Manual content audits are tough work. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Here are five steps in completing a content audit, but be prepared to roll up your sleeves and put in the time.
It seems like every other week I come across a piece of content outlining the "[insert number here] easy steps in conducting your own content audit" or "save [insert exorbitant dollar figure] and perform your own content audit."
At 8-Point Arc, we (in part) analyze content for a living. We have effectively performed hundreds and hundreds of content audits. We have analyzed a million+ pieces of content and climbing. And I'm here to tell you, those posts are, shall we say, misinformed. It's not easy, it's not quick and it's not cheap.
Well, not unless you have a software engine that does it for you :)
More than half the brands we work with have a content volume problem. For the ones that do, we find that the content marketing team either:
1. Is brand new to the organization and has no idea how much content they have or where it is; or…
2. Intuitively knows they have too much content, but don’t know where it all is; or…
3. Knows they have too much content and do know where it is and how much they have. However, don't know the good content from the bad.
It is possible to conduct a content audit yourself, but the reality is that some steps are easier to pull off than others.
1. Find and Quantify
To audit content you first have to find it. If you know where it all is and have it catalogued, congratulations! You are ahead of most. There are some spidering tools available to crawl and identify your publicly available content; check out this article for more information.
The reality: you either need someone who understands how to deploy a spider or learn to do it yourself. Like anything, they require some know-how to deploy effectively and get good results.
2. Understand Performance
Once you know how much content you have and where it is, you then need to understand which content is performing well. This requires you to link your content to whatever engagement data (Google Analytics (GA), Ominiture etc.) you have to describe it’s effectiveness. Which content got the best initial engagement post publish (look at first month activity)? Which pieces get the best time-on-page? Which have the best long-tail (longer term) engagement? Which resonate per persona?
The reality: be ready for a learning curve on dealing with engagement/response data. GA and Omniture take a good bit of effort to wrestle to the ground.
3. Determine Why Content is Working
This is the tough part. GA will tell you blog post A had the highest unique page views in the first month versus blog post B, which had the lowest. However, GA doesn’t offer any explanation as to WHY blog post A outperformed blog post B.
To determine “why,” you need to develop a point of view as to the attributes of a given content piece that contribute to positive engagement. It could be the format, the topic, copy, design, point in buying process, etc. The only way to understand these factors is to attribute the content and analyze attributes against the engagement metrics you care about.
The reality: this takes time and resources. You have to build a framework of what you want to attribute, manually build attributes for a representative sample of the content and then fill in the attributes piece by piece. By having multiple resources manually assessing content and filling out a framework, there is a natural introduction of bias. Different people interpret the content and attributes differently.
4. Segment the Content
In the most simple terms, you can then bucket your content into one of three buckets:;
1. Which subset of content is “working” as is? (You need to decide on the metric that define good, working content)
2. Which content could get a refresh and be working again? And
3. Which content needs to be retired?
This is where the work in step 3 really pays off. Since you understand “why” certain content performs, content refresh edits should be really clear.
The reality: you have to know what metrics matter for you. This may take some time if you need to align a team on the answer. Also, don’t underestimate the political ramifications of retiring content. There is organizational alignment work in getting consensus on content that should be refreshed or retired. There will be many opinions in the room. The fastest way to cut through opinion is to have unbiased data.
5. Establish the New Normal
Your content marketing strategy now needs to reflect everything you learned. You have achieved a higher level of insight about content that drives engagement for you. That insight needs to be infused into your new content development.
The other key is to revisit this process on a regular cadence to minimize the need for the time, resource and financial hit down the road. Content effectiveness is amorphous. Elements that used to work will stop working. New elements that work will be discovered.
The reality: is you need to set up the engagement data feeds in a way that allows you to view progress on a regular basis. Be sure to view engagement through the lens of the elements that define WHY your content is working. This way you’ll be able to react to shifts as they happen, not after they occur.
An audit is crucial input into an effective, ongoing strategy. You can perform a content audit, you just need to be prepared to commit. Depending on your team’s familiarity with some of the tools required will take time. You will iterate through trial and error, but you will eventually achieve the line of sight you require. Anyone trying to convince you it’s easy is misguided. Content audits are tough work but the potential cost savings and increased engagement are worth the effort.
We’re also happy to help as we have figured out how to reduce the cost, time and effort ;) For help on this type of work feel free to contact 8-Point Arc.