Content analysis / content audits / Content Strategy

Is your content ROT-ting? How to identify redundant, outdated and trivial content in your content audit

Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) Content

Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial (ROT) content can damage your website and your reputation. Your website is like a big shop window, and often the first point of contact the public will have with you, so that experience needs to be a good one.

For the user, content that is duplicated, outdated, unhelpful or misleading leads to confusion, distrust, complaints, abandonment and, in the worst case, legal issues.

For you an excess of poor content not only means more server space, but also means more effort to maintain. But more content does not equal more sales, more donations, more enquiries, more visits, more bookings etc. Better content does.

But how do you know if your content is any good if you don’t evaluate it? When I undertake content audits, one of the myriad things I evaluate content against is ROT. Here’s how:

1.      Ask key questions

When doing a content review, or before creating new content, ask yourself:

  • Is this page necessary?
  • Does the information exist elsewhere?
  • Is it still current and relevant?
  • Does it do/say something?
  • Does it refer to a specific date, or timeframe? Can this be avoided?
  • Does it refer to a specific person? Can this be avoided (makes your site less personal) or noted so it’s reviewed and removed if that person leaves?
  • Can I just link to something elsewhere, rather than creating a new piece of content?

2. Add a column for ROT to your content audit spread sheet

 3. Identify ROT

Identify each piece as R, O, T or fine.

‘R’ is for Redundant

Redundant information also makes your site bigger than it needs to be, and user journeys become confusing and long, or reliant on site searches. Content can be redundant when:

  • There is no longer a need for it
    Perhaps your users no longer need explanations on how to do something, or a new product is now a familiar one. If it no longer meets a business objective, or user need, chances are it’s redundant.
  • The content is duplicated elsewhere
    Perhaps you didn’t know where to put a piece of content to get maximum exposure so put it in a couple of places. Or your site is updated by many people and the content was duplicated unknowingly. Content duplicates may not get updated in line with each other so no one knows which information is correct.

‘O’ is for Outdated

Outdated content can affect your credibility, breed distrust and result in more customer enquiries than necessary. Outdated content includes:

  • News, events or product e that are represented as new when they’re not
  • Incorrect contact information (someone has left, the office moved etc.)
  • Product/service information no longer on offer

‘T’ is for Trivial

Trivial content doesn’t really do or communicate anything. All of your information should be useful. If it’s not people will click around the site, or just leave.  Trivial content can include:

  • Listing pages, landing pages, index pages etc., especially when they present a barrier or extra step to the user from accessing the actual content.

At The British Heart Foundation, by introducing a roll-over ‘mega nav’ we eliminated the need for trivial Tier 1 landing pages, so users could get straight to the content they were after.

4. Delete, re-write or keep as is?

You’ll then have to decide what to do with the content: delete, re-write or keep as is? Cleaning up ROT will include:

  • Deleting duplicate content
  • Archiving outdated content
  • Re-writing misleading content, or making it relevant for the user and the organisation
  • Making dead ends leads somewhere for the user
  • Deciding whether to cull content that hadn’t been accessed in X months
  • Fixing broken links

5. Prevent ROT from coming back

It’s not enough to clean up ROT, and then let it creep in all over again. Your planning, creation, maintenance and governance processes need to work as hard as they can to prevent ROT.  For example, you could:

  • Diarise content review sessions – If you don’t make time for it, it won’t happen
  • Date stamp content, with a last reviewed/published on date,  so users can judge for themselves how useful it is
  • Assign content owners and make it their objective to maintain quality content
  • Introduce governance/style guidelines. These could say pages have a minimum word length, or duplicate pages won’t be created
  • Set up an approval workflow, so someone else can oversee content relevance

6. Do a thorough content analysis

Identifying ROT can throw up quick fixes, but it doesn’t tell you why content may be inappropriate, inconsistent, or off brand. ROT is not a problem that exists on its own – it’s part of a wider content problem. A thorough content analysis can identify patterns and get to the root of your content problems.

7. Devise a content strategy

Having a strategy that allows for the effective planning, creation, delivery and governance of useful, usable content that meets yours and your user needs can help prevent future ROT. But that’s easier said than done, right?

Elena Plaiter


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