One of the hardest communications channels to manage is a website or intranet. They quickly become unwieldy beasts, that are the seen as the answer to many problems “just put it on the website!”.
When we create a new system, many of us develop a content strategy or governance rules. A way to create a consistent voice, manageable navigation and keep content up to date for this shiny new toy. Then the months go by, and more and more content is added, and we have less and less time to review. Urgent content gets posted which is less than desirable. And so the circle continues. Sound familiar?
Now it’s a few years later and despite constantly publishing new content, not many of us have time to review the existing content. Before you know it, you are accused of having a “terrible website” or hear from Executive “everything on the intranet is out of date”. My biggest recommendation is don’t wait until you are under attack before you start looking for ways to manage your content better. I have made this mistake and it’s hard to rebuild trust and engagement in the system once staff believe (rightly or wrongly) that the content is all wrong.
Managing your content needs to be an ongoing process before it all gets out of hand.
If you can’t allocate one staff member to manage your content, make it a team activity and have multiple staff allocate one hour a week to review a section of the site. Make it achievable rather than overwhelming. Create a common understanding of what you are trying to do, your organisational “voice” and approval strategy. As your primary internal or external communications channel, everyone in your team has a responsibility to maintain it. It is important for your team reputation.
The first step to getting your content under control is undertaking a content audit. If you can allocate a little bit of time to develop a content audit spreadsheet and maintain it over time you will be able to have a great handle on your content.
To help get you started I have created a Content analysis template you can use for your audit.
Your online or digital team can provide google analytics to help you better understand the traffic to your page, how long your audience is spending on the page and other great facts that will help your review. Don’t underestimate how valuable this data is in the review process. Also, don’t forget other data sources like call centre stats (if you have one). Basically, anything that will help you to understand what the pressure points are for users and how your web content can help to reduce them.
Once your content audit is complete, make sure you have a review process in place. Nominate a time period in which you will review the pages again (3, 6, 12 months). You may not make changes to a page every time, but you still need to review the page or ‘touch it’ and tick it off. It is important that you create momentum and a routine to keep this as an ongoing function in your team.
Content audit tips
- Get rid of it – Don’t be afraid to delete pages, keep a record of them, but if they are no longer relevant and no longer being used then get rid of them. This will help make your search more effective!
- Use charts and images – Graphics or flowcharts help to explain and break up complex information. If you don’t have access to a graphic designer use free online tools like Canva or Vennage, or just smart art in word.
- Break it up – Your content may be great but the structure on the page makes it appear more complicated than it needs to be. Have a look at breaking it up with headings, lists and tables.
- Navigation – Is your page in the right location? A well written page is no use to anyone if it can’t be found. Don’t just look at the words on a page, consider improvements to navigation as well.
Some links you might find useful
- I love this article from the Digital Transformation Agency about writing in plain-English https://www.dta.gov.au/blog/writing-for-everyone/
- Also, from the Digital Transformation Agency is a government wide content strategy with heaps of great tips https://guides.service.gov.au/content-strategy/
- Some great tips on writing for the web and structuring content from the UK Government Communications Service https://www.gov.uk/guidance/content-design/writing-for-gov-uk
Feeling overwhelmed already? Just need someone to do a content audit? Sometimes you just need someone to focus on this for you. Give me a call I am happy to come and help!