Why destroying content is as important as creating it

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Why destroying content is as important as creating it


I might regret asking you guys this, but what do you think me, Ben, Jon and other content marketers actually do?

I was hoping that someone would say something like: “Write amazing copy for the web; which is obviously correct. But, what a lot of people don’t realise is that now, an increasingly important part of our jobs is actually to remove the rubbish as well. And there’s a lot of rubbish on the web.

Take a guess at how many indexed pages there are across the web. I’m really worried that Chris is going to correct my stat here.

Supposedly, as of, I think it was Monday, 4.71 billion pages across the web.

I’m not going to point any fingers, but because of dodgy tactics, the web is now absolutely full of useless content that we really don’t need. Back in 2012 or more recently, as this keyword research document suggests, technical SEO would come up with a huge list of keywords that they wanted to target, and then content would be created for each of those keywords with an individual page dedicated to each one.

Now, this was written by the same team or someone else with little experience in writing, because the main purpose of the page was for it to rank, with little regard actually given to what was being served to the users. Now, this was a very dark time for us writers because, even when we were producing great content, it was hidden amongst piles of sh…that.

So, users started to get frustrated with what they were seeing, and their questions weren’t being answered. Google’s credibility was being called into question as well because people were, essentially, beating the system. Things actually got better for us, because people who could actually write were employed to do the writing.

We were allowed to then put the users first, give people information that they actually wanted. Our problem now is that there’s a lot hiding all the stuff that we’re still creating.

We’ve started incorporating UX techniques into our content planning, including user journey mapping and card sorting. Now, these exercises allow us to audit a site for its content, categorise it into common themes and concepts and then assign actions to individual pages, such as keep, revise, and delete – so we know exactly what we want to do with a site.

Essentially, we want to make our clients’ websites look more like a shelf of encyclopaedias and less like some people’s desks.

One of the clients we’ve been doing this on recently is K-Seal, which, annoyingly, isn’t actually one of my clients. Their new website launches next week, and in preparation, the guys have been working closely with Chris to sort out the content on the website. A massive part of this has actually been to remove the redundant pages, take the information from those pages and then consolidate that into fresh content on brand new pages.

2012, would have asked for individual pages on very niche, but also quite similar, topics. I don’t know how many of you have ever Googled these before, but there’s your answers. Of 2017, and hopefully from next week, these will all be consolidated onto one page that deals with this topic, with each of those page titles now appearing as subheadings on that page. What this exercise has actually allowed us to do is reduce the size of K-Seal’s site down from 117 pages to 88, or by 24.8%; which also means we’ve reduced the size of the web, albeit by a very small amount.

K-Seal aren’t the only client that we’ve done this on. This is becoming standard practise for a lot of our clients now. Quality Solicitors are actually in next week with us to complete a card sorting exercise. I think I’m right in saying, this is the first time we’ve ever done this with a client in the room? So, we’re quite nervous. A lot of preparation work has been needed to allow us to do this. Dom, from our Tech SEO team, has pulled a list of literally thousands of pages that look like this, targeting very, very niche queries and providing very little content as the answer.

What we’ve then done is consolidated these, put them into categories, assigned actions to them, and then we’ll complete the exercise, which, ultimately, will help us to build a navigational structure that should put the content and the users first, and not keywords.

Hitachi, as well, they’ve benefited from these exercises. Their driving instructor site is actually migrating over to their leasing website soon. I’m not sure when. This has actually allowed us to see what content needs to come over, where it can sit within Hitachi’s existing site, but it’s also given us a huge list of pages that we can now just delete from the web.

I think what I’m trying to say to you is: “As a writer, I actually have absolutely no issues getting rid of content.” If I can turn 10 absolutely horrific pages into one amazing page, I think that’s a good day’s work for us. It ultimately means that we can move away from a site – a web – that looks like this, and move towards a web that looks like this.