Woman oiling car during first world war

Content maintenance – just like a car service

Unless you know what exactly a mechanic does, knowing what happens when your car gets serviced is a mystery to most.

How often you have to get it serviced depends on a lot of things that, again, the lay person doesn’t know. But we generally have one thing that indicates when: a sticker inside the windscreen left by the last mechanic. They know best and generally we leave it in their professional hands.

Often a guideline for new cars is that the first service is in X amount of months or after X miles, whichever comes first.

Change your website as often as you change your car

Having a website is a bit like having a car. You may get a website designed and developed and change it completely after a year. Perhaps you’ll leave it a few years. It all depends on budget, the image you wish to portray or whether it’s fit for use.

But what about your written content? How often do you ‘service’ that?

Member of the first Aid nursing Yeomanry oiling her car

When this photograph was taken, it was still unusual to see the generally middleclass women doing simple jobs like this. (Source: Flickr/National Library of Scotland)

Information that quickly goes out of date

When we’re writing informational website content for clients, we will try and remove time sensitive wording. This needs maintenance. Unless you’ve a schedule in place to update out of date information your website will contain out of date information. So what do we mean about time sensitive information?

In simple terms it is anything that relates to time. Here are some classic cases.

  1. ‘Last year we developed a new system for our customers to make orders over the internet’.
  2. ‘Our sales team has more than 150 years’ combined experience.’
  3. ‘Our product has won awards three years in a row’
  4. ‘Next year we will roll out a new scheme’

Use actual years

In example 1 you can change ‘Last year’ to ‘In 2011’ so that two years later your statement isn’t a year out of date.

Be vague to avoid being inaccurate

In example 2, if your sales team has 10 people, each with 15 years’ experience, the following year your sales team will have 160 years’ experience. If you change your team this figure could swell easily to 200 or down to 50. You could change this statement to ‘our sales team have considerable industry experience, many working in this sector since the 1990s’ or something suitably vague that it gets the value of their experience across without being inaccurate.

Give full details

Say if example 2 refers to your product winning the same award in 2009, 2010 and 2011, what are you going to do if you win in 2012? You will have to change that to four years in a row. So, how about just saying that you product won Award Name, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Adding in 2012 isn’t too difficult, it’s something you will remember to do because you’ll want to shout it out.

Know your tense

Time flies by. So before you know it in example 4 ‘next year’ will have flown past very quickly. If you’re ahead of schedule maybe the thing planned for next year will have happened before ‘next year’ arrives. Or maybe it will be the year after, or maybe it will be cancelled.

You could just replace ‘Next year we will roll out’ to ‘We are working on a new scheme’. Just change the information when the new scheme arrives. Put a note in a folder or as a last task to complete your milestone in your project management software to ‘change the page on the website referring to the new scheme.’

Remember new quickly becomes the norm. So beware of shouting out about ‘new’. Also be careful of tense – once your ‘new’ scheme has launched, you need to replace all future tense words about what you ‘will’ do to what you have done or to ‘the scheme offers x,y,z.’

Replace x,y,z with correct information

If you’re preparing your content in advance and aren’t sure of some of the features – remember ‘x,y,z’ needs to be replaced before you put the content live.

Create a content calendar

You can also create a content calendar – set specific dates to make changes and updates to your website content. You can quickly search pages, using a PC command like Ctrl+F, for specific words e.g. ‘last’ or ‘year’ or ‘will’.

Find someone to manage and maintain your content

If that’s too much hassle, think about your car mechanic. Let us be your content garage – place your content maintenance in our safe hands a few times a year. You can still work away at updating your own content, but we may be able to tidy up simple mistakes you left behind. Like a friend who thought there was a rattle in the engine of his car – it turned out to be a spanner that he left in it when changing a bulb.

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