The Great Content Cull: The What, Why and How?

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Over the past 15 years, content published on the web has drastically changed. From content creation, right through to the way that we consume pieces of content, and the devices that we consume them on. Content is changing, and quickly!

This drastic change means that we constantly need to be reviewing, editing, and deleting the content that we once thought was up to scratch. Over the past few months, I have been conducting a number of content reviews and wanted to let you in on what I have been doing.

Before we get started on that, I guess the question you are already asking is why? Why do I need to review my content? There are many ways to answer this question, and from many different angles. One reason is to ensure that you provide the very best information to your users, and those that come across the website. If you provide out of date information, or a post that is statistically incorrect then you are going to lose the trust of the user, and they may not return in the future.

From a search perspective, you want to ensure that your content targets keyword topics based on user intent. You also want to ensure that any content that you have produced in the past will not be deemed as useless, and more importantly spammy by the search engines. As I am sure you are aware with the well publicised algorithm updates by Google, they are now looking even more at the content that is provided as a ranking factor, and if you don’t comply then you are likely to be either given a penalty or fall considerable behind your competition.

Now you know, the next step is to understand what you have.

What does your content landscape look like?

Many of us don’t know what content we have on our websites, let alone what different types, and that is where the trouble begins.

If you are not aware what content you have on your website, then how do you know what is working, what needs to be improved, and what is no longer required?

If you are aware of what content you have then you are in better shape than most. If you are not, then this is the first place to start.

Understanding the content you have

The first step to understanding what content has been published on your website is to create a content inventory. This can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but there are certain elements that it must include:

  • URL
  • Page Title
  • Media Type (list multiple if required – PDF, Video, Slideshow, etc)
  • Content category (product, blog post, category page, etc)

These basic elements provide you with the initial structure of what content is currently available on you site. A large part of gathering this information can be automated using crawlers. In a previous post I talked about finding all the URLs to your website, so this may help.

Before you get started, if you are not sure what a content inventory should look like or include, go and have a read of Andrew Kaufman’s post Discovery: Content Audits, Inventories and Interviews Oh My! This will provide you with a good background to content inventories.

Gathering the data

Now that you have the basics of the content published on your website, you need to start gathering the data that will help you make decisions.

The metrics that you need will be determined by the type of website that you are reviewing, but they are likely to include the following:

  • Visits (include Uniques) – Min of 12months.
  • Conversion Data – Min of 12months.
  • Bounce Rate – Min of 12months.
  • Social Interactions (Use SocialCrawlytics)
  • Reviews
  • Comments
  • Content Length
  • Linking Root Domains

As I said, there are many more that you are likely to need, but these are some of the main ones.

If you think there are others that should be included in this list then let me know in the comments below.

Now, your spreadsheet should be starting to fill out nicely with data, but there is still a very important step missing!

Brains over algorithms every day!

So, you now have all the data required to make a decision on what content looks like it is working, and what isn’t, but we still need to conduct a manual check. Data gives us some great insight, but it is no substitute for a human looking at each page.

This task is likely to take a considerable amount of time, so you may want to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

For the manual check, you will need to go through each and every URL individually, asking yourself a number of questions that could include:

  • What is the objective of the page?
  • Does the page provide me with the information that I require?
  • Has this page been created for a user or for a search engine?
  • Is the information supplied still valid or does it require updating?
  • Are the comments/reviews useful?
  • Would this page make me buy the product/service?
  • Would I share this page to my social community?

Whilst asking yourself these questions, you need to be taking notes and entering them into the spreadsheet. I see this as one of the most important stages of the content review. Data gives you a lot of information, but it won’t answer all the questions that a user is looking for.

Take your time! Getting this right is essential, as you will be making some big decisions based on these comments.

The decision!

Whilst you are making your way through the content inventory, you will also need to be thinking about what you feel is the best possible outcome for the page.

If it was your content, would you keep it, edit it, or completely remove it? This is an important step, and the data you’ve gathered should help determine your decision.

For me, I look at a range of metrics depending on the page type, but the most important aspect is the content itself.

If the content doesn’t answer the questions that I have mentioned above, or others that come out of reviewing the content, then it is going to require some work no matter what the data tells me. First and foremost, the content should always be about providing the best information to the user.

Below are a couple of examples that require a different analysis.

Product Pages

What I am looking for from a product page is persuasion. How will the product change/improve my life? This may sound dramatic, but if the copy is written in a way that I can see it improving my life then I am more likely to purchase it. See the example below.

“The oven’s innovative MoisturePlus feature will inject a fine burst of steam into the oven cavity during cooking to prevent food from drying out, with delicious results. Rapid heat-up times mean there’s no hanging around waiting for it to heat up, while even temperature distribution throughout the interior helps you achieve professional-level cooking in your own home.”

I am much more likely to purchase the above compared to:

“The freestanding Zanussi ZCV661MXC Electric Cooker has been equipped with a double oven, four highly responsive ceramic hobs and an easy-clean interior.”

Combining that insight with how many people converted on the page, reviewed the product, and shared it with their social community will allow you to determine the required action.

Blog Post

If it’s a blog post, you will be looking at different types of analysis compared to the product pages above.

You very quickly need to understand whether the post is giving the user value, and whether it is up-to-date and relevant. As blogging has changed over the years, there are still many pages that have been used for micro-blogging – pages that provide a paragraph of information, but nothing in-depth. These are pages that may have provided relevance in the past but with the new world of content creation and those pesky Pandas, this is the type of content that is likely to require an update.

Other content that is covered on a regular basis, especially when products or tools are updated, may require redirecting to the latest versions. A perfect example for our industry would be blog posts on “Tips to pass the GA Exam”. As the exam gets updated on a regular basis, so will these posts. They will either require rewriting or redirecting, the choice will be yours.

I could go on and on here, but I hope that you will now be able to go and make a decision based on the data that you have gathered and the manual analysis that you have conducted. It will always be a scary decision to make, but you need to trust your instincts and make an educated decision.

So there you have it, some of the steps I take to reviewing content. How do you go about reviewing your content? How often to do you conduct an inventory of your website? I would love to hear your comments below or on twitter @danielbianchini.

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