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10 risks of poor Web Content Management

We are always promoting and stressing the importance of smart and effective content management, that is, getting the desired results out of your content management (CM) organisation. To better underscore this importance, it is valuable to also look at the risks and effects of poor content management, so it’s also clear what can be avoided by getting things right. When companies realise what they are risking, it might be easier to understand why putting more effort into smart content management is so important.

We can divide the harmful effects of poor content management into four categories:

  • Direct consequences – visible from outside the organisation,
  • Direct consequences – only visible inside the organisation,
  • Indirect consequences – external, and
  • Indirect consequences – internal.

We’ll explore these categories further in the following points.

Direct consequences – visible from outside the organisation:
1) When the quality of content management decreases, one of the most prominent risks is that the website loses its ‘up-to-date-ness’. When updates take longer and backlogs only tend to grow, it becomes more difficult for CMS users to keep up the level of relevancy of the website(s).

When a website is not up to date, visitors will become displeased and find their information elsewhere, ignoring all the effort and money your company has spent to attract them to your website in the first place.

2) One of the aspects of smart content management is also quality control. This is a likely one to suffer when things don’t go as they should. Quality demands are lowered to meet deadlines, and latent problems pile up to come back at you even harder another time.
The consequences of poor quality control shouldn’t be taken lightly. Think about legal aspects for example, or the effect of unclear translations, but also about the enormous frustration customers experience after buying the wrong product because of the incorrect specifications on the manufacturer’s website.

3) Another aspect that will suffer when you start getting into “content management debt”, that is as you find yourself falling further and further behind, is the completeness of the website(s).
When potential customers visit your website, you have the opportunity to provide them with information they are interested in. The more useful information available, provided that it’s properly organised and easy to navigate through, the more likely you are to inform, please or even excite your visitors.
For example, when dealing with multilingual websites, it could be that not all content is available in all languages. This might seem rather insignificant for the managers that are in control in an organisation with centrally managed websites, but for local visitors it could mean the difference of making a purchase or not.

Direct consequences – only visible inside the organisation:
4) When content management is done poorly and without focus it will directly lead to a CMS that becomes increasingly harder to manage. When there is no clear structure and idea of how work should be performed in the back-end of the CMS, or when multiple users work together using different ‘best practices’ and naming conventions, your CMS quickly becomes an unpleasant and tedious place to work.

With more powerful systems users can manage content more quickly, however without proper use, chaos and problems can be created even more quickly.

Indirect consequences – external:
5) The main reason that most websites exist is to support marketing and drive sales. As websites become less up-to-date, correct, complete and consistent, the websites will probably not do their job as well as they should. A logical consequence would be a decrease in sales (an increase in lost sales). Although this is very hard to measure, a direct relation can be easily inferred.

6) As your website suffers so will the perception of your brand, and therefore your brand value. When visitors are disappointed and displeased by your website(s), they will leave your site, some never to return again. Even worse, many will be turned off and tell others about their poor experience. Regardless of the exact numbers, your brand image will suffer.

7) Customer lifetime value. As an unmeasurable amount of potential customers were disappointed by their poor experiences with your site, they are less likely to buy your products in the near and even longer future. They will rather buy from your competitor or at least they will be more open to whatever product the sales clerk at the store recommends them. If they buy your competitor’s product this time, they will also buy their accessories to go with it next year, and a replacement from them a few years later.
Displeasing your websites’ visitors is very harmful to your (long-term) sales, but these very real costs of poor content management will remain hidden.

Indirect consequences – internal:
8) When web content management is executed poorly, also internal clients, such as departments like PR, Marketing, Sales, HR and ICT, may become frustrated with how things are going. New updates take too long to get online or information is processed incorrectly. Especially in larger organisations, the one department depends on support from the other departments in order to get things done and to secure their (desired) budget.

To extend this argument with an example: if the department responsible for content management comes to be known for lacking results, they will be less likely to secure enough budget. This in turn means that it becomes even less likely that the quality will start to improve again.

9) In an organisation where content management is (perceived to be) executed poorly, it won’t be a thankful job to be doing the work or to be responsible for the results. This will result in a decreased employee morale, high(er) employee turnover and consequently loss of knowledge. This fact will again make things even worse for the new users and the overall quality of the work delivered.

10) When a lot of users are working in a CMS with differing ‘best practices’ and insufficient training, the CMS will decrease in value as an asset of the organisation. This in short means that all the invested money and effort will more easily lose its value when the CMS is poorly managed and maintained.
The option of starting all over again with a new and fresh system becomes more and more attractive when the system becomes more chaotic and ‘polluted’. The only alternative option than to keep struggling and losing out might be a time-consuming clean-up of the legacy of years of misuse. Both options show that keeping your CMS neat and clean, and thereby maintaining your CMS like the asset it is, makes good sense.

Instead of pointing out the benefits of smart and effective content management, we chose to sum up the risks of poor content management instead. We hope that by doing so, the necessity of smart and effective content management will come to mind even more vividly.

Rutger Plak