Picture this: The messiest drawer or closet in your home. The one you've been avoiding cleaning out because it just has too many things.
But you take a rainy afternoon to finally clean it out. You pull out boxes, trinkets, papers, and things you didn't even know you were still keeping. You put them out on a table and start making decisions: This can be donated, this can be kept, and oh boy, this can absolutely be thrown away. This is auditing your stuff.
What do you do with all the stuff you want to keep? You probably use containers or bins to organize your closet. You keep similar things in the drawer bunched together in little groups for easier access when you need them next time.
When you audit your website content and prepare to put it all in new homes on your new structure, the content matrix contains the bins to help you do that.
What is a content matrix?
A content matrix is a blueprint of your site's pages, put in proper order and in the proper hierarchy, with recommendations on how to improve the content, search engine optimization (SEO), URL structure, and more.
It's the future state of your website content: One part site inventory, one part content audit, and one part content governance—all in one document. So let's explore how to create a content matrix.
It's useful in big redesigns, especially as you're auditing everything you have and deciding what stays, what needs to go, and what needs only some attention and editing.
But it can be useful in smaller content strategy projects, too.
As a spreadsheet, your team can use color coding to identify high-priority pages, pages that need attention from outside stakeholders, pages that require heavy editing, or more. It can also highlight owners and stakeholders of content so you can divide the work evenly among your team.
Start with a content inventory and audit
Before you start organizing your closet, you'll want an inventory to figure out what you have and want to keep. The same goes for your website. You'll want a full content inventory of your website - every page, every image, every item. And then, you'll want to go through the meticulous process of reviewing everything in that inventory and making key decisions about what:
- Stays: What content is still in good standing, meeting your audience's needs and business goals?
- Goes: What is redundant, outdated, or trivial (ROT)? ROT(ten)? ROT content often doesn't meet any goals for your audience or your business.
- Needs some love: What content is just a little rusty and could stand to be dusted off and improved, refreshed, edited, or rewritten?
Leave honest comments. A few "What is this/Where did this come from?" are acceptable. Be real with yourself and your team:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the ultimate goal for visitors to accomplish on your site?
- What do you want your website content to do to help people reach that goal?
- How are your voice and tone? Is it consistent? Does it align with your brand style?
- Are your title tags, page descriptions, and URLs aligned with best SEO practices?
Audits aren't easy. They're time-intensive but necessary to "clean out all the stuff" that's accumulated on your website over the years. This sets the stage for a comprehensive, helpful matrix.
Build your navigation & models
You just audited your content. That's awesome! Take a breath, but you're not done. You need to know what boxes and buckets all the content you're keeping and editing will live in.
When you work with an agency, we'll help you with the next step: Building your navigation and modeling your content.
Understanding your site's navigation and content models (how content will be entered and presented on your website) is essential.
This is a big can of worms, so we'll try to keep it light – but identifying where your audience needs to go to get their information is how you want to set up your navigation. Your goal is for your audience to be successful. You can start understanding this through tools like:
- Google Analytics: top pages, user journeys, site search terms
- Heatmap tracking: where are they clicking (or hovering)?
- User research: actually talking to real people and how they experience your website
Internally as a team, sit down for a presentation model workshop. Identify your audiences, the core content that makes your website, and missing opportunities.
When it comes to navigation, use terms your audience uses. Keep an eye on site search:
- What terms are people looking for?
- Could you be more clear about the content you offer so they can find things quicker?
- Is there important content that needs to be elevated in navigation or on a landing page?
- What pages of content are missing?
A content model will be an important step, too. Now that you have your navigation, what do those landing pages and detail pages look like? How do they operate? What elements do they need? Create-once-publish-everywhere is such a useful tool in a CMS like Drupal, but knowing how to build a flexible and solid content model is vital to understanding your content types and how they'll work in the backend and front end.
Create your matrix
Audit? Check. Navigation? Check. Content model? Hopefully, a check there, too. It's time to build your matrix.
Writing content and migrating it from site to site is arguably the biggest lift for any web team in a redesign. Some content from your audit might be perfect as-is, which can be moved into the new pages and content types.
But you probably have quite a few pages that need to be refreshed and a few that need to be rewritten.
The matrix is your tool to identify those pages, track them, and start whittling away.
Template for a content matrix
A basic content matrix should include the following columns from left to right:
- Page, first level: The first page, often the homepage
- Subpage, second level: Usually the main navigation of the site, below the home page.
- Sub-subpage, third level: The child page of the previous page or main navigation.
- Sub-sub-subpage(s), fourth level: The child page of the previous, or grandchild of the main navigation (more levels can continue as needed)
- Source URL: The page of content that exists for it currently as a point of reference. This can include multiple URLs, especially if you'll be consolidating pages.
- New URL alias: What should the new URL alias be if the page is moving position or navigation in the new website?
- Example: url.com/services/specific-service
- Content information
- Content type: What content type or page type should this page take? Check your content model for the types of content you should be building.
- Notes and recommendations: How the page should be edited, refreshed, improved, or written. Note any content that needs to be added or recommendations to improve the display of content.
- Example: Add subheads to break up text; write to a lower reading level for accessibility; crosslink to related or relevant pages
- Writer/owner: Who owns this page and is responsible for writing or refreshing the content?
- Reviewer: If there's an editor or "second set of eyes"
- Draft link: A link to the draft of content in progress, if applicable
- Published link: A link to the new page once it's published
- Published date: Date of the new page published
Make the matrix yours
If color coding helps you keep track of what's where and who's doing what, add color coding. If you need additional columns for tracking information, add them.
Some matrixes can even include more specific information, if you find it helpful, such as:
- Popular keywords
- Metadata, such as future-state page title and page description
- Media needed, such as images or videos
- Subject matter experts or stakeholders, the people who need to review the content or can help you write better content
- CMS features or components you need to implement on the new page before publication
Use it as a guide for governance
Even after your website project is done, keep the matrix handy as a way to track the governance or gardening of your content. Was a page last touched when it was published? Has it been 18 months since that date? It might be time to revisit it.
As you're assigning owners and reviewers to content, think about how those core team members might be responsible for the content's longevity going forward. And since it's already written down, you're halfway there!
Matrixes, of course, can be transferred to content calendars and tools. But this document is a great starting place for keeping your team in tune with the content you have and how it performs in the future.
Add the content matrix to your toolbox
Like many things in the content strategy toolbox, the matrix is another tool to help you do your job better. It helps keep things organized, keep your team focused, and keep you working toward your launch or publication.
Use it to your advantage.
If you want help with small or large content strategy, contact Lullabot to connect with our team of content strategists to get you started.