Before you conduct extensive planning or revise existing content on your website, it’s important to complete a content audit. In the audit, you look at a list of existing files on your site as well as related characteristics to determine the current state, editing needs, maintenance schedules, and more. It takes much time to complete the audit. It saves time in the long run, however, and provides a good snapshot of your site. Once you’ve gathered your information and start analyzing it, you might be surprised. For instance, patterns become evident and streamlining opportunities surface. When you’re finished and make adjustments, you’ll have a clean foundation upon which to plan and expand your site.
In this post, I’m including items to include in your audit. I use a spreadsheet that has the information I describe below for each post. This post discusses the audit information.
Post Status and Action
It’s important to look at the status of each post. Remember, this is a snapshot. Look at the state of the post on the day you’re completing the audit, not what it will be. Determine if it’s current, in need of an update, or if it should be archived or deleted. You need to know where everything stands and where work is needed.
It’s important to keep in mind that at this point, you’re gathering information. You’re creating a list, basically. It’s not the time to edit content. Gather your list of posts, quickly scan them, and write down the information.
These are the options I use to identify post status and needed action.
- Archive: back up, remove from site, and store
- Review: go back to the post after the audit is complete and determine whether to update, archive, or delete
- Update: update the content or images
- Current: item is current and no review or edits are required at this time
- Delete: remove the file (in lieu of archiving)
The post title may differ from the permalink, as the heading may change at some point. The permalink should not change. For one thing, there might be links to it somewhere on the web. Don’t break links to your site! Just record the title and URL in use at the time you conduct your audit.
- Title: the post heading
- URL: permalink for the post
It’s helpful to know how often a post might require an update – or if it’s likely to need one at all. These are three characteristics I look for. Here’s a brief list followed by more detailed information for each.
- Evergreen: content that will be relevant in the future
- Trending: hot topic in the news
- Dynamic: content that may change periodically and requires more frequent review and update
These posts are your core posts that stand the test of time. The topic is helpful and relevant when it’s posted and will be in the future. The content might require review and periodic updates, but not as many. There might be links to the posts all over the web because they’ve been on your site for so long and share good information. They might be ranked high in search results due in part to the ongoing interest in the post. This post is an example of evergreen content. I might update it periodically to add more list items or information, but I won’t likely make major changes.
News might break and you have to react. If your competitor blogs or sites are writing about it, you probably will too. These posts are timely and immediate. It might be a one-time flash post that requires no maintenance. Or the post might require frequent updates in the week or so following whenever the news item or event occurs. For example, a trending topic might be a live-blog post about an event such as a news conference about a software company’s product release. Such a post probably wouldn’t have many updates. Another topic might be a hot news topic of any particular day. That might require multiple updates over the course of a few days or weeks as the story develops. In either situation, the post is likely to require immediate attention, but then not require much if any maintenance in the future.
Expect that these posts may change every year. I have some posts about using Facebook that have screen shots. Because Facebook continually changes its UI, it’s important for me to review those posts at a more frequent interval. It might also be necessary to make some quick changes if something new comes up.
Is the post a longform article or something quick? You should have a mix. Either way, the word count is definitely helpful to track. Evergreen posts should have a higher word count. An infographic post would have a lower word count. Each serves its own purpose. For each post, note the word count.
Dates are critical to track. One reason is that if you have a post that’s several years old (or longer) that hasn’t been updated, it indicates a need to review it to determine if it should be updated, archived, or deleted. Google looks at dates as well, so updates might help with search results. Your readers would like to know if a post is relatively current or not.
Some sites do not include publish or update dates on their posts. That’s not my preference. I include both. Either way, you need to include these dates in your content audit. Remember, you’re taking stock of the current state of your content. You need to know when something was published and when it was last updated. This helps with prioritizing work and planning maintenance schedules after your audit is complete.
- Published: date the post was originally published
- Last Modified: when the post was last updated
- Sunset: when the post is likely to or should be archived or deleted
Tip: Include a post update date at the top of your post along with the author name and other meta information. Include the publish date after the post. That way, people can see right away that a post is more current. This is particularly important for evergreen posts. For an example, look at my posts. It’s the structure I use.
Of course, you need to record who wrote the post. People may come and go from a company. It’s important and helpful to know who wrote what.
- Author: original author of the post
- Updated by: author who last updated the post
Some posts require regular reviews and updates. Others can go for longer periods. It can ultimately save you time to set up a schedule. For instance, if you review and update posts every six months, it’s easier to set aside time in your schedule instead of fitting one in here and there. Determine a schedule that works best for you. Quarterly, six months, or annual reviews are a few options. Other factors to consider in your planning are listed below.
If you have certain times of the year that might be busier than others, plan your maintenance schedule around that so there isn’t an extra load of work. For instance, if you’re busy at the end of each year, schedule maintenance updates for the fall or winter.
There will be some posts that could be relatively untouched such as evergreen posts. Conversely, some may require regular reviews. If the topic is something that changes frequently, such as social media, you might need to review such posts at more frequent intervals. As noted earlier, check screenshots more frequently.
If there’s a change in terminology for a topic you cover, check your posts and update as necessary. You can’t always plan for these and they may require immediate attention. Or if it’s extensive, you could identify where changes are needed and then create an update plan. One example that comes to mind is when Google renamed Webmaster Tools to Search Console. Another example is Vine. Twitter closed that service. I had some references to it in a few posts, so updated them to remove the references. It depends on the change, all the content products that include it, and the need for immediate action (or not).
Determine how your posts fit into your company business requirements and goals. For instance, perhaps your company is launching a product. Maybe there’s a marketing initiative planned for an upcoming holiday or month. If so, and if your posts are related to such events, it’s good to review them.
Identify the number of images in the post. For each one, include this basic information.
- File name: the name you assigned to the photo
- Source: stock photo website, personal collection, free stock photo, or other location
- Source file number or name: the photo number of a purchased stock photo or other identifier
- Photographer: name of the person that took the photo, if the information is available
Note: I do not recommend that you run a search in Google for photos and download them. Always be mindful of copyright requirements for photos and illustrations. Check the Terms of Service for any site and check for Creative Commons notifications. People have been sued for misuse of photos. Be respectful of copyright!
Video and audio is definitely picking up in use and is becoming a basic requirement.
- Media type: identify if it’s video or audio or something similar
- File name: the name you assigned to the file
- Location: the type and location of the file, such as Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes podcast
Categories and Tags
A basic truth of writing blog posts is that your category list will grow. It’s a good idea to review the list periodically and clean it up. You might be able to merge some categories and delete some so that the category list isn’t too long. Or you might want to ensure that you assign the best category to a post instead of a similar one that might not have as many posts assigned to it.
Tip: to keep my category list shorter, I use tags to provide additional information. Use both. They needn’t be identical. Tags are useful in situations where you want to capture something that might not be used often. For instance, if you interview someone and write about it in your post, that would be a good option for a tag instead of a category. Use a category such as “researchers” and include the person’s name as a tag. Here’s another example. On this post, I use Content Strategy as a category. That’s a broad category which includes content audits. For details, I added a Content Audit tag in addition to a Content Strategy tag.
A content audit is well worth the time and effort. Fit it in to your schedule and go from there. It will help with your content management and related marketing efforts.
If you’d like assistance with completing an audit, contact me! I’d love to help.