Any established business or company will have a considerable collection of marketing content that has built up over the years. As a business grows and changes, so too does its marketing needs.
Additionally, in larger organisations, there may be any number of people who can produce and publish marketing content. These people may have been with the business since the beginning, or perhaps some have changed over time. The content they produced may be out-of-date or may not match the current look and feel.
A content audit looks at these issues and more in order to assess whether the existing content is helping or hindering. The goal of the audit is to make recommendations on the effectiveness of existing content. Additionally, it proposes a way forward with respect to the current business and marketing goals of the organisation.
Please note that throughout this article, the terms business, company and organisation are interchangeable. The points we make here are relevant to all.
Why might an organisation need to audit their marketing content?
There are a variety of reasons why a company may consider a content audit. These reasons, however, are not necessarily the problem to be fixed. They are more importantly the potential causes of unsuitable content.
Are there multiple people within your organisation that are responsible for publishing content?
In larger organisations especially, there may be multiple people whose job it is to develop or publish content. Each person may have a differing idea on what content they create or share. Individual people will have their own styles of writing. Over time and without management, this builds a degree of inconsistency.
Have these people changed over time?
When employees leave or people switch roles within a company, ideas they were working on may be lost or muddled. This further expands on the above point.
Does your organisation have any clear content authorisation process?
Is there an individual, or at least a small select group of people in your organisation who are responsible for authorising content? This allows all marketing content to be double-checked before publishing.
Has it always had this process?
Was there content produced and shared before the authorisation process was installed? Could there be published content that may no longer be suitable?
Do you have clear specifications for the type of content to be created, published or shared for your business?
Does your business have a marketing or content strategy in place? A strategic content plan sets guidelines for what type of content is to be produced and published. This creates a central point which content producers can visit to make sure they stay on target. If your organisation does not have a content strategy, don’t worry. Completing a content audit will often provide clarity on how to proceed going forward.
Does each piece of content your organisation publishes have a clear purpose?
Another benefit of developing a content strategy plan is to help outline what new content should be created. Each piece of content should have a clear purpose. Why is it being produced? What is its intention?
Has the focus of your business changed over time?
The direction your business takes may change or specific goals may be reviewed. Content that was useful for older goals may not be so any more.
What does a content audit look for?
Marketing content can come in many different forms. For example;
For an audit of digital content, much of the material reviewed will be blog posts and articles, and website pages. The articles themselves may contain elements of visual media that you can review as well as the written content. These ease of completing the digital elements of your audit may depend upon the content platform in use.
What the content audit looks for is;
Poor quality content
Poor quality content can be better defined by what it is not – good quality content.
Some content classified as poor quality may actually be beneficial to your business in intent but has been poorly produced. Other poor quality content may be considered “thin”. This means that the end user will get little or no benefit from viewing it.
This can include;
Articles which are too short.
Posts which are full of grammatical or spelling errors.
Articles which are keyword stuffed in order to game the search engines.
Content which does not answer a viewer’s question.
Content which has been copied, by which I mean plagiarised.
More specifically with regard to website design, a page can be deemed to be poor quality through a number of technical factors. These can have a detrimental effect on your website’s position in search rankings (see SERP).
They are typically dealt with as part of Search Engine Optimisation (see SEO). These elements can be uncovered as part of an SEO audit. In brief explanation, content audits and SEO audits cover many similar elements whilst differing in certain key areas. Auditing your content at the same time as doing search optimisation can save much time.
Business areas with too little content
This involves being clear about what your organisation is trying to achieve. Knowing your business and marketing goals is vital.
For example; does your business have a particular product or service it wishes to promote? Is there enough content currently published to support this?
The content audit looks at your existing published content in relation to these marketing goals.
Content that is irrelevant
This is a common mistake that many businesses make, especially when they first start out.
The content your business publishes should be relevant to what it does. The belief that any form of content is good is an easy trap to fall into. Not always quite so easy to get out of.
A prime example I have seen many times is adding a recipe into a blog for a non-food related business. I have seen real estate agents, florists and finance brokers and more delivering up their favourite recipes through their email newsletters. I have even seen a couple of banks doing this.
Content does not always need to be directly relevant to actual products or services, however, it should be related in some way. An unlikely but plausible situation for the above example could be if the florist sold edible flowers. For most businesses, however, this will not be the case.
Focus your content creation efforts on what your organisation does. Producing high quality and relevant content will deliver much better results than filling space with a recipe, no matter how tasty.
This is content which has been pieced together from numerous sources. Chunks of content have been cannibalised from other articles and combined into one.
The usual result of this for the audience is confusion. These types of articles usually have no clear intent or direction. They do not satisfactorily answer any questions the reader might have had (the purpose for their search in the first place). In the end, this style of article reflects poorly on your business.
Develop a Strategy
Once you finish auditing your marketing content, decisions must be made about what happens next.
Ideally, the first stage in doing this is to develop a strategic plan for your content. Knowing what you want to do in the future provides a clearer idea of what actions to take with existing materials.
When working on the content strategy for your organisation, ask these questions;
What are your overall content goals?
Who are your audience and what are they looking for?
Is there content in your industry which is currently performing well?
What content is available on your website and other marketing materials?
Are there specific actions you wish your audience to take?
Answering these questions will get you well underway for developing your plan.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
The final step in the audit process is, of course, take action.
The specific actions to be taken will be based on your chosen content marketing strategy. There are generally 5 options that you can take for any piece of content.
Keep high-quality content that matches your business goals. If all your content is like this; congratulations. Keep up the good work.
You may have content which is classified as poor quality but matches your business and marketing goals. This content may simply need to be improved. Fixing spelling and grammar, adding additional text or improving presentation are all easily solvable issues.
Some articles or content may duplicate or partially duplicate each other. Combining these content items will remove the duplication and as a result, reduce confusion with your audience.
Sometimes you will come across articles or marketing materials which try to deal with too many ideas at once. This can potentially increase confusion with the reader. Additionally, it can reduce the visibility in online search results. Splitting the element into two not only solves these issues but gives you an extra piece of content to boot.
The last and final choice. Sometimes there is content that is just not worth keeping. It provides no value to your audience, and in some cases can actually have a negative effect on your business.
A Word of Warning: When making changes to website content there are a number of technical factors to be careful of. Making changes incorrectly can have a negative impact on your search rankings.
The end result
As you can see, auditing your marketing content is not something to be entered into lightly. An audit can include only digital content or may include traditional print materials as well. Depending upon how much existing content you have, the process can be an extended one.
Completing a content audit can, however, deliver great benefits to your business.
Hopefully, this article has been of some benefit to you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments area below.
You may also want to consider a Health-Check for your social media profiles or website. Ensuring that all the elements of social media are set correctly can have a lasting impact on your marketing activities. Similarly, building the basic foundations for your business website can have a long-term effect on site security and functionality.
Ben learned many of his lessons as a visual communicator in the dark, old days of film, but loves the opportunities and potential of applying his experience with the technologies that have emerged in the digital age. His breadth of knowledge and experience from web development to search and social allow him to lead his team in providing a holistic and comprehensive service to clients.
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Content Creative are a Full Service Marketing Agency dedicated to getting your business noticed by prospective customers. We develop and produce all forms of content for marketing use so that your business, people, products, and services receive the attention they deserve.