5 simple ways to get the most out of your web archives
April 29, 2020 • 7 min read
Are you getting the most out of your web archives? Whilst businesses understand the regulatory requirements behind record-keeping, and the importance of preserving digital assets for continued legacy, many still haven't realised the full value of their archives.
Using a web archiving platform can bring a lot more to a business than a traditional off-the-shelf solution - bear with us and we'll explain why.
Web archives contain a huge amount of data, so it’s important that businesses realise the value of what they're preserving and how archives can be properly leveraged.
According to Forrester, huge amounts of online information sources and assets are disappearing, primarily because digital content is ephemeral by nature - one minute it exists, the next minute, it's gone. Through web archiving however, this digital content is never lost - creating permanent records that protect organisations from regulatory crackdowns, trademark infringement and preserve corporate memory for the future.
If you’ve already invested in a web archiving solution, fantastic! But this is only the start. To help, we’ve pulled together five simple ways to make the most out of your web archives.
Get it on the agenda
Web archiving is a great way of creating lasting and living records of your online brand or business. However, these archives shouldn't be left to simply gather dust! Instead, actively engage with these archives and see what further value can be gleamed from them.
For ownership of archives, businesses must look beyond the CMO or CCO as the tenures of these roles can be swift and short. We've written at length here on just how to convince your board for why archiving support is necessary as when digital assets go missing or online records aren't captured, businesses can be left in difficult situations of customer dispute or investigation by a regulator.
So start making the most out of your archives by getting them on meeting agendas and encouraging your teams to engage with them! There can often be a struggle to get board level engagement, so make a point of showing how useful they are and using them to pose pertinent questions. Are you capturing everything you need to ensure records are accurate? Is your corporate memory being preserved?
Archives can also be used as a valuable learning asset for your teams, allowing them to see what has worked in the past from a marketing perspective (and what hasn’t!). Make regular time in schedules for you and your colleagues to revisit archives and this could hopefully help you develop a competitive edge over peers.
Understand your archives’ ‘hops’
‘Hops’ are essentially what happens when you click a link, as a user you ‘hop’ to the destination you've chosen whether it’s external or internal. It’s important to understand the full reach of your website archives and the journeys your site’s visitors are exposed to.
Imagine your website publishes information around investment and everything available complies with the financial promotion rules (you can read more about these here). However, a few of your webpages include links to an unregulated and non-compliant source with information that would make your compliance department run a mile! This could contaminate your own website with unwanted risk.
For any business’s website, you're likely to include links to parent and third-party organisations and this must be considered.
Records of these should be made to ensure archives are not left incomplete so when archiving make sure you understand what hops are necessary to ensure you're capturing all relevant content to preserve your archives.
At MirrorWeb, to give users more control over how they archive their websites, we're able to not only define the required hops needed when archiving but we've also developed a single page archiving tool called Snapshot.
Snapshot allows for selective archiving of one webpage at a time, giving you greater control by allowing you to capture immutable web records in real-time, ensuring you can preserve content at a moments notice.
Factor archiving into marketing and comms plans
In the same way you remember to proofread an article, save a document or circulate for feedback and sign off, archiving should form a part of your marketing plans. Too many times, we see people set up their archiving solution, let it run and forget about it.
This isn't recommended as when websites go through updates or revamps, crawlers can get stuck, resulting in poor records which could lead to lost assets and compliance risk. We want your archives to be squeaky clean accurate at all times, therefore teams must be consider the following:
Are we publishing any new content or microsites that need special attention? Are we making any considerable updates to the website or going through a redesign in the near future? Has it been over a week since we last checked our crawls? If the answer to any of these is yes, then be sure to let your account manager know so we can ensure archives are always correct.
To help minimise any record-keeping errors, at MirrorWeb we prioritise quality and accuracy at all times. This is why we have in-house team of Quality Assurance (QA) specialists, whose job is to go over your archives and check that crawls are operating correctly.
To do archiving well, you have to keep it at the forefront of your mind. By being conscious of your archiving solution, and thinking about how it coincides with marketing communications, you can help ensure the quality of your archives. Make time to set crawls so they match the pace of online content being created.
Don’t keep it to yourself
Making sure more people in your organisation are familiar with archiving can help guard against the risk of digital fragility. How though? By simply reminding people of what's at stake when online content isn't preserved and how your organisation’s digital presence is critical to future success, you can create engagement across departments. Get used to sharing archives – and the lessons learnt from them – with other departments.
Not only can this help spread awareness and knowledge, but a fresh pair of eyes can often recognise alternative user cases for archiving that further support a business requirements.
For example, a marketer may have been looking over new product pages on the website but noticed they haven’t gained an increase in conversions. But looking back historically it's clear that conversion rates on these pages was higher, how would you be able to view these pages historically and replicate these conversion tactics?
By sharing archives of these pages with compliance and product management teams, you can gain some truly valuable insights on new approaches to take. Living, breathing and fully interactive archives can be a fantastic way of stimulating conversation and driving engagement.
Recognise the benefits in knowing what was served to customers and when
If a customer was to challenge you on what was published on your website from a specific date, how would you prove (or disprove) it? For many organisations that aren't archiving, they simply have no immutable record or evidence that could support their case.
Web archives are timestamped and signed with a digital signature, this makes them immutable and completely tamperproof. Yet, we often find that businesses overlook how important this is in the digital age. There are numerous occasions where an organisation has been challenged and they've been unable to produce a valid web record in defence.
For instance, imagine you're a financial services firm currently in the middle of a dispute with a customer who's said they've been mis-sold a product or service. However, the website of the firm a stated a different claim on the day in question - how would you protect your firm from this claim?
The value this delivers to organisations is huge, especially when it concerns those that matter most - the customers.
As we’ve demonstrated, web archiving can do a lot more for organisations. This includes helping them to solve a variety of business, compliance, legal and knowledge management needs - ensuring the digital truth is always accessible when it matters most.