A content inventory is a bit like that first dip into a cool lake on a hot summer’s day - at first you think, “AARGH too cold, too cold!”
The water feels like a shock, but as you immerse yourself in it and wade through it, you warm up, splash out, mark your terrain and even deep dive.
I don’t know about you but this is what content inventories always feel like for me at the start of every website project.
The content inventory - What do we have?
At the start of every website project be it a content migration to a new CMS or a website redesign, the inventory and audit are possibly the most important tools you can use to keep your project on track.
So what is it?
A content inventory is a quantitative assessment of all the content on the website - this includes:
URL location for all your pages
Any documents e.g PDFs
Basically the content inventory helps you:
establish the scope of the project and the journey ahead,
reveal patterns in your content quality and identify the types of content you have.
know the size, scope and state of your content which puts you in a better position to evaluate new platforms or CMSes.
send out targeted RFPs (request for proposals) to content agencies
The content audit - Do we need all this stuff?
Your audit is more qualitative - it’s the stage where you decide the quality of the content you have, and it’s the stage that answers this question. Do we need all this stuff? The answer should be, “No.”
Your content audit combines the inventory with analysis on what value your content provides its business and its users.
The audit will also address issues - should you assess your content against the organisation's goals (whispers - yes), against competitor sites (again - yes), how much say should user research have (a lot).
Content strategy - Is it any good?
A great and thorough content strategy is built on a solid understanding and analysis of the content you currently have.
Without an inventory and audit, during your redesign or content migration project you won’t know what needs doing, what’s wrong with your content or how to fix it.
If you skip the inventory and audit, you won’t get very far with your web project until you address it. Simply because it’s the foundation for putting together a cohesive content strategy. Ideally, after the redesign project is complete you’ll schedule quarterly inventories and audits to stay on top of things.
7 ways (not 10 bands)
So here are 7 quick ways to make that all important content inventory feel less like a cold dip in a communal gym pool, and more like stepping into the heated marble floored pool in Drake’s condo:
Start early - the content inventory and audit needs to be the first thing you do before contemplating a site redesign. Why? So you can incorporate your finding into the information architecture, design of the new site, page templates and the configuration of the CMS.
Define scope - Why are we doing this? You have to be able to clearly say, “It’s for our web migration” or “We are considering a website redesign” or “We need content strategy but have no idea what it should be“ Knowing the reason helps define your object -
Manual or automated - spreadsheets will always be a content strategists frenemy but for large sites over 300 pages, you might want to consider a site crawler like Screaming Frog or CAT. Google chrome also has multiple URL extensions which can can copy tabs and paste in one click to your spreadsheet.
Context - if possible carry out user research during this discovery phase. Questions aimed at your site’s users on how your content is performing will provide some much needed context to your inventory and audit. And please hire an agency to do this - no one clicks on those “please rate my site” polls on your landing page.
Decide on your audit criteria e.g editorial issues (is the content consistent with your brand and messaging? is it relevant to your audience? Is it user focused? Is it consistent? Is it out of date?SEO friendly and accessible?)
Woo - every content project needs allies - with your inventory and audit done, you’ll be able to bring content project managers (want scope, timelines & budgets), the project’s techies (need to know system needs & requirements), the business content owners and managers on(tells them why the changes are needed), designers (UX & UI) on your side.
- And finally create a playlist, preferably all Drake songs, find a quiet space, take some breaks.