How to Perform a Content Audit (and how the new Wikipedia article can help you)
by Robert Jacoby (September 15, 2013)
Performing a content audit is no simple task, but the benefits can be enormous. A content audit, properly done, provides a wealth of information that can guide content management and inform your content strategy.
Those who have done a content audit know that it requires a lot of heavy lifting. It’s a qualitative analysis of information assets on a website, so it’s a subjective (but also complex) process. And not everyone agrees on how to do a content audit; thus, results and value probably vary widely, depending on who does the audit (their experience, education, knowledge, and aptitude) and the tools they’re using.
This is why I wrote the new Wikipedia article for “Content Audit.” Content management professionals needed a public home on the Internet for everything “content audit”—what it is (and is not), why it’s important, methods of doing it, and resources and tools.
I kept tabs on what I found most helpful as I was writing the new article. My takeaways fall neatly into the before, during, after of a content audit:
• Plan the audit. What type of audit will you do (partial or full)? Will program managers be involved, and what do they want from the audit? And for which aspects—SEO, social media, community, analytics, business strategy, content strategy? Start right by aligning goals and managing expectations.
• Use heuristics. A content audit should be done methodically so that your results are well-organized and replicable. Make the current audit relevant to your site (or site section) by selecting appropriate checkpoints from the full spectrum available (see Resources below).
• Develop your report (see template below). Writing the content audit report can be a cathartic and insightful experience. Try to do it over several days’ time, even for limited audits. You’ll likely have many “ah ha” moments as you re-visit sections of the analysis and make connections across numerous data points. Be informative; interpret data; make recommendations.
• Present your report. Translate a complete “picture” of your report findings to the client. Consider a PowerPoint or prezi, if appropriate. An annual report to executive management is different than a monthly report prepared for a section content manager. Meet to discuss the audit results and recommendations from the report. Be a guide, answer any questions, and follow-up to make sure they’re satisfied.
• Consider instituting “rolling” content audits. That is, schedule partial and targeted content audits to be done on a regular (i.e., monthly or quarterly) basis. Use your first report as a baseline, and choose select analytics to spot trends.
Used effectively, content audits support your content management and are a primary driver of content strategies. Leverage site strengths and build up (or eliminate) site weaknesses. Go beyond “this is what the numbers are” to “this is what the numbers mean,” and you’ll be seen as a valuable member of the Web team.
• New Wikipedia article on Content Audit
• Content Audit Report Template (MS Word, 7 pages, 877 KB, September 2013)
• Content Analysis Heuristics, by Fred Leise
What do you think?