Bucket of trash on the ground.
PHOTO: Eugene Zelenko

With intranet teams already contending with smaller budgets and team sizes, the last thing they need is content overload. In other words, content that is being unused and consuming useless space on the employee communication portal. “Content cleanup is a great way of making sure your files/data remain up-to-date and relevant,” said James D'Arezzo, CEO of Condusiv Technologies. “Archiving old and unused content also makes it easier and more efficient for users to search just the relevant content.”

Intranet content cleanup should be a goal for intranet teams but can be a bear of a task. We're talking thousands of pages for some. Problems with search engines for others. There are important considerations to take as you tackle intranet content cleanup. We’ve enlisted some digital workplace pundits to discuss ways you can safely navigate this project and precautions you should take.

Prepare for Disasters: Backup Your Data

The first step? Be ready for the potential pitfalls during the cleanup process, according to D'Arezzo. Those include accidentally deleting relevant content and accidentally deleting old content that has not been referenced for years but may be needed in the future. 

“In a perfect world,” he added, “all data is backed up so it can be restored. Even if the data is backed up, it can be a nightmare trying to find what’s relevant, especially if it is spread out on different systems and storage.”

Related Article: A Multi-Pronged Approach to Intranet Content Curation

Recognize the Value of Content

Having an intimate understanding of all your intranet content can only help, according to Chris Tubb, partner at Spark Trajectory. The use of metrics is underrated as a tool to prune useless content "as we are usually too busy looking at what’s at the top of the charts: the popular content," Tubb said. “But what about the unpopular content? I call this the ‘zero hit inference.’”

What about usage metrics? Wise intranet managers should know the limits of metrics: just because a page is viewed, it doesn't mean that it has created the benefit you are seeking. “We just don't know if the person found what they were really after, it changed their views, or their habits,” Tubb said. “We can, however, know with certainty that the inverse is true: If the content is never read, it can never create benefit. Content with no value clutters up your intranet and makes the good stuff harder to find.”

By measuring a lack of usage you can identify useless content and then delete it. This sort of content sprawl is common on intranets and very typically happens out in departmental intranet sites, Tubb said. “There will be some pages that are read a lot, some that get read a bit and a large proportion that are never read at all,” Tubb added. 

Related Article: How to Keep Intranet Content Engaging, Fresh and Relevant

Create Content With Purpose

The easiest way to ensure that content on the corporate intranet is fresh, relevant and accurate is to add some measure of accountability to content creators, according to Akumina President David Maffei. “Too often,” Maffei said, “content is posted with little thought as to whether employees are accessing, sharing or otherwise finding it useful. When a company doesn’t create content with a specific purpose, these documents clog up their enterprise search function and make it difficult to find useful information.” 

Enterprise content creators should be held to a high standard with a “focus on creating content with purpose,” Maffei said. “Content creators must be directed to identify topics,” he said, “that are useful to the broader organization as well as specific roles and departments.”

There are few things more powerful than confronting a content owner with evidence that their content has not been used, according to Tubb. Start a conversation about what they really want to achieve with content and how they want their audience to change in response to it. 

Apply Expiration Dates to Content

A simple method to ensure meaningful content is being created is to apply expiration dates to content, Maffei said. “The high speed of business, technological evolution and societal trends puts a shelf life on content,” he added. “Introducing expiration dates should inspire content creators to update older information to increase its relevance and inspire workers to engage with the content more. Businesses should apply an analytical lens to measure the efficacy of the content that is being created and find opportunities to improve it.”

Related Article: Intranets vs. Extranets: Why You Need Both

Strong Content Strategy is Better Than Content Cleanup

Content cleanup is only first aid, Tubb said. For content to be sustainable, and not require cleanups every year or two, you need to start with a solid content strategy, get content governance just right and enter into constant dialogue with your publishers, he added. “Try,” Tubb said, “creating a site review process, like an employee appraisal system, regularly meeting with site owners and reviewing the performance of their site or section, reviewing feedback and metrics and then coming up with a site improvement plan.”