How a content audit and inventory can save you time, money and nerves
I wish I knew about content audits a few months ago, when the company I work for started this long and complex content migration process. It would have made things easier, more structured, and we could have acted more strategically. So, if you are also facing a migration or generally handle a large amount of content, don’t repeat my mistakes. Keep on reading and become more strategically and efficiently in your decisions when it comes to content.
A quick disclaimer: This blog post is meant to give you a brief introduction to this analysis technique and how it can be helpful for your business. But due to the nature of a blog post, I will not be able to go into full detail. For a deeper dive, please read “Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook” by Paula Ladenburg Land; you will not regret it.
What is a content audit?
A content audit is an analysis of the already existing content of a business. Whether it is published on a website or across social media channels. Paula Ladenburg Land, the author of “Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook”, suggests that migration is a good opportunity to take a closer look at your content and to get rid of content that does not contribute to the business goals. But a content audit does necessarily need an external reason. Paula Land stresses that a content audit should be done regularly and should be used as ongoing maintenance. By doing it on a regular basis, outdated, trivial and redundant content can be avoided. It can also make the gap between the desired state and the status quo of your content visible.
I think, especially in a content migration process, an evaluation of your content is crucial. You cannot only decide which content is worth migrating, but you can also think about how to update and reuse the already existing content. Which is an essential aspect since content production is expensive and time-consuming.
The beginning of a content audit: The content inventory
Where should I begin, you might ask? First things first, a content inventory and an audit can provide different insights. An Inventory gives quantitative insights, whereas the content audit can provide a deeper qualitative understanding.
Before you can start to analyse your content, you need to get an overview of what is on your website. This can be achieved by creating a content inventory and should be your first step. Tools like the Content Analysis Tool (CAT) from Content Insights are beneficial to this task. You can also use Screaming Frog, but I have not tested this one out myself yet. Regardless of which tool you decide to use, there are a few points your inventory sheet should include:
- Publication date
- File Size
- Word count
For even more information, you can also add data from your analytics (e.g., overall and unique page views, bounce rate, etc.) to your sheet. After you created and structured your inventory spreadsheet, the qualitative analysis can start.
The qualitative content audit
Following your spreadsheet’s configuration, you can finally think about the criteria you want to measure your content against. Choosing criteria is a unique process for every business. Keep your business goals in mind when you select them. For a bit of inspiration, here are a few commonly used criteria:
- Accuracy & Currency
- Depth and breadth
When it comes to your content classification, you can also go with what fits your needs the best. For instance, you can grade it like school grades 1–5 or classify it as “good”, “fair” and “poor”. Besides a column for your gradings, it is recommended to insert two more columns. The first one for notes and a second one for recommended next steps. You can use the column for notes to record your thoughts qualitatively, avoid yes/no answers. The following steps can be defined as “keep as is”, “delete” or “revise”. This is particularly helpful when other people also work with your sheet.
Content migration is done, and now?
When you are finally done with your audit and subsequently with your content migration, you should not let your audit sink into oblivion. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is recommended to do audits regularly. Revising and checking on your content is essential for making decisions about budget and resources. We have to keep in mind that we only have one chance for a first impression on our users/customers. So, we must go this extra mile to make sure it is going to be a good one. And even the longest mile in the world of content begins with the first step — a content audit.
A quick overview of the pros and cons of a content audit:
+ Identify the current state of your content
+ Identify if content supports your business goals
+ Identifying gaps
+ Content can be prepared for Core-Pruning
+ Keep content fresh and up to date
- Needs planning