Different approaches to content audits

Before you start your content audit, you need to choose which approach is right for you.

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Approaches to content auditing

There are four main types of approach you can take to your content audit:

  1. Full audit: A broad audit where you look at all (or close to all) the pages on the site.
  2. Focused audit: A narrow audit where you study the pages your users encounter during a particular journey, or pages relating to a specific product, service, project, etc.
  3. Rolling audit: An ongoing audit where you look at a few pages every week or month.
  4. Sample audit: A broad audit where you take a representative sample of content from across the website.

A sample content audit is the most pragmatic approach for the majority of scenarios where you want to audit a whole website.

Which audit approach to choose

There are three factors to consider when you’re looking at which kind of content audit to choose:

  1. Why you’re doing the audit: Different approaches suit different purposes.
  2. The size of your site: A full audit might be realistic for a 200- or even a 2,000-page site, but maybe not for a 200,000-page one.
  3. The time you have available: You need to know how much time you have to spend before you can choose an audit type.

I find it takes an average of ten minutes to audit a page of content. You'll be able to speed through some pages or skip others altogether. For example, you don't need to read a news story from 2001 with no traffic to know it can be archived or deleted.

So which one is right for you?

Choose a full audit if…

You want to:

  • prepare for a website redesign
  • take stock of your content
  • get back in control of a sprawling website
  • identify content to delete or archive
  • identify opportunities to improve content

and:

  • you have the time to audit all your content

Choose a focused audit if…

You want to:

  • inform work on a single campaign, product, service, journey, etc.

If the section of the site you're looking at has a lot of content and you're low on time, you might want to just audit a sample of the content rather than all of it.

Choose a rolling audit if…

You want to:

  • get into a good practice of reviewing your content on a regular basis
  • identify content to delete or archive
  • identify opportunities to improve content

and:

  • you don’t have a particular project or deadline in mind

Choose a sample audit if…

You want to:

  • prepare for a website redesign
  • take stock of your content
  • get back in control of a sprawling website
  • identify content to delete or archive
  • identify opportunities to improve content

and:

  • you have a large site and can’t tackle all of it, but need a broad overview
  • you have limited time to spend
  • you need to get the job done quickly

You can sample in different ways depending on your focus. For example: looking at the pages with the most traffic; choosing a handful of pages from each section of the site; or selecting a few examples of each content type. The size of your sample is completely flexible, depending on the time you have available and your goals. We'll talk about this more in module 9.

Who should do the audit?

A content audit is almost always a big job. On a practical level, getting more people involved can lighten the load and speed up the process.

On a wellbeing level, auditing is detailed, repetitive work. If you try and audit all day every day, you’re likely to get bored, tired, and start despairing within a day or two. Some people love this kind of repetitive task – if that’s you, go ahead and get stuck in!

If you have the opportunity, it’s a great idea to get other people auditing with you. Ideally, this would be people with some experience with content, user experience, or digital design. But it doesn’t have to be. Run an auditing bootcamp and use a closely controlled list of criteria, and you can get less experienced people up to speed. Pair up with them to do their first 5–10 pages so you can support them and troubleshoot any issues.

The great Cancer Research UK content audit

How Cancer Research UK got stakeholders to help with its content audit

Options for sharing the load

  1. Pair up: Pair a content expert with a subject matter expert and audit together. This can be a useful approach if you want to look closely at the accuracy of your content.
  2. Assign content based on subject matter: If you have content owners or subject matter experts for different areas, you could delegate specific content to them to audit.
  3. Assign specific audit criteria to different people: If someone has great subject matter knowledge, but you/they are not confident in their ability to audit for usability, you could ask them to complete the parts of the audit that focus on accuracy.
  4. Group audits: Get a group of willing helpers in a room or on a call and split into pairs to audit. This can be a great approach for big sites, and it’s a morale booster too. It creates camaraderie and it’s satisfying to see just how many pages you can get through together.

Before you move on...

Choose the kind of content audit you're going to do and who is going to do it. See section 3 in your planner.

(If you haven't made your copy yet, the planner is linked on the content audit toolkit homepage.)

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