Content audits: Coming out of the dark ages

A 3 minute read written by Clement January 19, 2016

An illustration of castle with a Flock flag

“I’m sorry, content audits take how long?!” That was my reaction when I planned my first design project at Yellow Pencil.

Time is money and I quickly found myself interrogating our content strategist. As she described the manual and tedious process, I came to a quick realization: “Content audits are stuck in the dark ages. There has to be a better way.”

Slaving away in the dark ages

There are many approaches to content audits out there, but there are a few common tasks:

  1. Create a structured plan for the audit (if you’re not sure how, check out this blog post).
  2. Create an inventory of the pages you will audit and save it in a spreadsheet.
  3. Go through each page/URL on the list and copy the analytics data from your different sources, like Google Analytics or your own SEO tool.
  4. Then add your notes based on frameworks like ROTI (redundant, outdated, trivial, or incomplete content), or other evaluation criteria the team has set.
  5. Once you’ve gone through all the pages, make your recommendations.

Sounds simple right? For a site with 20 pages, this isn’t too bad. But we work with enterprise-level sites, which can have anywhere from 500 to upwards of 10,000 pages. Can you imagine repeating steps 1, 2 and 3 over and over again for 10,000 pages?

Not to worry! You can just get your team to help you, right? Except now, you have to worry about how you will share the spreadsheet so that every team member can leave notes without overwriting the notes from others. What do you do?

At Yellow Pencil, we’ve built a new tool called “Flock” to simplify the content auditing process and facilitate collaboration across your team.

Bird’s eye view of your content

We start by adding a site into our team’s shared workspace in Flock. From there, our crawler goes through the entire site, gathering all the pages. Well that just saved us from copy and pasting 10,000 URLs into a spreadsheet already. Score!

Once the pages have been collected, Flock begins analyzing the content on each and every page it found. It then provides a high-level report about the site, highlighting some key metrics including:

  • The number of pages on your site.
  • The number of levels of depth in your sitemap.
  • The number of languages on the site, and the distribution for each language.
  • The average reading grade level of content, and the distribution on the site.
  • The average reading time of content, and the distribution on the site.
  • The number of broken links.
  • The number of pages that are missing a title or a meta description.
  • The number of digital assets on the site (eg. images, PDFs, etc).

Armed with this report, the team can immediately identify major issues with the sites content (before diving into a single page). They now know what to tackle, and how to split up the audit according to the plan.

From the forest to the trees

From there, each team member can dig into the content inventory and hone in on the details of each page.

Flock already provides them with a list of pre-populated data including:

  • Page title
  • Keywords
  • Meta descriptions
  • Language
  • Reading grade level
  • Word count
  • Page depth in the site
  • Number of images on the page
  • Number of broken links on the page
  • # of links to internal pages
  • # of links to external pages

Flock lets users filter their inventory and look at the specific criteria they’re interested in. At YP, we’ve used this to identify any custom content that could pose a problem during a responsive redesign, or to simply export a list of pages with incomplete metadata. Team members are then able to do a targeted audit of just these pages. In the auditing portion of Flock, users can examine pages individually and leave notes to identify if a page is redundant, outdated, trivial, or incomplete (ROTI). Since they’re collaborating in the same workspace, each member can see the notes left by other members, even if they’re in different offices.

Bring it all back together

When the team is complete, our content strategist/information architect can review the notes and make their recommendations. In many cases, we export all the data and notes from Flock into a spreadsheet so the client can see how we got to our recommendations. And that’s it!

Renaissance for content auditing

For many agencies, content auditing is a tedious, mind-numbing copy and paste exercise that is left for the serfs and peons. Don’t get stuck in the dark ages anymore. We’re looking to start a renaissance with Flock by helping our fellow content strategists, information architects, and user experience designers. If you’re interested in saving time and money by working smarter on your content audits, visit flockforcontent.com and sign up to get advanced access to Flock.