A content audit is a planned review of your marketing content. Think of it like carrying out maintenance on your car – it’s something you should do regularly to make sure that your website and marketing tools are working well.
There are three steps to carrying out a content audit:
- Identify the types of content you want to review
- Create a database of your content and analyse it
- Make a plan to improve and develop your content
What types of content should you review?
Your website is going to be the single most important collection of content you have.
Even if you have more content in brochures, sales presentations and proposals right now, you can bet that over time more and more of this content will move onto your website so that you deliver the same message over every platform you operate.
You should review every web page on your site. This can be done manually, but it’s much better to use a combination of tools to help you out. This guide will focus on easy to use methods and the most you will need is the Microsoft Office package of software.
You also need to look at all the offline material you have, and think about how you can start to create a single collection of material that you can use across the various platforms you use.
Don’t limit yourself to just traditional sales and marketing material. Everything a reader sees from you should be reviewed, including analysis you send out, spreadsheets and presentations. Everything a reader sees affects their opinion about you and what you do.
Each page should have a clear purpose. Taking a guide from copywriting, Jonathan Kranz in Writing Copy for Dummies says that your copy should help you in one of three ways:
- Make sales
- Attract customers
- Build relationships
Content that helps you make sales
The order form is your online close. It’s like having a salesman hand a pen to a prospect and say ‘Sign here’. You want your form to be easy to understand and simple to complete.
Source: Google Images
What does your customer get for their money? Companies selling software as a service online now almost always have a number of pricing options from a free trial to different levels of upgrades. Do your specification pages get across the features of different products clearly?
Source: Google Images
At this point, the customer is making a choice between your products or taking a decision to buy from you or someone else. They are going to make a list of all the things you offer, and compare it with all the things someone else offers – and the longer list for less money could well win.
Sales Landing Pages
You could call every web page you have a landing page. But, when it comes to making sales, you probably have a few that are designed to make someone click through to a specification form to choose between options, or to an order form to place the order.
These pages are critical in the sales process. The copy needs to be clutter free and communicate benefits. Here is a list of examples showing how well designed landing pages clearly get across exactly what the reader needs to do next.
Content that attracts customers
The traditional way to attract customers is through getting their attention by advertising. The right kind of advert can result in sales that are an order of magnitude greater than another one. The wrong kind of advertising can reduce sales and be worse than no advertising at all.
Some of the adverts your company might place include:
- Facebook ads
- Ebay product descriptions
- Youtube adverts
- Print adverts
- Paid for editorials
- Sponsored content
An advertisement is successful if it convinces you to buy the product being advertised.
With an advert, in addition to the copy, you have to pay attention to the number of words, the space it occupies, which words are most dominant and the design and layout of the content. While this is important in all content, it is particularly important in an advert where the reader may only give you a fraction of a second to get their attention and interest them.
Long tail pages
An advertisement tries to attract a few people from a large number that view it.
The internet, and search engines in particular, have created the ability for advertisers to target specific markets.
This means that an advert can now be written to attract exactly the people whose needs match your product’s benefits.
The way that these people search is by asking questions and entering in longer phrases into a search engine. 70% of search traffic falls into the long tail category.
This means that pages that answer specific questions that readers have will first attract them to your website and then, if the content they find is good, get them to explore more of your site.
Don’t forget about the emails you send out, either on a regular basis or on autoresponders. Make sure you capture these in your audit and check if they are still working for you.
Content that builds relationships
As you get further away from the point of sale, you need content that will help you build a relationship with the reader.
This includes pages about your products and services, pages about you and your company and contact forms.
This also includes marketing material such as brochures, case studies, white papers, tutorials, guides, data and research material.
Most of this content will not lead directly to a sale, but it will build your reputation and credibility with the reader and help them relate to you and your product.
Get started with a spreadsheet
You need a database to get started with a content audit. The easiest way to begin is to start with a spreadsheet.
Open a blank spreadsheet. Title it ‘Content Audit’ and enter in a number of headings:
- Sl. No
- Next Action
Select the cells and click Format as Table and select a table format.
When you are done you should have a sheet that looks like this.
Enter the title of the content in the Title field.
Use the Type field to identify the content, for example:
- Web page
- Order form
Use the Link field to link to the content on your website or a network folder if you have one.
In the Purpose column you can use any categorisation that works for you, but as a starting point you can label each row as:
In the Status field, enter in comments about the content. Use this cell to put down your thoughts and ideas in a short paragraph.
In the Next Action field, enter a specific action you need to take. Limit this to a word, or a short sentence. For example use:
- Send to editor
- Add image
Use as many types of actions as you need, but make sure they are specific and you can take action and tick them off. If you are unsure, write out those thoughts in the Status field, not the Next Action field.
Don’t worry about priority now. Use the Trigger Date field to enter when it should be done. For example:
- Immediately: Use today’s date.
- Soon: Use the end of the week.
Use this field to indicate importance when you fill in the spreadsheet. If the task is important, schedule it sooner. If it’s less important, push it further out.
If your website is quite small, or you don’t have a large amount of analytics and sharing data, then you can start to fill in the rows listing your content now.
It might take a few hours, but when you are done you will have a list of all your content, and a list of actions that need to be taken.
Remember to also work through your offline content. Put all your pdfs in a folder, or link to them on your network and enter them into your spreadsheet as well.
When you are done, sort the table by Trigger Date, selecting Oldest to Newest.
Now you will have a list of all your pages, ordered by Trigger Date, which is the same as having a priority order.
If you have a small site, then this is all you need to do to get started.
What metrics can you use to improve your content?
Metrics fall into two broad categories.
- Metrics that measure quality
- Metrics that measure success
Metrics that measure Quality
Microsoft Word has built in tools to help you improve the readability of your content.
First, select File – > Options and make sure that ‘Show readability statistics’ is selected.
Copy and paste your content into a blank Word file and run the Spelling and Grammar check on your content.
Once the spelling and grammar check is complete, the key readability statistics come up.
Edit your Content Audit spreadsheet with four extra columns
- Word Count
- Passive Sentences
- Flesch Reading Ease
- Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level
The word count will help you make sure your content is the right length.
Try and eliminate passive sentences, or at least keep them under 10%.
Most guides recommend that you try to have a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60 – 70 (the higher the number, the easier it is to read) and aim for a Flesh Kincaid Grade level of 7 – 8.
Metrics that measure success
At the point, depending on how technical you are and how big your site is, you might want more information on the traffic to your site and a variety of social metrics. A good tutorial post on Moz takes you through the steps to get much of this data, and all you need to do is have a modified spreadsheet to store your data.
Now, start making improvements
A Content Audit is something you should carry out regularly. Once you have set up your database and key metrics, it should be easy to update it over time.
Once you have gone through this process, you can refine it and add more metrics if you need. You will also find that you will start to create content that is right the first time because you know what will be picked up during the next audit review. If you document the process you follow, it can also act as a style guide for training purposes.
By having a carefully designed and regularly run Content Audit, you can make sure that your content helps you grow your readership and business.