Continuing with our series on effective content, today I’ll show you how to assess, or audit your content. So, perhaps you know your content could be improved, but how do you know where to start?? Dimitri had a great post a few weeks ago on how to develop a message hierarchy which will be a great tool to use for your content assessment. The other thing you’ll need is your content inventory.
Note: Don’t skimp on the content inventory. Yes, it’s tedious and time consuming, but it is absolutely crucial to see what content you have out there to be able to assess it and make it successful. Try making it an on-going project, spending an hour here and an hour there and don’t forget to keep it updated once you have your initial snapshot.
Once you have your message hierarchy and your content inventory, it’s time to dig into that inventory to truly evaluate what’s there. Like the initial creation of the inventory, the assessment should also be an ongoing process. Kristina Halvorson refers to this part of the process as the “qualitative audit” in her book Content Strategy for the Web. You can even check out her chapter on Audits for free.
The qualitative audit is a way to assess your content across several variables. Kristina provides a great list in her book, which I’ve adapted a bit here:
- Messaging – Does the overall message of the page align with your Message Hierarchy?
- Business Value – How valuable is this page to your organization?
- User Value – How valuable is it to your site visitors or users?
- Accuracy – Is the page accurate and up-to-date?
- Redundant – Is the page redundant to other pages/sections?
- Usability – How scannable is the page? How easy is it to read and understand?
- Notes – What do you think could be improved?
As I’ve helped clients with their content assessment, I’ve added columns for each of these variables to the content inventory and created a scale to rate each aspect of the content. I’ve found it helpful to color code my ratings to call attention to the sections that need the most work. The scale is really up to you, but I’ve tried to keep it simple in the past with 1 (red) being “critical”, 2 (yellow) being “needs work” and 3 (green) being “good as-is”.
Once you have your assessment complete, you essentially have a checklist for content that needs to be updated, consolidated or removed. From there, get the Owners of each section/page involved to help make the necessary updates. Share your Message Hierarchy with them and other relevant documentation on the tone and style your website should use. It’s also helpful to create a reasonable timeline for completing the edits to keep folks on track, but encourage your authors to edit pages on a rolling basis to keep the process manageable.
Now, I realize many organizations don’t have several content authors to divvy up the work and other organizations might have SO much content that the task still looks completely overwhelming. If you’re in that boat, I’d suggest checking out your Google Analytics data and prioritizing your updates based on the popularity of the content. Your most visited pages (perhaps your top 50?) can be evaluated first, followed by pages that get fewer visits. Small steps are important steps here so start where you can. Remember though, Content is King, so be sure to start somewhere.