Content Vetting: The Process of Second Guessing Your Website's Content

Illustration of someone at a desk throwing crumpled up paper into a trash bin.

I was reading an article on a usability blog the other day that focused on how to say “no” to co-workers suggesting extra features for a product. The author, user experience consultant Craig Morrison, argued that adding a new feature to your website may seem like a good idea, but in the end it may also end up as “another item in your ever-expanding navigation bar. One that’s distracting your users away from the main reason they’re there.”

I thought, hmmm … that’s the same thing with content.

I used to be a content manager for an agency, and a big part of my job was questioning every single piece of content that went up on the website. Many of our co-workers think that something “needs to go up on the website” without taking into account several factors:

  • Are the users asking for it? (Hint: Check search logs and call center data)
  • Is it information that will be useful to them?
  • Will anyone read it the way it’s written?

This process, which I call content vetting, can sometimes turn into a battle, but too often, once a website goes live, we start cluttering it up with useless content — kind of like that gadget drawer in your kitchen (or some people’s basements and garages)

That’s why it’s best to make the decision before the content even goes live. It requires some analyzing and working with the content owner to make sure the content is needed. Maybe a simple tweet or post of Facebook will do instead

It may also involve some negotiating and tact; content owners don’t like to be questioned about whether their content is needed. But in the end, it’s the user that matters most. Reworking one of Morrison’s quotes on product features to fit my content approach: “You need to be certain that new [content] will help your [website] more than it hurts it.

If you agree that it needs to go on the site, that doesn’t mean you can’t edit it. Aim for a 50% reduction in words. Use bullet points and bold important phrases and words

One final note on keeping your content lean: We usually encourage all agencies who are migrating to our platform to perform a content audit in which they evaluate every piece of content on their site, look at analytics for it, and determine whether it should stay, be edited, or be deleted.

Why not do it for your site? Look over all the content and examine Google Analytics to see what’s being looked at and what’s gathering cobwebs. Do you have content that hasn’t been touched in years? Update it or get rid of it. Make your website lean and mean. And keep it that way.

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