Thinking about Skipping this Chapter? Don't
So you think you know what’s on your site, do you? Or you have the general idea, anyhow. So it should be easy to decide what to do next about your content. Right?
Do not—repeat, DO NOT—skip the content audit. This process is not just about listing URLs and page titles. It can provide an extraordinary amount of useful, enlightening information that’s surprisingly valuable, especially when you’re fighting for project support and funding.
The biggest advantage of doing a content audit is proving to stakeholders the magnitude of content that needs to be considered. By using a spreadsheet to catalogue the number of HTML pages, downloadable PDFs, dynamic content modules, video clips, and other “live” web content for which your organization is responsible, you can wake up stakeholders to the harsh reality of their content woes.
A content audit can also:
- Serve as a reference for source (or existing) content during content development, which is highly efficient for writers and other content creators.
- Help you scope and even budget for a content project.
- Give you a clear understanding of what you have and where it lives, even if only to begin thinking about maintenance or content removal.
Because there are several different reasons for undertaking a content audit, it’s a good idea to create clear goals for the audit before you begin. That way, you can tailor the kind of information you record in your audit to meet your needs or stakeholder interests. The more targeted the information in the audit is, the more likely you are to get the results you’re looking for.
Yes, You Really Do Need to Look at All the Content
It’s important to look at all the content. This means getting beyond the home page and key landing pages. Why? Because the “deeper” content is often where your customers run into major problems.
In his book Killer Web Content, Gerry McGovern writes:
- I come across many websites where there is a well-designed top level with quality content. However, when you click down a few levels, everything changes—it’s like walking out of a plush hotel straight into a rubbish dump.
You might have that website now. And although an audit of such a website may be painful, but it will show you—and your stakeholders—what needs to change.