Perhaps you’ve noticed a conspicuous typo on your website, or a big announcement which promises something fabulous next week … except it was last year. Maybe you have lists of elected committee members which need updating, stacks of old listings cluttering your event page, or a scattering of colourful and imaginative font styles applied to content.
All these problems ask for one solution – regular content reviews. It can seem daunting, but with a plan and a little help from others (top tip – delegate!), you can keep your website current and correct.
How to Review Your Website Content
Every single page on your website needs to be reviewed at least once a year. This means somebody who understands what each particular page is about needs to read it and check for errors or out of date information. If the thought of reviewing every page on your website annually is daunting, don’t panic! The benefit is that it often gets easier over time. So the first time you review your site, you may find a heap of inaccuracies and cringe-worthy errors. But once these are tidied-up, a quick and simple once-over is all that’s required to keep on top of content and ensure it stays current.
There are two things to remember about reviewing your website. First, you don’t have to do it all in one day, and second, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. In fact, it’s best if you don’t!
1. Break it into bite size chunks
First things first … create a sitemap. We like to use a good old fashioned Excel spreadsheet. Set your spreadsheet up with these columns: Page Title, Page URL, Next Review Date, Content Owner. Each page URL from your website goes on a separate row, and you’ll end up with a complete list of the pages on your website.
There are free and paid tools online to make this job easy.
- Google Analytics – Set the date range to the past view years, and view all pages that have had 1 page view or more. Export this to Excel.
- Google Search Console – Similar to above, but set the tool to show all pages in the past 90 days that have had an impression in search.
- SEO Spider Tools – Crawl your website using a tool such as Screaming Frog, and then export all URLs it finds.
Once you have these three sources of URLs in separate Excel files, join them into one, then remove duplicates (using the Remove Duplicates function in Excel).
When you’ve finished, you’ll have a document which you can use to break the job of reviewing your website into manageable chunks. You might see that some pages need checking more regularly than once a year (for example, an Events page might need a weekly or monthly check), while for other pages an annual read is fine. Then you can delegate content to different Content Owners, who are then responsible for reviewing various pages or whole sections of the site. Which brings us to the next point …
2. Assign the right team members for the job
The next step is to work out who is best to review each website page.
If your website is small and you’re totally on top of the content then perhaps that’s you. But with a larger organisation (and/or website) there are likely others who know much more about big chunks of the website than you do (aka the ‘subject matter experts’). For example, if you’re an education provider and you have a web page about Scholarships on your website, the best person to review the content on this page could be your ‘Scholarships Coordinator’.
If more than one person is involved with regular content reviews you’ll need somebody to oversee and coordinate the process. Your website administrator (or anyone who routinely maintains your website content) is ideal because they know how the content should look. That makes them best suited to ensuring consistency across the site, so your content is on-brand and meets your website style guide (if you have one).
While your regular content review Coordinator can check a page for typos and correct layout etc., they’re unlikely to have the in-depth knowledge required to say if the information on a particular page is still current.
That’s where subject matter experts are required, and where your sitemap comes in handy (remember point 1. above?) Enter each subject matter expert’s name against the pages they will review, under the ‘Content Owner’ column.
Next, assign a review date for each page. This is the date when the Content Owner will be asked to do the content review. Think about practical and seasonal implications when you choose review dates. You can do this in a spreadsheet and keep records on progress, or there are automated systems which will manage the process for you.
Your regular content review Coordinator can remind Content Owners when their pages are up for review. They can also assign deadlines for completing the review, and follow up to ensure the work gets done.
Finally, the Coordinator can also act as a valuable liaison if something complicated is identified during a review, and ensure the issue is sorted out.
As a side note (because this deserves its own blog post another day), using a project management tool can aid with scheduling and assigning tasks for yourself and your team and keeping on top of work flow. We use Asana for our own content schedule and content review plan (and for everything else actually, because we LOVE it).
3. Know what to look for when doing a content review
So, what exactly do you need to look for during a content review?
- Typos, bad grammar, long confusing sentences
- Poor or irregular layout, not enough white space
- Text styling which is non-compliant with your brand
- Factual inaccuracies
- Outdated or expired content
- Broken links, missing images, or any other on-page functionality that might have stopped working properly.
4. Make sure issues identified during a content review are promptly fixed!
How content problems get fixed depends on the size of the issue that has been identified, and the size and structure of your organisation. A small typo or an obsolete date can be fixed in passing, but more complicated issues may require a different approach.
- If you manage your own website, you can make the decisions about what to do and you can either do it yourself, or arrange for someone else (your web administrator) to get it done.
- If the issue in question is complex, or you’re not the website manager, you may need to get others involved. You may need to get sign-off to make the changes identified, or to follow company protocol for approving updates to company information.
Identify what processes need to be followed for getting approval to make changes, and for implementing the changes once approved. If you have all the information you need before you get started, it’s quicker and easier to follow through with making updates.
How to make sure content reviews get done regularly
- Make a list of all your website’s page URLs (your sitemap).
- Assign a ‘Content Owner’ to each page and choose a review date.
- Let Content Owners know when it’s time to review their pages. Set a deadline and follow them up with a reminder, to keep the process alive and ongoing.
- Implement required updates, resolve any issues: Make it happen, and follow through, follow through, follow through.
- Using a project management tool like Asana helps everybody see who’s responsible, for what and when – and sends automatic reminders.
And there’s one more vital thing …
Get everyone involved in the setup
Are you working with a team, or with different departments, or anyone whose work you don’t understand intimately? Don’t make the mistake of going through numbers 1 to 5 on your own, and then announcing to everyone you’ve got this great plan for keeping the website current. It’ll fly like a lead balloon.
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of somebody rocking up to you with a great plan and they’re ready to push Go. The management are all excited about it. It’s awesome, it’s going to change your world. Just one problem, the folks who came up with it forgot to ask how it would impact on you, and the impact isn’t good.
You’ll get much better buy-in and participation from folks if you ask them how long they think they’ll need to review content. How they’d like to be notified a page is due for review, and how they’d like to be reminded if they’ve been flat tack and haven’t done it in the allotted time. Then when it happens they’ll know they’ve had their part in making it like that.
Content reviews aren’t sexy. They’re legwork and nobody wants to do them. They’re also like cleaning your bath. If you don’t do it the grime builds up!
Ask Webstruxure about a content review
If setting up content review schedule is just one more thing on your ever-expanding ‘To Do’ list, talk to Webstruxure. We can review your content, create a schedule as a one-off activity, or be part of implementing the review on an ongoing basis. Whatever your needs or budget, we can help.
Webstruxure is here to make the web work smarter. Let us know how we can help you for user friendly, mobile friendly and search engine friendly websites. Our services include:
Maddy Schafer is a writer and web content alchemist who does magic with words and images. She writes clear and direct copy, instructions which include all the bits you’re ‘supposed’ to know but don’t, and has super powers to read between the lines and deliver what clients want (instead of what they ask for). Working for Webstruxure, she provides expert content support to a variety of clients and also contributes to the Webstruxure blog.