Content is the most important element of your website. It is the reason visitors come to your website. Its value cannot be overstated. Recognizing this fact organizations often spend tremendous amounts of money, time and energy in developing quality content. Key messaging including brand values, calls to action, and positioning strategies are crucial to converting a prospect into a customer. To be effective in these areas your content must be useful, relevant and clear. Is yours?
Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial (ROT) Diminishes User Experience
The ROT review can help assess your content. ROT is an acronym for three types of deficiencies that can handicap the performance of your web content:
ROT content can be confusing, contradicting and distracting to website visitors which diminish the quality of the user experience. In severe cases it can lead to erosion of user confidence, distrust, and abandonment. ROT content can also make on-site searching more difficult and may negatively impact your website ranking.
ROT Review Improves Content Strength
The ROT review is the systematic auditing of every webpage for ROT content. It’s sometimes done as part of a larger content inventory analysis, or can be done as a separate quality audit check which identifies content that can be quickly edited or removed for improved call to action performance.
In practice the audit is conducted by listing all content found for every page within one of more spreadsheets. This includes text, illustrations, documents, multimedia and hypertext links. Allow a separate column for each content type. Depending upon the size the website being evaluated a number of strategies can be used for capturing and classifying content:
- Create a spreadsheet for each page
- Create a spreadsheet for each navigational category
- Create a spreadsheet for the entire website
Another impact of the size of the website is the amount of time that may need to be planned for when auditing large websites.
As your build out the spreadsheets deficiencies will become evident. If you do have redundant information on multiple pages, you’ll see the related occurrences on other pages as you list individual content to your spreadsheet. Note all instances of outdated or trivial information in the spreadsheet as you detect them.
It’s a good practice to highlight all instances of detected ROT content particularly if you’re working on a rather large website. You’ll appreciate having done that when you’re going back through the completed spreadsheets a second time as you prepare to edit or remove found ROT content.
During the process of scrutinizing your content you may also detect gaps in information that would be beneficial to the user information needs of your website visitors.
- Redundant information on multiple pages negatively impacts visitor user experience, search engine ranking, search processes, and requires more server space. Visitors seeing disagreeing content on a website may perceive it to be less trustworthy.
- From an administration point of view, redundant content distributed across multiple pages on a large website can be challenging to uniformly update, which increases the likelihood that related content on one page may contradict redundant content on another page. Combine redundant content on one page, or eliminate other pages so there is only one single source of specific information that can easily be update when the time comes. If related information must be referred to use a hypertext link back to the source page.
- Areas to scrutinize for redundant content include:
- Information repeated between home page and about us page
- Duplicate text, maps, pdfs or multimedia. Use hypertext links to pages containing referenced content elements as a strategy to eliminate redundant content. This tactic will save server space and make updating easier.
- Similar pages such as Who We Are and What We Do.
- Outdated information can diminish the trust and credibility of a website. The following examples are areas that should be evaluated:
- Products and services no longer offered.
- Individuals no longer with the organization or promoted to a new functional title.
- News or events no longer current. Do your visitors really want to know that your organization was exhibiting in a trade show or attending an industry conference in 2011?
- Specifications, illustrations, multimedia or publications not reflecting current product/service offerings.
- The name, address and phone numbers (NAP) of the primary business and secondary locations. If the NAP information for any of your locations is not current your Google ranking may be negatively impacted.
- Non-functional links or broken pages
- Content not compliant with current internal governance, style/branding guidelines or responsive design standards.
- Trivial content is content that doesn’t make any significant contribution. In evaluating content for being trivial, simply ask the question “does it support user or business needs? If the answer is no, it’s likely trivial. Examples include
- Welcome messages, generic overview page that has no purpose except to link to sub-pages.
- Generalizations or clichés such as “we really care about the customer”, “we’re different” and “we’re number 1.” Unless you have hard specifics thoroughly supporting your claim, avoid using them.
- Listing pages, landing pages, site index
- Useless information and unrelated links
Upon completion of your first ROT review, continued ROT maintenance becomes a more manageable task. To further aid you in maintaining your content, consider developing a website governance document which defines a controlled process for development and approval of content complying with best practice ROT content strategies.
For those who may not have the time or may not be confident in execution of ROT and inventory analysis, SunAnt Interactive provides content analysis services to businesses seeking to improve the effectiveness of their website content.