Whether you want to redesign your website and prepare your current content to migrate over, or whether you’re building a new Content Management System (CMS) and need to specify the types of content modules to include, you first need to audit all your content by performing a complete inventory and then evaluating its quality.
Performing a Content Inventory means thoroughly cataloging all the content pieces you have. This step is also known as a Quantitative Audit. You discover the what.
After that, you perform a Content Evaluation, aka a Qualitative Audit, for each piece of content. You evaluate its overall ranking or hierarchy on your site and deliberate whether the content can be used as-is, needs to be updated or rewritten, archived, or deleted or what you will need to create it from scratch. You discover the why.
Redesigning or migrating a website? Start by auditing your content by performing a complete inventory and then evaluating its quality. Here's how. Click To Tweet
A thorough content audit starts with a complete content inventory, followed by an editorial content evaluation and concludes with next strategic steps.
The most effective way to perform a content audit is by writing everything down in one simple spreadsheet (more on that below. The evaluation part of the audit is shaded in red). When performing the audit, share the table with everyone on your team and work off ONE master table, i.e. in Google Docs/Sheets, to avoid duplications and errors.
How do you gather all your content? You can create a sitemap using online crawl tools like xml-sitemaps.com—but you might miss content that is not linked to any page or is hidden behind passwords. You can also use your CMS (i.e. WordPress) and go page by page, post by post, list all your uploaded files and thus be less likely to miss a piece of content that might not have been published or has been hidden/orphaned (meaning it has a URL but can’t be found because no links lead to or from it).
Content that you want to keep should then be evaluated whether it aligns with your current goals or your brand voice: Does it tell your story and the message you want to convey? Is it engaging? Does it provide business value and, even more importantly, value for your readers? Are there any gaps in the content that fall short of the overall site goal or topic?
Remember, your content dictates the design. The structure of the site, its navigation, page hierarchy and layout depend on it. When designing or redesigning your website, your site’s launch date hinges on whether your content has been optimized and is ready to go.
And if you work with a designer and developer, they, too, have to be aware of all the content pieces you need—well before the first mockups or wireframes are created—to see what goes where and how your content relates to another to reveal the bigger picture, your site’s ideal content flow and patterns in its content structure.
Once you see what you have to work with, you can plan ahead and outline a valuable long-term content strategy that works for you and your organization, aligns with your brand and engages your ideal customers.
Organizing your content will also help you strategize your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) in the long run to boost your site’s ranking.
Schedule a content audit at periodic intervals (aka a rolling audit), at least once a year, to ensure that your content strategy stays relevant and on track, your content is up-to-date, engaging, consistently aligns with your goals and guidelines and performs as intended.
A consistent content audit helps monitor your assets and helps to formulate tactical plans to flag new content early on in the content creation process as ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial).
Now’s your turn
- Create a spreadsheet. I suggest Google Sheet within your Google Drive because you can share it with your team. Or you create it in Excel and import it into your Google Drive as a new sheet. Give it a name and date.
- You can also download the Google Sheet Content Audit Template that I created here (see screenshot above). You don’t need to sign in to Google Drive. Just go to File on the top left and Download as Microsoft Excel to your computer.
- Rename and customize it to fit your content and site needs. For a thorough audit, try to keep most of the columns as they are. You’ll need the info.
- Add each content piece in separate rows underneath, following the structure of your site: from the top-level pages (i.e. the homepage) down.
- Share the spreadsheet with your team.
Below, you’ll find more details about each of the columns/categories and what they stand for. The more info you jot down in your table, the better you will be able to evaluate, and act upon, your findings.
Your table will also provide you with an invaluable tool once you’re ready to migrate your content to a new website. You’ll be able to check whether all your content moved over and discover any gaps that need to be addressed.
And finally, it will provide a clear roadmap for your SEO strategies going forward.
The categories in your Content Audit Table
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