How To: Create and Use a Content Inventory

February 25th, 2011 • By:  • Content Strategy

In my previous post: An Introduction to Content Strategy, I described a content inventory as “your site in an Excel-spreadsheet nutshell: what content is found where, page by page.” Now, I’ll explain how to create this document and what this information can be used for.

Content Inventory

I know what you’re thinking – Excel, really? Of course, if you have a more advanced content management system, you can (and should!) use that to intelligently manage your content.  However, many businesses do not have the budget to employ such systems, hence the reason for using Excel.

To complete a content inventory, you will have to go through your site page by page, recording your content findings.  And be aware — content is not limited to website copy!  This inventory should include web copy, photos, videos, forums, infographics, guides… basically any content that is living your site.

Start with the home page. Set up your spreadsheet (or other document) to include the following:

  • Unique identification for each piece of content or each page, so you can easily navigate the document later.
  • Name, topic or overall theme of the page.  You can usually grab this information quickly from the title tag of your page, or the content heading.
  • Link – of course – so you know where to find the page.  You can also use this information to examine URL structure later.
  • Type of information on the page—is it a product page, media information or a whitepaper? Be sure to be as specific as possible to make it easier for yourself in the long run.
  • Keywords associated with that specific piece of content (Think META keywords, or image tags.)
  • Meta description.
  • Owner of the content, if you know. Who created the content and who is responsible for updating it? Whoever it is should be known as the content owner.  You may even want to record that person’s contact information in case the content needs to be revised.
  • Internal links found on the page, and all of the above information regarding content on those pages.
  • Notes on the status of the page addressing revisions or outdated content.  You should also keep track of any broken links or images that don’t load, as well as SEO and usability concerns that need to be addressed.

You can make more columns to cater to your website, though I would recommend recording all of the above information to have a concise and complete inventory. You can create the inventory to include more usability information or more detailed SEO information if you like.

Now What?

Once you have completed your content inventory, there are many ways to utilize this information to improve your site and your content.

Now you have a map of your website content page by page.  This makes it much easier to manage what content needs to be updated and when, as long as you took good notes!  Also, when it is time to update the content, you will know exactly who to contact since you have already recorded it.

A content inventory is a great way to discover outdated or insignificant content that is no longer needed or just flat our wrong.  Also, you can discover if content is missing and content development opportunities.

If you kept track of SEO concerns, an inventory will bring these issues to the forefront that you otherwise might have missed. The inventory will also reveal dead-end pages, poor URL structure and incorrect meta information.  Also, by viewing the internal linking structure page by page you can see what a visitor or customer may experience while on your site.

So, no matter how you format it, a content inventory is a necessary document to organize your website content. But unfortunately, a content inventory is almost never complete.  The second you remove or add new content to your site, you should update the inventory accordingly.

There are many uses for a content inventory, and all are going to improve your website visitors’ experiences on your site. Content is considered the most important component of your website, so keeping it updated and organized is essential.  And though this process is time-consuming, tiring and painstaking, the wealth of information you are left with is well worth the hard work. If you lack the resources needed to complete this task, it is important to understand and consider the benefits. And don’t worry, there are resources, like ourselves, willing to work with you.

What are your experiences with completing a content inventory?  What have you used your content inventory for? Let us know in the comments below!

Abby Gilmore

Abby Gilmore is a content strategist at Vertical Measures. When she is not creating, tweaking and developing strategies for online content, she creates her own offline content as a freelance print journalist.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 25th, 2011 at 5:00 am and is filed under Content Strategy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “How To: Create and Use a Content Inventory”

  1. Adrian Says:

    Great post, Abby. Having a content inventory is so helpful for the content development process. It helps everyone stay on target :)

  2. Abby Gilmore Says:

    Agreed, Adrian!

  3. Mark Wellman Says:

    Sounds like a tremendous idea in theiry, however, someone like myself who sets up niche specific revenue generating sites would have to spend days if not months performing the inventory on my own.

    I would have to really have to see a major financial benefit in order to pay someon to undertake this task.

    Mark

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