Jul. 03, 2014

Refreshing Your Website? Don’t Forget Your Content.

Your content is the most important part of your website.
I repeat, your content is the most important part of your website.

And a big mistake a lot of people make is forgetting it, or leaving it behind, when engaging in a website refresh project. I came across this article by Mark Evans, which aptly summarizes my feelings on this subject.

Evans’ message: don’t blow your website refresh.

There are a lot of technical bases you need to cover to make sure this doesn’t happen, including engaging in in-depth discovery and planning phases. But the point that Evans so soundly makes is that content plays a pivotal role in a website refresh project and should receive a great deal of time and attention.

What steps should you take to make sure your content doesn’t get left behind?

Step 1: Take a Content Inventory

It can be a painstaking task but conducting a thorough content inventory and cataloging all of the existing content on your website is an essential component of a site refresh project. Content describes every element of your site; including written content, images, videos, contact information, profiles, case studies, and service offerings.
Use a spreadsheet to organize the elements of the website that you are taking inventory of. Here is a list of common categories found in a content inventory spreadsheet:

  • Link and URL of the page
  • Format of File on page
  • Meta Page Title
  • Meta Keywords
  • Meta Description
  • Content Owner

Once you’ve created your template, open it up and begin combing through your website in search of answers to the following questions:

  • What types of content are on the website?
  • How is content stored?
  • Where is content stored?
  • What is the state of the existing site map?

Why is taking inventory of your content so important? It helps you prioritize what needs to move to the new site, what needs some TLC, and what can be left behind.

Step 2: Develop a Content Strategy

Now that you’ve established what you have in terms of content and what needs to move to the new website, it’s time to figure out where it’s supposed to go. It may be difficult to face, but some of your content won’t have a place on the new site, no matter how hard you look. If content isn’t completely relevant and necessary – put it on the chopping block.

  • Create a content strategy for the site moving forward.
  • Who is responsible for creating new content?
  • What topics will you be creating new content around?
  • What content needs to be revamped?
  • At what frequency will content be distributed?

Remember that a content strategy accounts for all of the stages in content development: planning, distribution, and management. Creating, and committing, to a predetermined strategy will help you keep up with generating and maintaining the content on your website.

Step 3: Establish Content Freeze Deadlines

Your developers will thank you for it.
If you know that a site refresh is in your immediate future and you have an established timeline, pinpoint content freeze deadlines. Commit to these dates and don’t add any new content to the site that is being updated. If the content can wait for the new website, don’t release it into the wild just yet. This will save your development team time as they migrate the contents of the old site to the new one.

Step 4: Take Time to Train

Just like you wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, don’t put all of your content into the hands of one team member. Train all content managers on site management early so your team can start posting new content as soon as your new site is deployed. Doing so will help you prevent content traffic jams that throw off you content strategy and release schedule

Step 5: Clean Your Content Up Early

Don’t wait until your content has been migrated to the new site to complete steps one through four. You want to launch your refreshed website with relevant content and plans for the future. You don’t want to spend the weeks after a deployment revising your old content. It’s unwise to launch a website if several pages are incomplete or filled with outdated content. Take advantage of your website’s fresh start and do the heavy lifting before the migration.

Refreshing a website gives you the perfect opportunity to take stock of the content your company currently has and where you can focus your attention in the future.


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