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The short and long-term benefits of running a content audit

05/09/2022 4 minutes read By Zosia

How well do you know your content? And how is it performing? If you were given a blank slate to start all over again, would you know what to build upon and what to leave behind? A content audit can help you answer these kinds of questions. And the findings can be really powerful.

What is a content audit?

A content audit is essentially a review and analysis of the content on your website against a set of criteria. There are different ways of approaching a content audit but generally, it looks something like this:

  • Build a content inventory - a list of every page on your website
  • Choose a criteria to analyse your content against - this could be quantitative (e.g. page views in the last year) and qualitative (e.g. is the content accessible?)
  • Analyse your pages - this doesn’t have to be the whole website, it could just be a representative sample
  • Interpret the results - look at the data, make connections, notice patterns to help you build up a picture of your content

There’s no shying away from the fact that content audits take time (or money if you’re outsourcing). And for digital folk in the arts, small teams and tight budgets mean that putting resources aside for a content audit can be a challenge. But it’s often a small price to pay for the huge amount of value it brings.

Benefits beyond the obvious

I regularly run content audits for our clients and whilst the findings vary slightly, they are generally comparable. There’s usually work to do to improve the accessibility of content or to refine the hierarchy of information among other things. And these findings are clear and actionable.

But content audits also make space for more subtle shifts in the way content is planned and approached. And that’s often where the real value lies.

1 - See things from a user perspective

It’s easy to get caught up in the internal worlds of your work. So it’s only natural that your content can sometimes reflect that. A good content audit criteria will always advocate for the user. What’s it like to experience this content? Does it make sense to someone visiting the website for the first time?

An audit might pinpoint something specific that needs fixing like:

  • Changing the title of a page because it’s not clear that this is about your membership scheme.

But it could also prompt a change in the way you approach content long-term. For example, you might introduce a set of user-centred criteria to assess all new content against, like:

  • Will someone landing on this page via search understand what this content is about?
  • Does this content use jargon or internal language that a user may not understand?

2 - Make sure your content aligns with your strategy

The sweet spot of content is when user needs and business goals are met. Your content should purposefully align with what your organisation is trying to achieve. And a content audit can help you spot where there is any mismatch.

A content audit could reveal that:

  • Your event descriptions are written in a bold and energetic way, but your education content is more twee and cutesy.

And this might help you recognise that:

  • We probably need to do some work to align our brand vision and values with our voice.

3 - Plan content resources better

Cuts to digital teams during Covid reduced what was already a stretched resource. Content audits reveal just how much content you have on your website and this can prompt a shift in where you invest your time.

For example, the audit findings might show that:

  • 80% of blog posts published this year have under 25 views

And this starts to activate useful strategic questions like:

  • Do we even need a blog? How could we redirect that resource to better serve our audience needs and business goals?

4 - Get buy-in from others

The work of content and digital teams can often be quite mystical to anyone outside of them. Content audit findings usually do a useful job in cementing what you already suspect or know anecdotally about your content but don’t yet have the evidence to back it up.

Although the work of doing the content audit might be technical, telling the story of the results should steer far away from that. Your findings can be used to make a solid case for things like investing in a new website, bringing in additional help or even withdrawing from a terrible idea your CEO might have.

5 - Practice a maintenance mindset

Content can never be ticked off as ‘done’. It needs regular care and attention. One of the most common things I hear our clients say when I share audit findings is: I didn’t even know that content existed.

Often a content audit triggers wider discussions about your content processes. There might be a shift from working like this:

  • Team A requests an update to page X → Digital team implements request

To a more active and empowering process for your team that looks more like this:

  • Digital team finds out-of-date copy on page X → Digital team works with Team A to update copy → Updates are published → Digital team flags date for next review of page

Ok, let’s do this!

There are lots of resources to help you get started with your first audit. Here are just a few:

Or if you’d like to have a chat about working with me on a content audit, just get in touch.