Content audits: what are they and why do we need them?

by Laura Sagar – May 06, 2021

As Bill Gates stated, “content is king”, and it’s an important tool for all business areas. Yet, often, organisations are so focused on publishing a steady stream of content that they don’t stop to question whether that content is having the desired impact. They can also forget what they have created already. As a result, a chunk of time is wasted creating content that isn’t needed, or doesn’t reach or engage its target audience. That’s when auditing can step in to save the day. Audits revisit the purpose of content, evaluate its effectiveness and highlight ways to boost engagement.

What is a content audit?

In short, a content audit reviews the performance of the content on your website. Audits can be very detailed and in-depth, gathering data such as page views, unique page views, bounce rates, dwell times and entrance and exit rates. As well as gathering data, audits involve manually reviewing the content and its value. This includes determining the target audience, purpose, topic and format. In some cases, the auditing team at Wardour has completed further research into the organisation’s audience, allowing us to gather anecdotal feedback to map out the user experience.

Why is it important?

Reviewing the performance of your content is crucial to understanding your audience and their engagement with what you’re producing. Audits tell you what is working and what isn’t. Low page views and dwell times accompanied with high bounce rates can help to identify major engagement issues. Poorly performing content can be a hinderance to an organisation’s aims, so identifying problems and fixing them should be a priority.

A careful, holistic combination of data collection and artistic analysis allows us to delve deeper into what is causing low engagement levels. Low page views aren’t necessarily an indicator of inferior content – instead they may suggest a need to better promote the content, or to rewrite a title that isn’t driving traffic to the site. In one of the audits the Wardour team conducted, we found that low page views were due to a very specific and small target audience, and on further evaluation we discovered that these pages were actually working well for the people reading them. Similarly, in other audits we discovered that instead of low dwell times indicating uninspiring articles, it was down to a lack of mobile optimisation, which was causing accessibility issues.

When should you consider doing an audit?

There are many situations when a content audit isn’t just useful, but necessary for the success of an organisation’s online presence. These include the creation and launch of a new platform, undertaking a website refresh or a complete rebrand, and when aiming to achieve marketing goals.

Regular content audits allow you to keep track of performance and to increase engagement, which can have a positive impact on sales, membership numbers and donations.

We have conducted content audits for a variety of purposes, for clients including The Royal College of Anaesthetists, The Investment Association and Brooks Macdonald.

What do you get from doing one?

You’ll gain a wealth of knowledge about how users interact with your website and the content you’re publishing. In this case, it’s true that knowledge is power. Knowing what content is and isn’t working, and why, allows you to make vital changes that will improve your organisation’s outcomes. It can be the difference between a campaign making waves or a mere ripple. It can turn one-off visitors into regular readers and customers. A well-thought-out website that is reactive to the needs of its audience will perform much better than one that hasn’t been monitored or reviewed. You often don’t realise the impact of what you can discover until you get started, as each audit is unique.

Audits are also important in helping identify content that you may have forgotten about; that is evergreen and which can therefore be reused, driving cost efficiencies for you organisation.

What are the key steps of delivering one?

First of all, you need to have a clear idea of what is wanted from the audit. Your aim may be to know which topics are most useful for your audience, to understand why certain areas of your site aren’t performing well, or to have a clearer idea of who is visiting your site and what their user habits are. It’s also important to have an idea of the level of data you feel is necessary, as sometimes even just the top layer of detail can be beneficial in content planning.

We then work with clients to decide on the number of URLs we will include in the audit, which is often influenced by budgets and deadlines. Once the scope of the audit has been agreed, the team completing it will need access to the analytics of the site, before using tools such as Google Analytics and SEMRUSH to gather all of the data required. A thorough review of the data and webpages then allows us to write a report of the findings. This report is the tool that allows organisations to better understand their online audience, how their site is working and make changes that will help their online presence to grow and thrive.

Published May 06, 2021

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