You work hard to create content that will be useful to your global customers and help them make decisions about your products and services. But it’s not a one-time deal: it’s highly likely that your first pieces of content will include information that changes over time. However diligent the research at the time of writing to ensure that the details are accurate, fast-forward a couple of years (or even months!) and much of that information may be inaccurate or obsolete.
The many ways content can change
For example, a restaurant that’s mentioned in a destination feature in an online magazine may have closed or re-branded since the article was published. A hotel may have opened a new signature spa or fancy restaurant, and both may be key reasons for customers to choose the hotel over its competitors. Software products update all the time, and the problems they try to solve change just as rapidly. Regardless of the industry, businesses go to great lengths to constantly improve their customer offerings, and anyone creating content that describes their products and services must also make sure that this content is kept updated and credible.
Your content needs to reflect not only changes in your own product, but in its immediate environment, so the updates that you need to make might extend beyond the product itself. For example, a description of the key benefits of a digital marketing software solution might need to be updated if a major new piece of data protection legislation takes effect, even if the software itself hasn’t changed. A hotel would find itself in a similar position if nearby attractions shut down, close for renovations or are affected by disasters—think vineyards that have been destroyed by wildfires. If the reason for booking a hotel is its proximity to a point of interest, your description will need to be refreshed to reflect the current reality.
Other times, it’s predictable when a content piece needs to evolve, such as with a change of season. If a travel article or video is about things to do in New York, talking about taking a river trip on the East River or enjoying a picnic and a movie in Central Park might be on point for an article published in June, but irrelevant or even ridiculous in December, as would a feature on the city’s skating rinks in the summer months. For some editorial teams, the answer is to create timeless content by ignoring seasonal highlights and just focusing on always-open venues, but this means missing out on some of New York’s most iconic attractions.
A better solution is to have a proactive content management plan where the content is maintained and refreshed so that it’s kept relevant.
A five-step plan
You can see that stale content does your business no favors: it can damage your brand and cost you customers. But while managing a content maintenance process may be expensive and time-consuming, it'll be worth every penny. A sample management plan could be:
- Consider whether all pieces of content need the same treatment. If certain products attract little or no interest from your customers, then skip them (or maybe delete them!). Make sure your analysis looks at differences across geographic markets. A product may be a best-seller in Japan but attract almost no interest in English markets; you’ll want to keep the Japanese product description up to date at all times despite the product’s apparent lack of popularity in your home market.
- Assemble a team of reviewers through a recruitment and selection process that identifies candidates with good fact-checking and editorial skills.
- Build a standardized process to check content for factual accuracy and relevance at regular intervals to facilitate making changes when necessary.
- Once you’ve identified what needs maintaining, split up the work into manageable chunks. If you’re an online retailer and you have an inventory of 100,000 products, you could simply say, “If I can review and update 2,000 products each week, then the whole inventory is refreshed each year.”
- Localize changed content. If your product descriptions have been localized into multiple languages, only updating the source runs the risk of your descriptions no longer being in sync across international markets. You will need a plan to localize updated content, too (perhaps with MT to reduce costs).
Make it easier with automation
You don’t have to do all this manually. Having some form of automated analysis in your content maintenance program will allow you to sort the content by search popularity, sales or any other metric. If the content exists in multiple languages, then the triage should take into account each product’s levels of success in the various markets. That way, the investment put into refreshing existing content will reap the greatest rewards.
How much automation you have in your content management process depends to a large extent on your source material. If you’re writing descriptions based on updates provided by individual vendors using a standardized template, then a high level of automation is possible. If, on the other hand, the descriptions are curated by an editorial team based on web research from authority websites, the automation will be limited to selecting the most worthwhile units for an update based on an agreed set of criteria such as daily impressions.
Creating the right content for your customers is clearly an essential requirement for any online business, but it’s not a one-off task. Only by actively maintaining that content so that it remains accurate and relevant can you be sure that it is delivering the best return on investment and keeping you ahead of your competitors.
If you want to discuss your content strategy, don't hesitate to contact us here. We love talking about this stuff.
Thanks to Andy Jarosz, Content Strategist, for sharing his expertise here.