The Netherlands has recently seen two examples of drastic content reduction with positive outcomes for the organizations involved and their clients.
Vodafone: 85% less pages
During a project to improve mobile performance of their content, telecom provider Vodafone decided to cut the majority of the content to better live up to one of their brand values: simplicity. Before the start of the project, there were 11,000 pages online. In some cases there were 20 pages with more or less the same content, caused by information being scattered over unlinked back-end systems.
Happy customers buy more
Vodafone reduced the total number of pages on their website by 85%. The remaining, much smaller set of content is better perceived by customers, leads to more conversion, and performs much better on a mobile device. From a governance perspective, the controllability of the remaining content set is higher. So for the organization and their customers, less is definitely more. Full story at Marketingfacts (in Dutch).
Tilburg: 92% less pages
The municipality of Tilburg redesigned and relaunched their website aimed at civilians and entrepreneurs. Previously containing 2,500 pages, it now consists of only 200. The redesign has been informed by the top tasks approach, meaning a close relation between the content that is provided and the task a civilian or entrepreneur has come to the local government for. The same resources are still available for the maintenance of the content, but because there are fewer pages to monitor, the quality of each page is much higher. The organization is much more focused. Civilians and entrepreneurs benefit.
Fear of cleaning up
So what's keeping your organization from permanently removing old content from the website? In our experience, the motivations are usually informed by fear. Fear of losing domain authority in search engines. Fear of insulting the internal stakeholder that created the content. Fear of sometimes having to disappoint a customer. Let's look into these "arguments" one by one.
SEO is a quality game
Organizations do not need large volumes of content online to be indexed by search engines. The quality of the content that is provided is much more important. While Google awards websites that refresh their content frequently, this does not mean organizations should publish low-quality content for publishing's sake. Perhaps this quantitative approach will be beneficial to SEO in the short term; Google is getting stronger and stronger in assessing true relevancy. Even more importantly, customers will immediately recognize the irrelevance of the offered information.
Risks of low-quality content
Avoiding tough discussions with internal stakeholders is an understandable practice, but organizations should be aware of the impact this behavior has on their customers. They are ruthless in determining the relevance of the content to them. Any content that does not conform to the quality standards (relevant, accurate, activating, and structured) should be removed. Because leaving it online can lead to reputational damage, client loss, and low conversion.
Inconsistent brand message
Think about it: you attract a potential customer to a shiny, hyper optimized landing page. She becomes curious and starts browsing a few other pages on the website. If this other content is not of equal quality, the prospect is left with a bad impression, regardless of the quality of the landing page, because the brand message is inconsistent. Every piece of content organizations publish adds to the overall experience.
Cut the long tail short
Leaving content online because someone, somewhere in the future might have a need for it, is no reason to leave it online. The long tail is considerably shorter than many organizations think. Any content left online costs organizations money to maintain and is a risk of reputational damage. There are exceptions of course. Sometimes there is a concrete need for a document from 2008. Cases like this should stand out in web statistics. If people are still visiting this content frequently, bring it to the same quality level as the best optimized pages.
Always a business case
Our plea: for an effective website, you need a small number of pages of the highest quality. Keep monitoring the quality of the content on your website. Don't be afraid to throw out information if it's not of added value anymore. Google won't punish you. Customers will love you for it. There is always a business case for a clean-up. Let Vodafone and Tilburg serve as great examples. If these haven't convinced you - in the United Kingdom, government-wide public website GOV.uk has removed two-thirds of the content items, saving them 50 to 70 million pounds. And look at automated content services to help you do the job!