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Published on August 11th, 2011 | by Rahel Bailie


The Brief Content Audit

Cleve Gibbon generously contributed this article about the brief content audit, for the series of content strategy deliverables.

Successful websites grow to satisfy their customers’ needs.  At some point, someone needs to really know in detail what content they have.  Maybe as part of a re-design project? New technology? Company merger/acquisition? Changing the solution provider? It’s time for a content audit.

A content audit determines what you don’t know about your content.  Regardless of the site size, an open ended content audit will, according to Parkinson’s Law, expand fill to all available time.  Don’t do this.  A results-driven content audit will yield both valuable and actionable insights.  And by keeping it brief, it can be completed with significant reductions in time and cost.

What to look for, briefly

A brief content audit focuses largely on the quantitative site aspects to answer the following key questions:

  • Substance: What content do you have?
  • Structure:  How is it organised?
  • Workflow: Who creates/consumes it?

A couple years ago, this used to be enough. Today, content audits should go one step further to include the following:

  • SEO – How findable is the content? What keywords and backlinks are being used?
  • Metadata – What data is being used to support how the content is organised?

How to do it, briefly

What content do you have? Use tools to download the external facing site.  They exist.  For example, if a free website copier that allows you to download site(s), filtering by asset type such as PDFs, videos, audio, html.

How is it organised? Write/buy a script that can be used to parse the download logs and extract the page title, URLs, asset type and present it in a content inventory spreadsheet format.

Who creates/consumes it? Use analytics, web logs and other tools to determine how content is consumed and interview internal staff to work out how content is created, managed and measured.

Why do it, briefly

If left unchecked, websites get messy.  And the more you don’t know, the less likely you want to know. A content audit shines a light on your content. For larger content sites, there is just not enough time to do a full audit.  In these circumstances, a brief content audit can be used to capture enough information to provide the required evidence for a more detailed version and/or just to highlight key content trends.




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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

2 Responses to The Brief Content Audit

  1. Stephanie says:

    Is the Brief Content Audit link supposed to go to an example of such a document? I had thought it would but the link goes to a comment form.

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