In a previous blog, I spoke a little about continuity and content updates. I want to spend a bit more time on the topic of content maintenance. Maintaining your content is SUPER important if you manage a public community.
Who/ When/ What/ Why
These are the typical questions we get asked when it comes to maintenance of content:
- Who is responsible for it?
- How often should content be updated? (when)
- Which content should be updated? (what)
- Why should we keep updating content?
Let’s start with the who?
In my experience it is best, if there is continuity amongst the writers. Ie: If Katie wrote Article #2, than Katie should be the one to update it in 6 months. Why, because if your team is structured in a way, that Katie is the SME on a topic, you probably want her thorough knowledge to continue across each update of the same content piece. Now of course, if you don’t have writers trained on specific topics or functionalities of your products, than that makes the Who part of the update process much easier. In that case, anyone who has the lightest workload should do the update.
In an ideal world of constant employment this might actually be enough. Considering that the average tenure in a job is 4.6 years and a staggering 2 years in tech companies, you might wonder, what happens if the original author leaves. Well, then you have to have a fail safe. Can Katie’s content be assigned to her replacement? Or someone else in the team? Dependent on what CMS you are using, you might have a pre-set action that can be triggered if a user’s access gets terminated. In that case, their content would immediately be assigned to their line manager to work on.
There is no hard and fast rule of how frequently content should be updated. I have worked at tech companies that had product releases every two weeks. That meant we had release notes every 14 days. User guide updates monthly and how to videos at the same cadence as release notes. But I have also worked at places where content was deemed healthy until the next major release, which may have been 12 months out or even longer.
At my current company, in the financial industry we have two rules:
- Each content gets approved by compliance for 12 months (and then can be re-approved after updates have been applied)
- No statistic or research referenced in our content can be more than 24 months old.
These compliance requirements make it pretty standard for us to know when content needs to be reviewed, updated or even pulled from public access.
General content guidelines dictate that blogs are considered out of date after 6 months. I found another article from 2016, that says only 100 days. That’s pretty short. As a healthy measure, I would say, aim for at least an annual update of your content. After all, consider how you feel about an article that’s more than 6 months old. I personally don’t even know if I trust the 2016 article about the lifespan of a blog anymore 🙂
An excellent example of how not to do it is from the salesforce community below. Not having a clear date on this release note makes me think, it maybe way older than 1 year. Why? Because I don’t know their rating system of age. Maybe after 1 year, everything carries the age value of 1 year ago. Does 1 year ago mean 365 days ago or 729 days ago (ie: 1 day short of 2 years ago)? Use precise dates. There should be no room for ambiguity.
Side note: constantly updating your content provides fresh indexing opportunity for Google’s search engine, which gives you higher ranking. You will also gain more trust and repeat visits from your users if you keep enticing them back to your community with fresh content.
I totally hear you. Knowing when and what to update would be really nice. Automation can help you. Forget those dreary spreadsheets. Most CMS’s now offer alerts or at least reports, that you can run based on publication date. These reports can then tell you the What, When and Who of each “upcoming” article updates.
If you work in a regulated industry (like I do in FinServ), lean on your friends in compliance. They will be happy to send you notifications when your content is coming up to the 60 or 30 day expiry mark. They want nothing more, than a supportive content manager, who is abiding by their rules. Make friends with compliance and legal, I promise they won’t bite (most of the time).
Another reason as stated above, why I love relying on a CMS, is because you can batch assign content from one author to another. Sometimes they can create hierarchical structures, so if an employee leaves, all their content gets retagged automatically to their “manager”. It works, I promise.
The Golden Rule
The one golden rule I would impart upon anyone, based on all my experience so far, is to ALWAYS make sure, your public content references the “Who, What and the When”. This way you are providing the most holistic information to your community members on the content’s freshness, reliability and authority. You will thereby raise the contributors’ profile as well as the trustworthiness of your community and its content.
Here is an excellent example of how to do it:
Additional blogs from this series include: