5 Content Inventory Tips for a Successful Website

Last Edited September 11, 2023 by Garenne Bigby in Content Inventory

5 tips for content inventory

It is highly likely that your business is facing a challenge with content. It could be a layout that hides important information, or a navigation arrangement that does not support customer services or purchases. Useful content may be buried too soon after it is posted before you are able to maximize its true potential. Or, less successful content does not become archived quick enough and ends up irrelevant to the audience but stays prominent on the website. These types of content problems are not only hard on you personally, but they become hard on your brand financially. Choosing to complete a content inventory is vital as a preliminary step to take control of the existing burden of current content, and will allow your brand to implement a content strategy that is influential.

The content inventory is sometimes called a content audit. This is a comprehensive content assessment that is both qualitative and quantitative in nature, which will provide a vital baseline for all content migration, content analysis, and content marketing efforts. Some experts will say that a content inventory is more of a broad, numeric analysis while a content audit is seen as more of a quick qualitative snapshot. We will use these terms interchangeably, as there is not that big of a difference for those who are just getting started.

Performing a content inventory or content audit will also help to outline other goals for project collaboration, like using the discovery process and user experience analysis in order to develop an information architecture. There are five major things to remember when performing a content inventory: you must define your goals, your scope, and your objectives, you must choose your tools for the content inventory, collect the data using any number of tools, analyze the data and compare it, and you must follow up to keep the content manageable. Ensure your success as a brand by performing a vital content inventory that will tell you exactly what you need to know.

1. Define What Your Goals, Scope, and Objectives Are

You will need to outline the purpose of the items that are defined in the content inventory—are you doing a website migration? Are your analytics lackluster? Or do you simply have no real idea about the scope of your website and how many web pages there are that will need to be migrated? Are you facing a website redesign and must find out which templates or content patterns you currently utilize? Will you need to inventory comprehensively, or will you employ a smart content sampler to accomplish this goal? In short, why are you doing a content inventory? Define this clearly and objectively. These things become your goals. Many times a brand's content inventory goals will change through their content inventory process, and that is totally normal once you analyze what your content is and how it either succeeds or doesn't.

The scope of the inventory will also need to be defined. This is how many systems will be included. As an example, think about a content inventory that includes an entire brand. This will be broken down into manageable sections. In short, the scope of the content inventory is what all will be covered.

Once the goal of the inventory is solidified, you will be able to state your objectives. This is the information that you'd like to be generated by the inventory. It could be how many web pages there are in total, the type of content that is contained on the website, if the content is relevant, if the content is successful with the visitors of the website, and which content is not successful or anything like that. You may also want to know what kind of content is on the site, as well as what type of content is lacking. In the end, your objectives are the insight or information that you would like to gain from performing the content inventory.

2. Carefully Choose Your Tools for the Content Inventory

The goal that you have defined as the purpose of the content inventory is what determines which type of data you will capture, in terms of it being qualitative or quantitative—and which tools are necessary to capture it. In general, the most common tool for a content inventory is the content inventory spreadsheet. There are other options available, of course, depending on the type of data that is to be collected.

When collecting quantitative data, remember that analytics are on your side. Your current content management system is also on your side, as it captures useful data regarding page numbers, metadata, and the like. Some companies that offer software for content inventories will also offer SEO crawlers that are helpful when taking inventory of a large website. The quantitative data are the actual numbers that are related to your website.

When collecting qualitative data, speak directly with the content owners, users, and generators. Yes there are the same people that may have landed you in the position that you are in now regarding your content, but they hold valuable information that will help you out greatly. Some businesses even have their own internal content management policies that you could learn from. Qualitative data focuses more on the quality of the website, rather than the numbers.

Context scenario is one underused tool that can be used for a content inventory. To use this, the individual will conduct interviews in field situations that will help you to understand how your audience integrates content regarding processes like workflow. There are many questions to be asked when carrying out a context scenario, but there are a few examples:

  • Can the user locate information easily in order to complete tasks, do jobs, or meet their needs?
  • What type of content is created, edited, shared, or distributed daily?
  • Is their access to calendars, notes, or files via email or other internet application? If yes, what are they?

Just a few meaningful field interviews will be able to provide a sense of context for your content inventory. You will be getting a lot of information as well as context scenarios that will help you to analyze and filter the results. Aim to review context scenarios with an audience larger than just your target audience. This may give insight as to how you can cater to strangers on your website and up your conversion through the new visits.

3. Collect Your Data

Normally, a simple website may use one single spreadsheet to inventory content. When preparing to inventory a website that is very large, it will be necessary to use a new spreadsheet for each major section of the website. This portion should already be known through determining the scope of your content inventory. You should customize the columns on the spreadsheet in a way that works best for you, but remember that these columns are what will make the content inventory effective (or ineffective). Look at each piece of information, and if it does not help you to meet your objectives, then you should not gather it. There will be enough information to gather elsewhere. Using the DYNO Mapper content inventory tool is a great alternative to doing this process manually and will save you a ton of time for large websites.

Regardless of the specific goals and objectives that you have, the very least that you will have to track is:

  • Basic information about the page like the title and ID # if any.
  • Content location. This would be a physical link and where it lives in the navigation and information architecture. Also include metadata tags.
  • Page types and purpose. This is a landing page, product page, and the like.
  • File types. What type of files exist within the content? Docs, pdfs, video, audio, images, etc. Also think about where these files are stored and what their average file size is.
  • Links. What are the links that are within the content? They will be internal or external, live or dead.
  • Functionality of the page. Does the page have forms to fill out, reports to customize, or does it link to a database?
  • Content quality. Is the content current? Expired? Where is it in its life cycle?

Some of this information can be seen as objective, but it is still up to your own judgment to decide what is considered quality content that will remain on your website.

analyze content inventory 

4. Analyze The Data That You Have Collected

Filling out a spreadsheet for your content analysis is quite an undertaking. But once it is finished, you will need to analyze the information. You will need the information from the spreadsheet and anything else that is relevant—like information from an SEO crawler, context scenarios, and any other tools that you have chosen to implement. Review them, and then analyze. Initially, the objectives will aid in determining the categories that will be analyzed, but during the content inventory you might have realized that there are more. Less, or different concerns than you thought. You should update your objective to reflect these concerns, but don't let this hijack your mission of analysis. It is vital that you do not dwell on the new objectives—this will derail your track to an efficient analysis.

Remember that this is the internet. Your ultimate goal of content inventory is to identify the paths, patterns, and relationships of your content—you should not harp on comparing each page individually. When you encounter a problem with your content, reach out for help. Chances are that someone that is in your brand has encountered the same problem and has figured out a solution or a way to work around it.

Subject matter should not be confused with content format. As an example, low conversion or traffic does not translate definitively into nobody liking that type of content. Similar content might have been more successful when presented in a different way, so try that.

Also keep in mind that the success or failure rate for some content could be related to the marketing cycles. These are seasonal, so website analytics don't always reflect the values accurately. Never lose sight of the goal—your aim is to understand your current content and what it holds as far as strengths, weaknesses, and things like hidden operational costs.

5. Following Up

Completing a content inventory is not easy, but once it has been done, you're still not out of the woods. You will need to follow up on your content inventory to minimize the risk of having to do it all completely over again in the future. Figure out a way to implement content tracking and content discipline across your brand. This could be something like updating the inventory each quarter, updating the administration process, or even appointing someone as the content manager in order to keep the content aligned with your goals. The main point of a follow up is that your content will need to be evaluated regularly so that you will not ever need to another huge overhaul.

Prior to moving on to a new and successful content strategy, you will need to stop your old content habits. These will weigh you down and prevent you from seeing success. The reason for doing a content inventory is to give you a renewed perspective on your content and how it is being received by your audience. If you go through all of the trouble to do the inventory and analyze the results, why would you continue to do things the way that you have always done them, when you know you can see more success with a change? It is as simple as that.

If you have never done a content inventory before, the truth is that it can come off as intimidating, especially if you have very little content management experience. There is no doubt that it is a huge undertaking, but it is a very important step in ensuring the success of a brand's website. As long as you are careful and choose to follow these five steps carefully, your content inventory will go smoothly and will take you to the side of a higher success. Content inventories and audits are not an option for a successful brand, they are a necessity.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Former Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.

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