“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix has made decluttering the new trend, and there’s nothing that sparks more joy than a clean website. So, with the spring semester in full swing and commencement still a few months away, it’s the perfect time to consider spring cleaning your institution’s website with a content audit.
Here are three tips for conducting a content audit on your site.
1. Set Clear Goals and a Timeline
Since many institution’s websites consist of thousands — if not tens of thousands — of pages, jumping into a full website content audit can feel overwhelming. You may ask, “Where do I even start?”
Before you begin, think about what you’d like to accomplish with the audit. Are you looking to improve your website’s SEO, or are you more interested in ensuring copy matches your department’s editorial style? You can check multiple things while you are auditing but beware of scope creep. Developing realistic goals and a reasonable timeline based on available resources will set you up for success.
Another thing to remember is that the mission is not to remove hundreds of pages unnecessarily, but rather to check if pages are accurate and serve a purpose. Then you can edit pages that need it and remove those that are irrelevant.
To make the process less intensive, The Content Marketing Institute recommends condensed content audits to supplement comprehensive yearly audits. They suggest picking three metrics and 30 or 40 URLS to audit. To put this idea into practice, partner with your admission or advancement offices for a quick review of their most popular pages.
2. Organize Your Audit
Most websites already include a sitemap, which you can use as your audit roadmap. If you can’t find yours, check with your web development team or generate one online using a free tool like XML Sitemaps. If you’d like to start with more than just URLs, options like the Screaming Frog SEO Spider include more bells and whistles.
Once you’ve downloaded a list of every page on your website, start sorting in a spreadsheet.
- Group pages by content type or category. You can quickly group content like news stories, event pages, and academic program pages into separate categories. BrainTraffic recommends splitting up your spreadsheets to avoid overwriting someone else’s work or winding up with multiple document versions.
- Let the analytics be your guide. Lean on your existing analytics to prioritize the pages you will audit based on how much traffic they receive. You can add columns to show page views for a certain time period and include other metrics like entrances and bounce rate. Entrances will give an idea of how many users land here first, and a high bounce rate could signal that the content needs some work. If you have a condensed timeline, take this approach to make the most impact.
Dividing and conquering the content in this way makes the entire process more manageable.
3. Spread the Word on What’s Working — and What Isn’t
After you’ve completed your audit, remember to share your results with others at your institution. Highlight what is working well and be candid about areas for improvement. Much like setting clear goals and a timeline early on, it’s now time to come up with an action plan for addressing your content problems.
Marie Kondo suggests you, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.” While it’s tempting, things are a bit more complex for institutional websites. We’ll settle for fewer 404 errors and more on-brand copy.
Jonathan Shearer is the executive director of marketing and communications at Elmhurst College in Illinois.