Most bloggers take time planning the layout of their sites. Unfortunately, not performing a menu audit can cause problems as things change.
I received a nice email the other day that reminded me of the importance of visiting your own blog from time to time. We hear cities and towns urge people to visit their community like a tourist. I think it’s important for bloggers to do the same with their site. So let’s talk about a menu audit.
The email included an inquiry about buying a text ad on my post. The sender reached me through the Contact link, and to get to that, you have to scroll past my advertising policy. My ad policy, at the moment, remains as it has for years: I don’t accept sponsored posts or guest posts.
To be fair, it doesn’t specifically say I don’t accept text ads. This sender wanted to pay me to advertise a service by placing a link in a mention of it. But that, to me, sure sounds like a sponsored post. So that would fall under my “No Way” category.
But the email also mentioned that he ran across a broken link on my site and he included that specific link. Sure enough, it went to a 404 page.
The broken link appears to be the result of a tag that I had eliminated (or consolidated into another one).
I found the manner in which the sender most likely reached that broken link: through a sub-menu on my blog’s main navigation bar.
That reminded me of the need for a menu audit.
A menu audit really can be as simple as it sounds. But it begins with a trip to your home page.
I like to take a legal pad and make notes. I make a list of all of the links in my navigation bars. For the main one, just below the site title, I hover over each primary category and I also list the sub-links. When I hover, for example, over the Blogging link in my main nav-bar, I see the following submenu links: AOL Journals, Bloggab, Blogging, Blogging Rules, Comments, Editorial Calendars, Google Analytics, Podcasting, and WordPress.
Are all of those links working? I’ll click each one to find out. I will verify that each link goes to content that is applicable to that particular subject.
If any of them don’t work — like the one the email sender mentioned — I remove them from the menu. I don’t want my visitors subjected to a broken link. It’s a waste of their time.
Almost as important as inconveniencing my readers, broken links can also negatively affect your SEO. Search engines want links to work!
But I take it one step further. Once I’ve removed all of the links that I find no longer work, I take a look at what’s left on the list. I ask myself: Are all of those links worthwhile?
Sometimes, a topic I’ve written enough about to possibly warrant its own submenu link may have run its course. It may no longer be necessary. It may no longer receive clicks. So I may purge links.
In the case of the blogging submenu, I decided to remove Bloggab from that menu. Bloggab was a Twitter chat I hosted many years ago. I haven’t written anything new in that section for seven years. That, to me, was a good indication that the submenu item probably was not relevant. Anything written and filed under that subcategory menu was also filed under the main Blogging category, of course. The content remains. You can still search for and find it.
But I no longer saw the need for that subcategory as a link in a menu. So I simply removed the submenu link, not the content.
You should give your site a menu audit at least once a year.
If you tend to make a lot of changes in terms of how you organize your content, an annual menu audit might not be enough. Perhaps you should mark your calendar for one every six months.
It can be easy to forget your menu content — especially submenu content — as you make changes to your posts and how you organize them. If you move content from one category or tag, or even remove certain tags, you should remove those links at that time.
But if you don’t that little menu audit can catch those problems before someone else does.