics to any popular song. What’s more important are external SEO factors like the quality and quantity of the links pointing to your pages.

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