The Basics of Content Inventory for a Better Website

By Shai Coggins, Digital Specialist | Content

Aug 06

If you run a website or a blog, then you would have developed enough content for your organisation’s web presence. How familiar are you with your site’s content?

Content Inventory - Content Audit

Is it time to do a content inventory or content audit for your organisation’s website or blog?

Do you know what types of content that have been created? Do you know how many web pages you have? Are you aware of which ones are being properly maintained and which ones need to be updated? If you answered “no” to these questions, then you could probably use a content inventory (aka content audit).

This is not the same as a Social Media Audit, which is primarily an audit of social media platforms and their existing use.

A content inventory or audit is an extensive look in to your website or weblog’s existing content. It takes into consideration the different aspects of content when structuring the inventory. You may not need all the data mentioned in the list below, as the content inventory data that you will collect should fit what you require.

Content Inventory Structure

  • Information Architecture – This looks at the structural design of your website content. In a content audit, this often includes the Page ID and Content Section.
  • Content Information – This includes various information about the different web pages. For example: Page Title, Link or URL, Content Type (media included, etc), and Content Topic.
  • Content Management – This pertains to different individuals who might be in charge of creating, editing, and/or maintaining the content. This is only applicable if there would be more than one person managing the content.
  • Analysis – This provides some quantitative data that might be useful for the purposes of the content inventory. Some possible information that may be included here: Usage Statistics, Number of Broken Links, Bounce Rate, Social Media Virality, etc.
  • Assessments – This offers the qualitative aspect of the content audit. It highlights the quality of the content and which ones might need further action. Additional notes on each page may be added in this section.
  • Action Items – This is the part of the audit that can offer insights on what are the most important things to do about specific pages of the content. For example: Page Actions (to be archived, deleted, edited, etc), Assigned To (who needs to do required tasks), Allocated Hours, Deadline, etc.

When do you need to do a content inventory or audit?

1. One of the most important use of content inventories or audits is for the purpose of developing or updating the organisation’s content strategy. Having a content audit enables content strategists and producers to find out what types of content needs to be updated, maintained, created, etc. based on the strategic direction of the organisation at any given time.

2. The content inventory is also useful when the organisation is looking at revamping or redesigning a website. Often, during a site redesign, the main focus is on just the look and feel of the website. There is very little thought that goes in to the actual content that is needed for the site.

3. When your organisation is looking to change or upgrade your web content management system, having a content inventory will help you to map your existing content in to your new system.

4. If you’re trying to improve your website traffic, the content audit will help you to identify areas of improvement for your content’s search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. Fixing broken links, improving text on certain pages, editing sections and improving information included in some of your site’s content can dramatically improve your site’s web traffic.

How to Do a Content Inventory or Audit

1. Identify your content audit goals – In order to find out what types of data you need to collect for this audit, you need to know what you need the data for. There is no point collecting information about content that needs to be updated or edited if you know that you will not allocate any resources for such type of maintenance work.

2. Decide whether you need a full or partial content inventory – A content inventory is a long, tedious task that offers very little shortcut. So, you might want to consider only doing a partial audit if you just want one or two levels of information (eg, pages linked in your navigation and the respective pages directly linked to those). Figure out what you need to do before you jump right in to it.

3. Create or find a template that you can use for your content audit – The most popular tool for this purpose is the MS Excel Spreadsheet. If you use a different type of spreadsheet, that’s fine too, of course.

Here at Vervely, we offer a simple Content Audit Template. The password for this is going to be available to our newsletter subscribers in the August, September and October 2012 issues. If you’re not subscribed yet, please do so. Every month, we offer subscriber-only exclusive content.

4. Collect the required data and provide necessary qualitative assessments. Most of the time, you will need the labour-intensive process of collecting and recording information manually. You might be able to get a programmer or developer to put together a code to help you to automate some of the tasks involved. Some content management systems might also be able to provide you with some of the data that you need. You can also use some of the tools mentioned below. But, most of the tasks would most likely need manual input.

5. Set a regular content audit schedule – It is recommended that a content audit is done at least once every year or two.

Content Inventory Tools

  • PageTrawler – This is a simple, web-only application that is specifically created for content audits. It is currently still in alpha, so there are still features that seem to be missing. However, it might still help especially when you’re only trying to do a simple content inventory task. It is available for free at the moment.
  • Content Audit Plugin for WordPress – If you use WordPress as your content management system, then you can install this plugin and have a basic content audit tool right in your website. You can even automate some functions, and connect the use with Google Analytics using Google Analytics Dashboard plugin.
  • Xenu’s Link Sleuth – This is a very popular software that helps you to collect link and page information from your website, including highlighting broken links. This is a free application for Windows users only.
  • Scrutiny – This is the Mac version of Xenu’s Link Sleuth, with a few extra features like HTML validator and SEO issues highlight. The license is worth US$29.95. If you want a lighter version of the software, you can also check out Integrity, which was developed by the same company. Integrity is donateware.
  • Majestic SEO – This is pretty much similar to Scrutiny, especially with its focus on improving site SEO through a page and link check service. It is available on a subscription-only basis. Subscriptions are worth £29.99 to £250/monthly. Please note that I have only read recommendations about this product, and I haven’t used it yet.
  • Screaming Frog – This is also a link and web page checker software, which offers SEO improvement as a focus. It is available for £99/year license. Again, I have yet to test this software.

Who Should Do Your Content Inventory or Audit?

If you have a content strategist or web content coordinator in-house, they might be able to do this for you. Otherwise, information architects and user experience specialists sometimes offer this as a service too.

Vervely has had experience in providing a number of content audits for different projects. If your organisation would like us to help you with a content inventory project, please contact us. We’ll be happy to provide you with a quick free assessment for your content audit needs.


About the Author

Shai Coggins is the Manager and Chief Digital Media Specialist at Vervely, an Australia-based agency serving local and international clients. One of the company's main clients is Microsoft. Shai has been featured in a number of media due to her online work, including being named as one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list (2009).

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