When should you dump your existing web content and start again?

When re-developing their websites, my clients often ask me whether it’s possible to edit their existing content instead of creating new material. Here are my top tips for deciding what should be recycled, reinvented or replaced.

Intuitively, this issue feels like it should be a no-brainer: you’ve already spent time and/or money on your content, so it makes sense that you want to maximise the return on investment you get from it.

And if you can simultaneously decrease the expense and turnaround time involved in re-developing and re-launching your site, so much the better!

Unfortunately though, while recycling previously written web content might sound good in theory, in practice it’s very often unwise – especially if you run across any of these red flags when reviewing your existing site.

Content that’s not aligned with your marketing objectives

Your website is one of your most important marketing tools, so everything on it should be working in support of your marketing objectives. If there’s content there that’s pulling in a different direction, then it’s time for it to go. On the flipside, if your hero products or core services aren’t featured front and centre, you’ve got some content gaps to fill. (Both of these issues are often symptoms of not having a content strategy or editorial calendar – or worse still, not having a marketing plan).

Similarly, the tone of the writing on your website should match the brand personality you convey elsewhere. For example, if you’re positioning your brand as a caring, compassionate health coach, you don’t want the copy on your website to come across as preachy or nagging.

Content that’s not relevant to what you sell or who you sell it to

In quite a few of the natural health companies I’ve worked with, responsibility for generating web content falls to the naturopathic or technical team, with little or no input from marketing.

Naturally enough, without clear guidance the writers sometimes drift into creating material that they find interesting themselves, but that’s only peripherally relevant to your core business.

Examples of this phenomenon that I’ve come across repeatedly include:

  • Highlighting research into ingredients that aren’t in your product range
  • Explaining how different natural health modalities work (even though you sell products not services)
  • Providing dietary advice for health problems you don’t offer solutions for
  • Treating the business blog as a personal blog in which to share their personal experiences and passions (a tactic that’s sometimes effective for a small business, but usually inappropriate for a larger one unless the blog is aimed at a B2B audience)

If your current site contains this type of material and the information it contains is sound, and if your long-term marketing goal is for your site to become the most comprehensive natural health resource on the web, then some of this content may be worth retaining – especially if it can be edited to make it relevant to your audience and your range.

However, if the content is promoting someone else’s products or is otherwise diverting attention from your products or services, then continuing to publish it will be detrimental to your goals. You’ll be better off replacing it with new, relevant information.

Content that’s too technical for your target market

Unless you’re specifically creating content for a health professional audience, your content should use the simplest, most easy-to-understand language possible.

In practical terms, that means you want it to read, ‘Glucosamine provides the building blocks for healthy joint cartilage’ rather than ‘Glucosamine is a monosaccharide required for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans’.

Red flags to watch out for here include the use of medical terminology, complex statistics and biochemical explanations of how your products or services work. Practitioners also need to keep an eye out for lists of their qualifications and modalities that contain terms prospective clients are likely to be unfamiliar with.

If your existing web content is overly technical, reinventing it for a consumer audience may be feasible (assuming it doesn’t suffer from any of the other issues on this list).

If you do decide to go ahead and edit this type of copy, it’s often worthwhile taking the opportunity to shift its focus from how something works to why someone should buy it.

Out-of-date or unverifiable information

If it’s been a while since your content was created, it’s worth checking whether the information it contains is still valid.

In my experience, it’s best to get your regulatory expert involved here. If your web content makes them nervous because it strays from your claims or isn’t in line with current research, then it may well be time to start again – especially if you can’t put your hands on the original referenced versions of the material.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, back tracking to find evidence in support of unreferenced material is invariably more time-consuming (and therefore usually more costly) than researching and writing new, up-to-date material.

Is it time for an audit?

Having just been through this process while re-developing my own site, I do understand that coming to the conclusion that it’s time to throw your content out and start again is a painful process!

But this is one of those rare decisions you should make with your head, not your heart, so the first step in determining the right way forward is to conduct an audit of your existing content.

You’ll find a brief overview of how to audit your web content here, but in my experience this is often a job that’s best outsourced to someone independent who can look at your material with fresh eyes and an objective view.

If I can help, please get in touch with me.