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What I learned leading 7 people in a content audit

May 7, 2015

There are a lot of reasons why a content audit should be done by one person.  Consistency and thoroughness come to mind as two of the top reasons. Recently I completed my second major audit, and in both audits, it just wasn’t possible for one person to do an entire audit.  Hello, they have a day job! And the description does not usually include auditing their entire library of content.

So, you compromise. You use what you have. The first time around, I had myself, my direct report, and a good chunk of holiday downtime when people were out of the office. This time, I had 7 colleagues all running different categories ranging from food to electronics, and they all had plenty of other priorities. Here’s what I’ve learned – I hope it helps you run a smooth audit with whatever resources you have!

1. Make the goal & benefits really, really clear.

Whatever you have to do to encourage your team to climb the mountain that is combing through each piece of individual content, do it. This is best done prior to announcing that you need their help – and it’s also best to remind them of those benefits often during the process. Don’t be above bringing in treats to facilitate – my personal favorite bribe consists of fancy pastries from Tartine or Mr. Holmes. Whatever it takes, people, and that includes cruffins.

2. Create a master spreadsheet formula and stick. to. your. columns.

I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to maintain consistency in both the column setup and the monikers you use to identify content.  If you have everyone rating the content’s quality, but don’t give clear parameters about what quality means and how to rate it, then you’ll be left with analysis troubles. Imagine going through your quality column of 2K-plus items and realizing everyone has called their top notch content something different, in monikers like “superb,” “excellent,” “really good,” “killer,” “so-so,” “could use an update,” “update,” “update (broken link).”  Varying forms of the same word only serve to confuse and distract come analysis time; rein it in now.

3. Talk about how great it will be once it’s over.

This goes back to #1, but it’s so important I’m mentioning it twice. Talk about how it will make their life easier once they can hand off this entire spreadsheet to everyone who keeps asking for “that one buying guide from last year that did really well,” so they can search it for themselves.  Wax poetic on how cool it would be to transform this spreadsheet into a searchable database — oh wait, that’s what we’re going to do! Cool! Now just a few hundred articles left to go…

4. Set reasonable milestones.

Breaking the audit into chunks bound by time and task seemed to work best for me. Our first milestone was to pull every title from the CMS along with URL to get an accurate representation of sheer amount of content, and I gave the team two weeks to do this. For some, quick and easy – but for others, this involved lots of deleting of duplicate titles. For the next milestone, I had them pull a page view report on their entire set of content for the past year. With this, we sectioned off the top 20% of content and called it Group 1. The next highest 20% of content was Group 2, and so on. This gave us an indication of performance without pulling in the exact page view numbers, which would have had to be redone practically every month.  Although it would have been nice to see exact numbers, the reality of the static spreadsheet we had as a tool made it so that this seemed like the best option. Last, I gave them an additional month to touch every piece of content in their inventory. We ended up having a few extensions, but the milestones definitely helped keep the project top of mind.

5. Celebrate!

I’m kicking myself for not doing a good enough job celebrating, but Walmart prohibits me from bringing in champagne for the team due to policy.  So, drinking alone at home it is (just kidding).


If you’ve had a similar experience and have wisdom to share, I’d love to hear from you.  Have you pulled xml files? Copy-pasted like a caveman? Let me know!

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