This is what happens when I take whiteboard notes at a content strategy meetup

Last night’s content strategy meetup was a bit of a show n’ tell session about content audits. Of course, one of the best things about meetups like these is the little hints and tips you get from each other. So I wrote a few of them down:

My handwriting is so pretty

My handwriting is so pretty

Or, if you prefer things in some sort of order…

Useful resources and people to learn from

Things we’ve learned from experience

  • Every audit is different. Know why you’re auditing and what questions you want to be able to answer afterwards. This affects how you’ll go about it, what information you’ll collect, and whether you’ll be able to visibly succeed. Examples: Finding crappy, old content to delete; preparing for a migration; or just quantifying your content. These are three different types of audit, each needing a slightly different approach.
  • If you’re auditing for content quality, with a view to deleting the crap stuff, start by laying out criteria that content has to meet. Get your stakeholders and content owners to agree to the criteria beforehand. This way, you can hit the ‘delete’ key on content that fails the test without having to double-check with anyone.
  • For page-by-page audits, assign a unique identifier to each page as you go. You can’t rely on URLs since they can change, or a page can have more than one. You can’t rely on page titles since they can be repeated throughout a site. This can just be a number (the home page is 0001, for example, and everything goes from there), or more hierarchical to reflect navigation (e.g. 1.2.3 is three levels deep, the 3rd page in the 2nd section).
  • For ‘what do we have?’ audits, where you’re out to quantify your site(s), automated tools are less trustworthy than a manual clickthrough. Sorry. The do-it-yourself method also lets you really, really get to know your site (and can be a good time to put on a talking book).
  • Don’t collect data you don’t need. You’re probably going to be filling in a spreadsheet with thousands of cells. You don’t have to fill in every single one of them – you just need enough info to answer the questions you started with. Example for ‘content cull’ audits: Once you know enough to decide whether to delete a page or not, move on.
  • It’s not only about pages. Don’t forget to hunt through documents like PDFs, and files (e.g. images). These are content just as much as your HTML pages are.

Updates

  • Thursday 2nd, 2:49pm
    From Trudy: CAT – Content analysis tool
    “While an automated audit can’t replace a manual audit the output might make the job a bit easier – so I am on the look out for good tools.I found this Content Analysis Tool (CAT) a few months ago and ran the free trial. It returned information that looked to be more useful to content people than what Zenu returns. So I’m planning to give it a whirl on an up-coming project.”
  • Monday 6th, 9:57pm
    Rick from the UK (and from Twitter) has been in touch to say that Paula Ladenburg Land, one of the co-founders of the company behind CAT, has written Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook, which sounds really useful. How cool is that? Tips from the other side of the world! (In related news, Rick’s book is out really soon.)
  • Thursday 2nd, 3:01pm (also updated above)
    Link from Emma: Maadmob’s Content inventory spreadsheet
  • Friday 3rd, 9:56am
    From Mike: Karen McGrane’s talk, ‘Adapting ourselves to adaptive content’. If you missed our ‘movie night’ meetup in June, you should definitely make the time for this.

Anything to add?

If there’s anything I’ve missed, or if you have something to add, tweet @aucklandcs or drop a comment in the Meetup message board.

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