Creating an SEO Content Inventory

One of the things that I like to do for sites that I work upon is to create an SEO content inventory.

I find it helpful to have information all in one place about the content that might appear on different pages of a site, and it can be very useful as a planning tool. The idea isn’t new, and usability.gov has a nice description of why it can be helpful to conduct a content inventory on their pages from a design stance.

Jeffrey Veen also published a post a number of years ago about using a tool like this when he works on information architecture and design issues for clients, in Doing a Content Inventory (Or, A Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey Through Your Web Site).

One of the differences between the approach that usability.gov and Jeffrey Veen use, and the one that I like to use is that I include more details involving search engine optimization. For instance, in my inventory, there’s a space for the “present” page title, meta description, and meta keywords, and “future” title, meta description, and meta keywords.

Please feel free to download the basic SEO content inventory at the end of this post, and edit and use it. It’s possible to also include information in the inventory such as where old pages might be redirected to if you’re planning on changing the URLs for pages and what kind of redirects you might use, such as a permanent (301) or temporary (302) redirects, as well as other information that may be relevant to the tasks you’re involved in on a site.

While creating an inventory for a very large site may be difficult, it’s possible to create separate content inventories for different sections of a site. I also include a space where the person or people responsible for specific pages are indicated.

Listing individual pages and information about them can be time consuming, but it can also be helpful from a planning perspective, especially when you want to make a number of changes to a site, or go through a redesign.

Download: seo-by-the-sea-content-inventory-template.xls (19K Excel file)

Share

74 thoughts on “Creating an SEO Content Inventory”

  1. Thank you very much, Michael.

    I’m hoping that it proves useful for people who are designing or redesigning a site, or who may not have thought of organizing their SEO efforts in a fashion like this. It really helps to learn about how a site is put together to do an inventory like this.

  2. I can see this as being useful for very large websites, especially when first starting work on them. It can certainly help respond to/increase the long tail traffic down the road.

  3. Excellent Bill, thank you. You could even expand that further if you wanted to, or as you said, use it during the planning phase. Would sure clean up a lot of these sites that are a victim of their own lack of vision. (Perfect timing x2 I might add ;) )

    Angie Haggstrom
    Angie’s Copywriting

  4. This inventory is a great idea Bill! True, it is very time consuming but from an Seo Consulting point of view it is awesome. Thanks!

    Internet Markteting Alternatives

  5. Bill,
    Nice concise post and sheet.
    I find it easier to have these fields and others in a database. Patterns and errors can be easier to find in large site with some creative SQL reporting. and as one can run reports across a number of web sites the similarities, and differences can be instructional – especially if one adds in PageRank and placement in natural SERPS.

    BTW Absolutely great logo!

  6. Hi David,

    Yes, the nice thing about using a spreadsheet like this is that it increases the possibility that you plan for a strong information architecture, and you are more likely to use a wider range of keywords, and variations of those keywords than you otherwise might have.

  7. Hi Angie,

    Thanks. I’ve found it to be helpful in planning a new site or redevelopment, and for exploring an older site and seeing where there might be gaps and missed opportunities.

  8. Hi wjerman,

    Thank you. It can be time consuming, but if you’re going to be spending significant time making changes to a site, it can save you time in the long run, by making changes or the development of new content much quicker and easier.

    It’s also helpful when you want to communicate to others where changes may need to be made, by giving them the chance to see the bigger picture all in one place.

  9. Hi songchai,

    Good to hear that you’ll find this useful on your next project. I think you’ll see that having an inventory means that future content development will be easier.

  10. Hi Peter,

    Thanks. Automating some of the process can be helpful. For instance, using something like Xenu Link Sleuth to crawl and list your pages and images (and page titles) can make this faster.

    Using a database can be helpful as you point out, but there are connections and observations that can be made when creating an inventory manually that can really provide some useful and helpful insights as well.

  11. This is an excellent resource. Not only will I find this template useful for future projects, I think presenting this level of detail / organization to a client will impress them a great deal.

  12. Its good for SEO planning of a website. Suppose your website is not performing in the SE’s after SEO then you can use this content system to look what was done and what changes need to be done.
    Good idea anyway.

    Thanks

  13. great organized site survey form. thanks this is very useful for new site “gudluck keep up the good work

  14. I just created a spreadsheet extremely similar to this for a large client site I’m working on. However, the site I’m looking at has a lot of frames and iframes in use, so I’ve got actual file location as well as visible URL columns.

    Anyways, always good to know when you’re on the right track and others are doing something similar :)

  15. I’m currently developing a CMS utilising XCache that has a strong focus on search engine visibility and this certainly raises a few things I had not thought about. I had already been considering having a history that stores each revision of the page, but had not included title tags and meta description. Having a notes section for each page also seems a good idea for quick reference to things like keyword research. It will also monitor incoming traffic from search engines. So storing historic changes to title tags etc. could be good to appraise changes to volumes of search traffic with all the data at your finder tips.

  16. Hi Dawn,

    It is good to see someone doing something similar. Having an easiy editable spreadsheet like this means that you can add columns when you have unique problems on a site, like the frames and iframes issues that you’ve mentioned.

  17. Hi David,

    That CMS sounds like it could be very useful. Good to hear that you’ve come up with some additional ideas as a result of this post. I like the idea of monitoring incoming traffic, and being able to tie that information together with changes that have been made on a site all in one place.

  18. This could be very helpful for large websites. It may be time consuming to prepare the inventory but definitely worth it.

    It will do 2 things for me:
    1. Impress some clients
    2. Make my project better organized and more effective

    Thanks for the idea.

  19. Bill – I do the same thing! Mapping out a site’s inventory often takes a great deal of time and effort but it’s well worth it (and can even save time in the long run).

    I actually like to use the columns in Excel to mimic the outline hierarchy levels (producing an indented hierarchy up until I get to the URL column) but I also like the way you denote that with outline format numbers. I’m SO going to integrate some of the things from your example into my current system. THANKS for sharing it!

  20. Bill,
    do you not also store all this data in your CMS tool/database? We do, and can easily run reports that sort it for us into doc like this. Just curious what your experience has found is best.

  21. We have been doing a similar type of mapping on larger sites and it has been especially helpful when looking at rearranging navigational structure when redesigning sites. I’ve never thought about including meta data in my content inventory. Good idea!

  22. Hi Ravi,

    Good points. There’s a lot to be said for having tools like this inventory, that can help organize your efforts. Everytime I tackle a project, I like to try to incorporate what I learn from it into my methods for the next project, and an inventory like this one, is one really made a difference. You’re welcome.

  23. Hi Lisa,

    Good to hear that you’re using an inventory like this, and that I gave you some ideas. I used to indent the hierarchy as well, but ended up finding outline numbers a little easier to work with.

  24. Hi Rayna,

    I work with a number of different sites, in different stages of development from the original planning stages to sites that are only making some changes, to complete redesigns. Most use content management systems or ecommerce platforms, but not all of them do. Not all of those make it easy to draw all of this information together, and some site owners add static pages to their sites in addition to pages run by a CMS (if they use a CMS).

    If it’s possible to automate as much as possible the creation of an inventory like this, that can make it easier to do, but you have to be careful to make sure that the CMS doesn’t miss out on things that should be captured in the inventory.

    For example, there’s a column for headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.) on pages in the inventory. If headings are included in a main text area, they might not be easily extracted from a CMS database. If the person who designed the site decided to make the logo of the site (sometimes happens) into an &lth1>, that might not also be easy to extract from a CMS database. If topic headings in global or sectional sidebar navigations are used (even though they ideally shouldn’t be), those should be included in the “present” column, but wouldn’t be easily extracted from your CMS if the sidebars are global rather than unique to each page.

    The idea behind an inventory like this isn’t to create a report that ends up buried under other reports on someone’s desk, but rather to develop a living and breathing document that helps in planning future actions on a site.

  25. Hi Jon,

    Thanks. I like digging into a site using an inventory like this, and seeing how everything is connected, not only from a navigational point of view, but also from how information is arranged and organized. Including the meta data helps give a more complete picture. The most fun part is finishing up the inventory, and having everything in front of you, and asking, “what’s missing?” and “what else should be on this site that isn’t?” or “what should be changed?”

  26. Thanks for sharing this,Bill.

    For larger enterprise sites, would be helpful in adding a “business unit” column in better organizing amongst each unit, especially as the data builds up over time.And allowing quick segmentation of on page elements for production / deployment.

  27. Hi Deric,

    You’re welcome. I agree with you. That’s why I have a column for the person or people responsible for specific pages. The membership of business units can change over time, so I like including the names of the people who may have worked on a page, or may be responsible for it now.

  28. I like the idea.. What would you do for a large e-commerce site that has thousands of pages. Just break it into main categories and sub categories? Not a separate one for each “item”

  29. Hi Austin,

    Good question. For an ecommerce site that has many thousands of pages, it could make sense to prepare a few different views of the inventory, including some limited inventory spreadsheets that focus upon indivual categories or even subcategories if the site is very large.

    You could have an overall master inventory with all of the pages included within it, a separate top-level inventory that includes main category pages and other important pages, such as shipping, privacy policy, contact, about, etc. You could then have separate inventories for each of the categories, including the subcategories, with all of their pages.

    The idea is to make it easier for you to manage a site, and to make it easier to get an overview of the whole site and plan for changes. If separating the site into parts in an inventory makes that easier, then it’s worth doing. Breaking the inventory into parts can also make it possible for multiple people to work on creating an inventory for the different parts.

  30. Using a database can be helpful as you point out, but there are connections and observations that can be made when creating an inventory manually that can really provide some useful and helpful insights as well. This is an excellent idea.

  31. Pingback: Suchmaschinen & SEO – August 2009 - Inhouse SEO
  32. Hi Michael,

    I’ve emailed it to you, and you should have received it by now. I don’t know why you had problems with downloading it, but it anyone else tries and has a problem, please let me know, and I’ll send it to you.

  33. Thanks for sharing the downloadable xls file – so few people do that when talking about “a really great tool I use.”

    When I do this, I typically keep current state and future state in two separate documents, but I typically include SEO metadata, titles, etc., in both.

    I know a database can be helpful in seeing relationships, but not everyone can use a SQL database, nor does everyone feel comfortable. I find excel to be the most user friendly, especially when trying to get different people to collaborate on the project.

    Keep up the great work.

  34. Great article. This is not something I have done in the past with a lot of discipline but will going forward. I had never been able to keep up with changes as they happen but realize this is an essential thing to do for SEO.

  35. Hi Bill. Great article. Your spreadsheet is actually very similar to the one we use, although we didn’t include alt tags (probably should). Organising your content in this manner is pretty much essential. It’s also good for showing clients exactly what you will be doing, and have done.

  36. Hi Michael,

    You’re welcome. I find Excel, or the Open Office Calc, to be a really helpful and easily edited visualization tool, especially as you note, when people are collaborating on a project. I like keeping current and future fields on the same document to make it more of a planning tool, but I’ve used separate spreadsheets in the past as well. Thanks.

  37. Hi Nathan,

    I hope it works out well for you. Tracking changes like this makes it a lot easier to remember what changes you’ve made, and which ones you’re planning on making. I also like to use different color fonts to indicate “planned” changes to things like itles and meta descriptions, etc. For instance, write the future “new” titles in red, and once they’ve been implemented, change them to black. Highlighting of cells can also be useful.

  38. Hi Bullaman,

    Thank you. Interesting that you use something very similar. :) I do find organizational processes like this inventory to be very helpful in planning and in communicating changes. And they make it easier to focus upon the important stuff – the actual changes that you may be making to a site.

  39. Hi Bill,

    It’s nice this to have the information and the version the website has taken place. i could also add some more points with the excel sheet like media files used and information related to those media files. Will this be useful?

    Why i use this because, most of the times we use older format images showing older technology/methodology but the new one we use will be more clear with the latest technology/methodology.

  40. Hi CAP,

    I find an inventory like this both useful, and I think that it’s flexible enough to expand upon, and include information about media files, including images and video and audio. It can help you keep track of things like which versions of Flash you’re using, and where you might want to consider updating the technology involved. Very good point. Thanks.

  41. Bill – this is a very helpful post. Even though in its current format, it may not be efficient for you to use this form for large sites, I do think an application can be built onto the back end of a large site that would make managing this easier. Regardless, you are right on in terms of tracking the right things and keeping your content inventory at the top of mind.

  42. Hi Juggle,

    Thanks. I’ve found doing this kind of inventory useful for both large sites and small ones, but you’re right that it is more difficult for larger sites. For those, it can even be helpful to create a limited inventory for the higher level pages on a site, to make sure that those have been created, and are evolving in a way that helps you get a detailed yet quick glimpse at how SEO is being implemented on that site.

  43. Bill – good point. I would also say you could build an inventory for specific categories or sections of the site to make sure there are no holes.

  44. Hi Juggle,

    Not a bad idea either. I included a column for the “person responsible” for a page, too. On some sites, there are multiple teams or departments that are responsible for different sections of a site, and that could be another way to break an inventory down into smaller parts.

  45. Thanks and I think I speak for all of us when I say how awesome of a resource this post is as well as your entire website. All the hard work and info is much appreciated.

    -Travis Melvin

  46. Nice article. Seo Content Inventory is not something I am hugely familiar with but I think it could really help with my clients seo strategy. I enjoy keeping up with the lastest SEO strategies and this I have not come across before. Many thanks.

  47. Bill – good idea this is an oft overlooked task. I would venture to say this should be mandatory to map out what keywords go to landing page and the entire navigation structure before hand. It makes promotional efforts easier to track as well.

  48. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks. Initially setting up an inventory can be somewhat of a task, but I’ve found that it really helps organize and focus everything, and having all this information in one place makes looking at the bigger picture a lot easier. Once an inventory is set up, it helps make almost everything else a lot easier.

  49. Bill – this is a very helpful post. Even though in its current format, it may not be efficient for you to use this form for large sites, I do think an application can be built onto the back end of a large site that would make managing this easier. Regardless, you are right on in terms of tracking the right things and keeping your content inventory at the top of mind.

  50. Hi Owais,

    Thanks. The concept is scalable to larger sites – and using an application to do this work for you can be really helpful. Imagine being able to run something like that on a larger site, and quickly finding all pages that are missing meta descriptions or h1 elements, or don’t have titles that are long enough or might be missing keywords, and being able to tweak those.

  51. Great article, these tips are extremely helpful and point things out that I was overlooking. I look forward to using this moving forward.

Comments are closed.