You might think you know what content works for your organisation – and what doesn’t. But how exactly is it working, and who for? If you haven’t done a good content audit recently, expect to unearth some surprising stuff, says content strategist Matthew Pink
‘Audit’ can be an off-putting word, can’t it? It conjures images of blank-faced suits sifting through spreadsheets. But a content audit is better viewed as a piece of detective work. Properly undertaken, it can reveal fascinating things about your online audience, how they engage with you, and what you can do about it.
A content audit is a reality check, an insight-gathering process and a momentum-builder all wrapped into one. Coming out the other side, you’ll find yourself armed with a much more clear-sighted view of what’s working (the means), why it has or hasn’t (the motive), and what you can do better (the opportunity). Here are some eyebrow-raising things you might uncover during the investigation…
1. You have fans in unlikely places
It’s a delightful place and we’ve nothing against it, but was Idaho really the target geographical area when you launched your YouTube channel?
In a recent audit we undertook, we found that a leisure brand that operates only in the UK had accumulated a huge number of channel subscribers from the US midwest. How? Well, the content was of topical interest to a broader international audience and delivered on search enquiries. But apart from vaguely raising brand awareness with the Americans, what purpose was the content serving, given that these audiences would never buy from this company? The views and comments may have been good, but the cold reality was that only 15% of their subscriber base was actually valuable to the brand.
The lesson here: don’t fall for ‘vanity’ metrics. The resulting action? A pivot in purpose, a re-focus on genuinely commercially valuable content, and a growing, more relevant audience.
Helpful audit tool: YouTube Analytics (you’ll need a YouTube Creator account to access the Analytics page)
2. Your social posts and your audience are on different clocks
Mention organic social these days and you’re often met with frustrated faces or frowns. Organic reach on Facebook and Instagram isn’t what it used to be, but get forensic and you might find it’s all a question of timing.
Have a look at the times that your target audience are most active on social media. Could it be that their preferred moments for scrolling and swiping don’t match the regular 9-to-5, when your team has been publishing? What about identifying your most successful engagement-driving posts and looking at the exact time they were published? Have you been following that pattern?
In a recent social audit for a membership organisation, we put their posting pattern under the microscope and cross-referenced it with the audience’s peak times online. This enabled us to tweak the scheduled publishing times for a better fit. Doing that moved the average engagement rate per post from 1.5 to 6.5. And that’s without changing any other element of creation or distribution. Start boosting those posts too and, suddenly, everything is far rosier.
Helpful audit tool: Facebook Insights
3. Your audience keeps on bouncing
Like a detective with their trusty sidekick, every brand wants to have a meaningful relationship with its audience. But what is ‘meaningful’ when thinking about the time your audience spends on your site?
Bounce rates taken at face value can be misleading. A high bounce rate could mean your site efficiently gives the user what they want, thereby giving them no reason to linger. That said, can you build a meaningful relationship in 30 seconds? Or even a series of 30-second visits? That efficiency might be emotionless.
Ultimately it depends on what you want your users to do: read, watch, learn, interact or buy. Perhaps something else. But what’s the impact on your bottom line of making users linger a little longer? What’s the commercial effect of making them stay, say, one second longer on average? You may well be surprised.
Cranking open the bonnet of Google Analytics can give you an insightful steer as to potential funnel blocks or messaging issues that affect things like brand understanding. That data is not always the answer in itself, but it can help you join the dots.
Helpful audit tool: Google Analytics
4. Your visitors have a mind of their own
Your website looks lovely. The imagery (expensive but worth it) elicits pleasing oohs and aahs from those who see it. The colour palette is pleasing on the eye and true to your brand. All the CTAs are neatly placed and easy to see. You’re getting traffic. Your mind starts to wander to next year’s award ceremonies…
So why are the visitor numbers to your most important page so low? It’s signalled, clear as day, at the prime menu spot and in the header section of your homepage. And it’s surely the thing your users want to find when they come to the site. Isn’t it?
This was the case in a recent audit we undertook with one task aimed at understanding why traffic to the main ‘Inspiration’ section of the website was so low. This was really the fundamental purpose of the site: travel inspiration.
Google Analytics alone didn’t shed too much light on the issue, so, when in doubt, test with users. A quick guerrilla test, getting selected users to perform a couple of simple tasks on the site, revealed the issue. It wasn’t that the visitors weren’t looking for inspiration, it’s just that instinctively they selected other labels for it: ’Destinations’ and ‘Deals’. From there they were able to get all the inspiration they needed.
The lesson: the language used to denote your customer journey sections doesn’t necessarily determine the way users will actually use your site.
Helpful audit tool: User Testing
5. Your blog’s a jumble sale
Blogs are a content mainstay of many websites, a place to rate, review, recommend, rant…. And that’s the problem. Over time, blogs can easily become a refuge for a ragtag of articles, announcements and messages that, when stacked together, lack any real coherence. They might still be attracting traffic, but are they doing anything with it? And are they increasing brand understanding, or clouding it?
Some decent sleuthing using the right toolkit can shine a light on as many potential gems tucked away in your blog as it can duds. By all means take the hatchet to the posts that just don’t work, but with the right strategic polish, those uncut gems buried in your blog can still prove commercially useful.
With the help of a carefully constructed scorecard (using insightful metrics such as traffic, social shares, dwell time and backlinks combined with more technical data like word count, title length and meta description) you can find your best and worst performers. And have a look in the middle of the list too. Are there a couple of modifications that can be made to make some grounded blogs soar? A better meta description here or a revision of keyword use there can make all the difference.
So, in the case of a blog audit, keep an open mind and don’t be put off by the usual suspects.
Helpful audit tool: Screaming Frog