Everyone has it: a closet that's filled to the brim with stuff thrown in for lack of a better place to put it. So much crap has been jammed in and piling up for so long that you've totally lost track of what was there in the first place, much less ever think of digging it up and using it again.
A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. ~George Carlin
And then, there's your website. No matter how hard you've tried to keep your content pristine, there's always that stuff that gets thrown in and promptly forgotten. Like the gear left over from abandoned hobbies, your outdated content may once have been relevant, but that time has long-since come and gone.
Where do I start?
What you need is a good old-fashioned content audit. Think of it like preparing to move out of your house. You'd need examine each item in that closet and decide whether it was worthy of bringing along. You’d probably also rediscover some old valuables hidden amidst the deluge and resurface them in your new home.
This same “moving day” principle can be applied to your website. Sometimes, the impetus for such a measure is something drastic, like a site rebuild. The problem with waiting for something drastic is that it doesn't happen very often.
Don't wait for a big project like a redesign or rebuild to come along. Keep your content clean with periodic content audits. While there’s no hard and fast rule dictating how often you should do it, I’d suggest you make a point to do so about once every six months. You'll find that the more you do them, the less painful they are because there's less and less stuff being stashed away. Your content team will be pleasantly surprised at what they find when the mess gets cleared away.
The first thing one would do on moving day is pull everything out of the closet to see what you have. When you're talking about a website, the best way to do this is to create a content inventory -- a spreadsheet listing all the pages and/or content modules on your site. The types of information you collect on each page can vary widely depending on how your content is stored, but some basic columns in your spreadsheet would include:
An ID number for reference
Title of the content and its path
Dates of publication and last update
It sounds painful, I know, but it's the best way to get an honest assessment of the content you have and start analyzing it to determine whether it's still relevant/accurate. Only then can you determine whether it's something you want to keep, update, or discard.
Wait. Why am I doing this?
Every piece of content on your site should have a purpose. Looking through your content inventory, you should be able to identify the value of each piece of content. If you run into something you can’t see the usefulness of, get rid of it! Just because it’s easier to keep content than to take a hard look at it and throw it away, doesn’t make it a best practice. September is a great time for change and cleaning out closets, don’t put it off, there’s no telling what you’ll find in there!