Creative Best Practices Opinions

Effective Content Inventories

Posted by Najwa Smith on December 18th, 2012 at 6:30 am

Effective Content Inventories by Najwa Smith, RosettaHave you ever been in a situation where you’re a part of a digital/web project that’s well underway before someone asks the BIG question: "What content do you plan to migrate to your new site?" Whether you’re faced with a blank stare or you have the opportunity to provide a timely recommendation, your response should include the phrase, “Hey Jane/John, a content inventory would benefit this project.” And here’s why….

Inventories can take several forms but what constitutes a good inventory? There are inventories and there are audits. When you need deep insights about your website content, forget the simple "browse-by" audit, which only captures high-level content topics and related assets such as graphic elements, and instead, choose the inventory. Your Content Strategist or Information Architect can take a deep dive into each page within the website (or a section of the site)—listing navigational elements, page URLs, intended purpose, functionality, quality, relevance and noting any usability issues.

Determining what's relevant can be a catch-22.  It requires a firm grasp of the project vision, understanding the market and the competitive landscape.  Examining positioning statements, emerging brand guidelines and current trends will help determine relevance. Is the content too lengthy or outdated?  Maybe.  Does the content rank and deliver pertinent traffic from search engines?  Probably. Does the current tone match the new brand? Probably not. Does the audience even care about the topic anymore?  You can see where I'm going.  An inventory is where you capture, analyze and begin to formulate recommendations for how to address these concerns.  Performing an effective inventory goes beyond listing page names and URLs.

A solid content inventory captures more than just the basics.  If you really want to do it right, you'll prepare the full Monty and bare both qualitative and quantitative data about the current site. It may not be pretty, but it will definitely be revealing.

Why take the time to do this?  Because it's an ideal way to capture what you need to know about your content.  By analyzing each content asset, you'll separate the wheat from the chaff and identify not only what's relevant but also what should be retired. Ultimately, when your Content Strategist or IA takes a holistic look at the findings, they’ll be able to make recommendations that will help the team and guide the next phases of the project.

What's the outcome?

You can't just share the data.  You have to put it into context for the best outcome. Here are ways that this information proves to be valuable as part of your strategic content recommendations:

  • Identify exactly where content resides, page by page
  • Categorize news articles, events, features or case studies to archive
  • Rank this content: low to high (1-5)
  • Identify useful content to repurpose (relevant to audience)
  • Identify outdated content (refresh, redirect or retire)
  • Identify specific gaps between your client and the competition
  • Suggest new content topics to be developed
  • Determine which content has strong positioning for important keyword phrases in search results
  • Suggest more ways to cross-link content
  • Resolve broken links
  • Show how to improve usability through the new information architecture with navigation paths
  • Use to develop a taxonomy

Not only is this type of inventory effective, it’s comprehensive and offers solid recommendations that the team can build upon in their efforts to create a more relevant and engaging web experience.

If you are interested in reading more about content inventories, here is recommended reading:

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