ALPHA. This guidance is provided as a general starting point for anyone designing online content, or working on digital projects that involve designing new content or reworking old content. It is a work in progress, and we welcome feedback and suggestions to improve the advice. Contact us with your feedback.
On this page:
- Gather all the information you can
- Prepare your spreadsheet
- Define your assessment criteria based on current state
- Define an action
- Assess pages
A content audit provides a current-state picture of your content.
In a content project it helps you work out the action for that item, based on qualifiers like how old it is, who owns it and what the quality is like. You may also conduct audits on existing sites to target maintenance efforts.
Content audit template (XLS 42KB) — this template is set up to capture the information outlined below. Use in it conjuction with the explanations on this page.
Gather all the information you can
Firstly get a list (or an inventory) of what you have. Generally, you will start with a list of URLs extracted from your CMS.
- date created, last updated and date modified fields
- file type (include documents and other non-html files)
- template type
- page heading
- any information on owner / approver.
You can sort and assess information against these filters.
Get any analytics and feedback you can find, and map that information to your list so you have an idea of which are the pages and topics that:
- generate feedback
- are high volume and high priority
- are not visited often.
You still need to do some analysis of pages that may not have much traffic. Just because no-one finds them doesn’t mean they are not useful. They could have great information, but not be found.
Get any information you can about business goals the site is designed to meet.
Define your content principles.
Prepare your spreadsheet
This just helps you keep track of pages. It might reflect the existing site structure.
Use nested numbering to show how the page fits into the site structure. For example:
- 1.0 About us
- 1.1 Our mission
- 1.2 Our history
You may not be able to do this initially if you are dealing with very unstructured content, but try and work towards a numbering sequence similar to this.
Make URLS clickable so you can visit the page easily.
Display the whole URL as it may contain useful structural information.
Sometimes you will put the link column to the far right so long URLs are out of the way.
Map across any data on how many times the page has been viewed. Define the period. Always use the same data source/period for all pages within an audit.
If you are cross referencing manually you can look at 'most visited pages' and add a column for 'most visited'.
Add rank (1- xxxx) to appropriate records. This is an easy way to see what is higher priority.
You might rank:
- the top 100–200 pages across the whole site (depending on the size of your site). OR
- the top 10–25 pages for each section.
If you want to capture actual numbers of visitors against pages add a new column for 'number of visits' and add that information too.
Numbers need to be compared to total site visits for the period, so make sure you display that benchmark as well.
Define your assessment criteria based on current state
Define any style or template issues you need to address. For example you may need to know pages that are using an old template style.
Topic groupings (categories or sections)
Define high level topic groupings you can use to group records into related sections. This might reflect the current site groupings.
Keep your terms consistent so you can filter the sheet and just look at one section at a time.
This might become clearer after you have audited a section of content. Examples might include:
- contact details
Define key audiences. This might become clearer after you have audited a section of content.
This might become clearer after you have audited a section of content.
Define a scale or list of labels to use. Qualifiers might include:
- meets basic writing style requirements (yes/no)
- page message is clear (yes/no) — ideally each page should only address one topic. The information on the page should clearly reflect the page title and summary.
- has been recently updated/modified (past 12 months)
- contains duplicate content (yes/no) — note where duplication exists between pages.
Or you may consider the qualifiers listed above to make an overall assessment of the quality of the page. For example:
- low — not targetted, not styled, message not clear, not optimised for search. Needs re-writing.
- medium — page is partly optimised, and some attempt has been made towards audience focus and style. Needs review.
- high — page is well written and structured and meets a clear audience need. Needs minimal rewrite only.
Use as many columns as you need to capture the quality measures.
Define an action
Define a set of actions. These might include:
- delete (archive)
Begin reviewing pages against your defined criteria.
If you do not have time to review all pages, consider a representative sample. Focus on high priority pages and topic areas.
- Content audit template (XLS 42KB)
- How to perform a content audit and extract meaningful insights (webinar)
- Content audit guide and template (4syllables — and the original source for some of the detail on this page).
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