It’s a good practice for website owners stakeholders to review their online content for accuracy at least every three months in order to meet the informational needs of their website audiences. I noticed one department in a major university had some pages that hadn’t been updated for over ten years. Sometimes organizations are great and producing internal reports and self-studies but a disconnect develops with their online presence.
One important item to have on the content review checklist is checking for ‘broken’ links. Notes on what links to fix can be added to your content audit spreadsheet. In order to keep your web pages useful and relevant, it’s important for area stakeholders to review their web areas for broken links or out-of-date content at least once per quarter (three months). Neglecting to update links to external sites can give site visitors a bad impression of the organization when the links they try to follow don’t work.
The web is ever-changing. As external sites you link to are redesigned, over time their URL paths change causing links in your site to break. Sometimes responsible web developers will create redirects to new URLs. When you notice redirects happening in external sites that’s a sign that a link is in danger of breaking in the future. In the next redesign, the developer of that site may forget to add another redirect so it would be best to update your link to the new URL as a precaution. Some content management systems, like Drupal, have the ability to automatically create redirects whenever a page’s URL path changes. That is good for other sites linking to the CMS powered site and good for its SEO (search engine optimization).
Site visitors will be more likely to return to your website if the content is updated often. Site editors should review pages in their site for freshness at least once a month. If the site is large and time to focus on certain areas and review all content is short refrain from mentioning specific dates or months. For example don’t use phrases like “New for October 2007”, rather use more generic language that doesn’t make it obvious that the content may be out-of-date. To aid in organizing a site updating plan website author can create a frequency of update document or spreadsheet to keep track of when sections should be reviewed. Some areas may typically be updated annually or quarterly, the site editor can note these review times in their frequency of update document.
Keeping times and dates in a central calendar database is another strategy for increasing efficiency in content updating. In this method rather than having to edit every page that mentions a date they would just have to update it in one place. Content Management Systems (CMS) offer a lot of efficiency shortcuts by centralizing data and allowing it to be reused/placed in multiple areas. Some systems may also provide reminders to editors to update content after a period of time has passed. Site authors could also better manage content updates by keeping a special projects calendar with reminders. Many organizations have events that reoccur around the same times each year. These events may be added to a frequency of update project calendar.
Fresh content is key. If site author continues to provide meaningful content updated on a regular basis visitors are more likely to have a good impression of the website and the organization behind it. Conversely sites that are obviously out-of-date may leave users with a bad impression of the site’s company or organization and may influence the user’s decisions to buy, collaborate, or join the organization. For college and university websites if descriptions of academic programs or departments are out-of-date prospectives students may decide to look to enroll elsewhere. Websites are a great communications tool but they are most effective if the content is well cared for.