Just like your home, your website needs a regular cleanup to bring ‘joy’ to visitors. Use these tips to clean up your website after a content audit.
We’ve all seen websites that are so cluttered that it’s hard to find what you’re looking for. How do you navigate a cobweb of ten-year-old reports, blogs with broken links, and pages with all kinds of items thrown around? If this sounds like your association’s website, then it’s time for a cleanup so you can provide a better user experience.
You’ve already done your content check, so you have a plan of action for your pages. Now it’s a matter of knowing how best to remove, revise and reorganize your content. Use these tips from Carrie Hane, co-author of Designing Connected Content and Association Content Strategies for a Changing World, to effectively clean up your website.
Remove content without stranding users
It’s time to remove pages that you considered expendable in your content check. But doing this effectively isn’t as simple as clicking “delete” in your CMS, because you don’t want users to get lost in a sea of ”page not found” messages and error pages.
There are a few things you can do with HTTP status codes. One is assigning a “410 Road“status to permanently deleted pages instead of “404 not found”. The difference is that a 410 will tell search engines that the page is intentional and permanent removed, removing it from search results, making it less likely that users will stumble upon a deleted page.
When deleting pages, remember to remove links on your website that lead to those deleted pages. Tools like Google Analytics can help you find broken links on your website so that you can remove them efficiently. And as you take pages offline, keep an archive of deleted pages so you can still access them when needed. This can be as simple as unpublish pages in your CMS so they are only visible to site administrators.
“I’d say the main reason people are hesitant to remove stuff on their website is, ‘Where is it going?'” Hane says. “If you have a clear archiving policy, you can say, ‘It won’t disappear from the face of the earth; it just goes away from our website and over here.’”
Consolidate Excess Content
If you remove duplicate content, use a 301 redirect to direct users to a similar page with relevant information. A redirect helps users find what they need and stay on your site instead of hitting a dead end on a deleted page. This is useful when, for example, you want to consolidate overlapping information on three pages and put everything in one URL.
Reorganize content for easier site navigation
“The audit recommendations should be more holistic, not just a list of pages to remove and rewrite. You’ll probably also have to reorganize some,” Hane says.
With newly deleted pages, content gaps can appear on your website; this is where the content model you created during your audit will come in handy. Content modeling defines how your content should be structured and you need to visualize your website’s content ecosystem.
Revise content for better performance
Sometimes a page contains valuable information, but it just isn’t presented properly. How you revise your content will depend on your organization and its goals, but there are general best practices to keep in mind when rewriting pages:
Follow the SEO Guidelines. Beautify outdated or underperforming content by improving page SEO. Hane says good SEO has become much more complex than just adding a few keywords, and organizations should consider correcting page structure, using HTML elements, adding multimedia, considering content freshness, and paying attention. spend on the quality and quantity of the link.
Hane also recommends using a guide to break down the many different factors of SEO. The Periodic Table of SEO Factors from Search Engine Land examines six different SEO categories and assigns a level of importance to each part. (Our third article in this website optimization series takes a closer look at SEO.)
Improve readability. Old pages that you haven’t touched in years may contain running sentences, overly complex information, or bad information page design. Hane recommends using a readability guide and according to these guidelines:
- Use clear language.
- Write in short sentences.
- Break text into short paragraphs and divide the copy with bullets, accordions, function boxes, and tools.
- Structure your pages with headings and subheadings and apply heading tags to the HTML.
- Remove complex terminology where possible. Use simpler terms to make your point, or provide full context around the complex term to help readers understand.
This is part 2 of our website optimization series. You can read part 1 about content audits, here; stay tuned for part 3, about SEO.