Website Content Inventories

Easier, Faster & More Accurate Results Using Software Tools

The key to successful website content maintenance is first understanding your assets. You have many ways of understanding the technology running a website but the inventory is the central way to understand what that technology delivers: content.

Taking a quantitative content inventory, a document that lists all of your website pages and data about those pages, has been acknowledged as time-consuming——or as Jeff Veen said in 2002, “mind-numbing”——but ultimately rewarding practice of website designers, site managers, information architects and content strategists for many years. Website content inventory software like the Content Analysis Tool (CAT), saves valuable time by gathering data about your website. By providing an accurate list of your website assets, the tool allows you to spend more time focusing on the quality (versus the quantity) of content, helping you build further assessment tools such as qualitative content audits.

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What Questions Do Quantitative Content Inventories Answer?

  • How many pages does the website have?
  • How many and what other types of content assets are there (images, videos, documents) and what pages are they associated with?
  • Where are pages located, identified by URL?
  • What do the URL structures indicate about content types?
  • How many pages link to or out of each page?

Why Conduct Content Inventories?

For many years, web professionals have conducted content inventories manually, by clicking through every page of a website and recording it in a separate worksheet or by using tools built for other purposes (like website crawlers) to save some of the manual ”copy and paste” labor. In Doing a content audit or inventory Scott Baldwin points out that “"the advantage of using a tool to automate some of the work is that “it gives me a comprehensive list of URLs without much effort and can run in the background while I do my audit or other work.”"

Baldwin is referring to the role content inventories play as foundational documents for content audits, a process in which you analyze the quality and measure performance of content in relation to your goals and intended audiences.  At Content Insight, we’'ve worked on many manual and tool-assisted content inventories that ranged from 40-80 hours for small websites to large websites that required months of inventory time with many hands on deck. We saw the need for software like Content Analysis Tool (CAT) that would help people quickly gather an accurate list of website content, allowing you to move on more quickly to auditing and analyzing that content.

What Is the Role of a Content Inventory In Managing And Maintaining a Website?

Content inventories have multiple uses. One is making sure that you always have the information necessary to understand your content catalog and make decisions based on evidence. An accurate assessment of what pages you have allows you to build a plan for your content lifecycle from on-going maintenance to future development, re-use and possible migration of your website content. Content inventories are critical documentation to projects such as redesigns, refreshes, or migration. Using software tools, you can quickly build content inventories that

  • Simplify the content gathering process using one tool
  • Communicate website size to stakeholders
  • Create base documents for content audits

Why Track Website Content with a Tool?

We recently asked the LinkedIn Content Strategy Group what they see as the most valuable data in content inventories. In the discussion, Destry Wion pointed out many all-too-common issues with conducting content inventories:

  • Not all content management systems provide automated inventories
  • When a website has 200,000 (or more!) URLS, a manual inventory is not possible
  • We often use a variety of tools to gather and store data; all of which require manual manipulation to represent the website'’s actual page structure

All of these factors affect management and staff’'s ability to make informed decisions about website content. Having an accurate and easy-to-read inventory can be an important factor in communicating between many parties. As most content inventories are collected in spreadsheets, a tool that allows you to quickly display information to multiple parties as well as easily export into Excel or other spreadsheet software will give you the most flexibility in customizing reports for various audiences.

What Are the Advantages of Content Inventories?

Website content inventory software helps save time discovering the breadth of your content. In The Right Way to Do a Content AuditLaura Creekmore points out that when we work with websites every day, we know how much content is there and how it’'s structured. An inventory can seem like a redundant activity but an inventory is what helps us communicate the breadth of the website to stakeholders. “If key decision makers don’'t know——and want to know——what’'s there, you need a quantitative inventory.” In telling us the basic quantitative facts about a website, content inventory software helps us work from a more accurate understanding of our content.

Content Inventories Form the Basis for Content Audits

From a content inventory, you can build content audits, documents that allow you to review page-by-page how content is performing against predefined measures of quality and effectiveness. CAT, the Content Analysis Tool, builds a website content inventory that acts as a foundation for an informed content audit by returning the information you most need to know about your site: how much of it is there, what types of content you have (pages, audio, video, documents), as well as URL structure, which can provide valuable clues as to content types (for example, product pages on an e-commerce site will have similar URL patterns), and how the site is structured (from URL structure perspective).

Use CAT to quickly establish important information about each page in your website such as

  • Location (URL)
  • File Type
  • Text: html, xml
  • Web files: js, css
  • Application: pdf, doc, xls
  • Images: jpeg, tif, png
  • Media: swf, mp3, mp4
  • Path
  • Size
  • Level

Once you have a basic understanding of your content’'s breadth, you can establish parameters for evaluating and analyzing content. Learn how to use software tools like CAT to save time building a content audit of your website or track content over time.