How to maintain and update your existing web contentVegard Ottervig on
Painfully aware of the increasing number of old and outdated content on your website or app? Get tips here.
As time flies by and an increasing number of organisations embrace digital transformation and related trends like content marketing, the world of digital experiences are filled with more and more content—each second, every day.
A challenge that arises with this bloated fact is the amount of old articles, posts, pages, and profiles on your website or app. What was fresh and timely in 2010 is most likely long since dusty and outdated.
Marketing and editorial teams are constantly pressured to produce new content, and rarely get the required time to sit down and evaluate their content inventory. But if you do happen to get the mandate to maintain and update your digital experiences, what should you do?
Create a convincing business case while you’re at it:
Decide on a strategy
First, you should know what you are doing and why. What is important for your organisation, what is your focus area? Is it to spread knowledge, generate leads, sell products, act as a self-service, or something else? Publishing content about everything between heaven and earth, or having content just to have something, is rarely a sound strategy.
A common denominator among goals for websites and apps is some sort of traffic—of readers, leads, or potential benefactors. No matter what your industry is or what kind of focus area you have, SEO is always relevant. Google, for instance, likes both established and fresh content—which means you should probably keep at least one eye on updating your evergreen content regularly (if possible).
Put everything in a system!
Now that you have decided on what content fits your organisation’s agenda and overall strategy, it’s time to put every piece of content in a system. Here is a suggestion:
Knowing what you’ve actually got is a vital first step towards maintaining and updating your existing content. In order to do this, you should create a complete as possible overview of all your digital content assets—websites, intranets, pages, posts, case studies, products, recipes, testimonials, images, sound files, PDFs—everything. An overview can take the form of a spreadsheet, a DAM, a CMS, or a combination of one or more of these tools.
A calendar is an invaluable tool to see what you have published and when, and what you have planned for the future. A content calendar can act like a guideline for you in all your content endeavours, telling you when it’s time to republish something or remind you of forgotten gems. While there are dedicated calendar services and software out there, keeping it simple with a spreadsheet or a template may be a preferable alternative.
Editorial process (ContentOps)
One robust method of periodically revisiting and maintaining your old content is to introduce an editorial process in your marketing team. The principle of ContentOps is such a method, where you integrate people, process, and technology to deliver consistent, scalable, and repeatable content production. In such an editorial process, you move through a circular logic where content ideas are brainstormed, planned, produced, published, and then put into the vital maintenance phase—where chosen content items go through the process once more after some time. Rinse and repeat.
If the calendar and editorial process aren’t enough to push you into maintenance and updating mode, adding an alert can do the trick. Whether you set the alert for a given content in a calendar tool, inside the CMS, or just on your phone, is all the same—as long as it works for you.
Use on/off time
Some types of content can be automated in the way it is published for the future. If a group of contents belong to a seasonal campaign—e.g. a summer or winter campaign—you can use on/off time in your CMS (if it supports the feature). This feature essentially decides when a content item is to be published, and when it is to be unpublished. This can be a great way to save time when maintaining tonnes of content.
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Involve subject matter experts
When updating existing content, it is easy to get lost in the writer or editor technical sides of things. Should this paragraph be a bit more clearer? Should you replace this word with another? In this way it is easy to forget that you should involve the relevant subject matter experts. In an article about e.g. pharmaceutical innovation, you should ask a pharmaceutical expert on recent developments and then add them into the existing piece of content.
How to decide what needs updating
Even though you have a robust editorial process and content calendar in place, you still need to decide what veteran content should be republished. Everything in your existing roster cannot be republished at once, so how do you decide?
The mentioned subject matter experts can prove a natural source of authority in your update regime. Keeping updated on industry developments may be hard for non-professional outsiders, whether it is talk about healthcare, science, agriculture, aviation, software, and so on. But if you keep regular meetings with subject matter experts in order to know if they have any industry updates, you have come a long way on deciding what contents need updating already.
Also, you should keep a shortlist of especially hot topics and related content, and be sure to bring up these in expert meetings, or do quick research yourself.
Another tip is to use Google Analytics to see what works and don’t. See what contents were the least read during e.g. the last year. Then bring up the content to consider what may have gone wrong and involve your different teams of editors and subject matter experts to rectify the errors. AGConsult has additional tips on what you can do with underperforming content.
Maintaining and updating your existing digital content may seem like an insurmountable task, but if you put everything into a system and work methodically through it all, you will regularly ensure that all your content stays relevant.