Website Content Audits

Using Software to Improve and Accelerate Information Gathering

By transforming a content inventory into a content audit, you gain a powerful tool in further understanding your website. Containing both quantitative and qualitative data, a content audit allows you to dig deeper, analyzing page-by-page how your content is structured, displayed and maintained. Content audit software such as the Content Analysis Tool (CAT) can help you build your website content inventory and do initial analysis of areas for further evaluation in a full audit process.

Who Performs Content Audits?

Anyone with a stake in how content is created, organized, and displayed can conduct a content audit. Here are a few of the roles that regularly audit content:

An individual can conduct a content audit or the process can be improved by formation of a multi-disciplinary team as Ahava Leibtag recommends in Why Traditional Content Audits Aren'’t Enough. “The goal of a content audit is not to simply collect data but to have the information you need to make good decisions.” By breaking down areas of expertise and engaging a team who know the technology, systems and standards involved in your website content lifecycle, everyone who is part of the process gains greater insight into the content.

What is the Value of Content Audits?

Content audits are critical to understanding and evaluating the performance of your content against business goals, user needs, editorial standards, and performance factors such as search engine optimization and content use or web analytics. They bring value to your website project and on-going maintenance tasks by allowing you to carefully catalog and analyze your content structures, patterns, and consistency. Content audits tailored to your organization'’s content goals will reveal the highest quantity of specific opportunities for content improvement.

Content audits are useful for

  • Identifying whether content consistently follows template, editorial, style and metadata guidelines
  • Establishing a basis for gap analysis between content you have and content you want
  • Preparing content for revision, removal, and migration

In “From Content Audit to Design Insight,” Christopher Detzi explains how inventories and audits also help communicate throughout a project or website'’s lifecycle. These documents can connect stakeholders, designers, content managers and technologists. He recommends documenting aspects that CAT can help you with such as content types, volume, content structure, and using the audit as a tool to further investigate content relevancy, performance against business and user goals. Combining content audits with website analytics, you gain insight into user’s' interaction with website pages.

How Much Time Do You Need for an Audit?

It depends. The size of your website as well as the depth to which you want to evaluate the content are key factors in estimating audit schedules. Truly meaningful, useful content audits are often time-consuming. Ideally, you want to dedicate as much time and energy as possible to the analysis portion over the manual tasks of data collection and collation.

Planning ahead, there are many ways that you can decrease the amount of time and tedium that is associated with content auditing:

  • Using website content audit software, such as CAT, to automate information gathering
  • Establishing goals for content evaluation before you audit
  • Determining what quantitative and qualitative data to gather in your audit

Susan Evans at mStoner gives an excellent description of the difference between a content inventory and content audit, including ideas on what details are most important to gather and choosing when to plan for an audit. In deciding how to analyze content from your audit, always consider your goals, audiences, timeline, and budget. You may choose a rubric as simple as ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial) to the more updated RAITES (criteria from content strategy expert Rahel Bailie), to a complex process involving many individualized factors.

How Can Tools Help Build Content Audits?

Human oversight is critical to conducting effective, informed content audits. However, just as content inventory software can help you build a quantitative list of your website content quickly, we see the opportunity for website content audit software to help you collect pertinent information about your web pages that leads to insightful analysis. Letting computers do what they do best (process data quickly) will allow you to start the evaluation process sooner and run more efficiently.

CAT, the Content Analysis Tool, helps you gather data that can inform your content audit.

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  • Screenshots of pages allow you to detect templates or content types associated with pages
  • Titles help you see you if pages are labeled in a consistent and informative pattern
  • Metadata fields like Date, Keywords, Description let you see if important information for search engines and website taxonomy are being tagged and maintained
  • Links In and Out of pages let you see how well pages are cross-linked and help identify ones that may be orphaned
  • Lists of images, videos, and audio show how your pages'’ multimedia assets are performing

These categories can help you quickly identify areas in which to focus audit activities.

Content Audits and Website Migration

Moving a website from one platform to another, redesigning a website, or making any other major change to a site is an opportunity to take stock and remove waste. Just like moving house or offices, you want to clearly label and evaluate the usefulness of everything you take with you to your new location. If migration is your key concern, David Hobbs frequently posts links and resources on the Facebook page for Web Site Migration Handbook. A tool like CAT can help in considering factors Hobbs stresses, such as knowing the weight of your website (amount of content) over the distance to your system migration. CAT can also help you answer questions in the “Website Transformation Self-Evaluation,” a tool that quickly measures the complexity of your project.

Most sites at some point are migrated from legacy systems to newer platforms to take advantage of new technology and enable better content management. Make your site migration-ready all the time by regularly updating the content audit. Your website is constantly changing and an updated audit can help you better plan, manage, and maintain it by offering you an at-a-glance resource for tracking website growth.

Using Content Audits to Track Content Over Time

Ann Rockley, in her Confab 2012 keynote, compared maintaining a website to tending a garden. It needs regular watering and weeding to thrive. Governance practices that allow you to identify areas in need of attention will help create an environment where your content can flourish. Tracking content dates and changes over time can help you have a picture of how fresh your content is and how often it’s updated, so you know whether it’s time to weed it out or give it some extra care.

Whether you'’re migrating a site or just maintaining it, taking the time to regularly audit will help you provide the most consistent, current and relevant content to your users. Using website content audit software to create that initial overview will help you plan for a more efficient and useful deeper dig.

Learn how to use software tools like CAT to track content over time, running regular website content inventories that enable an ongoing audit process.