Michelle Hay

How to reduce digital bloat on your website


It’s so easy for websites to quickly become like digital landfill with simply too much content. Out-of-date pages, ancient PDFs, old news items, microsites from long-expired campaigns and newsletters that nobody reads leads to extreme “digital bloat”. 

This is the result of poor content lifecycle management. Archiving, deleting and updating older content tends to be a lower priority for both central digital teams and individual content owners, but it can have a seriously detrimental impact on the user experience of your site as well as website management processes.

Key outcomes include:

  1. Findability suffers

    It can be harder to find what visitors need, particularly in your site search when there are hundreds of extra items to go through. 

  2. Risks are increased with inaccurate and out of date content

    Having pages which are out of date can be highly risky, particularly if you are in a regulated industry. Pages and attachments can contain inaccuracies, be misleading and against your regulatory commitments. Having out of date content also simply looks bad to your customers. Does the content of that PDF newsletter from five years ago that still seems to get downloaded every now really reflect where you are today?

  3. It’s extra work to update your site

    Having vast amounts of pages means there is far more work for you to carry out when you need to enact a global change to your content for example, reflecting a change in your company name or circumstances, when you introduce new branding, or make a change in the text of your disclaimer. When a change needs to be urgent – for example making extensive changes to reflect a product recall – content teams may find themselves cursing themselves why they haven’t spent more time on arching redundant content.

  4. Nobody archives and deletes

    When it becomes standard practice to leave all your content on the site then everybody follows suit; ignoring content lifecycle management becomes the norm. 

Why does digital bloat happen?

Central digital teams, local digital teams and content owners are busy. Archiving content is low priority. A content reduction process sometimes only happens from necessity, such as in a project to create a new site or because someone higher up the food chain has complained.

People also don’t like making decisions about content. The default view is often “someone somewhere might still find that piece of content useful, let’s keep it up there”.  There can also be fears about reducing SEO or that site visitors who have bookmarked a page will get an error.

It’s also primarily because there is usually no content management process in place that includes a regular review of content to ensure it is accurate and up to date. Without a regular process in place teams will simply not review content. 

How can you tackle the bloat?

On the surface the answer seems pretty straightforward  – you need to archive or delete more of your content. But just like making dieting a success, it’s not as easy to put in to practice. 

Here are six essential steps to try and reduce the content on your website.

Six Elements:

  1. Carry out a content audit

    You need to know the extent of the problem and so do your content owners. Carry out a content audit that logs all the pages, who is responsible for them, the date it was last edited and, ideally, the number of people visiting or interacting with the page.

  2. Put policies in place

    Have clear policies about the quality of your content, how it can be regularly reviewed and any archiving or deletion policies. For example, you may want to say that any news that is more than two years old is archived. Having some common sense polices in place means everybody is working from the same page and also helps you to introduce practices which support those policies, and that will eventually get your website to a better state.

  3. Automate content reviews

    Automating content reviews so that named people get automated reminders when they need to review pages and keep, edit or archive / delete, is an excellent way to help maintain content quality. If your CMS has this capability then consider switching it on. Having a clear owner responsible for every page is a dependency here.

  4. Make sure you record your site

    Deletion and archiving will get some content owners worried that they will lose their content forever, even if nobody looks at it! Using a site recording service like Sitemorse’s LIVEARCHIVE will give peace of mind to all content owners that content can be retrieved and referred to if needed, as well as ensure all regulatory and legal commitments to keeping data are met. 

    We’ve found it’s also particularly important that page styling and attachments are preserved in your archive as well as a strong search capability to locate expired content, both features that LIVEARCHIVE offers.

  5. Use data to show the quality of your content and site  

    Sometimes content owners need to know that their content is either rarely visited or is contributing to poor site quality in order to galvanise them into action. Having data that supports your argument is the best way to do this.

    There are numerous ways you can do this, including showing the (very low) number of visits to particular content pages. Our clients have also run Sitemorse’s automated testing across collections of pages to show, for example, that accessibility compliance is not being met, or that it is riddled with broken links. On a wider scale, you can use a whole site benchmarking service like Sitemorse’s INDEX to show why urgent action to review pages is required.

  6. Make deletion and archiving a part of continuous improvement

    Part of Sitemorse’s philosophy is to improve website quality and reach compliance through continuous improvement. Making content deletion part of a continual improvement process helps for example:

    • through automated content reviews
    • a monthly archiving session (we know people who have content reduction sessions where everybody gets in a room for an hour and removes content)
    • part of weekly activities to correct issues and improve content.

Reduce the bloat!

Websites ultimately suffer if they have too much content. They have poorer findability, there is significant risk involved and they are harder to manage. Having out of date content everywhere also drives the wrong mindset among those responsible for pages.

Take action to make improvements. Decide on the policies you want to implement and then use automation to support these, for example with your CMS for automated content reviews, and Sitemorse to fully record your site, while also demonstrating to content owners the poor quality of content that they should either update or remove. By taking a holistic view of end-of-life content you can make a significant contribution to improving the user experience on your site, as well as make it easier to manage. 


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