Keeping content up to date is a major challenge for enterprises. Because they produce lots of content, it is hard to know which content has become out of date. Fortunately, content models can help teams plan their content so that it is easier to keep up to date.
Michael AndrewsMar 5, 2020
The web expert Paul Boag has noted the problem of keeping content up to date: “Although there is a cost to producing this content in the first place, there is a far higher cost in maintaining that content over time. It costs huge amounts of money and time to review content on a regular basis and ensure it is still accurate and relevant. This is especially true when some organizations have millions of pages online. In the end, many companies just give up.”
The challenge of keeping lots of content up to date can seem daunting. Some enterprises give up and delete all content that becomes out of date in some way, only to recreate much of this content again later on. A better approach is to plan for the maintenance of content. Content models can be a big help here.
Using Content Models to Plan Maintenance
Planning involves looking ahead: anticipating how content will be relevant in the future. It entails foreseeing maintenance needs for content and projecting the lifespan of the content.
When content has a long lifespan, it’s often a signal that it’s important. Readers consult it routinely; the piece may discuss a critical topic or be popular because it has a high production value. In addition to that, it may have been expensive to produce and the publisher wants to make sure they continue to be able to use it.
The value of content is strongly tied to how current it is. Out of date content can be harmful—stealthily becoming incomplete, inaccurate, or passé. It hurts a brand’s credibility and its SEO.
Whether content stays up to date depends on how quickly it can be updated. Content models can help make updating easier to manage.
We suggest a three-step process for planning the maintenance of updates in your content model:
- Identify content that needs to be available to audiences for a long period.
- Decide how different parts of that content age.
- Structure these parts in your content model.
Find Content with Long-term Value
First, teams should look for content types that provide information that audiences need to access for a long time. This content always needs to be up to date. Because of its importance to the business, the content can’t be allowed to become stale.
Sometimes these content types do not generate lots of content items, but, nonetheless, the items are in some way crucial. For example, organizations may produce a limited number of long-form items, such as reports, guides, or documentation that are important and need to be kept up to date. They want to be able to revise these larger items easily. If they can’t, they may have to throw away content that cost a lot to create but that has becomedated and therefore no longer valuable.
In other cases, organizations create many items based on a business-critical content type. If certain details tend to go out of date, teams want a simpler way to manage the updating of these items.
Teams want to leverage content models to extend the lifespan of content because:
- Content that is easy to update will have a longer lifespan.
- Content with a long lifespan will deliver more value over time.
Using the content model, teams can identify the core asset (parts within the content type) they need to maintain so that it stays up to date and can be used over time. With this knowledge, teams can be confident that the asset will have lasting value. They will be more likely to invest in creating a quality asset knowing that it can be used for a long time.
Note How Content Types Get Old and Outdated
When content that’s expected to have a long lifespan becomes out of date, it’s worth exploring what parts become dated. Often only certain details become dated: parts that reference specificdates or events, for example. But if the content isn’t structured, teams will need to create a new version of the content instead of updating the parts that need it.
Teams can structure this content in the model so that it is easier to update.
Let’s distinguish two related concepts: parts of the content that go out of date and parts that need updating. However, not all parts that are outdated will need updating—some can be deleted because they are no longer relevant.
More specifically, parts can be characterized in four ways:
- Static parts that generally don’t become outdated and therefore don’t need updating.
- Parts requiring maintenance that become out of date but remain important and need revision to stay useful.
- Expiring parts that are no longer important once they are out of date—they are deleted and never get updated.
- Cyclical or seasonal parts may not require updating, but they are not needed all the time.
The table below provides a summary.
|Part of content||Will it go out of date?||Will it need updating?|
|Parts requiring maintenance||Yes||Yes|
|Cyclical or seasonal parts||Not needed after a certain date, but useful again later||Maybe, if used later and details have changed|
A simple example illustrates how these concepts can be applied. If an organization offers different services, perhaps carpet cleaning, they will have a content type describing the service to prospective customers. They can break apart their content into three aspects:
- The description of the service, which doesn’t change
- Pricing and scheduling information, which may be revised often
- Information about a special promotion such as a bonus available to customers, which is included only during certain times
We can see that this content has different parts based on how the information ages. Now, let’s translate this into the content model.
Structure Parts in the Content Model
By knowing how different parts get old and outdated, teams can design content types so they are easier to maintain. This involves creating distinct elements with a content type. It can also involve splitting situational parts into separate types so the information is not always connected.
A content model divides content types into distinct parts called elements. Static parts that don’t require routine updating can be separate elements from those parts that do. This separation will allow teams to focus on the parts that needrevision and not have to worry about parts that won’t change. That focus helps teams identify when parts go out of date and accelerates the updating of items.
Next, consider how the content model can support situational information. We can specify two items:
- The reference item with information that will always be available
- A separate item that contains situation-specific information
In the content model, situation-specific content that won’t be needed later is linked to the reference item. For example, a special offer may expire after a certain date, and should no longer appear together with the content it refers to. Or a seasonal promotion may only be used certain times of the year.
When the content is structured this way, teams can remove or deactivate a link between the reference item and the item that has temporary value. This allows the reference item to stay current.
Previously, we covered how content models can support reuse, consistency, and variability across the range of content that an enterprise publishes. With updating, content models play a different role: managing content characteristics over time. In some cases, information that is reused in many content types will need routine updating. Fortunately, when such information is reused, it only needs to be updated in one place. But even when information appears in only one content type, we have seen that it can be structured within the content model to improve its manageability.