You probably remember us talking about that treasure trove of information: site audits (otherwise known as content audits), and we’ll probably continue talking about them until we retire because they’re just that important. In fact, we’re in the process of getting ready to tackle another one for a new client right now. (Note: We’re just about always doing that!)
In case you need a refresher, a site audit is just one of the many content design services that we offer here at Edgar Allan. It’s a working document, typically in the form of a spreadsheet, that takes a comprehensive look at all pages of a site. Seeing all of the URLs connected to your site structure and being able to fill in notes about the content on each page will help you understand and organize existing content, as well as evaluate and categorize content for future action.
Whether you’re preparing for a brand new build, migration, or complete overhaul of an existing site — WordPress to Webflow or otherwise — a site audit is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your digital experience in the long run.
Now that you’re familiar with what a site audit is, here are some tips to help you navigate the site audit process. What will you find? Ancient links? Rare content gems? Beware these site audit pitfalls so you don’t find yourself in need of a daring heroic rescue when you set out to start your adventure!
Skipping this step is potentially setting yourself up for failure right from the start. You might as well be reading a map backwards.
Without a clear understanding of not just your overall site structure, but what’s happening at the page level and what’s hiding in the forgotten corners, how will you know what content holes to fill to satisfy your user’s experience? How will you figure out which pages need to be redirected in development for the new site? And that’s not to mention uncovering content that might no longer be relevant to your organization!
For better or worse, a site audit forces you to go page-by-page, reading and assessing all existing content. Websites tend to grow and spread out over time like Kudzu overtaking a southern backlot. A site audit is a rare, process-led opportunity to scour every last heading, landing page, and link. But when you reach the final destination, what you have is the ammunition of informed decisions about what pages and content to keep, edit, or archive. Your other choices: Recreate a site with the same content (not knowing if it’s effective or not), or starting from scratch. (Hint: neither is good content design, and we wouldn’t recommend doing either.)
There’s no substitute for good old fashioned manual labor. We’re talking click-copy-paste-repeat.
Yes, this may seem tedious, but that’s just the nature of the beast.
It’s also extremely rewarding in the long-run.
While automated site crawlers can be useful tools to kickstart the site audit process, it would be unwise to rely on them entirely. They work by grabbing a site’s main URL and reporting all of the things connected to it… but unfortunately provide no insight into the data collected.
Taking the time to intimately understand the complex layers of your site, no matter how straightforward it may seem on the outset, will ultimately save you time, frustration, and other resources later on.
If you were searching for buried treasure or historical artifacts, you wouldn’t just stop halfway through the dig, would you? It’s the same with a site audit. Once you start digging, you need to follow through in order to reap the rewards.
Resist the urge to think that high-level queries are “good enough.” By not uncovering and wading through every tidbit of content, you could miss some important details, like whether or not internal and external links are opening in new tabs, or which pages may have broken images. Log them in your spreadsheet and call it a job well done.
If it’s not clear by now, there are many benefits to doing a site audit — when it’s done right. Hopefully now you feel more prepared to tackle one on your own… but just in case, know that we’re here to help.
Onward, brave content explorer! Your site audit destiny awaits.
Edgar Allan is a brand-to-build Webflow agency that can guide you on your site audit journey. Browse our blog to learn more about our philosophy when it comes to this essential task, and contact us to learn more about our content design services!