Archiving Outdated Discussions And Content In A Community

Among the biggest wins from this consultancy project was archiving old and outdated discussions within the community.

There are far better guides than I can write on this topic, but it’s handy to know how it applies to a community.

As communities mature, so do discussions. The same advice which may have been relevant and useful five years ago might not be relevant today. This means members are increasingly landing at pages with bad advice. Worse yet, a search for information might not take you to the latest and most useful advice.

In our interviews, we noticed members frequently mentioned landing at old posts with outdated information alongside the other problems you see here.

The Problem With Removing Old Discussions

We could simply remove old posts, but that presents a host of new problems. For example:

  • Members might lose their post counts.
  • The community might lose traffic from incoming links to those pages.
  • It might create a lot of broken links on the site from discussions/content which link to other discussions/content.

Listing Discussions To Remove

We combined data from ScreamingFrog with our own analysis to list discussions which had:

1) Attracted less than 10 visits in the past month.
2) Had received less than 2 posts in the past year.
3) Had been published more than 2 years ago.

We also combined this with any discussion which had received a response within the past 2 years which included the phrase ‘outdated’, ‘out of date’, and ‘old’ (we probably could have had a better system for this). This was a small list of a few hundred discussions which we manually checked and tagged for updating (or archiving if there was a newer discussion on the topic).

This created a list of around 17k discussions.

Archiving vs. Removing Discussions

Instead of deleting content, which would have likely caused a lot of disruption, we deindexed the discussion from public search engines and the community’s own search engine.

All of the discussions are still there, but they are extremely difficult for anyone to find. This means members don’t lose their post counts and it doesn’t create broken links. But it also prevents members from landing on discussions with outdated advice.

It didn’t completely resolve the problem, but in the last survey we undertook, landing on discussion with outdated information didn’t rank in the top 10 problems anymore.

The exact numbers to remove are somewhat arbitrary, but if you’re looking to clean up your community and need a criteria to start with, I’d begin with the above and adjust it to your situation.

(p.s. Read the full case study here).

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