How to Conduct a Fast, Efficient, and Accurate Content Inventory

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

how to conduct content inventory

What is a Content Inventory?

A content inventory is a comprehensive list of your content that has been organized within a spreadsheet or software. Using this, you can plan the content of a brand new website or improve upon an existing one. When you are in the midst of a website redesign or migration, a content inventory will collect more information to add to the initial list of files on the inventory. The program that you are using, such as DYNO Mapper, can accommodate more columns of data as they become available. The way that the data is organized will depend on the structure of the website and its navigational model. Content inventory is also used for tracking content through different systems. Additionally, use a content inventory to guide how each web page will be rebuilt when undergoing a redesign. When you choose to perform a content inventory, you are actively taking stock of what items are contained on a website, leading to a successful content audit.

A content inventory will be a document to be accessed when you need to view all of the content contained on a website at a glance. It is a quantitative method for allowing webmasters to take inventory of their content. The content inventory differs from the content audit in that it is not evaluating the quality of the content, it only displays what is there. This can be done relatively easy for a website that does not have too many levels. When creating a content inventory for a website that has hundreds or thousands of pages would need access to a program like DYNO Mapper to automatically create the content inventory.

To put it simply, a content inventory is what comes from the process of creating an organized list of all content assets for a body of content. This would include all text, audio, video, files, and images. The inventory consist of as much information about each item of content as possible. It creates a baseline for your current state that will help to define the scope and then identify issues that would arise with any future inventory and analysis.

This quantitative analysis will include things such as the link to the page, the format, the page title, keywords, and description of the content. This information tells you what exactly is in the website, and an audit will tell you why it is there and if it should stay. Once the content inventory document has been updated with all new content and other information assets, it will be able to aid as a tool to maintain website governance.

Why Do You Need a Content Inventory?

There are many reasons to create a content inventory. You can use it as a baseline to compare in the future, it can be a foundation for when you are tracking a website migration, it will aid in identifying the structure of the content, it will measure the landscape of the website as it is in the current state, and it can be used as a basis for estimating your projection. You will need a content inventory if you will ever release new products, features, or services, as there will be a need to evaluate how this new content will interact with the old content. Though your brand will likely stay relatively consistent, you will still be updating the way that your content reflects the brand. In order to monitor the performance of the website's content, you will need to perform rolling audits.

A rolling audit will maintain a current understanding of the content for the brand, it will minimize the work that is required to keep it up to date, and will allow you to focus only on the content that is new since the last time that the inventory has been audited. You will be able to spot the problems earlier on, read analytics more readily, and respond quicker when the content needs to be changed. A content audit allows you to use the data in comparison to the content of other brands, allowing for the judgment of effectiveness of your content from the perspective of competition.

Internally, having a comprehensive content audit will help your brand to establish an area of expertise. You will become the go-to source for that area of information, and when the content plans and recommendations are supported by data, they are more likely to receive organizational buy-ins.

How a business conducts their audit will determine their return on investment (ROI). This includes not only the audit, but the interpretation of insights, as well. Cost is always a factor when conducting audits, whether it is for one's own brand or for a client, and the cost may not always be in the form of money but in time or opportunity. Automated content tools, like that of DYNO Mapper, will take care of the challenge of figuring out these cost benefit factors. The alleviation of the cost could come in the form of a better return on investment or it could be the ability to present content in a more competitive manner, it will always vary from brand to brand. Ultimately, you will need to ask yourself what your time is worth. Do you have the time to spend manually gathering information, or would you benefit greatly from investing in a tool that will do the same thing in just a fraction of the time?

Collecting this type of data can take up a significant amount of time, depending on how large the website is and how many pages it has. When you cut back on the time it takes to do the content inventory, the sooner you will be able to use the data to determine what kind of strategy you will proceed with. A completed content inventory can be used in website migration and website redesigns, and may serve as sort of a map to track all new pages, dates of revisions, and even owners of content.

How to Perform a Content Inventory?

DYNO Mapper's content assessment tool will save hours of tedious manual labor. It allows for the creation of an inventory that includes all assets contained within a website. It will answer all of the questions that you have about your content inventory. Before beginning, you will need to define your goals and your scope.

The goals will help you understand why the inventory is being done, and what you intend to do with the results. This exercise will help you to be able to focus on the process and it will then feel less overwhelming. If there is no clear goal for the website, the content will tend to feel disorganized, not interesting, and out of place. This goal should be referred to when looking at the content inventory and evaluating it. Ask if the piece of content is relevant to the goal and if the pieces of content relate to each other. Do not forget to define the goal before you add or delete any content from the inventory, this will ensure that any vital content is not accidentally removed.

The scope of the project determines which areas of the website should be captured. This could also include a specific date or set of dates and is very important. The scope will also need to be determined before making any permanent changes to the content inventory. You will need to know what the purpose of the website is, and if the content that is offered is contributing accurate information on the subject in which the website is based? The information needs to be relevant and current. If a piece of information is not completely up to date but still contains useful information, you should mark that it needs to be amended or edited in order to reflect the most up to date subject matter.

After you have outlined the goals and the scope for your project, it will become easier to know which information about the content should be included in the content inventory. In general, each content inventory will vary in what it incorporates, but at the very least it will include: the title, URL, unique content ID, author, format, physical location, meta description, keywords, creation date, date last revised, date last accessed, and tags.

It is possible to pull all of this raw data from a website using a crawler or content management system like DYNO Mapper to pull the data automatically. From there, the data can be organized into a spreadsheet so that the user can store it and edit it easily as needed.

When using DYNO Mapper's content inventory tool, you should explore the tool and know that it will allow you to plan and budget according to your own needs. Administrators can use a portion of the program that is designed specifically for them to view the content much easier, even using mobile devices that allow for tracking even when they're on the go. The ease of using DYNO Mapper is the fact that all the webmaster needs to do is enter the URL to the website that they wish to inventory, and click on the “Create Site Map” button. The program then creates a visual sitemap that contains the inventory of all content on that specific website. It will display the analytics, inventory information, and is a great tool for facilitating collaboration and communication on projects.

When DYNO Mapper completes the content inventory, it is exported as a sitemap and organized in a hierarchical structure that displays all of the web pages and illustrates their relationship to one another. This representation allows for the discovery of any flaws in relationships among content pieces in addition to any content that has been duplicated.

No longer does a webmaster have to work tirelessly over a content inventory, taking information one data set at a time. The invention of DYNO Mapper has allowed for the creation of content inventories and visual sitemaps in a much easier way. This visual representation aids workers in assessing all of the content contained on the site, and can be evaluated at just a glance. A comprehensive inventory will kick start the process of performing a more intricate analysis of a website's current content.

How to Export Your Content Inventory?

Your finished site map (content inventory) can be exported into a spreadsheet that will be compatible with a variety of programs. Those who have performed the content inventory now have all of the website assets at their fingertips with the results of the crawl. Just open it in your preferred spreadsheet program and you will be presented with a working inventory spreadsheet that can be supplemented with any additional information that you would like to track.

Completing a content inventory will generally lead to a content analysis, and sometimes these terms are used interchangeably because a webmaster usually will not do one without the other. The main difference is that a content inventory is a qualitative investigation (how much of something) while a content analysis is a qualitative discovery (the quality of something) and this is where the analytics of the website will come into play. The analytics will produce the information about how well or poor a piece of content is performing, and this will help to determine if the content should stay, be edited, or be removed altogether. DYNO Mapper works seamlessly with all other programs necessary to perform a thorough content inventory and analysis.

Once done, a content inventory should be looked at as another asset to the brand. It will assist in ongoing efforts to ensure that the brand's website continues to have content that is not out of date, and consists of subject matters that are relevant to the target audience. Think of it as a stepping stone for other projects that will benefit the brand's website in the long run. As intimidating as it might seem, a content inventory is a necessary part of running a successful website, but it can be done both accurately and efficiently.

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

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