Having a content management system in place for my website means that I don't have to worry about maintaining my content right?
Not exactly. When you get down to it, content maintenance is something that you need to actively plan for.
The CMS that you have in place is just a tool that allows you to input, create, format, and collaborate on content, and then delivers that to your website’s visitors with varying degrees of targeting and personalization. If content management is about developing and delivering content, then content maintenance begs the question: who manages and maintains your content?
How often do you refresh existing content? When do you know it is time to remove content from your website? When you do remove content, do you delete it or archive it?
These are all questions I’ve been asking myself lately.
More content is good. Right? Well, maybe. You want to make sure you’re writing and building content that adds value for your user and is accurate and helpful. I think we’ve all been there — spending a month working on a new landing page or a few months on a new website, launching it, and then sitting back and relaxing. But what will it look like in six months? Websites can quickly turn into the digital equivalent of an episode of Hoarders — and for some organizations, failure to weed their content libraries can cause reputational risk and confusion.
An online news site will usually hold onto all of their articles and other media — newspapers find a lot of value offering access, sometimes paid, to their “morgues.”
For many organizations, the failure to clean their content house can cause huge problems. Discontinued products that appear to still be in stock, expired promotions and landing sites that are forgotten and left to rot, comment threads on community sites that are left unmoderated... failure to be mindful about content will leave a bad impression about your brand.
Dumping scads of content into your site can confuse customers who may be new to your site and looking for some guidance as to what they should read “first” — this leads to the eternal “less-is-more” versus “more-is-more” debate.
I’m not here to tell you that I manage content on my websites well — I don’t! I’m here to tell you that I’m thinking about it these days, and you should too. This is the process I am going through right now:
Audit the content
To begin the process and ensure you’re starting with a clean house, do a content audit to determine what you have on your website. Create a spreadsheet that maps all the types of content that you currently have. When was the last time a discrete piece of content was updated? Does it get any traffic? This will give you a quick list of assets to purge from your website.
Tip: make sure to redirect those URLs to more relevant content, this is very important for search engines to drop old links and index new ones. If your CMS filters content by type (such as content type ie. blog, webinar, video), I recommend going through each item; if not, I recommend starting with your main navigation and then going through all pages linked off of it. Using a web analytics tool is also a helpful way to audit your content.
Think about a plan, and create a process
The document that you created during your audit can be used to understand what you have in place, what assets are performing, and which are old and in need of updating or retirement. After collecting a comprehensive view of your library of assets you need to set a process to review which ones are valuable, which are candidates for updating, and which need to be retired. This will entail notifying content “owners” and communicating your needs for either approval to archive or a request for the content author/sponsor to deliver an update to the original asset.