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Op-Ed: Is Your Web Content Crap?

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Our Extractable contributor Dana Larson, who last stirred it up by talking content strategists, returns with a new post about web content. We don’t need much preamble anymore, let’s just pass the mic and let Larson take it away.

At a recent pitch, a member of the client team asked, “How much is too much web content? And how do I know when to get rid of content?” At a time when website page counts routinely—and often unnecessarily—surpass the thousands, this question was music to my ears. Obviously, there are situations when deep websites are needed—retailers selling thousands of products, media sites with vast libraries, educational sites, etc.— but the reality is that most pages of a website go largely unseen.

In a quick study of a handful of our clients, including a Fortune 500 healthcare technology provider, we found that, on average, 87% of the total website pages receive five pageviews or less in a month. It would be easy to assume that that’s a tremendous amount of content that’s just not pulling its weight, and for the most part it would be a safe assumption. But if one of those five pageviews on a page led to sales, then that web page is not useless crap, it’s just not your lead dog. My guess is that many other websites out there are in the same boat.

So how do you know when to get rid of content?

In my experience, there are some pretty simple guidelines to follow when determining what content to keep and what to ditch. As you review your content (or your client’s content), consider these six questions:

-Is your content performing? — As I touched on in the opening, you can start by seeing if the content is even being viewed. Beyond that, is the content leading to conversion? Does it have good traction with social media?

-Is your content accurate? — Check your web support logs. Are users submitting complaints or error reports about specific content? If so, determine whether or not to update or delete it.

-Is your content outdated? — Still have an event from 2012 on your events page? Or maybe a datasheet from 2009? Nothing says rinky-dink like outdated content on your site. Do a global search for dated material and purge anything that’s old and moldy.

-Is it on message/on brand? — This is especially important for websites that have seen acquisitions of other products, services and brands. If it looks or sounds like it came out of left field, rework it or get rid of it. Just be sure to preserve any SEO ground you’ve claimed by implementing the proper redirects for anything you delete.

-Is it redundant? — Redundant content is more common than you might imagine—and completely unnecessary. Whenever feasible, determine which of the redundant pages is performing the best, keep it and link to it.

-Is it a link workhorse? — If yes, then by all means, find a way to keep it! If you’ve got a page that has outdated content and is off brand but has high-value SEO links to it, be sure to fix its other problems.

Help coming from Google Analytics

If you still need help deciding, our sources at Google say they are announcing new reporting features this week that will help us better understand content value on websites. It sounds like the new features will enable Google Analytics users to see pages that had no pageviews at all. (Currently, you can only see pages that have had at least one pageview.) Using this tool, you may be able to better decide if these pages are useless or if they might just be buried too far down in your navigation structure for site users to find. I’ll bring you more info and links on this as it becomes available.

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