The blog audit. Call it the blogging equivalent of cleaning out your closet. It’s something you put off for as long as possible, but once you’re done you feel a great sense of satisfaction. Plus, it’s kind of fun trying on your old letter jacket while you’re in there.
Basically, a blog audit is how you deal with old content on your website. Some posts are evergreen, but some go out of style, just like your the clothes from your grunge phase (and if you still have those in your closet, it really is time to clean it out.)
It’s probably worth it to audit your content once a year for two reasons. First, that’s often enough that nothing will get too far out of date and turn users off. Second, it keeps the job manageable for you.
So how do you approach the blog audit? Well, think of your favorite decluttering show on t.v. They put everything into one of three piles – keep, giveaway, discard. You’ll do something similar with your content, but instead you will use keep, redirect, and update piles.
This is like your favorite pair of jeans that fits perfectly and doesn’t make your butt look too big. It’s your evergreen content – it’s useful year in and year out. If you’ve written it well, you won’t need to change it. It is still timely and it’s as relevant today as it was the day you wrote it. I love this pile!
The redirect pile is the opposite of the keep pile. This is for content that is out of date or no longer useful. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios in which you might want to redirect.
First, you should redirect a post that no longer has correct information – this is the equivalent of clothes that were trendy but now they date you. If you wrote about the American Heart Association cholesterol guidelines five years ago, those guidelines are no longer in effect. So you might want to redirect that page so anyone who tries to go to it lands on a post about the current guidelines.
Second, you may have written about the same topic multiple times. Imagine you have three very similar cardigans. One is a little stretched out, one hits you at exactly the wrong place on the hips, and the third is perfect. Keep the third, donate the first two. Same story if you have several posts on the same topic, you might want to redirect the ones with the least traffic to the post that still gets a lot of attention.
As you go through your content, you will discover other reasons a redirect makes sense. The main thing to remember on a redirect is to point it to very similar information on your site. You will use a 301 redirect to do this – it’s kind of like forwarding your home phone (if you still have one) to your cell.
Don’t delete the page! Chances are search engines have already indexed it. If you delete it, users and search engines will land on a 404 error page. Neither of them will be happy about that. There is one use and one use only for the 404 error page – it’s the page people land on when they mistype the url. Otherwise they should be pointed to the most relevant content possible.
I’ll be honest – this pile represents the most work. But this is the pile that makes your website a thing of beauty, brimming with well-written, useful information.
This is the content that is still useful, but needs some tweaking – like the great blue blazer that needs a button sewn on. Maybe you’ve written about mammograms, and you stand by the information you’ve shared. But you can make that post even better by sharing the latest USPSTF recommendations.
Or, you may just need to tweak the writing to make the post sing. You’ve gotten better at writing over the past year, no reason you can’t make your old content reflect your very best.
This is the beauty of the web. With print, you’re stuck with what you’ve written. But on your website, you can make sure people get the information you want them to have today.
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