Content Audit: What Do You Have, Where is it Coming From, and is it Any Good
So, you’ve got a nice little business going, and your online presence is starting to mean something. People are looking at your website, and they want what you’re selling.
Some people, anyway.
You’re not that sure how many people are deciding against you, or how they’re struggling to engage with your business.
This might be the first time you start to wonder how your content is actually working for you. Welcome to the start of the content strategy process, or in the parlance of our times, a content audit. For you must first know what you have, where it comes from and how it works if you want to make your content work better for you.
But first, realise that ‘content’ doesn’t just refer to a blog post or a sales email. Content here is digital content: every digital interaction your business has with its clients and prospective clients. This means first and foremost that you are going to need effective coordination of your content if your business is going to function seamlessly (but that’s a little further along). You’re going to need to have a good hard look at how things stand before you get there.
Many people only think of doing something like a proper audit when they are updating, changing or migrating their websites, but in truth an audit is valuable at any stage of the content cycle (if you are dealing with hundreds of pages of content, you should be doing this immediately and on a pretty much ongoing basis). It’s always good to know the ins and outs of your digital presence. Always.
Now, technology can be valuable here. There are audit tools available on some content management systems (CMSs). They can help you get a quick overview of your content and a basic understanding of what is on there. Best of all, there findings are neutral and untainted by the politics of your organisation (and there’s always politics, regardless of the size of a company). However, the type of data recorded by auditing tools is never going to be of the same quality of that provided by human review (at least, not in the foreseeable future anyway), because a human is capable of understanding nuances computers cannot. Data is data to a machine, but data can be compelling, humorous or engaging even if it doesn’t fit a particular pre-defined model. It’s always best to get the human brain involved if you want to do things properly.
Types of Content Audit
Essentially, there are two broad groups of content audit: quantitative inventories and qualitative assessments, and the two are often used together. As their name suggests, quantitative inventories tell you what is exactly there is kicking around your corner of cyberspace, and qualitative assessments tell you how useful it is to you. You can also tailor the type of audit you conduct when you have a clear idea of your business goals moving forward. There is no hard and fast rule here, just what you want to achieve and the best way to get there.
Before you undertake a content audit of any description then, it might be useful to ask yourself the following questions: What do you want to learn from the process (and what will you do with that information)? What are you looking to show after the process is completed? How long do you have to do the job? All of the work you do here is going to change your content strategy (whatever it may be), believe me. So be prepared.
- Quantitative Inventories
Quantitative inventories just give you the cold hard facts concerning what your content is and where it is. Making sure you understand just how much stuff is out there (pages, video, audio, downloads, podcasts, forms, info packs etc. etc.) is the key to using it better.
So really, it’s a no-brainer.
How to do it then? Well, start by recording the obvious in a nice and friendly spreadsheet: A number to identify it later (start with 0 and move on up, with any pages linking off getting a .1 and so on. So if the about page ID is 1, and your bio page links from it, that page is 1.1). Obviously, a title for the page and the page URL are important too, as is its format (PDF, web page etc.). You can then also detail page metadata, its last update and its traffic or usage statistics if you like. Anything that is objective belongs here. The really fun stuff happens next…
- Qualitative Assessments
So now that you know what you have, you need to understand what it is doing (or, in other words, how good it is). This is where you need a human brain to look at the content alongside your business goals and judge whether it is effectively helping you promote those goals. Qualitative assessments can have two broader aims in mind: best practice and strategic planning.
A best practice assessment simply judges what you have against industry standards, what the competition is doing and user needs. It helps you understand what works and how it works.
A strategic planning assessment helps you view your content with your stated business strategy and goals in mind. It helps you fill gaps and change as needed.
To add quality to quantity (hehe) simple start to rank your pages and other content by criteria that are important to your business, such as actionability (does the content help the user do something useful to me?), business appropriateness (does the content reflect the way we want the company to be heading?), brand value (does the content enhance our business in the eyes of our clients?) or other similar subjective factors. You can use a simple rating scale if you need to, just be sure to remember what the numbers stand for. This will help you reflect on what needs changing at a later date.
And that, ladies and gents is content auditing made easy. Done properly, a good content audit can provide excellent information to help your business move forward, and be invaluable when it comes to engaging with and maintaining your clients.