by Misty Weaver
Is your content crying mayday? You know that it could be more effective at reaching organizational goals, more useful to target audiences, more scannable, readable, and shareable. You know this, but how can you make it happen?
Content audits can help you prove the case for improvement and optimization. With an audit you can take steps to
These are great results but the task is daunting. Many of us resolve on January 1st to clean up our content. We vow to create a fresh content inventory and start assessing the health of our content, channels, and strategy. Then, other priorities consume our time. We put the content audit off, month after month.
Let’s forgive ourselves for procrastinating and reframe how content evaluation fits into our schedules instead.
It’s never too late to plan or start your content audit and assessment. If New Year’s Resolutions are seldom kept, then tap into the metaphors of May. It’s a month of celebration for cleaning, planting, and growing. Start by knowing what you have and then resolve to improve it, by whatever degree you can with the time you have.
In No Words Wasted, Kyra Kuik and Harriet Cummings of Distilled offer a time-friendly guide to content creation. Focusing on audiences and brand differentiation, they offer examples, checklists, and templates to help kick start a content plan with impact. In Part 2, they show how content inventory kicks off ideation and leads to creating content we can better promote and measure.
A content inventory of your website assets is a minimum recommendation. It’s easier now with tools like CAT, the Content Analysis Tool. You can generate an accurate inventory quickly, without manual labor and without busting a budget. Automated inventories can give you quick insights into how much content you have and valuable insight into its basic structure.
To determine the quality of the content, use the inventory as your map for a more thorough evaluation. A qualitative content audit is based on whatever criteria you determine, in advance, and it should be customized to fit your organization’s goals and audiences.
Sarah J Richards, Content Strategist at GOV.UK, shares tips and ideas on her blog that you can put to use right away. In Structuring Content, she offers a strong list of content audit criteria for determining and improving reading flow.
Consider a content audit that evaluates for users and their tasks. For example,
With pre-determined criteria like this that you can replicate for each page, post, or piece of content, you can speed through your audit faster than you think. Time yourself while assessing the first 5-10 pages, then estimate timing for the rest of the audit. Scale the number and type of questions to fit your most pressing content needs.
What do you most want to know and most need to prove about your current content?
There are a lot of choices in qualitative assessment, so take your own priority inventory first. Consider how much time you have and if anyone can help with the audit process. Then, consider your biggest pain points. Generate a set of questions, criteria, and very clear key to your findings.
Tools make audits easier as well. CAT lets you add your own notes and custom columns in the dashboard, for example, so you don’t necessarily have to work in a spreadsheet. Cloud collaboration can help you split the audit activity between teammates or clients or interns. We highly recommend using two monitors and making sure you have quiet, uninterrupted time. You can plan to do the audit all at once or spread it out over days, weeks, or months.
Work with what you have, content audits really are scalable.
Maybe you did start or even complete a content inventory and audit at the beginning of the year. Now is a good time to check in on that content. You can see what’s changed, what’s been added, what’s been removed, and use the information to tweak your content or strategy for the rest of the year. There’s always an opportunity to weed out redundant, outdated, or underperforming content. Mid-year is a great point for reviewing your metrics and measures to ensure that your content is working for you, your audiences, and your organization.
From inventory to audit to check-in: Make May your month for renewing content resolutions. Who knows, the content assessment may grow on you.
Misty is Content Insight's community manager.