From a Mountain to a Molehill: What to Do When You H... From a Mountain to a Molehill: What to Do When You Have Too Much Content Oct. 3rd, 2019 Donna Habersaat
mountain-to-molehill

From a Mountain to a Molehill: What to Do When You Have Too Much Content

October 3rd, 2019

Four Kitchens clients have big websites that include many pages, images, PDFs, videos, and other files. These sites have so much content, in fact, that many of our clients are overwhelmed just thinking about going through it prior to a CMS migration. 

Read on to see how Four Kitchens created a systematic process that will help you through a content migration. 

The first thing is to reduce the amount of content that needs to be reviewed. 

Broad sweeps

In my experience, there are broad areas of a site that typically do not need to be reviewed. These can include:

  • Content initiatives that have been retired or will be retired by relaunch, such as abandoned blogs. 
  • Content moving to a different domain, such as content that should be on an intranet and not publicly accessible.
  • Content imported from other systems, such as courses, forms, jobs and internships, or faculty and staff profiles.
  • In-progress initiatives or programs, such as those in the first years of a multiyear process.

Phases

Not everything needs to be reviewed at the same time. By breaking up large goals into smaller milestones and setting multiple deadlines, one can focus in phases:

  • Identify content that is essential for launch 
  • Identify content that visitors access seasonally, noting when that content is visited
  • Identify content to be launched as-is, but reviewed and edited on a continuous improvement cycle

One of our agricultural clients published according to the growing and ranching seasons. They delayed reviewing and editing summer content since their launch was set for winter. Taking this into account, we prioritized and created a schedule to review and edit their content. Monthly guidelines highlighted the content that needed to be reviewed and edited.

A higher education client planned to move over certain types of content “as-is” for launch, committing to go back and edit them as part of a continuous improvement plan. For example, they migrated all of their faculty and staff bios for their fall launch, choosing to update them the following summer. The content within the university’s research centers will also go through a continuous improvement process.

Retention schedules

Consider establishing a content retention schedule. Visitors are looking for the most up-to-date information. Very rarely are they interested in what the answer was last year. Retention schedules work great for these content types:

  • Press releases
  • Newsletters
  • News articles
  • Initiatives or programs—these could be objectives that have a set period of time to complete or are only available for a limited time.
  • Previous-year reports or other annually updated publications—only need the current version on the website. Your website is not your archive. These documents can be archived elsewhere and accessible upon request.
  • Events

Establish a time period to keep the information on your website. Below are examples of retention periods that Four Kitchens has recommended to clients:

  • Press releases, newsletters, news articles: 1 year
  • Initiatives or programs: Time period of initiative or program. After that period, provide a summary or report.
  • Previous-year reports or other annually updated publications: Remove all previous reports and publications. Maintain only the current version.
  • Events that have passed: Remove after the date or 30 days after date if there are links to assets posted to the event afterward. For annual events, keep only the previous year. Information about the previous year could be used as promotion and help to increase attendance for the next one.

Many CMSs can provide a publication date if you have content older than your retention period. You may elect to delete or unpublish said content, but be sure to remove any links to those pages before deleting them.

Use the retention period to create a continuous review process, in which a selection of content is reviewed monthly. Maintaining a website that is focused on its audiences, means continuous maintenance of content, both adding and removing. Simply following these steps can significantly reduce the amount of content for manual review!

Next, you need to build a content inventory, or an accurate list of all your content.

Content inventory

Now we are ready to get into technical aspects by conducting a content inventory using a crawling tool such as Dynomapper, Content Analysis Tool, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, or others. You can also connect your web analytics, such as Google Analytics, to the tool to incorporate data for each URL. 

Below is an example of some of the data that Screaming Frog SEO Spider captures for each page, image, and document on your website:

  • URL
  • Type (HTML, image, PDF, Word, Excel, other types of files)
  • If it is indexable and index status (i.e., if the URL is redirected)
  • File size
  • Metadata (title, keywords, description) with number of characters used 
  • Google Analytics
    • Uniques page views
    • Entrances
    • Time on page
  • Word count
  • H1, H2 tags
  • Inbound and outbound links
  • Load time

There are situations in which these tools encounter difficulties crawling your site. One of Four Kitchens’ clients recently experienced this issue. Our solution was to export the URLs from their CMS and then match the analytics data using database commands.

Within a spreadsheet, I captured and moved the content pieces we identified in the broad sweeps, phases, or retention schedule and moved them to their own tab [Broad Sweeps, Phases and Retention Schedule]. Knowledge on using macros in spreadsheets can make this process incredibly efficient.

Performance

Now is when we dig into the analytics data. 

Together with the client, we determine performance baselines. Many times they are based upon averages. Examples include: 

  • URLs with more than 200 page views during the last year
  • Content pages with more than 30 seconds average time on page
  • Pages that have 20 entrances—these are entry pages that could come in from search results, email, social media, etc.

Pages that are not meeting these performance baselines are moved to another tab [GA Performance].

Now we’ve gone through each URL, and we removed quite a bit of content. The remaining content that has not been moved to any of the new tabs is where we will start the manual review process.

Content grouping

In order to organize content, I group it by topic. Usually, the URL structure or page title helps me sort the pages into groups. These topics match the knowledge areas of the client’s subject matter experts. For example, our agricultural client grouped content by these topics:

  • Agronomy
  • Beef and Dairy Cows
  • Gardens, Yards, and Trees
  • Horses
  • Pigs and Sheep
  • Land and Water Resources 

If a single topic has many URLs for review (for the agricultural client this was considered more than 500 URLs), I will subdivide it into groups of a manageable size. The objective is to divide and conquer.

Content audit/manual review

There are lots of resources that detail about this part. Each time I start a new content audit I always refer to Content Audits and Inventories. It goes into many reasons and objectives for conducting a content audit, including:

  • Content quality 
  • Content effectiveness
  • Competitive analysis
  • Globalization 
  • Legal or regulatory issues

What you want to learn will determine what context and factors you need to review. Most of Four Kitchens’ clients focus on quality and effectiveness.

Here are some examples of quality factors we assess against our university client’s brand guidelines, voice and tone guidelines, and editorial/style guides.

  • Relevant to users and business needs
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Engaging or entertaining to read (appropriate for their business)
  • Easy to read and scannable
  • Consistent in terminology, tone, breadth, and depth
  • Support tasks that users want to complete
  • Supports business goals

For each factor, the reviewers assess and provide a numerical value. For example, is the content accurate? 

Yes = 1 or No = 0

Another example: Does the content address any business goals? If yes, a point is given for each goal. So, if a piece of content addressed three goals it would earn three points.

We determine each factor’s rating and write instructions with qualifications. I suggest keeping the grading as simple as possible with as many yes/no (1/0) as possible. I prefer this instead of using a scale so that there isn’t a question about the difference between 3 and 4. This helps keep subjectiveness as low as possible.

In the spreadsheet of the URLs, add a column for each factor. As reviewers go through the URLs they add their grade to each column, and grades are added. URLs with higher grades are content that has been deemed higher quality. Those with lower grades are noted to be edited or recreated. The individual factor grades inform where improvements are needed.

Reviewers

I recommend having at least two reviewers to provide grades. Reviewers could include:

  • Subject matter expert (SME) – contextual understanding and expertise to check accuracy
  • Non-subject matter expert – could be an SME of another subject or staff from marketing and/or development (fundraising) departments
  • Content strategist – the person that oversees web content

This way we obtain both intrinsic and extrinsic opinions. We can balance the intrinsic grading of “everything my department created is important” with an extrinsic opinion of “how is this useful for me?” This helps take the political and subjective issues down a notch.

If you have a content strategist on staff, they can provide an objective grading on voice and tone and cut out the fluff in content, and perhaps identify pages that can be merged.

Each reviewer will complete their grading separately, resulting in two (or more) grades for each URL. We then average the grades to get a final grade. From the final grades and the phases of review, you can create a prioritization list of content to be edited.

End product

Through this process, you will have a spreadsheet with your content assessed so that you know which pieces can be migrated as-is, which pieces need to be edited either prior to or after the migration, and which pieces will not be migrated.

Four Kitchens involvement

Four Kitchens can help you with this process at different levels depending on your needs:

  1. Consulting relationship: Four Kitchens provides training for you to carry out and manage yourself. We can also provide weekly office hours for guidance and questions.
  2. Light-touch relationship: Four Kitchens provides training, high-level services such as running the crawler and creating the initial spreadsheet, and weekly office hours for guidance and questions. You manage the teams of reviewers. 
  3. Full management relationship: Four Kitchens manages the entire process, including setup, conducting services, managing your reviewers, outside content strategist review, and delivery of spreadsheet of your assessed content. 

Please contact us if you are looking for help auditing your content, or have a large redesign and/or content migration coming up. We would love to help you out!

I’ll be talking more about content auditing at Texas Camp in San Antonio, TX, on Saturday, October 19 at 9:15 a.m. I’d love to connect with you there!

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