Managing content is a much more significant challenge than it used to be. Many companies have hundreds or even thousands of pages of written material supported by various file types.
Creating a content inventory is one of the best ways to deal with this issue. People visit websites because of what’s on them, so having a way to understand the quality, location, and performance of your existing material is essential to improving your content marketing efforts.
What Is a Content Inventory?
A content inventory is an informational archive of your company's content assets, typically including text, audio, images, videos, and other files.
The process of building a content inventory is not the same thing as a content audit of your site. An inventory focuses on cataloging what you have so you can build a complete picture of your content, while an audit helps you analyze your inventory to look for gaps and assess the overall performance of your content.
Historically, most companies build and manage their content inventories through a manual data collection process. Spreadsheets were (and still are) one of the most popular tools for this, especially since they can help calculate important data like the total file size of all content.
In short, a content inventory tells you what you have so you can decide what to do with it. It also helps marketing employees (like a content manager) make sure that their team isn't constantly duplicating content. That kind of thing can ruin an otherwise sound content strategy.
Why Do I Need an Inventory?
There are several reasons to create a content inventory for your site. The first is that it allows you to run audits, check the performance of blog posts and other material, and generally manage the pages that make your website. However, that's not the only reason to build an inventory.
An inventory supports your content marketing efforts by helping you group things together, making it easier to create new material, and assisting you in the never-ending quest to pinpoint content gaps.
A robust content inventory can also support your overall marketing strategy by helping you decide what to eliminate from your site. Company goals often change over time, and trimming content is an excellent way to shore up your foundation while maintaining topical relevance.
Search engines like Google are increasingly good at contextualizing websites. If your site seems too broad, search engines could end up pushing it down the ranks in favor of competitors who are better focused on providing detailed and value-driven content on a related cluster of topics.
For most businesses, eliminating older material after deciding on a strategy is an important part of maximizing performance and optimizing content creation workflows, and content inventories can help you do just that.
Content Inventory vs. Content Audit
We touched on this above, but let's take a closer look at the differences between a content inventory and an audit for your site.
Inventories make it easier to make sure you aren't losing track of any valuable content when you do your audit, such as existing website content on older blogs or in other sections. Meanwhile, a robust content analysis plan can help you analyze as much of your content as possible to figure out what works.
Many organizations want to change their content management system over time. That's not fundamentally a bad thing because a change can help improve overall marketing performance, but it can also lead to waste if you end up forgetting about valuable content.
One thing to remember is that a CMS for your site is not a good substitute for an inventory. A management system may help track content, but it probably won't let you export that information to use with another system. Content inventories can, and should, be independent.
Content audits focus on using inventories to try and maximize the performance of existing content. For any audit, an inventory can help you check the performance of each piece of content, see if you can optimize it, and otherwise help you improve your site structure.
A good content audit can also help you with your project estimation plans by determining how much content you need of each type going forward. This helps improve your content quality, offers an impartial assessment of performance, and can even help in secondary areas like optimizing a user's browsing experience.
Content audits deserve a deeper explanation than we have space for here, so check out the SEMrush guide linked above for a great starting point on the principles and goals of an audit project.
Create a Content Inventory in 3 Easy Steps
Creating an inventory can be time-consuming if you have a lot of content on your website, but it's not difficult. Here are the three steps you can take to get started today.
1. Determine Scope and Inventory Attributes
The first step in creating a good inventory system is setting the scope and attributes of the project. Some organizations include all of their web posts and files in a single content inventory, but others split the content by website section, app, or even user journey. Understanding your audience is key to getting the result you want here.
The important thing to remember here is that you can have more than a simple catalog of information in your inventory. Selecting a scope that matches your needs as a company can help you focus on a content structure that works well for your site, makes each audit easier, and generally provides the information you need to guide future content efforts.
The attributes of an inventory spreadsheet are the individual pieces of information about each asset you have. These attributes help provide as much context about the data as possible for anyone reading the spreadsheet so they don’t have to look at the assets to know what they’re about.
Typical content inventories include the following attributes:
- Name or Title: This part of the inventory details the name of each asset within your system. Note that the name in this category is different from the page title on your site (i.e., the name that users see on the page). If your resource doesn't have a name, you should either give it one or put a brief summary here on your list.
- URL or Link: This next attribute defines where your content lives on your website. Some pieces of content, like images, may appear on many different pages. You can adjust this as necessary.
- Ownership: The third section details who created the content and how you obtained it. This is more important than just listing an author, though. The ownership part of your software or spreadsheet should also detail any intellectual property rights so you can verify whether you're allowed to modify them.
- Topic: The fourth attribute on your list covers the actual subject of the content, including what it's generally meant to be used for. Understanding topics is essential for overall site design because it empowers you to better understand what types of articles should go in each area of your site structure.
- Format: Formatting information details the type of content, such as any files involved, whether it's part of a bigger page, if it's a PDF or a blog, and so on. Videos may have more complicated formatting information, so adjust the design of your spreadsheet to include relevant information (including video keywords) as needed.
- Modification: The modification attribute details when you created something, or last modified it. This can help you locate old information to refresh or help remind you when a piece of content may no longer be relevant and can be trimmed.
- Metadata: Metadata is mostly for web performance and includes things like alt text for the content, the meta description on your page, and so on. This is important baseline information, and also for optimizing SEO at a later point, so include as much as possible.
- File Storage: Finally, the file storage section lists where your assets reside internally. This is usually on a server somewhere, and it's not the same thing as which website page uses the content.
2. Input the Details for Each Piece of Content
This is the most time-consuming part of the process, especially if you have a lot of existing content and data on your site. Once you set the attributes you need in your spreadsheet, it's time to manually enter all of them.
Don't overthink this part. If something is lacking, or you aren't sure, you can put a note on the data spreadsheet for others to read. It can also be hard to figure out who created some old material. Your inventory doesn't need to be perfect, but try to make it as complete as possible for the sake of users and other people who might need to access it later.
3. Maintain Your Content Inventory
Finally, once you're done creating your inventory, make sure you maintain it by adding records of all future content to your document. Content inventory tools may be able to help with this tedious task (see our list below). Whether you use a tool or opt to manually input the data, documenting your assets and keeping this data up to date is vital.
Consider a Content Inventory Tool
Content inventory and project management tools can help you better understand each asset and achieve your goal of creating a website content inventory spreadsheet. Here are some options to consider.
Screaming Frog is a website crawler that searches your site to help gather information. This is a great way to locate web pages, files, and other content you may have forgotten about, all presented to you in an easy-to-digest snapshot. Screaming Frog is a good place to begin if you're just starting a content inventory project.
Raven Tools is an auditing software that analyzes pages and gives recommendations to marketers, which means it's especially good for analyzing your articles. It's also a good way to compare URLs and make sure page crawlers can find all of your material.
Moz is another great piece of software for analyzing your site, and it's trusted by information architects around the world. Moz supports some concepts that other companies don't, and their spreadsheets offer outstanding insight into what you can do to improve overall performance with any content type.
Content Inventory: A Comprehensive Snapshot of Your Content Assets
Organizing your information and developing a content inventory is a great way to gain insights into your material and develop a baseline for future content analyses. Starting earlier is always better, so open a spreadsheet and start deciding how you want to list your content.
Ultimately, a well-made inventory makes it far easier to keep track of your content and engage in future audits, benefiting your users, your business, and your bottom line. How does your team carry out inventory projects? What’s your preferred strategy? Let us know in the comments!