A content audit is the cornerstone of content strategy, which governs content marketing. A content audit can help you understand which content prompts people to engage with your brand, which content leads them to buy or donate, which content keeps them loyal – in short, which content is performing well (and which isn’t).
Why do you need a content audit?
First and foremost, an audit helps determine if digital content is relevant, both to customer needs and to the goals of the organization. It can help answer important questions:
Essentially, an audit helps assess needs, shape direction and help determine the feasibility of future projects.
Conducting The Content Audit
1. What’s It About?
What subjects and topics does content address? Are page and section titles, headlines and sub-heads promising what’s actually delivered in the on-page copy? Is there are good balance of content addressing products, services, customer service, and “about us” information?
2. Is It Accurate & Up-To-Date?
In other words, is the content topical? Are there outdated products, hyperlinks, or outdated and/or inaccurate information lurking in nooks and crannies of the site? As mentioned above, localities, employees, pricing, industry data and statistics and other information change over time. In addition to checking for factual accuracy, content that is outdated should be identified as “update/revise” or “remove.”
3. Does It Support Both User And Business Goals?
Many stakeholders feed into a company’s digital presence: senior management, sales, marketing, PR and customer service (to name but a few).
Different divisions may be trying to achieve varying goals in “their” section of a site or blog, but fundamentally all content must very gracefully serve two masters: the needs of the business and the needs of the customer.
This means, for example, that calls-to-action must be clear, but not so overwhelming that they get in the way of the user experience. The content audit grades content on its ability to achieve both of these goals while staying in balance.
4. Are People Finding And Using The Content?
This is where web analytics comes into play. What types of content — and what pages in particular — are the most and least popular on the site in question? Where do users spend time, and where do they go when they leave? Are they taking desired actions on a page? What search keywords and phrases bring them to the site?
It’s not enough that content is simply there. The data can reveal what’s working (and what’s not) and help inform a strategy that supports more of the types of content users prefer.
5. Is It Clean And Professional?
Is page copy consistent in tone? Are spelling, punctuation and grammar consistent and correct? Are abbreviations and acronyms standard? If the site has a style guide, is it being followed? Are images captioned in a consistent manner, and properly placed/oriented on the page? Do hyperlinks follow any predesignated rules (e.g., open a new page in a separate browser window)?
6. Is Content Logically Organized?
Does the site contain tacked-on pages that don’t follow navigational structure? Does the overall navigation make sense? Are there redundancies, such as a site that includes a “Personal Finance” section in the top-level navigation, then again lists that section in a sub-menu under the heading “Money & Careers”?
7. Does The Content Have A Consistent Voice?
Every brand or business has a distinct voice that expresses its personality. Serious, irreverent, scholarly, authoritative — all are valid, but the tone, language and mode of expression must be a fit and must be consistent with the brand. This step evaluates the content’s tendency to spill into multiple personality disorder.
8. Are Basic SEO Elements In Place?
Review the page’s title, keywords, metadata, headings and image tags. Are target keywords and phrases used on the page? Are page descriptions and metadata employed appropriately? Are images and multimedia files captioned, and is metadata employed to make them search-engine friendly? Are headlines optimized for search?
Search engine optimization begins and ends with content, so evaluating to what extent content conforms to best practices in search is an essential part of an audit.
9. What Content Is Missing?
Conducting a content audit focuses so much attention on what’s there that it’s often too easy to overlook what’s not there. An essential step in any audit is therefore to identify weaknesses, gaps and content needs.
A site may be rich in information on how to order, for example; but, are issues surrounding shipping and order fulfillment adequately addressed? Is the press/media section strong on press releases, but weak on photos and video offerings? Does the company blog address company issues heavily, but general industry trends not at all?
What’s missing speaks volumes about the forward direction of a content strategy.