Your website has been live for a while now and your business is doing ok. However, more and more ‘things’ are being added to your website to try and promote new products and services.
Different pages and sections are added, new videos are uploaded and even the odd audio interview. However, at no point has one person looked at all the content to see if it matches up with your business goals and is consistent with your key brand messages. There’s been little strategic thought.
If that’s a description of your site, it’s time for an audit!
There are a few ways you can do this and it can depend on the size of your site. If you have hundreds of pages, there’s little point in going through every single one –unless you have the time and budget to do so. But before we look at how, let’s look at what.
So what is a content audit? Even before that, we need to assess and make sure we understand exactly what content is. Content is a mixture of all the elements that make up your site. Here’s a non-exclusive list:
Text - This can comprise your about page, your product or service pages, your contact forms, the text on your call to action buttons, your blog posts
Images - Your blog images, your product images, your header images
Videos - Your product and sales videos, testimonials
Audio - Interviews, testimonials
An audit is essentially taking every piece of content and assessing it against a criteria. I like the list used in The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. She lists good content as:
We’ll take a look at four of them - Appropriate, Useful, Consistent, Concise - as these apply to smaller businesses. You can read the book for much more detail about each.
Is it appropriate?
Imagine that feeling you get when you visit a website and it’s almost as if they are reading your mind. Get that? The content is perfectly targeted at you, at the right time and in the right way. Naturally, you click ‘buy’! I’m not talking about a site that’s storing your user preferences if you’ve been there before and displaying things it already knows you like. No. Just visiting a new site for a product you’re after and it seems to perfectly match your needs.
That’s an example of appropriate content. It’s appropriate for the target audience, in this case: you. It’s appropriate for the business –they make a sale. And it’s appropriate within context. The information you need is where you expect it to be, not hidden away down several pages.
When assessing your content, make sure it’s appropriate for your users.
Is it useful?
Thankfully, long gone are the days when the first things you saw upon visiting a site was a 5 minute animation just to get to the homepage. It may look pretty, but it sure ain’t useful. Make sure your content does something. What is its purpose? Useful content should really help the visitor solve a problem they have. If they’ve been made redundant, it should show them what steps to take next. If they’re trying to find a band for a wedding or event, it should show them the style of music and how to book.
On a recent site we built, we changed a label from ‘Request Course’ to ‘Request Information’ - a subtle change, but it’s more useful to the visitors in terms of the context, i.e. where the buttons appear; the visitors are after information about the course rather than booking straight on. Every piece of content, from the written text to the button labels should be useful to the end user.
Is it consistent?
As humans we like to know where we are. How many times have you felt frustrated walking into a supermarket, going down aisle three expecting to see the cheeses, when you’re faced with dog food? Consistency is key to helping users know where they are and how to find the information they need.
If you label your buttons specifically in one area, e.g. 'Book on the course now’, don’t make it generic in other places e.g. ‘Submit’. In fact never use ‘Submit’, but that’s another story.
Is it concise?
Lastly, there can be a tendency on the web to include every bit of content imaginable –because you can. It’s not like print where it costs significantly more for more pages. The web can often become a dumping ground for content that you aren’t sure where it should really go.
Being concise means getting rid of the clutter. Ask yourself, does this second page about our new product really do anything different from the first? Do you need that 10 minute video when a short 2 minute clip will do? Do you have to list over 20 features of your product when listing 5 key features will do? Sometimes the answer will be yes. It is right to have the longer video or page. It just depends on the context.
Cleaning it up
Don’t just put content on your site because you can. Think about its appropriateness, is it useful to your end users –and to you in meeting your business objectives. Is it consistent in keeping with your brand and its context? Does it really need to be there –is it concise?
So, where do you go from here? A good start is to make a list of each page on your site, then mark how they perform against the criteria with some notes including what you need to change. For example:
|Page title||About us|
|Appropriate?||Not any more. Our team has changed and so has the dynamic of the company. It doesn’t reflect this.|
|Useful?||Yes. To give a flavour of our company personality and structure.|
|Consistent?||No. Our style has changed slightly. The photos of our team do not match the new style.|
|Concise?||Yes. Our about page is the third highest viewed page.|
|What next?||Get Bryan to re-write the content and Alice to shoot some more appropriate photos.|
I hope this has been a useful quick look at assessing your content. For much more information as well as Erin Kissane’s book, I recommend ‘What is content strategy all about’ the Boagworld podcast episode with Kristina Halvorson.
How do you feel about your own site? Is your content up to scratch?