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Part 1, The Content Audit: Getting your existing content “out of the weeds” and into Sitecore

durch Beth Bader , Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The content audit process isn’t a whole lot different than any other sorting task whether its matching your socks, cleaning a closet or redesigning an existing enterprise site and migrating it to a cutting edge platform like Sitecore. If that sounds simplistic, it is. Good processes should be clear and simple. 

Now, let’s pull some weeds.

In our backyard is a shady area, overgrown with ivy and weeds. Somewhere in there, are things I deliberately planted like hostas, sage and mint and an occasional cement Buddha sculpture. And more things I didn’t plant, like poison oak.

In my head, I can see how this is going to look when it is cleared and replanted: a walkway with paving stones, lavender plants, perennials, and a picnic table. A usable space. A beautiful, functional space we can enjoy. But, leaning on the hoe, sweaty and beat up from trying to use all my muscles that are usually parked at a desk, it’s really hard to figure out how to get out of the weeds.

If you are tasked with weeding a site, too, then read on. By the time you get through these steps, you will know exactly what is a “plant” and what is a “weed.”

Content Inventory

A content inventory is not a glamorous task, but at least you won’t end up with an itchy rash and covered in Caladryl. The first step is to get a list of the content you currently have. Remember that “content” is more than just text. You will need to capture the tools, interactive elements, charts, and videos — all the types of content on your existing site. This can be partly done with a site spider such as Screaming Frog or CAT. Cats. Frogs. Spiders. We really are in a garden.

The resulting spreadsheet will need some cleaning up and removal of duplicated items, plus adding in the details the spider cannot “see.” Like my yard work, there’s no way around this manual cleanup process (short of a bulldozer). You will need to know the following information on the final content inventory:

  • URL
  • Page Title
  • Meta data
  • Description and Keywords (add manually)
  • Linked Content or Assets (very important)
  • Asset Type (text, video, tool, etc.)

Content Audit

Now, the fun begins. It’s time to weed out the content on your inventory that is dated, incorrect, or just not working. You are going to need some information to guide you as you work; stakeholder interviews, brand goals, personas and scenarios, and site analytics. As you audit each content item, ask yourself (or your team) the following critical questions based on this guide:

  • What is the purpose of the content? Does it fit with your site or brand’s goals?
  • Is the content up-to-date and accurate?
  • Is it on brand, or has the brand evolved since the content was created? Has the brand “voice” changed?
  • Is the content “good” and usable? Is it well-written?
  • Who was the source of the content? If it was a third-party, are the rights current?
  • Is the content optimized for SEO and usability?
  • Does it meet the current goals of your audience? Has the site audience changed since the content was first created?
  • Which content did your audience find useful? Which is “weeds?”

As you and/or your team review each content item, make notes on the spreadsheet that capture the above points. Add a column to the spreadsheet where you will input one of three choices: keep, modify or delete. For the “modify” items, you may also want to add brief notes to explain how the content should be modified. Since you plan on removing the items marked “delete” the inventory will be critical to use in order to identify any content items linked to that content scheduled for uprooting in order to plan for redirects and/or removing those links.

Optimizing your audit for Sitecore

Now that you have short-listed the content you plan on keeping and modifying, its time to add a critical step to your audit that will help you get the most from Sitecore’s ability to identify a user’s persona based on their behaviors, then target them with the right messaging (For more information on this, see the webinar “Unleashing Personalization Beyond Your Website: Delivering a Relevant Customer Experience Across Marketing Channels”). Add three more columns to your audit sheet; persona/need and lifecycle stage, and the product/service the content aligns with. If your product or service offerings are industry-specific, you should also indicate this in another column on the sheet.

For the persona column, you will need to leverage existing persona research created for your site redesign. If you do not have design personas in place, you should get these done. As you review each content item, consider which of your user personas or audience roles is the target audience for the content item and which of this user’s goals are best met with that content item. Enter the persona title or name in the column. Some content items may be general or may apply to more than one persona. Note all that are applicable and indicate what need the content item meets for that persona.

Finally, document which stage of the customer lifecycle each content item supports. A typical customer “lifecycle” could include; awareness, consideration, buy, loyalty/repeat purchase, recommend/advocate. Different types of content support each of these states. For example, an infographic that explains how your product solves a given problem would be good “awareness” content. Product descriptions are important in the “consideration” stage. Customer testimonials or third-party validation of your product’s quality would be used to move a user from “consideration” to “buy.” The ability to submit a product review or share a purchase would fit with the “recommend/advocate” stage.

Document the product or service and the industry-specific target (if applicable) as well. This way you have a complete view of the content you have to support each audience, which product is aligned to that audience, and what stage of the customer lifecycle to present the content. And, any specific industry the content supports as well.

Congratulations, you’ve now removed all the weeds! Not only that, you have a good plan for how your current content fits with your new Sitecore experience and a detailed review of the web content you have to begin reviewing how that works with the content you have in other channels, too.

What’s Next?

Just like a garden, content is a living thing. It’s going to need care and feeding — and yes, weeding — over time. For that reason, this content audit should stay a living document. As you add new content, track the information in the sheet. When you remove or retire content, remove it from the audit list, too. The ongoing audit will serve as a great guide for exactly what content you have as your site grows. It can also be used as a guide for content governance — the periodic review and removal of old content. For SEO, this list is also invaluable to readily identify related content you can deep-link to from new additions.

The next step is to identify the gap between the content you currently have and the content you need for your new site. I will cover that in the next post of this two-part series.

Download a spreadsheet template of this Content Audit.

Related Items: “Unleashing Personalization Beyond Your Website: Delivering a Relevant Customer Experience Across Marketing Channels”).