Great content has the power to help your website turn up in more search results, get more people to actually visit your website, AND build your organization’s authority. That said, it’s hard to consistently create truly great content, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating not-so-great content, just to fill space or meet deadlines.
Of course, the problem with taking the easy path is that, over time, your best stuff gets buried under all the clutter. That’s where the Marie Kondo method can help.
So who’s Marie Kondo?
Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, and the host of a very popular Netflix program. Devoted fans rave about how Kondo’s approach to tidying transforms lives.
The basics of her method are pretty simple:
- Get rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy, and
- Put the remaining (joy-sparking) items in visible, easily accessible locations
I must admit that I haven’t followed her housekeeping advice. For the most part, I’m a pretty tidy person. Plus, I have a brilliant professional cleaner who auto-adjusts my house every Wednesday. Note to working parents: If you do only one thing for yourself, hire a cleaner.
But pardon me for digressing.
Here’s the connection between Marie Kondo and writing great content:
Kondo’s philosophy appeals to me because I love her guiding principles. When you boil it all down, she’s promoting the virtues of:
- Approaching challenges strategically,
- Focusing on one thing at a time,
- Taking a measured, step-by-step approach, and
- Making conscious choices that align with your values.
Here are 10 Marie Kondo lessons, applied within the context of content creation. Each is guaranteed to help you tidy existing content and move forward with confidence.
Lesson #1: Tackle Categories Instead Of Just Rooms
Instead of working on one room at a time, Kondo advises you to start by tidying your clothing, then perhaps your books, and so on.
When auditing your website content, instead of taking a page-by-page approach, focus on categories of content, such as:
- Blog Posts
- Downloadable Resources
- Headlines (Page Titles and Sub-Titles)
The category approach lets you clearly compare apples-to-apples. And as you identify your preferences, you will learn more about what separates great content from the ordinary.
Lesson #2: Show Respect For Your Items
Kondo encourages you to consider the ‘feelings’ of your belongings. The fancy word for this is anthropomorphism. It’s when you attribute human traits and emotions to animals and objects. Like when a child worries that their teddy bear will be sad when they leave it alone on the bed.
Thinking of objects in human ways renders those items worthy of greater care and consideration.
In the context of your website, consider the sadness of a beautiful photo stuck in the middle of a poorly written page. Now imagine that photo as the featured image of a beautifully written blog post, complimented by an eye-catching headline. Think how much happier it would be.
Lesson #3: Stay Focused
Kondo is firm when it comes to discipline. You need to keep yourself on task. Stay focused on the category you’re working on and the act of tidying up.
In the same way home owners become distracted by photo albums filled with memories, you will waste time and energy if you veer off track.
For example, let’s imagine that you’re focused on tidying up blog posts. You find yourself reading something created to describe a particular program. Reviewing the post reminds you that the program itself could use some work.
You take a peek at some content documents related to the program (e.g., facilitator guides, power points). HOURS later you’re knee deep in a program upgrade!
Distraction is your enemy. Focus is your friend.
Lesson #4: Don’t Involve Other People
Kondo advises you not to show family members what you’re discarding. The argument is that they will try to convince you to keep things you’ve chosen to ditch.
In the same way, your work-family is likely to be protective of certain content items. For example, the person who crafted the content for your website pages is apt to defend their choices.
If possible, limit the number of voices during the purging phase. Bring the work-family back in afterwards. By then, you’ll have a stronger idea of your likes and dislikes, gaps in the remaining content, and how you want to move forward. When YOU clearly understand what you want (and what you don’t want), it’s easier for others to get on board and help.
Note: In big, complicated organizations, few things are left completely up to one individual, so this may be a hard strategy for you to follow.
If that’s the case, don’t abandon the idea entirely. Instead, make a list of the items you WANT to get rid of, and why. This can be the basis for a group conversation – and an opportunity to make the case in favour of deleting some items.
Lesson #5: Find Joy In The Process
On her television show, you actually see people becoming happier as they discard meaningless clutter. And you watch beautiful spaces emerge, filled with meaningful items that bring them joy.
There’s no better feeling than having a sense of pride in your accomplishments and in your organization. As you clear away all of the content that doesn’t make your eyes light up, you will start to feel lighter and more optimistic, and you will re-connect with great content that you had forgotten existed!
Lesson #6: Find the Best Place for Each Item
Once you’ve discarded things, it’s time to figure out where to put the items that remain. When it comes to your household, Kondo comes up with some out-of-the-box options. For instance, she encourages people to re-consider what hangs in a a closet versus what might be folded in dresser drawers.
In the context of your website, be creative when considering where each great content item belongs. For example:
- Glowing testimonials don’t have to be relegated to one page. Maybe it would be more fun (and inspiring) to sprinkle them on multiple pages – or even use them as headers.
- A high-performing, evergreen blog post that includes a helpful checklist might become a free download, encouraging people to join your email list.
- An event video you un-earthed from the oldest part of your news page might be re-purposed on a program page, member benefits page, etc.
Lesson #7: Get Advice From Experts
Kondo’s idea about folding items in dresser drawers sounds so simple when she explains it, yet most of us wouldn’t think of doing it that way on our own. I guess that’s what makes her an expert.
When mapping out your strategy for creating and managing content effectively, it may be wise to seek advise from experts. For example, a good website designer may come up with ways to use your remaining content in inventive ways that you wouldn’t think of on your own.
Look to people within your organization and outsiders. Insiders have an intimate understanding of your goals and processes, which is lovely. But folks who aren’t as directly involved are more impartial and may provide new insights and out-of-the-box ideas.
Lesson #8: Discover Your Style
As you consider what content sparks joy, you naturally start to notice your personal preferences. For instance, you may like content written in a more casual tone, with you-and-I language and a bit of humour.
Ultimately, when you’re creating content for a organization, the tone needs to align with the image and intentions of the entity itself, but that doesn’t mean your style preferences aren’t important.
In general, letting a bit of yourself shine through is a good thing. People respond positively to content that feels like it’s coming from a real person. And what sparks joy in you could also be what sparks joy in website visitors!
Lesson #9: Fill-in-the-Blanks
A homeowner may de-clutter their kitchen only to discover that they don’t have properly sized pots and pans.
When you’ve gotten rid of the mediocre content, there are bound to be gaps. Don’t panic, this is the fun part. It’s time to get creative and fill those gaps with great content.
Note: I wrote an article on how to create content that attracts website traffic. If you have time, check out “Writing SEO Content: A Step-By-Step Guide”
Lesson #10: Stay On It
Cleaning becomes easier when you have less clutter. So does content development.
Applying Marie Kondo’s principles should leave you feeling more confident and capable about your ability to recognize (and create) great content. Once you know what sparks joy – and what doesn’t – be vigilent. Review your website regularly and toss out the deadwood.
Conclusion: Don’t Bury Great Content Under A Mountain of Crap
In a nutshell, cleaning up your website is about tossing the mediocre so your great content can shine. Marie Kondo is pretty clear about what to keep – and what to throw away:
“Dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.”