Why you need to audit your content before a website redesign?

Last Edited August 26, 2016 by Garenne Bigby in Content Audit

preparing for content audits

What is a Content Audit?

A content audit is the process of checking each piece of content on a website, and then compiling it into a large list. When you opt to perform a full content inventory, you will make a complete list of every single item of content on the website. This will include all pages as well as any assets like videos or downloadable files. In lieu of this, you may opt to perform a partial content inventory. This is simply a listing of a specific subset of the website's content. A partial inventory could include the top few levels of a hierarchical website, or the most recent content created in a specific time period (like the last 6 months). This will still include all sections of the website. To dwindle it down even further, a content sample is a less detailed collection of content pieces from the website.

You can opt to perform a quantitative inventory. This is a comprehensive record of all content. This aids in devising a plan to figure out where you are exactly on the site and where you need to end up. The quantitative audit will provide all of the cold hard facts about the content. This would include: page type, number of pages, categories, sections, page owner, page location, media types, page functionality, page popularity, and the like—which are all pretty self-explanatory.

When you opt to perform a qualitative content audit, it digs deeper into the data on the level of the page. This will help to measure how well each piece of content meets your various organizational goals. What is included in your audit all depends on your intent, like a website redesign. The information to be collected for a qualitative content audit are a bit more in depth.

  • Page description: what is on this page?
  • Key messaging: what information should users take away from this particular page?
  • Accuracy and relevance: is the page up to date, on-message, and factually correct?
  • Content quality: does the content follow the best practices for web writing? Is it using the right voice and tone for your brand? Does it employ language relevant to the user?
  • Visitor value: do users actually need this content? If so, who are the users?
  • Organization value: how well is this content serving the brand/organization's goals?
  • Conversions: how often does this page convert users to take action?
  • Action items: what should be done with this page? Should it be kept, removed, improved, or merged with another page?
  • Review schedule: when should this page be looked at next? When was the last time that it was updated?

If you are performing the content audit in order to gauge how well the landing page is performing in search engines, you might also want to include data such as:

  • Keyword research: what are the search terms that are relevant to this page and how often are they utilized?
  • Page authority: what is this page's authority score?
  • Bounce rate: how many page visitors leave this page only after a few seconds?
  • Redirects: is this webpage redirecting to another page or from another page?
  • Broken links: does this page contain any?
  • Meta description and its length: does the meta description on this page describe clearly and accurately what the page is all about and is it less than 160 characters? This description shows up in search results when the site is shared through social channels and will truncate if longer than 160 characters.
  • Page title and length: the title should be unique while briefly and accurately describing what the page is about in 65 characters or less.
  • Header tags: headers should be clear, relevant, and unique. They should focus on keywords.
  • Canonical data: does this webpage exist somewhere else? Have you informed search engines which of the duplicates or syndicated pages is the page preferred using its canonical link?

When focusing on optimizing your website's performance, you may also choose to include this data for each page:

  • Load time: how long does it take the web page to load using an average-speed connection?
  • Page size: in kb, this is helpful when you are trying to maintain a budget of a web page's weight.
  • Number of server requests: this will directly affect page load times—how many times does the web page make server requests to load its assets?

Why Do You Need a Content Audit?

The basic purpose of a content audit is to put together a listing of a website's content—generally in a large spreadsheet or a content audit tool. This comprehensive list of content will prove useful at various stages of a website redesign project. Of course how often you use it will depend on how deep your redesign is, but if you are changing the information architecture, you'll refer to this list, when you need to be reminded of the details of a page you will refer back to it, and you will even know the author of each content piece so that you may communicate with them directly with any questions that you may have regarding managing or rewriting the content. If the content will be moving to a new content management system (CMS), you'll use the content audit to keep track of what you started with and what else needs to be moved. Despite all of these great examples, they aren't the only reason that having a comprehensive content audit is important. When you perform the audit, you then become acutely aware of the content and then have a better understanding of it. You are able to find things that you didn't know existed, identify relationships between content, and even spot duplicated content. You will be armed with this knowledge that will aid in a comprehensive analysis of your content.

How to Perform a Content Audit

When using DYNO Mapper to perform a content audit, there are several methods to choose from when creating the sitemap. You may create from a URL, create from XML, create one from scratch, or create it from an existing file. All of your content assets will be compiled in one area. DYNO Mapper's content analysis tool will allow all of the information to be compiled, making the entire process a bit less time consuming.

  • Once you have crawled your website with DYNO Mapper, you will find all of the data points for each page of the website.
  • Your search engine optimization points are: the page title, meta description, phrase keywords, images, heading, broken links, and audience visits.
  • Marketing data points are: the content type, number of words, the topic, the number of shares on social media platforms, and the number of comments from the audience.
  • Other things to consider with a content audit is the performance of each page which will determine the content's effectiveness, the status- this indicates if it should be updated or removed or if it fine, and any notes that you have about the content.
  • After the content has been crawled with DYNO Mapper, you will need to analyze the data and then draw your own conclusions about it.
  • DYNO Mapper's content analysis tool aids in completing this task in just minutes. You will then need to take action to improve on the content, which means you will need to assess the points such as time spent on pages, social media shares, and conversion rates.
  • You will need to decide the grade of each data point, A through F (A being perfect, and F being failure).
  • Any of the data points that have scored a D or F will need to be rewritten or removed altogether.
  • Allocate more time to the pages that have high traffic, either organically or through social media shares.
  • Multimedia like videos should be published as often as possible.
  • When creating new content after a content audit for a website redesign, create it in a way that is similar to the content that is scoring the best grades in your own assessments.
  • Thanks to DYNO Mapper, content inventories and audits no longer have to be done strictly manually, as it works on entire websites as well as sub-domains.
  • Don't forget that in order to see the benefits of a content audit, it should be conducted on a regular schedule.
  • Different information may need to be collected based on the type of content. For instance, news content would need topics or categories listed while publication pieces would only have downloadable files.
  • One of the most important things to remember about a content audit is that there is no one correct way to do it. It is a tool that should be used throughout your project, so you should create the audit in a way that will be helpful to you. That being said—don't be afraid to adapt it after your project has started. Each client and project is unique, so in turn each audit will be different.

One helpful tip is that if your website is run from a content management system, you may be able to gain access to a list of all web pages that are on the site. If the CMS is good and the content has been structured, the CMS might even be able to generate a starter audit.

Another thing to remember is that you should not be capturing information that will you will not be using, but do not take shortcuts or skip sections. You need to have an understanding of all content before working on it.

When Should You Start Fixing Issues from Your Content Audit?

Once you are done with the process of the content audit, it should be used to diagnose any existing or potential problems with content. You can use the results of the audit to work through a content gap analysis. This will determine whether or not there are any holes in your content like missing metadata, content that is out of date, content that needs revision or removing, or even content that is requested by customers but is not available on your site. The content audit may also help to identify gaps in your SEO strategy or files that should be optimized to perform at a higher level. Many times, a content audit is simply the initial step in a complete content strategy overhaul.

You should always be realistic about your content goals as well as your deadlines. You can determine where your content stands by doing a quick audit of one section, but a full content audit does take a great bit of time. Many times, those doing an audit will opt to just take samples from the main areas like landing pages, new blog posts, old blog posts, and the like rather than taking inventory of the entire website right off the bat.

Some website owners might get tender about past content that has been on their site, but the truth is that if it is not helping the conversion, then it is almost worthless. If nobody is visiting these pages, it is essentially a waste of server space—this should be reason enough to get rid of them. Additionally, if you have various authors contributing on community pages, it is easy for the website's content to get out of hand before it is caught. A handy content audit can be the force that governs the new site-wide strategy. Lastly, a completed content audit will aid in getting a full view of the dozens of page metrics that will directly affect whether your website serves as a successful marketing tool or if it is a flop. The process of auditing all of the web pages will appear to be a daunting task, but once it has been completed, it paves the way for you to move about the website more quickly and effectively.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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