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Delete Better

Key Points

  • Our goal in transforming our digital presence content is achieving organizational goals. Not deleting as much content as possible.
  • Deleting content be a relatively-easy and high-impact way to improve a digital presence.
  • There are different ways of deleting, and sometimes treatment that's not quite deleting is best.
Related resource
Dispositions Cheat Sheet | Use this sheet on your projects.

We should certainly delete whatever content is not helping achieve organizational goals. That said, in our zeal to delete content we may be blind to the subtleties of deleting. Deleting better requires taking a slightly different stance than solely evaluating our efforts by how much content we're deleting. 

We need to do four things:   

  1. Delete only what should be deleted. 
  2. When deleting content, think creatively to delete the content in as effective a manner as is reasonable. 
  3. Consider what will happen if someone requests the content that has been deleted. 
  4. Make sure that whatever led to the creation or longevity of the content we delete doesn't recur.

Delete Only What Should Be Deleted

Our goal in transforming our digital presence content is achieving organizational goals. Not deleting as much content as possible. 

There are tons of advantages of deleting content: 

Of course, we should delete whatever is not furthering organizational goals. But no more than that. We should not be deleting content that is achieving goals. 

Consider deleting if the content is...

  • Inaccurate
    I list this separate from poor quality since it is particularly problematic and needs to be resolved.
  • Rarely viewed
  • When viewed, doesn't lead to conversion
  • Poor quality (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial, or other quality issues)
  • Unsustainable operationally
  • Few external links into the content
  • Easy to "disentangle" from other content
  • Low in search results
Also: Dispositions Cheat Sheet

Note two common problems with using these criteria blindly: 

Which leads us to our next point: we need to think creatively about handling content that we're considering deleting. 

Approach Deleting Creatively 

I mentioned above that deleting is easy. But there are lots of ways of doing it (and some kinds of deleting take more effort than others). Here are some ways to consider — some of these are not deletes but alternative treatments that may make more sense than a delete: 

Redirect Appropriately

Let's say:

What happens when someone points their browser at https://fancyflamingo.com/1999/old-approach-to-pink-feathers-1 or https://fancyflamingo.com/1999/old-approach-to-pink-feathers-2 ?

Some options include: 

Clearly the last option is the most desirable from the site visitor perspective, but that takes more effort and also only works if there's something specifically relevant to the original URL. Regardless of your approach, you need to think through redirects. Also see The Redirect Engine.

Don't Slide Right Back to the Same Problems

Who cares if you delete a lot of content if you immediately start growing content that shouldn't be there? This can happen either because 1) content is created that should have never been generated in the first place or 2) it isn't deleted when it should. In any large content transformation and/or redesign, you want to define an approach to not wind up in the same situation again. This is a complex problem (that I help organizations with — let's talk!) but some methods of dealing with it include: 

Dispositions Cheat Sheet Use this sheet on your projects.