In the UK, every vehicle over three years old used on public roads must undergo a test to check it’s roadworthy.
It’s known as the MOT (Ministry of Transport) test and, like death and taxes, it’s inevitable.
You rarely hear any major protests from car owners – the last thing they want is for the various bits of steel, aluminium and electrical wiring to fall apart when they’re travelling at 70mph down the A31.
They understand it’s in their best interests to give their car a thorough check-up every so often – it would be marvellous if every website owner felt the same way, introducing a regular COT (Content Optimisation and Taxonomy) test.
For starters it’s worth asking yourself, when was the last time you looked at your website content?
I mean actually propped open the bonnet and took a proper look, rather than just the quick tyre-kick of flicking through the top-level pages or finding broken links with a sleuthing tool?
Around the same time you last changed the oil in your car?
Whist it’s probably true that the majority of visitors to your site come to the homepage and stick within the top 20ish pages of your navigation, there’s likely to be a glut of posts or legacy pages that are still pulling in the punters through search.
This content may be buried within your existing site, it may sit on pages still displaying old branding, or it may be within a long-forgotten and abandoned microsite. Wherever it lies, it’s still associated with your company and it can be as appealing to your potential customers as a mouldy roll in a bakery window.
Ratchets and wrenches
Content inventories and audits are frequently undertaken by website owners, but without standardised methodology and a checklist of things to look out for, people put their own interpretation of what needs assessing (especially if they’re close to the day-to-day running of the site).
Getting an unbiased pair of eyes to review your site will give you a truer assessment of the current situation.
As a bare minimum, a yearly independent COT test would ask:
- Is the body and structure solid?
- Does the content contain any mistakes or pieces of obsolete information?
- Does each piece of content sit in the right place within the navigation?
- Is the site or CMS displaying content that is still in active use?
- Is the signalling and safety equipment effective?
- Does content appear in a format that makes good use of modern technology and techniques?
- Does the content message fit the needs of your visitors and the current direction of the business?
- Do all the internal and external links point to the most appropriate place?
- Is there a logical next step for the user to take once they have absorbed the content?
- Are the emissions good for the environment?
- Does the content aid efforts in social media, SEO and other forms of digital marketing?
- How does content appear when viewed on the latest browsers and new devices?
Like the MOT, a yearly COT test carried out by authorised practitioners (vetted for their content auditing ability) should be something welcomed by everyone involved in the development process.
The license plate said ‘FRESH’
Fresh content has always been considered an important ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. Recent information is rightly considered to be more relevant to the reader than something that was written several years ago.
Regularly updating existing pages is seen as a more positive activity than adding new pages – it’s good practice to use the positive equity that exists within your website by making each page as current as you possibly can, rather than opting to create superfluous bulk.
If you’re sharing some top money-saving tips for 2015, and your 2014 version hooked in a load of visitors, look to see if the advice still applies. Can you remove the annual element and make it ‘new and improved’ evergreen advice that anyone can use at any time?
Red, amber or green
If your site passes the scrutiny of your COT you can feel safe in the knowledge you’re making a positive contribution with your efforts.
However, fail the examination and you’ll have a clear understanding of the necessary changes you need to make to your content to bring it up to standard; a checklist of faults to remedy.
The internet was supposed to make it easier for us to discover and decipher information – poor content can often make that difficult. We put a lot of love into creating content and it’s sad when the first signs of rust start to appear.
A regular and standardised content review will help keep you speeding along the road to success and well away from the scrap heap for years to come.