When you delve into web content management you discover there are fences and people whose opinions sit either side of them.

One of the most interesting debates (on which I’m a firm fence sitter) is site growth. Is big beautiful? Or is big messy and unmanageable?

What goes up, stays up!

A well-balanced stone tower
A balancing act

Everybody loves a graph that goes up & to the right. One way to achieve this for some traffic goals, is to simply never unpublish anything. What goes up stays up. Put up more pages if you can.

How does it work? For SEO purposes, each page is potential link bait. Even a 10-year old media release about something that’s no longer relevant may have built up a few incoming links over those many years. And visitors who land might be inclined to explore your menu, finding content you want them to see.

It can work but can be an uncomfortable position. Much like measuring a nation’s succes based on GDP, you have to wonder, ‘Is more the best yardstick? And at what cost does it come?’

Let’s say you have a large site to manage. You might regularly post media stories & have an events calendar, publish newsletters & many more types of content. What’s to stop you leaving them all on your site? Forever?

The cost is in the time it takes to manage this content (ensure it still complies with your branding, content standards, isn’t duplication, etc.), the potential impact on users & the time search engines spend crawling rubbish (if you don’t block them).

Other graphs you might not measure that could also be going up and to the right include users hating you & people leaving your site in frustration!

What goes up, must come down!

Those who take the opposite view are user experience professionals. In their eyes no amount of traffic is worth compromising a user experience.

What’s wrong with a 1-page website? You want users to complete a task? Focus their attention on your main call to action and give them nowhere else to go!

That’s ok, but if you need search referrals, it’s not easy to target multiple keyword phrases & establish a lot of inbound links, with a single page. You might get good conversions but a good percentage of not many, still isn’t much.

A simple answer?

What’s the best thing to do? That depends.

There you go. A simple answer, but not easy to employ. It means evaluating each page on a case by case basis. You need a manageable number of pages to do this.

Don’t be afraid to delete if something is really past being useful. If a page has been replaced by something more up to date, a permanent (status 301) redirect can be used, then any external site links aren’t lost.

If there’s no equivalent page, just take it down. And make sure a 404 (page not found) status results, so search engines drop the page from their indices.

Some old content can be left up but unlinked. So any external links will still work but the pages won’t be found on your site.

Shop products, for example, are a useful content type to leave live but invisible. If you unpublish a page every time you’re out of stock & republish each time it comes in again, that’s a confusing message for search engines (it’s an important page / no it doesn’t exist / it’s important again / it’s gone again). Better to put up an out of stock message, leave it live but unlinked if possible.

Making different calls for different content on your site & regularly reviewing anything live is time consuming. It would be a lot easier to take pages down, or leave them all up as they are.

What do you do? 

  • How many pages is enough?
  • How often do you think pages should be reviewed?
  • What do you do with old content? 

There’s no right answer, but the different approaches people use & their explanations make for interesting insights. The debate needs to be had again for each site, to ensure the right approach is taken to reach the site’s goals.

Is big beautiful? Managing website growth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *