Content Inventory: The ‘Quantitative’ Content Audit

August 15, 2013 at content strategy

Content audit is an important step in formulating the content strategy for any website. The content audit process gives us the quantitative assets of a website in the form of content inventory, as well as the directions to do detailed content analysis. Of late, I have been working on the ‘Discovery’ phase of content strategy for a non-profit, and it has been a challenging albeit intriguing exercise so far.

Content Inventory

The first step is to prepare a comprehensive list of all digital assets of a website. It includes all content, graphics and artwork, multimedia including video, documents in any content type, external reference such as guest posts on blog, and so on. This spreadsheet is called content inventory.

The objective of preparing this inventory sheet is to have a single-point reference for all content types and assets that are part of a website. So it is certainly ‘quantitative’ in nature. It helps the whole project management team and other stakeholders to know all digital assets of the website.

A work-in-progress content inventory worksheet generally looks as below.

Vinish Garg Content Inventory Content Strategy

This sheet includes following details:

  • Unique ID: A unique number for easy reference of content pages in communication and documentation
  • Page Level: Page hierarchy in parent-child numbering system to map with the navigation or information structure
  • Page Title: The page heading of web page
  • URL: The URL of specific page
  • Content Type: The type of content such as whether it is text, or a document in PPTX, PDF, AVI, or a blog post, or a news item, an event, or a press release. Many pages can have multiple content types as well.
  • Keywords: The keywords targeted at the web page
  • Meta Desc: The meta description of the web page
  • Brief Page Desc: A brief description of the web page
  • Owner: The content owner of the web page
  • ROT or OUCH: ROT has been the commonly used method to tag content for its need, uniqueness or timeliness. It stands for Redundant, Outdated and Trivial. Of late, I have been using Gene Smith’s suggestion of OUCH (Outdated, Unnecessary, Current, Have to Write).
  • Update Frequency: The expected frequency of page update such as daily, weekly, twice  a week, monthly, or any other time-interval
  • Last Update Date: The date when content has been updated last
  • Comments (VG): Any additional comments by content inventory owner
  • Comments (RPD): Any additional comments by the client (initials suggest client name)

Generally, content strategists prepare this content inventory in MS Excel spreadsheet. However, we cannot always do it manually for huge websites such as for those with more than 1000 pages. I tried it while working for a non-profit solar energy consultancy service provider and I felt lost. For such cases, we can use some content audit tools such as CAT by Content Insight, or we can seek external content audit service providers.

If the website has been developed in a CMS, you can try exporting the sitemap to a spreadsheet and then double-check if you have listed down all the pages.

The Benefits of Content Inventory

Base for Gap Analysis

The content inventory helps you prepare a gap report of what you have and what exactly you need on the website. For example, assume that the business originally provided three services and it added another service few months later but the White Paper listed on the website still talks about the original three services. So, you need to update the white paper or plan to have different white papers for each service.

A list of carefully done gap analysis can help you plan your editorial calendar better.

An Excellent Reference for Information Architects

  • Information architects always need content inventory as the first reference. They can use this sheet to establish relationship between different content types and plan the site structure more accurately and in right direction. For example, if the website has content types as news, press releases, and PDF newsletters, all these can be groups together as ‘Media’. Likewise, the white papers, case studies and product sheets can be groups together as ‘Resources’. This is particularly helpful for huge websites with a variety of content types that are targeted at different audiences, such as for a city website when a few content types are available for multiple departments.
  • Content inventory provides a good base for card sorting that information architects can use for planning site structure.
  • Information architects can use this inventory while sharing their inputs for UX, such as for implementation of ‘Search’ or ‘Faceted Search’ in content heavy websites.
  • In addition, an information architect can easily filter and prioritize content for what needs to be edited, re-purposed, rebranded, or optimized.

An Opportunity to Re-purpose your Content

When you prepare a content inventory, you get fresh insight into what all documents, white papers, product sheets, FAQs, and even EBooks are already available to the audience. It gives you an opportunity to re-purpose this content, and add fresh perspective either in new deliverables or by making these more relevant to the audiences.

Base for Content Governance

Content inventory includes details on content ownership for different roles, and this can be a good base to define and formulate content governance. The inventory sheet shows relationships between different content types and when qualitative analysis is added to this sheet for different parameters including branding, corporate voice and tone, and message clarity, this gives useful pointers for an effective content governance strategy.

A Guide for SEO Strategy

Content inventory includes keywords and meta description for each page. You invariably find keywords that are rarely used, those were used too often and hence meaningless for search engines, and few more instances where keywords are no more aligned with the new content strategy. This inventory sheet is a good reference to review and revise the SEO strategy for content.

Qualitative Content Audit

In my next post, I plan to talk about the ‘qualitative’ aspects of content audit.

Meanwhile, please share your experiences of how content inventory proved to be a good reference for your content strategy for a website.