Archiving content: Sorting diamonds from duds

We’ve all had the experience of sorting through our closets and choosing some clothing to discard or donate. You may find a pair of pants that doesn’t quite fit anymore, or a shirt that’s an outdated style, and those should definitely be culled from your closet. It’s an exercise in sorting the good from the bad and the ugly, just like archiving content.

One of the key pieces of any archiving project, whether you’re keeping your knowledge base healthy or your wardrobe fresh, is finding a few gems that may have flown under the radar but are truly valuable. Maybe you’ll find that comfy old pair of jeans you forgot you had, or maybe you’ll see a helpful article that had an unsearchable title and never saw the light of day. Getting value out of something you didn’t realize you had is the best way to maximize your time and money, whether you’re managing a knowledge base or dressing for work.

Identifying archive candidates

The first step in archiving unused knowledge is deciding which articles are in need of review. There are several ways to identify archive candidates, but these two help you get the most value from your time:

Sort by Last Modified

As your knowledge base evolves, you may find the last modified date of a document to be a helpful tool in determining if it’s out of date.

Sort by Page Views

Sorting by the page view count can tell you if an article is helping your readers. If it’s not used, there’s always a reason for that. It may not be helpful, or it may not be findable. Either way, it presents a problem to solve.

Assessing the content

Once you’ve identified your potential pool of archive candidates, the next step is to determine which ones could add value to your knowledge base. Auditing the content prior to archiving it maximizes the benefit of your content.

Review each article and ask these two questions:

  • Is this knowledge useful?
  • Is this knowledge valid?

If the answer to each of these questions is no, then the choice is simple: The content can be archived. If you’ve answered yes to either, you’ve found a diamond in the rough.

Improving the content

Content that is both useful and valid should be reviewed and improved. Having a low use count or a long gap since the last update are both signs that the article is not living up to its potential.

For an article with a low use count, some exploration is necessary. Is it an orphaned page that doesn’t contain any inbound links? Can you find it using your search tools?

If an article hasn’t been edited in a while, can it be made relevant again? Older articles that pertain to outdated processes may help resolve new issues. Content around legacy products may not have been updated in a while, but if the information within has already been polished and refined over time, users of older products may still find them useful.

Discarding the rest

For some content, there’s no hope. A service has been discontinued, a new process has been implemented, or an event has passed. The most important part of any sorting exercise is getting rid of what’s no longer useful. It’s very likely that corduroy bellbottoms will be trendy again, but pushing them aside every morning to get to the clothes you want to wear now is a needless hassle. When this principle carries over to knowledge, it represents wasted time and effort for your customers or employees and can diminish the impact of your content improvement efforts. Readers will wonder why clearly outdated content still exists and may not trust that other information within your support site is up-to-date.

Moving forward: Baby steps

Archiving content is a vital part of keeping your knowledge base healthy and analyzing knowledge that’s fallen through the cracks. Even if your organization is not ready to kick off an archiving program, you can find a smaller measure of success by working these principles into your workflow as you manage, review, and edit content. Assessing unpopular content on a smaller scale is an incremental change that can truly make a difference.