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Web governance is essential for creating a manageable college or university website. Unwieldy websites can lock institutions into keeping outdated design, content, and navigation that have a lot of compliance and/or technical issues for too long. This is an essential step if you’re undertaking a redesign that involves extensive rethinking of your site.

Step One: Ask the important questions.

Here are six questions you should ask to get an idea of the breadth of your website:

  1. How big is your current website?
  2. How many pages do you have?
  3. How many PDFs are on your site?
  4. How often is content added to your website?
  5. Do you archive any of your content that is no longer relevant?
  6. Do you have a policy on what constitutes content for archival?

Step Two: Get your content editors on board.

In order to implement an effective web governance strategy, you will need to get buy-in from your content editors. The most effective way to get buy-in is to show your content editors that you are evaluating all aspects of improving the website. And that you are willing to concede that you don’t have any foregone conclusions about what is important.

Step Three: Conduct a website audit.

While easier said than done, a website audit will provide you with data that should help you determine the breadth of your website and the different facets that may correlate to different goals and priorities for website visitors.

To get a general idea of the breadth of your institution’s site, you can use Hannon Hill’s free content audit template generator. This allows you to quickly get a page count and inventory of the number of linked pages within a specific domain, emailed in a simple CSV.

You can also use a Google search. In the Google search bar, preface “site:” to any domain to see how many indexed pages Google returns. HubSpot has a blog post on how to do this, if you need more detail.

Click through the results to see your top returned pages. Are these the pages you want people to see when they search for information within your website?

When I do an exercise like this with a client, the first place that I like to check is the events calendar. More often than not, you will find outdated events. (I've seen them going back to 1999!). Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor of your website. What are you going to think when you search for an event, and you find something from 2009?

Step Four: Review your analytics.

Next, utilize your analytics to see what people are searching for, which pages gain the most traffic, and what array of devices are used to access your site. Most institutions use Google Analytics, where you can find most of this information easily from the dashboard.

Step Five: Learn from your content editors.

Finally, to develop the best web governance policy, work with your content editors to discuss what is important to them. What is their mission when they are creating content? Who do they think their web visitors are? The people working in Admissions likely have a different goal than those in Alumni Relations. And those people have a different goal than the Dean of a Department or College.

Step Six: Create your web governance strategy.

Once you have gathered information from the audit, analytics, and constituents, it is a good idea to create some key takeaways that everyone can understand:

  • What are web visitors searching for?
  • What pages are the most visited?
  • Who are the different constituents that want to be invested in providing content for the website and bullet point their goals?
  • What content seems extraneous? Highlight the number of visits (or lack thereof) to those pages.

You can employ content editors to help further audit their section of the website, utilizing website quality assurance (QA) tools like DubBot or Siteimprove.

A final tip for getting buy in: In my experience, you will have an easier time getting buy-in when users can digest their page information and see where they rank with SEO practices, readability scoring, and accessibility. They will feel more invested in the web governance policy when they can feel more in control of deciphering their content quality scoring.

Blaine Herman is the Founder of DubBot, a company that specializes in automated testing for website quality assurance and web governance. Blaine has worked with dozens of institutions on projects ranging from content audits, to site remediations, to website migrations, and more.

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