As basketball super mega-star LeBron James recently considered where to take his talents next, an entire sports nation was on pins and needles. His “Next Decision” would impact the entire NBA landscape. During that drama, a minor oversight could’ve potentially affected his decision and consequently millions in revenue for numerous NBA teams and their cities.
During the first reign of “King James” in Cleveland, it was estimated that he had a $50 to $80 million annual impact on the local economy before he left in 2010. It would be the height of understatement to say that the possibility of his return was a big deal. During the rampant speculation by the sporting press, a potential fly in Cleveland’s second chance ointment that kept coming up was “The Letter”.
When James made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland in 2010, Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert wrote a letter to the Cleveland faithful. There have been scorned lovers that were gentler toward their former mates. Among the venomous gems Gilbert typed up in comic sans font (what, Papyrus wasn’t an available choice?) were: “narcissistic”; “self-promotional”; “this shameful display of selfishness”; and, wait for it,“cowardly betrayal”.
The way that Gilbert took him to task in The Letter must’ve been a thorn in the paw of King James. At least it had been written 4 years ago and at an emotional time for all involved, correct? Gilbert could certainly hope for some “time heals all wounds” mojo, couldn’t he?
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the land of potential reconciliation and redemption. As the involved parties were publicly mute about James potential Cleveland redux, sports and social media types could only speculate and grasp at anything new to talk about (“LeBron had some of his cars shipped from Miami to his home in Cleveland!”).
And then some inquisitive web surfers discovered that after 4 years, The Letter still remained on the Cavaliers’ website. Technically, it had been removed years ago from their active website, but it still existed as a stagnant archived page. Regardless, the headlines blared, “Gilbert’s Letter Trashing James Still on Cav’s Website!” The Cavalier’s website peeps got an inkling early on that something odd was going on when they saw a traffic spike to “some archived webpage.”
You might be thinking, “So what does all that tabloid drama mean for me or my website?” Although it’s impolite to answer a question with a question, social etiquette isn’t a strong suit for us techie types and so we’ll ask, “Do you know every one of your webpages that can be accessed online regardless of whether you’re ‘using them’?” Before answering, consider a couple of hypotheticals from the mild to the wild:
- A monthly customer newsletter included a link to a pdf page on your site with a sneak peek at a new product line in the store. It was part promo as well as experiment to see how many recipients would click through from the newsletter. The new products didn’t get much traction so you discontinued the line after 2 months. Just after that, a new customer walks into your store to purchase the product because she found that pdf page in a Google search. You’re left to apologize to a disappointed potential new customer during their first visit.
- Unfortunately, your accounting firm was sued by a former employee for age discrimination. A confidential settlement agreement included that your firm would not give out any information regarding the employee’s past job performance. On your old website (since replaced with a new and improved one) you had “An Accounting” page where firm news and current events were posted. One highlighted an employee training session on new accounting software. It included the line, “Possibly even our long time auditing maven George Baker might eventually depend less on his abacus and reap the benefits of this modern application!” George has had a lot of time on his hands with not yet procuring employment since the settlement. While Googling himself to see what his online reputation looked like to potential employers, he discovered that old post. During his down time he had also learned to program his attorney’s number into speed dial.
So what can you do to ensure that your small business isn’t embarrassed or much worse by a forgotten website page? Knowing what you don’t know goes a long way towards avoiding problems in life. That’s why you should identify all the pages on your site regardless of whether you consider them currently “active” (in the minds of many that only means pages navigable from links within their site).
A couple of simple options for identifying all webpages that exist on your site:
- Google Analytics: even if you only stumble your way around GA (like me), the Pivot Tables Report is a simple way to identify pages that are basically laying fallow. “Find Invisible Pages Using Google Analytics” on the Moz Blog includes a simple step-by-step for the process.
- Google Search: to see every page that is indexed by Google and shows up in search results for your website, do a Google search for “site:[yoursite.com].” For example, searching “site:EnderTech.com” currently yields 11 pages of search results limited to our indexed website pages.
Now that you know what you didn’t know, what’s next? You can of course delete pages if they have no current value (e.g., pdf flyer promoting a past special event). If your particular site platform allows it, another option is to deactivate the page from public view. You might choose that instead of deletion if there’s a potential future use for a page (e.g., updating content, repurposing, archival importance, et al.). Another consideration might be to optimize the page and make it not so hidden (aka visible) if it contains valuable content (the above mentioned Moz Blog post speaks to such an evaluation).
Periodically “scrubbing” your website of unnecessary pages is a good practice to avoid potential problems. At a minimum, it ensures that you’re providing only accurate information to customers. And that lends credibility to a small business. And as recently played out with The Letter by Dan Gilbert, you never know what a “royal” pain a hidden webpage might cause you.
The author of this article was Endertech Digital Media Coordinator Casey with technical input by Senior Developer John Yoo.
Top Photo Source: Keith Allison (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison) under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0