Who consumes a content audit? The reason I ask is that how to do a content audit is now pretty well documented (including by us) – but I’ve never seen anyone discuss the output and the different ways it’s used.
I was looking at two audits recently. They both ran to hundreds of lines and took weeks to do, at significant cost. And I wondered whether anyone would use them.
As a rule of thumb, think of audits on four levels:
- Executive buy-in, not look-in – At the top level, consider those who sign the budgets for getting a content audit done. They possibly need to know an audit is taking place. They certainly want to feel like an audit is done in line with best practices. But do they look at the results? Probably never.
- Decision-makers and Johnny Mnemonics – This group comprises those few who make the strategic content decisions based on learnings from an audit, as well as the much wider team who might cling to one or two mnemonics – easily remembered topline memory joggers. From a two-week, two-hundred-line audit that cost a few thousand £/$/€, these joggers might be as simple as ‘Write for Brian’ (where Brian is a key persona), ‘Keep content short’ or ‘Every week must feature a list’ (maybe we had an audit with this result). We’ve seen such mnemonics pinned to kitchen walls, followed for one or two years.
- Topliners – This group is the one that cumulatively spends the most time on a content audit within any organisation. While they might take only short dips into the detail of the full content audit, they are likely to scan or fully read a topline findings report that accompanies most good content audits. They need to know some detail but aren’t about to skim a dozen columns across hundreds of lines of a spreadsheet. They take what they need from a content audit and act as necessary, now better informed.
- Auditors – This last group can be a person or two in-house who perform or review a content audit; or it could include an outside agency or freelancer who does the auditing. Their involvement is deep. They are reading / viewing / listening to past content, cataloguing it (technically, a content inventory) and making calls on its quality and what to do with it (the content auditing bit). This is a laborious and vital role. But it is performed by the few, for the few. Sometimes – though not always – this group will write the topline report and present findings to the other groups listed above.
The last group usually delivers a full rundown of audited materials, as well as topline findings. These commonly consist of a spreadsheet and written document. But not always. There is now dedicated software out there for content auditing.
Similarly, while content audits tend to be manual, there is some software available for automating the process. Across archives that stretch into tens or hundreds of thousands of items, this might be the only practical approach. (We’ve even heard of one case study where over a million items were weighed up – and realistically that is doable only with software.)
But, in general, nearly all content audits rely on an archive, a spreadsheet, some supporting commentary documents, and a person or small group’s judgment. It’s not an easy job. For the best results, it pays to keep the above four groups in mind during any audit process.
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Read our How to… run a content audit guide – includes a downloadable our content audit template.