If you’ve ever gotten a peek into a restaurant or commercial kitchen, you may have seen a cryptic sign: “C.A.Y.G.”, meaning clean as you go.
What the people working in that kitchen know is that a mess deferred is a bigger mess. It means more work at the end of the day when people are tired and ready to go home, it’s inefficient to work around piles of pots and pans, it’s potentially dangerous—if someone slips on a spill, for instance—and it looks bad to anyone looking in. A dirty kitchen doesn’t inspire confidence in a customer.
Those of us who manage web sites might take a lesson from the CAYG and apply it to our content sets. Keeping on top of issues as they arise, cleaning out outdated or unnecessary content periodically keeps your site clean, performing well, and presenting the best possible impression for your readers.
This process is called a rolling inventory and audit. How do you do it? Start with your content inventory (created using CAT, of course!) and audit, make sure it has all the information you need to regularly evaluate your content—updated performance metrics, audience information, content ownership information (so you know who to ask to review it), and whatever other data is important for your evaluation. Then set a schedule for regular review and updating so your audit is always an accurate reflection of the current state of your site.
How frequently should you update your inventory and audit? It depends. Ideally, you would inventory and audit as often as possible, but there are various criteria that can affect that schedule.
When you’re in the thick of creating new content and managing your business, it can be hard to justify spending the time to revisit older content. But in the long run, a rolling audit saves time since content is actively managed and the opportunity for ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial content) to build up is significantly reduced. It also means that when a new site initiative is proposed, you can jump right in—you don’t need to stop and assess what you have and how ready your content is, because you’ve been keeping a close eye on it all along. And if you’re also taking the opportunity to update your style guides, workflows, and editorial processes as your content changes and evolves, you’re also making sure that new content is coming in to the site in the best shape possible.
As those people working in the kitchen know, the philosophy of cleaning as you go means a better environment now and a lot less work later.
Paula Land is co-founder and CEO of Content Insight and author of Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook.