Content Audits: Not Sexy, But Super Essential For A Kickass Content Marketing Plan

Who needs a content audit? You do! Yes, you…who wants to be a business or marketing rockstar guru ninja ace.

The mighty content audit is a foundational part of any content marketing strategy. A powerful tool in your marketing kit, content audits can provide a ton of useful insights. You can leverage these golden nuggets of wisdom to take decisive actions that will [hopefully ?] benefit your business or organization.

But, gaaach! Content marketing audits sound tedious, time consuming and intimidating. Keep reading and you may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t have to be that hard or complicated or painful. Have confidence — you’re 100% capable of creating and implementing a content auditing program.

What’s A Content Audit?

A content audit is simply a methodical review and analysis of your content and how it fits into your overall content marketing strategy. Best practice dictates that you perform a content audit on a regular periodic basis. (It’s soooo much easier and effective if you do!)

Your content audit is more than just an inventory of blog posts you’ve thrown onto your website. It can include administrative and performance data like:

  • The age of the content
  • How many people viewed/engaged with each piece of content
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate
  • When it was last modified
  • Who created it
  • And much more!

The list is potentially endless — point being that content audits are flexible so you can mine info that’s meaningful and helpful to you.

You can also regard your content audit as a vital slice of your content marketing audit or a content gap analysis. What you learn from this audit will come in handy throughout your content marketing strategy.

Why Do A Content Audit?

Well, we already mentioned that you can glean valuable insights from your audit results, which you can use to shape your content marketing strategy and high-level operational plans. Think of that as the 30K-foot view answer. It’s pretty macro.

At the 3-foot view, audits are a great way to stay focused and organized. They’re useful for consensus building and determining day-to-day content management tasks. At this tactical level, you might use your content audit results to:

  • Create new content to address content gaps
  • Archive or update website or social media content
  • Fix any broken links on your website
  • Take care of orphaned pages
  • Tweak your content schedule
  • Adjust content creation or management procedures

How To Do A Content Audit (& Not Want To Chuck Your Computer At The Wall)

Preparation & Organization

When setting out to do a content audit, you’ll be much happier if you take a few beats to get prepped and organized. This will save blood, sweat and tears down the line!

So what do we mean by pre-work? Layout a plan. Draft a statement of work. Whatever you want to call it, you need something in writing that makes the content audit a legit, comprehensive, coordinated effort. You need something people can reference (rally around!) and to facilitate buy-in from the powers that be.

Your plan should include the following elements:

  1. Purpose. Explicitly state your reasons for doing a content audit. What are you hoping to get out of it?
  2. Assumptions. Document any assumptions that may impact your audit plan or results. 
  3. Scope. What will you include in/exclude from your audit? Are there specific boundaries, like time limits (e.g., only content that’s less than a year old) or a subset of the platforms on which you host content (e.g., only audit website pages, blog posts and assets)? Will the audit cover digital and print content? Maybe definite content (e.g., Is printed swag considered content in your book?)
  4. Process. Summarize the basic content audit procedure. You can supplement this with detailed content audit instructions for whoever is doing the actual auditing. You may find that you will have content audit activities that need to be done on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual bases.
  5. Roles & Responsibilities. Oh yah. This one’s super important. Who’s doing what? Who owns which action items? Who needs to be in the information and approval loops? Clarify accountability.
  6. Timeline. Indicate how long you expect the audit to take, the expected turnaround period and when you anticipate it to begin/conclude (e.g., We expect the audit will take two days within the span of a week to complete. It will be done between Dec. 14-18, wish is typically a very slow period and during our content moratorium.). Perhaps plot out some milestones and deadlines. Specify how often you intend to do content audits.
  7. Budget (if needed). Associated costs may include time/labor, outside services, software or supplies. This is nice info to include even if you don’t require formal financial oversight or approval. It can help with overall marketing planning and budgeting.
  8. Integration. How does this content audit program fit into the bigger scheme of your content marketing strategy? How will content auditing integrate into daily content operations? How will you use audit results?

Because marketing efforts are key to your business’s or organization’s success, and the content audit is a critical component,  There’s oodles of research showing that both planning before doing and writing plans down lead to greater chances of success.

Questions To Answer

You want your content audit to be worth your effort. It should yield information that can lead to beneficial action. For this to happen, you need to know to things:

  • What data can you collect (think cost/benefit here)?
  • What questions are you trying to answer?

That first question is fairly subjective. A loose rule of thumb is to make sure that the ROI of a piece of data justifies the cost of gathering it.

The second question is also a bit of a thought exercise. But it’s possibly a little easier to wrap your brain around. Once you do, you’ve hit the ground and are running! 

Here are some questions you should be asking and your content audit should strive to answer.

  1. Content Goals. What are you trying to achieve with your content? Based on the data, is your content meeting these objectives? How might you adjust your content to better achieve your stated goals?
  2. Audience(s). Who are you trying to reach and why? Who is your content actually reaching? How are they engaging or interacting with your content? Is this engagement resulting in the desired call to action being taken (e.g., signing up for the newsletter, downloading an ebook, buying a product)? What kind of content changes are needed to better engage with your target audience(s)? Are there opportunities to reach new audiences?
  3. Content Dissemination. When should your content be published? How frequently should you be producing new content? Are there days and times that are better than others in terms of audience engagement or ROI? What are the best channels to distribute your content? Do certain media or formats perform better than others?
  4. Proper Messaging, Tone & Voice. Given your goals, audience, content type, distribution channel and brand — what’s the proper messaging, tone and voice for your content? According to the numbers, do the messaging, tone and voice used in your content build and support your brand identity?
  5. Administrative. Do you have broken links or orphaned content (website)? Is your content aging at an acceptable rate? Are you updating or otherwise maintaining content adequately? Do you have team members that are more efficient or producing higher quality content than others? 

(Notice how these questions absolutely jive with your higher-level content marketing strategy? It’s not an accident….)

You may have other or additional questions, too. That’s fine. Every business or organization is different and the content audit should reflect that. Definitely tailor it to your specific needs. 

Also bear in mind that a content audit plan is a living thing. For it to keep pace with your needs, it can and should evolve over time as your business or organization changes.

Process Is How It Gets Done

There’s no set-in-stone content audit procedure. It ain’t a one-size-fits-all t-shirt after all! The steps in your content audit will depend on your business or organization, your content, your marketing goals and your team and resources. That’s a whole lot of variables!

We aren’t ones to raise a topic and then leave you blowing in the wind, though. So here are some general tips and ideas for your process:

  • Stick To The Plan. Review and revise that governing doc. It’ll reduce confusion and keep folks on task.
  • Leverage Tools. Create a content audit report template that can be used over and over. Develop a process checklist so you don’t miss any steps. Make a process flow diagram so you can see the content audit ecosystem.
  • Automate Where Possible. Many content systems are capable of spitting out scheduled reports; take advantage of them. You’ll probably have to pull data in from multiple sources to compile your content audit report so any help you can get is bliss.
  • Go On Autopilot. Make this formally part of someone’s job description. Incorporate it into a task’s work instruction so it’s a fundamental aspect of that activity, not something glommed on as an extra to-do.

We’re not gonna lie: Your first time through a content audit may be a real bear. But that’s OK! It’s normal — you’re still establishing your audit process, figuring out how it all fits in to your broader content marketing strategy and clawing your way up that learning curve.

Qualities of Effective Content

This is a whole topic unto itself. But we’d be remiss not to include a blurb on what makes for effective content. Especially since you’re going through all the effort to audit your content to improve it and your overall content marketing strategy.

Plainly put, good content is content that meets your stated objectives in the best way possible.

  • This likely means you want content that connects with your audience in meaningful and productive ways. As it’s cheaper and more satisfying to retain stakeholders, effective content will create and foster rapport and loyalty. 
  • It probably also means that you want content that you can produce and manage in the most streamlined and cost-effective manner.

It may take some time and trial-and-error, but dedicated content planning, auditing and management should help get you there, or at least show you the way. It can guide you developing content for your website, social media and more. It can identify content gaps and missed opportunities.

Seeking Professional Help

Let’s be real for a minute. Not everyone has the time or inclination to set up their own content auditing regimen or seamlessly fit it into their overarching content marketing strategy. Not everyone has the interest or bandwidth to actually perform content audits on the regular and act on the results.

Maybe you have a zillion other things to get done today (or preferably, yesterday, right?). Perhaps you think it’s best to spend your time and energy playing your strengths and completing other projects. That’s totally cool and understandable.

Fortunately, you can get help with your content audit. There are plenty of agencies — ahem, like ours! —  and consultants out there who can take this burden off your shoulders.

The tradeoff, of course, may be the price tag. However, with expertise and experience, a professional may be able to sort out your content auditing so quickly and well that it ends up costing you less than if you or your team did it. Interesting, pondering….

All this is to say: When in doubt, farm it out! (⇦ Too much cheez there? ?)

tl;dr

Content audits are a look backwards. Content marketing strategies and plans look forwards. When you’re looking ahead, with a grasp of the past, you’re better able to create and manage your content and content operations in a more effective and efficient manner.

Content auditing doesn’t need to be complicated, onerous or expensive. But, it should be thoughtful, comprehensive and done on a regular basis. This is the best way to ensure you’ll get valuable insights and the process gets easier.

Moral of the story: Audit your content!

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