The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Take a fresh look at old content for your association website design project

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Mon, Feb 11, 2013


One of my favorite advertising slogans ever is a cheesy campaign NBC ran in the 90 to get people to watch reruns over the summer with the tagline “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!” (Ok, this WAS before everyone had a DVR and was streaming TV series on Netflix).

So what does this have to do with associations and website content?  Let’s start with a few questions:

  • If you assume a member churn rate of 10%-20%, over a period of 5 years how many new members do you have that never read your old magazine articles?
  • How many long-term members have moved up in their careers and now need new and completely different content than when they first joined your association?
  • What are your industry best practices that have been around for 8 to 10 years or more and are still relevant?

Now throw in a big, content rich project like a website redesign and you have an opportunity to not just audit your existing inventory but to take a fresh look at the content and present it in a new light.

While a big for-profit site typically tops out at 300 pages, an association website easily runs into thousands of pages. One of the most daunting components of an association web design project is the content audit where we review and audit all of the existing content and identify what is moving from the old site to the new site.

For many pages, the content stays the same. But we typically identify at least 40 or 50 pages that should get a refresh or update.  Simply because the design is the same doesn’t mean that the words on the page are going to work in the new site. 

A good comparison is the last time you moved from one home to another and brought along your favorite, comfy couch. It looked great in the old place but now looks out of place in the new home. Within a few months you are ready to replace it with something new.

Web content is the same way.  As you look at the pages in your new website consider:

Write for the modern web. Today’s web users only read about 25% of the text on a page and scan pages rather than actually read them.  When updating content for the modern web be sure to:

  • Highlight keywords
  • Use meaningful, relevant sub-headings
  • Include bulleted lists
  • Have only one idea per paragraph
  • Start with the conclusion and write in an inverted pyramid style
  • Cut the word count by 50% (or more) than conventional writing

Consider modern tools. I recently found a page in a client site titled “1993 Fax Guidelines.” While fax machines may still be used for some tasks, when was the last time you actually faxed something? More likely you are scanning and emailing a document.

This content refresh is an opportunity to take a look at the way your members conduct their business and update it with modern tools.  While tools such as email, mobile, web based software and such have changed the way we work, the underlying principles might not have changed. So by referencing these new methods and tools you make your content relevant again.

Put a fresh face on “evergreen content.” Just like the life lessons from kindergarten that still apply as an adult, there are some basics in your content that are just as relevant now as they were when you first wrote them. Sometimes a refresh and packaging of the content is all it takes for it to find a new audience.

So the next time you are taking on either a website redesign or just looking for fresh content to publish, don’t forget the treasure chest of existing content you already have in your association website.

For inspiration of these tips in action, check out this video by Joseph Brett with a timeless movie such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off recut into a movie trailer as if it were an “indie coming of age” movie. Proof that a fresh look can make old content new again...


(Special thanks to Joe Flowers, aka @unhatched, for originally sharing this with me. I’ve been looking for an excuse to work this into a blog post and this is a perfect excuse.)


Topics: website redesign, content strategy

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