Being an SEO team as part of a full-service digital agency, site transitions have become a bread and butter task here at Rippleffect.

Moving from an old established site to a newly developed platform is a process fraught with danger and having a clear plan of action to minimise risk is very important.

From a technical perspective, it’s easy to manage the process both as a project and for stakeholder buy-in. The more difficult process is the softer qualitative elements; namely, content.

What to do with unwieldy content

The typical scenario is this; you have been struggling with an increasingly cumbersome website that has evolved and expanded over a number of years. The new platform is ready; clean, fresh and matching all the current expectations of cutting edge design and UX.  After working hard to create a digital platform that suits all the stakeholders needs, you’re now dreading the thought of filling that site with all that old, unwieldy content.

Purely from a user perspective, there’s a compelling argument for a cull. All too often pages deep within the site have small visitor numbers and low engagement and can be resource-intensive to manage, especially in a transition. However, the value of these pages could be hugely underestimated, and we have experienced both good and bad outcomes of this type of scenario.

Understanding the influence of content

With content and content strategies such hot topics, there is a wealth of information and resources available to support and audit, but the “keep it, change it, delete it” mantra will only get you so far. The influence of well-written content goes far beyond the users that read it. And, while it’s essential to consider whether a piece of content adds to a users experience or perception of a site, there is a lot to gain from giving the same attention to how useful it is to search engines.

Prime examples of this kind of situation are museums, theatres and universities. The archive of events, shows or courses may not be relevant to what is happening today, but that content creates rich heritage for the site – something that cannot be easily fabricated and which can make it valuable in the eyes of a search engine.

Going beyond user data

When it comes to culling your content, be sure to take in the full picture. Expand from just user data and look to technical statistics that will build the signals of relevance for search engines. Inbound links would be the most obvious, yet internal links could be far more significant in this situation. Proprietary metrics such as page authority from Moz can offer valuable insight too.

Once all this is taken into account, you’ll need to consider how you handle these pages. An archive can be a valuable resource for a user, as long as it’s clear. Therefore, clear labelling and navigation for this content is fundamental to avoid ruining your newly refreshed site.