What is a Content Audit and When Should You Do One?

Stephen_1 (1)Most small businesses and nonprofits don’t need a blog or complicated website.

That’s a hard fact to swallow for those who see these types of content as the keys to growing a bigger audience. But those who remember my intro to SEO know that you can only grow an audience when you provide them value. And for many small business and nonprofits, the work you do is more valuable than anything you could ever write about. Go you!

What should you do when you realize you have a bulky website or blog that isn’t serving your audience? Why, a content audit, of course!

This post will introduce you to the basics behind a content audit. I’ll also get into some key times you should ensure a content audit happens. This is the first in a series of posts that will help your organization decide what your website really needs.

What is a Content Audit?

I know it’s tax season, and while this audit will be no where near as sweat-inducing, it makes a good analogy.

A great way to approach a content audit is to imagine the kind of audit you pay extra for TurboTax to deal with. The same way the IRS might come knocking for receipts, odometer readings, and overseas bank accounts, so you should also view your content. You need to know what everything is worth, and whether it could be more valuable elsewhere.

How can we compare content to receipts? Well, all content you create has a cost. Whether it’s money to upkeep a certain number of webpages or the time it takes to write a blog post, you’re paying for it somehow.

When you perform a content audit, the first and most practical step is checking for your most expensive content. According to Einstein, time = money (pretty sure that’s what E=MC2 means). It’s alright to have content that takes a lot of time or web hosting fees to keep up, but if and only if it’s getting real results.

Your content has an odometer, too. But rather than a measure of distance, this is a measure of traffic. How many people are visiting your business because of pretty pictures on your website? How many people volunteered at your organization because of those blog posts? You can see this is related to how “expensive” your content is: the result needs to reflect the input. You’ll need tools to measure this. More on those later.

Finally, overseas bank accounts full of great content are all the gems you’ve come up with for your site that could secretly be doing a lot more. For example, when I write, I often find myself writing something with a core shareable or actionable item. (Usually I bold or italicize). When you audit, do this at a larger scale. Look for content that you’ve written for on a given page or from a single post and see how it fits in with your business beyond the web. You might surprise yourself to find that you’ve written a pretty good mission statement, tag line, etc.

Unlike the stacks of IRS paper work, a content audit is all about making your business or nonprofit more efficient on the web.

When Should I Do a Content Audit?

The best time to do a content audit is when you notice a change in your business.

So what types of changes should you look for, and why does each matter?

Time and Expense Outweigh Impact

One good one to watch out for is changes in expenses of time and/or money. If you paid a lot for a 50 page website, but have yet to see more traffic to your actual organization, it’s time to audit. If you are spending four hours each week writing new blog posts but no one is sharing them, it’s time for an audit. When you’re doing something you believe would have results and you’re not seeing any, it’s time for a content audit.

On the reverse of this, if your content is doing great, take a close look at it and make sure you can keep it up!

Market Changes

It’s also good to keep an eye on market changes. (You’re doing this anyway because you’re an awesome business person!) If your target demographic changes, or new regulations make your business more valuable, you need to make sure your website addresses it! Content should only exist if it is valid and valuable. Don’t hang on to old stuff just because it used to be good.

Website Changes

This next one might sound too specific but it’s surprisingly overlooked. Audit content when you change your website. You’re changing your website for a reason right? (Usually one of the above). I guarantee you that not everything from your old site matters on your new one. You don’t have to start entirely from scratch, but you do need to think carefully about what to take with you.

Key Take-Aways

Content audits are not scary. They may be time consuming, but the goal is to make you more efficient and impactful in the future. Those are cool reasons to do something.

Focus on uncovering what it “costs” you to create and maintain content. These are both financial and time expenses that detract from your true mission. Content should “pay” for itself by getting you a wider audience and money however it comes in.

Start a content audit when you notice big changes. Good ones or bad ones, it’s important to make sure any old stuff is up to the task ahead.

And as always, have fun!