Next stop to improve your web content: content inventory. Do you know how much content has piled up on your website over the years? Probably not. It’s better to deal with it now than later. That’s where content inventory comes in. It gives you an overview of all the content you have on your website.
Conducting content inventories and content audits is also one of the first skills to learn as a future content strategist. At our master’s program at FH JOANNEUM we are taught by the best. Paula Land – a renowned content strategist – holds a hands-on course about content inventories and content audits. I am happy to share those insights with you.
What is a content inventory?
A content inventory is used to quantitatively evaluate all your organization’s content from print to digital. The focus of this article will be on web content. “Inventories”, “spreadsheets”, “quantitative evaluation” – that doesn’t sound super sexy at first, but it can indeed help improve your content.
A content inventory usually goes hand in hand with a content audit. Together they can be used for creating a content strategy or migrating your website. Anyways, content inventories and audits give you the opportunity to get rid of waste and assess the usefulness of your content!
You will get a detailed insight into your content, identify patterns and even come up with recommendations regarding search engine optimization (SEO). You will find a lot of opportunities for improvement, and in our case also lay the groundwork for a content audit. And let’s be honest, it just makes sense to look at your data and make valid suggestions for improving it instead of randomly making up recommendations because of your gut feeling.
Before you start
The content inventory is the foundation of the content audit. Before diving into either one of those you should make up your mind about why you are auditing your content and what you want to achieve with your content. Do you want to check if it fulfills business or user needs? Do you want to remove redundant and outdated content? Do you want your content to correspond to your brand message? Write your goals down!
Think about the scope of the project. It makes sense to audit your whole website, but we know resources are limited. It’s okay if you want to start smaller – especially if you are dealing with a big website. You might want to start with a specific part of it and later continue with the rest.
Next, you will have to decide if you want to do your content inventory manually or with the help of an automated tool. I recommend saving some time and energy by using an automated tool, such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider. It crawls your page, is easy to use and gets results quickly.
Elements of a content inventory
Even though the elements of content inventories might vary according to your goals, many of them stay the same. I will briefly explain a selection of the ones that I personally find important:
- URLs: the shorter the URL, the better the readability for humans as well as machines. They should also represent the navigational structure of your site.
- Content type: html, video, image, PDF – the crawl will show if there is a good content mix on your website. Does your content need to be in PDFs or should it be included on your site so search engines can find it? Is your video material still up to date?
- Metadata: Title and description metadata show up in the search engine results and therefore are relevant for SEO. They should not be too long and contain keywords. Pro tip: before I publish content on a website, I double check how the title and description look on a search engine page. I usually use Portent’s SERP Preview tool.
- H1 tags: Headlines are also important for SEO and should contain keywords.
- Analytics: With a tool like Screaming Frog it is easy to include your Google Analytics data. This will give you an idea which content works best and which content doesn’t. Consider this for your future content decisions.
How to conduct a content inventory
The automated tool will do a lot of work for you by crawling the page, gathering the data and spitting it out as a spreadsheet. Nevertheless, you will still have some manual work to do. I recommend including the following steps in your inventory:
- Reorganize the URLs so they represent the actual structure of the website. You can add columns to show the page hierarchy / the levels of each page. In the screenshot below you can find an example of how the levels are presented in the spreadsheet.
- Once the URLs are organized, add a column with continuous numbers. That way you can always come back to this state.
- Add a column to include the audience / target group of each page.
- Add a new tab in the spreadsheet in which you sum up the findings of your inventory.
Up next: content audits
The content inventory will keep you busy for a while. Once you’re finished, the spreadsheet is the starting point of your content audit. If you want to find out how the content audit works, check out this article or have a peak into Paula Land’s handbook about content audits and inventories as well as my colleagues’ literature review of it.
Land, P. L. (2014). Content audits and inventories: A handbook. Laguna Hills : XML Press Ibswich, Mass. : EBSCO Publ.
Öttl, B. Puntschart, L. (2022). contentstrategy.at
Portent’s SERP preview tool. (2022). portent.com
Reisinger, E. Sarica, O. (2022). How to create a content inventory. contentstrategy.at
Screaming Frog SEO Spider. (2022).screamingfrog.co.uk