Planning a content audit

By Posted in - Content Audit & Research on September 18th, 2019 0 Comments A large stack of books and papers. Text reads "Planning a content audit".

Universities are well known for having large, disparate websites across many domains. This means thousands of pages and assets.

Carrying out an audit helps you make sense of the chaos. Not just that, carrying out an audit regularly helps you understand whether your content is working for you (which is a much more satisfying audit to complete). 

This post gives you some key tips to designing and delivering a successful audit. 

Figure out why you are auditing

Set a clear purpose for the audit. This defines the type of information you need to record. 

Never start an audit with the aim to capture everything you can: it’s not only soul-destroying for those who have to deliver it, it’s also pointless – you would never look at all that data anyway. 

Consider these reasons for auditing content:

– Reducing the size of the website
– Convincing stakeholders that the website needs development
– Assessing how accessible it is
– Improving content and messaging
– Moving content to an intranet

Define what you need to audit

Most content audits will record certain things as standard. You’ll always need to know the source of the content (usually the URL), the name (usually a page title) and who audited it. 

However, once you have an audit purpose, you will then start to see all sorts of other things that will be of value to you. 

Audit purpose
Example of things to find out

Reduce the size of the website


How many pages

Structure and information architecture

Last updated date

Duplicate pages


Convince stakeholders that the website needs development


Most visited pages

Bounce rate

Pages with high conversion rates

Time spent updating content 


Assess how accessible it is


Readability scores

Content length per page

Alt text on images

Page load times


Improve content and messaging


Readability scores

Page titles (are they clear?)

In-page content (is it well-written, headings used, hyperlinks clear?)

Calls to action 


Move content to an intranet


Intended audience (internal/external/academic/professional services)

Duplicate pages

Content quality (fit for purpose)

Get some data

There will be a lot of information you can get automatically. Get a list of URLs and page titles by scraping this data from your website. Your CMS might be able to give you a last updated date, metadata and word count. Use your analytics package to get information on popular pages, bounce rates etc. 

Merge all the data you have into one spreadsheet. You should have some columns already defined but now it’s time to add specifics. 

If you are auditing content quality you might choose to add columns for readability, fit for purpose and audience. For a review of site size you might record how deeply nested content is. 

Time for action

The whole point of conducting an audit is that you are going to do something with the things you find out. It is a good idea to make initial decision-making part of the audit itself. 

RID is a really simple way to start. RID stands for:

– Retain: the content is fine as is
– Improve: the content is important but needs some work (you could always ask auditors to say what they’d recommend changing)
– Delete: the content is not fit for purpose, is incorrect or is out of date

It’s a neat way to get some top level ideas about where improvements can be made and can directly feed into the next stage of content planning. 

Share the workload

Even with as much automation as possible, audits can be time consuming and repetitive.

Divide large audits between teams: a 900 page audit between 50 people is a much faster job than completing it all yourself… 

Setting the audit spreadsheet itself to track rate of completion can be motivational. If all auditors can see the number of pages left to check dropping by the hour, it encourages them to complete more. They feel part of a team delivering something worthwhile.

Alternatively, you could try cake. It usually works. 

Importantly, make sure you share findings with people involved in the audit. Show how you will use their input to improve the website or content you’ve reviewed. 

When to audit

There’s no hard and fast rule to tell you how often you should audit, the most important thing is that you do. Linking your audit to existing reporting can help make it more meaningful. It will depend on what you are reviewing as to how frequently it needs to happen.

An audit of important content (key conversion pages, core content) should occur once a month. This sort of audit would focus on performance and look for ways to improve content quality. Monitoring activity regularly means you’ll notice trends quickly and be able to react.

Other audits could happen every 6-12 months and follow an audit calendar can help you to manage the process. Split your site into more manageable sections and align them to offline milestones. For example, it’s a good idea to review course content before you ask hundreds of colleagues to send new copy. An audit of events could occur at the end of term to help you prepare for the next series. It really is up to you.

Have we inspired you to review how your content is doing? We’d love to help you design your audit to make sure  you get the most out of it. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you. 

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