I won’t lie to you, Marge. Here’s the truth: I spend as much, if not more of my time, in multi-layered spreadsheets as I do writing or planning content. There, I said it! So much for a creative job; I’m a slave to excel.
The thing is that it’s really important. Long before I knew about the practice of Content Strategy, I was printing out pages of sites for editing and making lists and tables and notes. I never did it in a spreadsheet – because who touches a spreadsheet unless they are told to? – but now I wish I had done. The trouble is the IT lessons I had at school persuaded me that spreadsheets were for Maths Work but, my friends, this is poppycock.
When it comes to content, spreadsheets are for comparisons, notes and order.
One of the very first things I do when presented with creating or editing content for a site is go and see What Has Gone Before. What existing content is there, online or not, and how does it relate to the new site I’m tackling? Very few people know every page that is on their site – let alone what it says, when it was updated and how it is performing for them.
Some questions about your content just to ponder for a moment: Is it relevant? Does it meet core requirements? Is it readable? How is it performing in searches? Are people finding the page for the right things? When was it last updated? What metadata is attached to it? What the hell kind of document is it anyway?
And can you answer that for every single page on your site?
With a content audit you can.
A content audit is two things. The first thing it can be defined as is a document that lays out every page on your site, every link, what the page is called, who owns the content, what role it plays and whether it is doing a good job.
Jeff Venn has a great, simple example of a content audit doc to play with. (He is sadly right in that article about the mind-numbing aspect but let’s concentrate on the odyssey, hmm?)
The other thing a content audit is, crucially, is the act of putting human eyeballs on every which way around your site and seeing what the heck is on there. It opens a whole heap of questions not just about your current content but about what could be better, what you might want in the future or how you might avoid pitfalls that have befallen you this time around.
Now this is all fun and games (actually I lie, it isn’t very exciting compared to writing) but want I want to do in the next couple of weeks is point you to some of my work for Headscape that covers just this sort of stuff, including my own adaption of Adaptive Path‘s document, with notes for use.
And yes, it can be a tedious ol’ job doing this stuff but it will repay you over and over so don’t break a sweat over it. Open a spreadsheet creation tool of your choice, type ‘1.0 Home’ and put in the first bits of your navigation. You can just do a little everyday. Unless you’re me, in which case, it is quite a lot everyday.
Enough of this blogging frivolity. Time to don the mask! I have some cell-wrangling to do!
(Huh. ‘The Auditor’ is never going to be a good wrestling name, is it? You should help me come up with a better one.
Tell it to me on twitter.)