The friendly auditor: Why you need to invest in a content audit

We’re pretty hardwired to fear the word “audit” thanks to our dear friends in the IRS. But a content audit is not something to be afraid of. A content audit is an internal audit that you do for yourself just to get a better grip on your content production. And they come with a zero percent chance that you’ll owe the government money at the end of it all. 

A content audit is like spring cleaning for your business. The goal is to gather up all your content (or at least all content produced recently) and go through it with an eye towards your company’s current goals. You throw out everything that isn’t in line with your company’s vision, keep the rest and then construct a plan for content production moving forward. It’s simple (if time consuming), effective and has nothing whatsoever to do with your taxes. 

Why bother with a content audit?

We’ve all heard our parents’ warnings: “anything you put online stays there forever”. Well, the same is true for businesses. Just because that blog post was uploaded six years ago doesn’t mean it isn’t still being seen by potential customers. Companies change, and so do audience expectations. You want to make sure everything front facing is a good representation of your business. A content audit is the perfect way to brush up old content, get rid of content that’s no longer working for you, and make sure your output is consistent and effective. 

Content audits often accompany a business shift. Perhaps you’re updating your company’s tone, or changing your marketing strategy. A content audit is the perfect way to start off. When there’s a lot of content to shift through, it can be tempting to just toss it all out and start over. But content is expensive, and odds are you can salvage a lot of what you already have. And besides, completely wiping your social media presence or your blog can look suspicious and may detract from your brand authority. 

See what worked and why

A content audit is how you determine which kinds of content have historically worked well and which have not. This will set you up for success in the future as you focus on only the content that gets you the best results. 

Many businesses don’t bother with content audits because there’s this pervasive thought that you’ll “just remember” what worked well and what didn’t. But what happens when you hire new team members? Or you embark on a new content strategy? Having a the results of a recent content audit on hand will make your life so much easier. 

How difficult are content audits?

Content audits: a good job for the intern team?

How much work goes into a content audit depends on how much content your company has put out in recent history. If your online presence has been sparse, then you’ll breeze through the auditing phase and move right on to planning your future content. If you’ve been blogging religiously for a few years now, then you might have more work cut out for you. 

Setting up your first content audit

Content audits can be time consuming, but they’re not particularly difficult. Audits make good busy work and can be done with as much or as little urgency as you see fit. Depending on your situation, you may need to assign a whole team to your audit. 

Step 1: Gather your materials

Dig deep. Track down all your business’s content. This includes blog posts, web copy, social media content, e-books, white papers and anything else you’ve produced. You may be surprised to see just how big your content footprint actually is. 

Step 2: Decide what you’re looking for

This is important. Are you organizing materials by tone? By success? By some other metric? You need to know what you’re trying to find out before you dive too deep into your online archives. Ask yourself this question: what is the purpose of this content audit? If your company is moving in a new direction, then sort your content by how well it fits in with that new image. If you’re looking to increase consistency and brand authority, then sort your content based on that. 

Step 3: Learn to love spreadsheets

You need to display your findings in a way that’s easy to comprehend. For a lot of people, that ends up being one big Excel workbook. But if you’re more of a picture person, then by all means, go for it. Just make sure your findings are displayed concisely and with an eye towards future content development. 

Step 4: Axe what isn’t working

Have you come across content that no longer works with your brand? Maybe you’ve stumbled upon content that was poorly received or no longer worth keeping around. Archive it (just to be on the safe side) and get ready to replace it with something new!

Step 5: Plan for the future

Now that you’ve got a handle on your content, you’re free to start commissioning more of it. The results of your content audit will help guide you as you steer your marketing and content creation teams in the right direction for the future. 

No time like the present

Content costs money whether you use it or not. If your unused content pile looks like this, it may be time to reevaluate your content production strategy.

Even if your company isn’t undergoing a massive shift, a content edit can still be immensely helpful. Think of it like a budget meeting for your content production. Before you invest any more time or money in making content, make sure you’ve got a grasp on what you already have. Who knows, you might unearth some evergreen content you’d forgotten you even had. 
So as far as audits go, stop worrying about that scary, 1 percent chance of the IRS knocking on your door and start focusing instead on the process that could help your content marketing really take off.

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