I have a confession to make: I’m actually a massive geek when it comes to manga. My bookshelf is crammed with my collection of over 300 volumes, but the problem with collecting is it gets expensive, and keeping up with around 25 series at a time can be a hassle. So to save money and make sure I’m keeping up with current volumes, I maintain an audit of books available for pre-order so I can buy books when a publisher is having a sale. My audit is pretty minimal, documenting only the title of the series, the volume, the publisher, and the release date, but it’s efficient and takes only a couple minutes every week to maintain.
This audit is easy for me to update since I only need to keep up with a short list, but for the website I order these books from, which offers over 10,000 products, developing an audit would be a daunting task. And for even larger sites with millions of pages, posts, or products (I’m looking at you Amazon.com), an audit may not even seem feasible. Nevertheless, there are options for auditing these overwhelmingly large websites. But first, you have to determine how big is too big of a site’s scale for a content audit.
What’s the Magic Number?
There isn’t a magic number, per se. The amount of content you need to audit depends on two things:
- How many pages you have
- How much time you have
Given enough time to devote to the project, you can document 5,000 pages. But if you’re like me and leave everything to the last minute, or you have content in the quintuple or higher digits, then you might want to consider a different approach.
So How Do You Tackle a Massive Audit?
There’s two solutions here, and none of them involve pushing the idea of an audit under the rug and never speaking of it again. To tackle your massive website, use one of two methods: sampling and rolling audits.
Sample Like You Mean It
Sampling is taking a percentage of your content and using it to represent your entire site. But not just any random cluster of pages: you want to represent the goals of the site, the users, and how the content is being consumed. When designating a sample, ask yourself one of these five questions:
- What percent of my content fulfills specific purposes? If 90% of your website is funny cat videos, 90% of your sample should be funny cat videos. Just remember that not all content fits perfectly in neat little boxes. Even Google needs an About page
- Who is using specific pages on my site? You know how your site has a primary and secondary audience? Yeah, divide up your content by what each group wants to see.
- How many people visit specific pages on my site? Demonstrate these high and low traffic pages in your sample. The most important traffic level to focus on is the one that fits your business model.
- Who does this content belong to? Divide content by who contributed it. The users? You? Your coworker who keeps stealing your coffee creamer? Maybe you’ll find out the content that you developed gets more hits than hers. Now that’ll get you to want to do the audit.
- How often is the content changed? Your content is like a pantry. Some of what’s in there is regularly circulated and updated while some of it sits there forever totally untouched (like that can of pumpkin pie filling I keep telling myself I’ll use on some Pinterest recipe every time fall rolls around).
- How many clicks does it take to get to each page? Yeah, we see you trying to be sneaky and only curating the first few pages. Your website isn’t just the top level pages, so your audit shouldn’t only consist of the first layer of pages either.
Just Roll with It
Another option you have is a rolling audit. Basically, you’re going to divide your site into sections and audit each section individually for a period of time. Once you finish that, you circle back to the first section and keep adding. So, for example, if your website is for selling books, you might start with art books one week, biographies the next, and so on until you reach young adult books. Once your schedule is complete, you start over and add on to your art books section. And if your site is overwhelmingly large, you can totally do a rolling audit of samples.
Halvorson, K., & Rach, M. (2012). Content strategy for the Web. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.