How to Build a Content Inventory for a Content Audit
Content inventory is essential to you. Yes, you. There’s always legacy content to deal with, unless you’re working on a completely new website build. From a creative or usability perspective, you might feel like deleting all of it and starting with a blank page—but there’s never enough budget, timeline or latitude to do that. Before running screaming for the (ski) hills, read on for why your content strategy needs it—whether you’re a designer, web copywriter, or marketer—and how to do it painlessly.
Content Inventory + Content Audit
A content inventory is not a content audit, but the two are often conflated (for good reason).
A content inventory is a quantitative list of the content on a website, including:
- downloadable files
A more complex content inventory may include the properties of each piece of content, including:
- status code
- page title
- meta description
- h1, h2, h3
- forwards or redirects
- inbound links
- outbound links
A content audit is a qualitative assessment of all the listed content, using metrics based on user needs and the client’s business objectives.
You need both an inventory and an audit, to get anything useful done.
Content Knowledge is Power
Still think content inventory is a waste of time? You’re probably missing the point: Big data is not about the data, it’s about how the analysis can improve the user experience (UX), user interface (UI) design, content marketing and business goals.
A content inventory and content audit provide you with information that empowers you to:
- Identify design, UX/UI, branding, TOV inconsistencies, redundancies and content gaps.
- Make data-based decisions about what to keep, what to archive/remove, and what to improve or update.
- Present a compelling case to the client for your decisions and actions.
- Improve internal and cross-functional workflow—everyone can literally work off the same page(s).
The more detailed the inventory, the more accurate the analysis, for a clearer understanding of what you have to work with—informing your content strategy, and project scope and schedule. All of that means time, and money—yours, and your client’s.
How To Take an Inventory of Your Content
A detailed content inventory is an advantage to any website redesign or content refresh, and a key component of ongoing content strategy. But that useful, itemized data list doesn’t create itself. What’s the big content inventory picture?
- Decide what type of data is useful for you to capture, for example:
- Page title/URL
- Content type/File formats, per page
- Page author/source
- Page hierarchy
- Meta description/keywords
- Dates created/revised/accessed
- Crawl the existing website, using any combination of web crawling tools, a content management system, and working manually off an existing sitemap and wireframe.
- Record the gathered data, usually in a spreadsheet format.
- Summarize the data into charts/graphs, a presentation, key findings document, or some form of multi-stakeholder-friendly reporting for at-a-glance comprehension and easier distribution.
Step 1: Screaming Frog
The tool that does most of this for you is the Screaming Frog spider. It’s an incredibly fast crawling tool that flies through your site and puts all of its elements into a table for export. And for the record, this isn’t a paid placement. 🙂 There are a lot of other content tools that do similar things, including:
- Content Insight
- Blaze Content
- Gather Content
Step 2: Analytics
The second part of the content audit the process involves looking at your content performance in Google Analytics. The top questions to ask:
- Which pages are the most viewed?
- What pages have horrible bounce rates?
- What are the top landing pages?
Mapping out the important pages to your users will give you an order of importance for your content inventory Then you can begin making decisions that directly impact strategy, scope and timeline. This will be based on targeted user and business considerations, including web design, UX/UI, information architecture, content strategy, content marketing and business development perspectives.
The good news? Now you know: A content inventory really is the most efficient way to grasp website topography, and to understand the context and purpose of a website’s individual pages.
The not-so-good news? The inventory process has traditionally needed a significant investment of time and effort, and usually a wide range of software tools and platforms—and as part of ongoing content strategy and management, any content inventory will need to be regularly revisited, revised and audited. Ongoing content management will include tracking milestones and workflow for specific pages.