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Never run a content audit again

by , Product Director, Trim

This is the final post in our Content Audits Made Easy series. Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at why you should audit your content, how to prepare and how to run the perfect content audit. All this has drawn from our experience researching and building Trim – a tool we’ve developed to make content auditing faster, simpler and more effective.

It may seem odd then, that this post should focus on why you should never run a content audit again. But that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve. Content audits, as most organisations approach them, are an inherently wasteful process. The concept stems from the outdated idea that digital content should be updated en-masse every few years, usually as part of a full website redesign.

Don’t get me wrong. The process of creating an inventory and gathering quantitative data is important. Using this to assess the performance, relevance, and quality of every page on your site is invaluable. By the end of the process, you and your team will be completely in tune with how you’re serving your audiences, where the gaps are, and what perfect content looks like. You’re at peak ‘content consciousness’.

It’s a bit like moving house. When you’re getting ready to move, you see just how much junk you’ve accumulated over the years. You ditch anything you’ve not used for a while, and – motivated by the catharsis of the whole process – box it all up neatly and vow to do things differently in the new place. Once you’re done moving in, you know where everything is, you’ve got rid of anything you don’t need, and you think very critically about anything entering the house that looks remotely like clutter. The problem is how long can that fastidious approach last?

This is where the waste comes in. You need to maintain that level of knowledge about what’s in the house – or, to ditch the extended metaphor, on the website. If you can’t turn your well-honed eye for great new content into robust, scalable processes, you’ll start to accumulate problems – and costs – again. Aside from the fact that you’ll need to run another laborious content audit down the line (a significant time cost), it also means that you’re not going to be serving your audiences as well as you could be (a potentially huge opportunity cost).

Whether it’s ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial) content, pages that don’t get to the point, or meandering customer journeys, anything on your website that isn’t optimised for the best possible customer experience is undermining everything else you do.

Processes to keep your content in shape

The challenge is to make the most of this period of oneness with your content and to ensure you’re capable of staying on top of it. Here’s what you need to think about:

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

You know what good content looks like. Ensure you’ve got strong KPIs in place that will capture your expectations and will push you and the team to continually improve. Goals might take into account whether you want visitors to complete an action, take another step in a journey, or simply read and engage with the content. Each goal will manifest itself in different Time on Page, Bounce Rate, or goal completion stats.

Don’t forget to look for ways to measure softer KPIs too. Qualitative research, user satisfaction surveys and testing should play a big part in your ongoing processes.

Make the most of your hard-earned audit by capturing these KPIs in the same place you ran the audit. This will give context to decision making as you track progress.

Review dates

Make sure you’re regularly reviewing your content so you can stop the ROT as soon as it sets in. Different types of content need reviewing more or less frequently, so find the appropriate cadence.

Make sure it’s clear what you’re reviewing too. ‘Evergreen’ content should be reviewed for accuracy and relevancy, with a view to refreshing the page fairly regularly. For pages which have been created for a short term campaign, you may be considering re-purposing content appropriately once the campaign is complete, or un-publishing it altogether.

Roles and responsibilities

Ensure you have the right people making the right decisions about content. Make it really clear who owns which pages or sections of the website. They will be accountable for deciding what to publish, when and how. As the person putting these processes in place, you need to make sure your content owners know it’s up to them to stay on top of review dates and performance against KPIs.

Content production standards

When it comes to creating new content, use your understanding of what works for your audience to inform standards that new pages must abide by. If you can see that your visitors don’t engage well with content that’s hard to read, set a lower target reading age. If you can see that you’re losing traffic on your pages with the highest word count, create standards that focus on brevity. If you already have a lot of content catering for a particular audience group, make it clearer where the content gaps you need others to fill are.

You’ll need guidelines like these when you talk to content stakeholders – having standards in place can make those discussions more objective. It’s much easier to say no to the wrong kinds of content when you have evidence-based guidelines to back you up.

Avoiding ‘content debt’

In combination, these processes can go a long way towards helping you avoid building a debt of content problems that need solving further down the line. You’ll need to invest time, on a fairly regular basis, to make it work, but you’ll undoubtedly save in the long run. The trick is to automate as much of the technical process as you can, freeing you up to focus on value-adding activity.

With Trim, we’re using data about page content and performance to make it really clear what’s working and what’s not, on each page, so you don’t have to spend time digging into your analytics if you don’t want to.

We’ve also made it easy to build content governance processes into your audit. In Trim, you can set KPIs, add review dates and track content scores. You can then assign page owners and stakeholders to take action to keep your content in great shape. All in one place (and no spreadsheets in sight!).

The result is higher quality, more effective content and better experiences for your customers. And you won’t accumulate content debt – the very problems which led you to run a content audit in the first place.

Trim is running an exclusive offer for Gather Content subscribers – sign up in August and get 3 months for half price.

About the Author

Product Director, Trim

Kieran Forde is Product Director at Trim. Drawing on years of experience working with organisations to deliver user-centred digital experiences at Edo, he’s leading their mission to improve the way digital professionals understand and improve their content using Trim.

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