You see them out of the corner of your eye. They make the hair stand up on the back of your neck every time you check Google Analytics. It’s all the old content that is coming back to haunt your company through search engines.
The digital remains of your content can linger for years after it is useful or relevant, with blogs, PDFs, forums, and FAQs acting as conduits channeling your aging content’s search engine afterlife. The ghosts that haunt companies create confusion for customers and paint a poor picture of the brand for consumers.
Sorry Casper, No Such Thing as a Friendly Ghost
To combat the ghostly scourge of old content on the Internet, Google is constantly addressing the issue of aging content in its search engine algorithms. When people talk about aging content, it tends to be in the context of content marketing, which for most is code for “blogs.” Blogs and other traditional content marketing assets, while not friendly ghosts, are less insidious than the other ghosts you have. That’s because your content marketing assets typically come with clear signposts that indicate when it was created and for whom it was created.
It’s the other content haunting your company’s online presence that does the real scary work. All of the content that is created around your product tends to not get the same tender loving care as marketing assets. They’re sent out into the digital world and too often abandoned. Unlike blogs which have a content management system to keep them all together, your product content is put out there with every new version or product release with no system or analytics to find, remove, and replace content that is old and out-of-date.
Forums are a glaring example of this. As a lifelong PC user, I’m constantly learning how to do things on my MacBook Air. My questions almost always generate forum results that span from 2011 to now. Oftentimes, I end up having to click through multiple posts because the new OS has made the answer to the question irrelevant.
It’s frustrating as a user to encounter so many different threads of information that—despite its best efforts to improve—Google still tells me is the solution to my question. The onus falls on the company to ensure that product content, like marketing content, is kept up-to-date to ensure that consumers and customers are presented the best possible online experience with the brand.
This is in no way a unique experience to Apple or forums. Companies who solely rely on PDF documentation to account for their product content production provide a similarly obtuse user experience. Oh, I have to download this PDF onto my phone over LTE and scroll through it for days on a tiny screen in the hopes that the answer to my question is in these 400 pages? Perfect.
(Ghost)Busting the Effects of Aging Content
The Internet is littered with the ghosts of content that hasn’t crossed over (into the recycle bin). While Google is doing its best to provide better results for searchers, companies don’t want to wait for Google to take care of it. Aging content can have a detrimental effect on your overall online performance, and, moreover, it creates a frustrating user experience for consumers researching the company and for customers looking to succeed with the product.
To combat the effects of aging content on your brand’s online presence, it will take a content strategy that applies the same thinking to both marketing and product content. Have a content infrastructure that provides you a way to control all of the content and provides analytics about content aging. Remove or deprecate content that is irrelevant to the product or portrays an old message. Update cornerstone content without changing links to maintain your search engine authority.
Taking control of your brand online can help get rid of the ghosts that (you probably don’t even know) are haunting your company and scaring away potential buyers.
On a related note, Happy Halloween! Enjoy your sugar hangover tomorrow!