Content management is not just software. Many companies will embrace a CMS because the benefits of using one are obvious. And although content management systems are now common place, content management strategies are often nowhere to be seen.
These strategies focus on creating engaging, relevent content which often covers issues such as:
- themes, messages, voice and tone
- content channel distribution (newsletters, RSS etc)
- purpose of content
- content relationships
- search engine optimization
These are all great points to consider as part of a strategy but few strategies cover anything about removing old outdated content.
Out with the old
Good content managers will look to archive old news stories and completely remove out dated irrelevant content. Removing old content can be just as important as adding new material.
Even in companies where a solid content management strategy already exists, old content can pile up unchecked collecting virtual dust. Left unmanaged this content will drastically reduce the effectiveness of a website to meet the needs of a business.
Outdated content can be more visible than you think and will devalue fresh content by making the new stuff less likely to be read. A visitor reading old content is not consuming your new material.
Once a visitor lands on old content don’t relly on them to click through to more relevent information. Having a quick look at a “depth of visit report” in google analytics will tell you what percentage of people only view a single page on your site. Most sites record a high number for this metric. So this potential customer who was shown outdated content leaves the site without experiencing what a company has to offer and is likely never to return.
What stays and what goes
Does a certain older piece of content still provide value to the user? Only a user can answer this but you could have a wild guess. Or, better than guessing look at the analytics of that page. Look at the amount of traffic it attracts, look at it’s bounce rate and where they go to after?
Sometimes completely removing a page can be too drastic. If the page is pulling in good search traffic but resulting in a high bounce rate then modify the content to make it more relevant. Use that page to direct the user to more relevant content that still satisfies the users initial search request.
Dont try and entice a user to visit your site by keeping hold of irrelevant content in the hope that they remain on your site eventually converting. It wont work. Sure it will be an extra hit on your unique visitor metric but at the same time its probably going to help increase you’re bounce rate too.
Once you identify a page that needs removing make sure you also remove any internal links that might be pointing to it. This will ensure you wont be sending users down paths that dont meet your business goals. If you’ve set up good redirects and have good 404 pages, removing pages with outdated content will only benefit the users experience of your site.
Old news is still news.
News items should obviously not be removed completely but efforts should be taken to inform the user that they are reading older content and that there are far more relevant posts he could be reading instead.
If your site deals with categories for products or content then keep an eye on them, control who has the ability to add new categories (not just top level ones) and have a strategy to control the overall size of these categories. I know of sites that have more categories than products. Don’t be afraid of damaging your search engine rankings by removing nonsense categories that capitalise on popular search terms. Your users will thank you for it. If you have categories that are very similar merge them and use 301 redirects to ensure you don’t loose a user to a 404 page.
Removing or updating old content, monitoring your categories to avoid bloat are all steps to help improve the usability of your site. Be ruthless when it comes to removing the old stuff. If you where redesigning a site with the aim of simplifying its user interface then you wouldnt think twice about removing irrelevent visual clutter. And the same applies with content. Outdated content is noise that interferes with the signal, it will become an obstacle stopping your visitors becoming customers.
To learn more about content management strategy head over to A List Apart and have a look at the great content posted under the content strategy topic.