June 19, 2017 3:42 pm
Benefits of a content audit
Our content audit is actually two processes in one: an inventory and an audit. It assesses both the quantity and quality of your content, and then recommends what to do next.
To demonstrate the value of a content audit, let’s follow five items of content through the end-to-end process and outline the insights uncovered both by the inventory discovery process and the recommendations of the audit.
These are five items of real content owned by a B2B company with an IT security software product. We’ve changed the titles of each asset to protect the identity of the client. There were over 100 items on the real audit, but we’re showing just five.
The content inventory can be a lot of deskwork but it’s essential. The first stage of the audit, a content inventory, can produce some initial surprises and insights. Each row on the inventory spreadsheet provides a variety of details about every individual piece of content.
The detail of a content audit is best captured on a spreadsheet with vertical columns corresponding to the criteria you’re assessing. Each asset will be on a horizontal row. Here’s some of the initial data we collect:
- Is the end in sight for anti-virus? (2014 white paper)
- 10 predictions for security in 2017 (2016 blog post)
- Laketown College case study (2015 print-only case study)
- Ransomware: the biggest threat to corporate data (2016 blog post)
- What happens in a ransomware infection? (2016 video)
Remember, this is the actual title of the asset, rather than how it’s referred to internally.
Is it a white paper? An infographic? Just a description of the type of asset.
This could be the author’s name or, alternatively, the business owner of the asset. Assigning an asset to a person creates a sense of ownership, making it less likely the asset will be forgotten.
In this example, most of the assets are quite recent:
- The oldest asset, the white paper, dates to 2014. It cites research and reports dating back to 2012.
- While the security predictions blog is recent, use of the year in the title will date it in the future.
- The case study required some tracking down, as there’s no web version available. However, the sales team cites it as a popular tool that is reprinted frequently. The study dates to 2015, but there is an opportunity to refresh it with newer data and more up-to-date branding elements.
- Although the ransomware blog post is recent, it covers a fast-changing topic and could quickly become outdated.
- The same could also hold true for the video.
Date is an important consideration in a content audit. However, older assets can be refreshed if they have performed well and are still relevant.
Here, we have two gated items: the white paper and the video. The case study is also effectively gated, as it is available from the sales team only on request.
Consider un-gating older content – give some good stuff away for free: your customers will appreciate it.
Make sure each asset has a meaningful URL so it is search engine-friendly. For example, www.example.com/ID?13444334 is not a great URL. A good rule of thumb is to make the URLs as human-readable as possible. In other words, the URL should feature words from the title or even keywords that might be used as search criteria in a clear and structured way. A readable URL makes it easier for both people and search engines to find your content.
With that in mind, www.example.com/how-to-run-a-content-audit will make it easier for Google (and Google users) to understand what’s at the address.
Web analytics are a key part of the audit mix. In this case, we had a wealth of data from Google Analytics. Even simple data like visits and views for each asset helps in the audit.
- The white paper has a healthy number of views and downloads despite being gated.
- The 2017 predictions blog post is a runaway success. The post is recent and has a headline format that works well. It has also performed well on social channels.
- We have no analytics data on the case study other than what we can calculate from print runs and anecdotal reports.
- The ransomware blog post also performed well, but views have trailed off considerably in the last six months.
- The video is not receiving the views we would hope forIt was used in a one-off EDM campaignBut the landing page isn’t in the company’s site navigation, and the video isn’t hosted in the site’s video archive, so it’s not visible to users browsing the site.
In some cases, you may also record social shares and reach if such data is available.
Other content inventory criteria could include metadata, file size, word count, etc. The last modified date can also be useful if you have this information.
This concludes the content inventory part of the audit process. From the information recorded on our spreadsheet, we’ve already gained a few useful insights:
- The white paper needs updating. With its out-of-date references, it creates a risk the company will look out of touch, especially in a fast-moving field like IT security.
- The case study is well regarded by the sales team but isn’t available on the web. Plus, the branding is out of date and the data may be as well.
- The video was a big investment for the company in time and money. But given the video doesn’t feature in the main navigation or media archive it’s not surprising it isn’t receiving many views. We also found the asset owner has recently moved to a different company.
With the inventory complete, we then need to assess the content’s value. During the audit, we make a qualitative assessment of each asset, including its audience, buying stage, keywords, page views, summaries and recommendations.
Ideally, your team will have developed user/buyer personas to help content authors write more effectively for the target audience. In this example, the main two personas are an IT manager (who is the main business user and prospective owner of the product) and a senior finance officer (who holds the purse strings and wants to see a return on investment).
In this example, the IT manager is clearly the primary audience for all assets. But some assets have broader appeal. The language we use in each content asset should reflect this. For example, if the case study is to appeal to procurement and financial officers, it should not talk in highly technical terms about the software but should discuss business benefits and ROI.
We need content to support prospects at each stage of the buying funnel. Often, you will find most existing content supports users at the top of the funnel. This tends to be general, awareness-building content. However, mid-funnel content is particularly important to B2B companies where the nurture process may be longer than in consumer marketing.
This is the case with this sample audit: 60 per cent of assets are at the top of the funnel. Blog posts show the company is actively writing new content, which is good news. But we must make sure all stages of the buying journey are represented.
Here, as a B2B firm, the company should consider increasing the amount of mid-stage nurture content. Good examples of mid-funnel content include case studies, e-books, white papers and fact sheets.
Finally, the fact that the only piece of bottom-funnel content is not available on the web suggests we need to address this urgently.
Keywords help us align the content to personas as well as to marketing objectives. Keywords can also help support SEO campaigns.
We make a note to improve the wording on the landing pages to include SEO-rich descriptions and to ensure headings are tagged correctly (i.e. in HTML rather than just in bold).
Summary and recommendations
The summary section makes a qualitative assessment of each content item. It describes what the asset is about: its premise and main conclusions. The summary should explain what the content attempts to do and how effectively it does it.
Finally, the audit should make recommendations on next steps.
White paper: Is the end in sight for anti-virus?
Summary: A well-written and reasoned piece that holds water and is on message. However, the document has aged, as it cites five-year-old research and also uses out-of-date brand elements. Despite this, it is still performing well and mid-funnel nurture content is needed.
Recommendation: Update the white paper in terms of look, feel and content. Commission an editor to update the research data points and check the document for style and consistency.
Blog post: 10 predictions for security in 2017
Summary: The blog post is short, punchy and data-rich. It’s performing very well on the site and on social channels.
Recommendation: Repurpose. Given the data-rich nature of the post, it should be repurposed as an infographic to benefit from its organic popularity. Infographics are also highly shareable socially.
Case study: Laketown College
Summary: Although well-structured and popular with the sales division, the case study would benefit from being updated and re-issued. This is to reflect a slight change of brand elements and to incorporate new data.
Recommendation: Update and re-issue as a gated PDF, as well as a printed document.
Blog post: Ransomware: the biggest threat to corporate data
Summary: Although it performed well initially, this post has become dated and covers out-of-date threats and recommendations.
Recommendation: Retire this post or marked it as ‘archived’. Given the post’s past popularity, commission a more up-to-date piece. With the older post archived, make use of any good search engine visibility to link prominently to the new post.
Video: What happens in a ransomware infection?
Summary: The video has a high production value but at 22 minutes is too long, especially for mobile users. Also, it is not accessible via the main site navigation.
Recommendation: Update and Repurpose. If the video file can be sourced, it should be re-allocated to a new business owner and re-edited to shorten. It should also be added immediately to the video archive.
Another recommendation stemming from the audit was to co-locate links to marketing collateral on the blog. The company has a number of active authors writing popular content that can drive interest in other content. This should be exploited.
We hope that gives you a flavour of content audits and how to run them. They can deliver great value for the online assets of brands of all kinds and sizes. Remember, it’s not just about your newest content. In a 2015 study, digital marketing specialists Hubspot found that 92 per cent of leads and 76 per cent of traffic came from assets more than a month old. There’s gold in that website of yours; an audit can help uncover it.
As promised, you can download an Excel spreadsheet with sample audit data here.
Alternatively, if you’d like to talk to us about running a content audit (or any other service) for you please drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.