How to Spring Clean Your Marketing Content in 3 Steps

by | 16.Apr.19

What is it about spring that makes us want to start poking around in the darkest corners of our closets and cupboards?

It’s a seasonal mystery: as soon as the weather encourages us to step outside, we become obsessed with our indoor spaces.

Spring cleaning your home can be deeply satisfying (which is why Marie Kondo is a kajillionaire), but spring cleaning your marketing content can be even more worthwhile. In this article, I’ll outline a three-step process for clearing out the content cupboards and getting your content assets in apple-pie order so that you’re organized and ready to tackle your Q2 content marketing goals.

Step 1: Chase Your Content Down—ALL of It

The first step in cleaning up your content is to shoo it out of its hiding places like so many dust bunnies under the bed. If you’ve been producing content for any length of time, chances are that you don’t have a clear idea of how much content you have or what shape it’s in. No judgment here: aside from a few tidier-than-thou content marketers, most of us produce a little bit of content chaos along with our marketing content. As your company changes direction, evolves the brand, or updates products, content that’s outdated or misaligned or sometimes just plain forgotten content starts to pile up.

The first step in cleaning your content is to shoo it out of its hiding place and gather it into one central location by conducting a #contentinventory. Click To Tweet

To bring it all into the light, conduct a content inventory. Just as retailers take inventory of the products on their shelves from time to time, content marketers need to take inventory of the content in circulation and on file. While you can conduct your inventory armed with nothing more than a spreadsheet and some perseverance, there are some great (and relatively inexpensive) tools that can help you get the job done faster and more thoroughly. Check out Content Insight, Dynomapper, and Blaze Content for some good options.

Step 2: Sort Your Content into 3 Piles

When you’ve compiled an inventory of all your content, you’ll usually uncover some surprises—good and bad. Just as turning out a clothes closet will reveal items that no longer fit or are out of style, your inventory may turn up old solution sheets for long-retired products and white papers featuring an outdated brand. You’re also likely to unearth some treasures—content assets that got shuffled to the bottom of the pile but are still relevant and useful.

To sort through it all, you’ll want to conduct a streamlined content audit and classify your assets into three piles: keep, trash, or refresh.

Once you compile all of your content, you'll want to conduct a #contentaudit to classify your assets into three piles: keep, trash, or refresh. Click To Tweet

Keep: These content assets are on-brand, on-message, and relevant to your audience. They align with your SEO strategy, inform and inspire your ideal customer, and generally make you feel proud of the work you do. They are your go-to assets and need to be kept at the top of the pile and top-of-mind for upcoming campaigns and activities.

Trash: These content assets have outlived their utility. They may contain outdated information, cover topics that are no longer relevant to your audience or promote points of view that no longer align with your market position or your brand. They either can’t be freshened up, or the effort involved would outweigh the return on the investment of time and energy. Keeping them around is mentally draining and creates clutter, so out they go!

Refresh: These content assets may be a little worse for wear, or they may need some retooling, but they have performed well in the past and are worth updating. Maybe it’s a position paper that’s on-message but needs to be re-skinned with the current visual brand. Maybe it’s a white paper that’s still relevant but includes some outdated references. Looking at these assets with fresh eyes and updating them with fresh visuals, angles, or sources can replenish and extend your content library with far less effort than it would take to create content from scratch.

Step 3: Fold It All Away Neatly

The final step in the spring-cleaning process is to file all that content away so that it stays organized, manageable, and accessible. While keeping clothes tidy requires origami-like folding techniques, keeping content organized requires a content taxonomy. A content taxonomy is simply a classification system that helps you keep track of the content you have and find what you need easily.

Before… and After a Content Taxonomy

A spreadsheet and some cloud storage (Google Drive or Box, for example) are all the tools you’ll need for this step. Create a spreadsheet that lists each asset on a separate row, with the asset title in the first column and a link to the asset in the second column. Now create columns for each category you’d like to be able to organize your content by.

At a minimum, you’ll want to classify your content using these basic categories:

  • Type: Being able to see at a glance whether the content asset is an infographic or a white paper or a video is always helpful.

  • Personas: If you engage with different types of customers, it’s also helpful to be able to quickly identify content that’s relevant to a specific customer segment.

  • Products: If you sell a range of products or services, you’ll want to be able to easily find content for a specific offering.

  • Journey stage: Knowing which stage of the buyer journey each content asset aligns with enables you to support those journeys more effectively.

  • Year: Being able to see the year the content asset was created helps you determine how fresh it is and pluck it out of rotation before it gets stale.

  • Language: If you maintain multilingual content (or even if you write content for both North American and British audiences), you’ll want to be able to see which language it’s written in.

  • Region: This category is a must for companies that produce or adapt content for specific geographic regions or cultures.

Here’s an example of some neatly folded content for a successful and very fictitious company, Catmania Cat Supplies.

Depending on your marketing objectives, the type of marketing content you produce, and the way you use it, you may want to classify your content using other categories. The ultimate goal is to make your content more visible and usable so that you can see what you have and find what you need to support any content marketing task.

If you’ve inventoried, sorted, and cataloged all your marketing content and you still have that urge to purge, here’s one more tidy-up task for you:

BONUS Step 4: Untangle Your Content Strategy

One of the reasons our marketing content gets messy in the first place is because we haven’t created a content strategy to keep it on track. If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get started, this post clears up some of the confusion around content strategy and lays out the essential elements in simple terms. Check out “Why Content Strategy Is Still So Confusing for Marketers (And How to Simplify It)”—a six-minute read.

Or Maybe You’d Rather Hire a Cleaning Service?

Some of us love to tidy. Some of us don’t. If you’d rather have someone else inventory, audit, and classify your content, let’s chat!

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