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Content Management

Content Strategy – Performing an audit on your content

By now, you’re probably wondering; this content strategy topic makes sense, we want to start right away! We have tons of content coming from all across the organization, everyone wants to be heard – or read.

We talked about content strategy in our last series of posts – in case you weren’t able to read them, please take a step back and go through them (highly recommend them since I wrote them). By now, you’re probably wondering; this content strategy topic makes sense, we want to start right away! We have tons of content coming from all across the organization, everyone wants to be heard – or read. Besides this, we also have a gazillion (didn’t want to use tons twice, and I like that word since it reminds me of a person I highly respect as a manager) pages, articles or posts, documents – both internal and external, media resources, so it’s hard to keep on top of everything. We’re barely scratching the surface and we’re already drowning and worst of all, we don’t know where from where to start.

Fear not. Its better to take action than sit behind – and worst case, we can always rely on baby steps. If you actually read my previous post – part II (and again I can’t emphasize on how important it is for you to read them), you would remember that I gave a set of recommendations to start defining a content strategy. In this post, we’re going to skip recommendations 1 and 2 – not because they’re not important, since they are – but because performing an audit  (recommendation 3) can be very well the foundation to make your case as a content strategist to the organization’s executive management. After all, implementing a strategy involves cost – time, resources, and money – so you’ll want to have the “money” stakeholders on your side right from the very beginning, and for the third and final time, if you look at my previous post – part I, you’ll find more than enough reasons on why implementing such a strategy is of critical importance to the success of your company’s online presence.

What is a Content Audit?

A content audit is pretty much as any other audit – “is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product” (Wikipedia, Audit, Last checked on March, 2013) – but only focused on your organization’s content. Kristina Halvorson does a great job not only on identifying the different types of content audit, but goes one step further and includes why to perform them and when is the best time to do it.

Table 1 - Content Audit Types - Kristina Halvorson - Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition.

Audit Type

Description

Why

When

Quantitative inventory

A list of all the content you have – just like the inventory of the products in a warehouse or story

Demonstrate magnitude and complexity of your existing content

Before content strategy work begins (right now)

Qualitative audit: best practices assessment

A comparison of your content against industry best practices, usually done by a third-party, un-biased assessor

Prioritize content efforts (usually by identifying the lowest quality content and gaping holes)

Before strategy begins or in the early stages of strategy development

Qualitative audit: strategic assessment

An invaluable, in-depth look at how your content measures up to your strategic goals (business or user)

Identify gaps between where you are and where you want to go, get insight into what resources you’ll need to get there

Works best after your core strategy and key strategic recommendations are complete

Starting with the Quantitative Inventory

Back to our exercise, we’re drowned in content and we really want to jump into the content strategy wagon. A great place to start is precisely with a quantitative inventory – nothing more and nothing less than the simple facts of the content related to our organization, without any prejudice or the subjectivity than an auditor can bring in to the mix.

Besides being a great way to identify all of our content, a quantitative inventory is especially useful in Web Content Management System Migrations and in the Project Scope Definition. The obvious reason for this is because after completing this exercise, we’ll have the best idea on what we’re getting into, and we’ll also have a powerful tool in convincing our “money” stakeholders on the resources needed to go through our precious project – without any surprises in the future. In the case of a WCMS Migration, we’ll have the opportunity to start fresh and most probably throwaway content that we never imagined was no longer needed, or update content that we think is valuable to keep – this is actually referred to as “getting rid of ROT” for Redundant, Outdated, or Trivial content.

Now, how do we start performing our inventory? Luckily for us, we don’t need anything special – software wise. We can do it pretty much using a spreadsheet application – can be Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or even Word (within a table, although it would be a little bit less practical). The important thing is to consider the following key items for each content record in the organization.

  • Content ID – this is merely an ID for the content record. We can actually implement a nomenclature on IDs, which we’ll see in our sample.
  • Item / Title – kind of self-explanatory, but it’s the title of the web page, or document name / title for non web pages.
  • URL – applicable for web pages, artifacts such as posts or documents in Digital Asset Management Systems.
  • Format – the MIME type can give us an idea, but if is not an electronic asset, it can also be classified according to it’s type.
  • Source – is the document created in-house, by a content partner or your users?
  • Audience  - who is the main audience for this piece of content? Is it for internal purposes (business goal oriented), for registered users, or for all public?
  • Folder – where are we storing this content from an information architecture perspective – what’s the navigation scheme for this piece?
  • Metadata – “data about the data”. We can consider SEO related items such as title, keywords, description, or classification for a tag cloud.
  • Social Media - social is everywhere right? What this means is to make room to identify if the content was posted on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, among others.
  • Owner – who’s the person responsible for this piece of content?
  • Date Last Modified – when was this content last modified?
  • Language – for those websites targeting multiple languages, it’s important to register this as part of the content, and how the different content records inter-relate between them.
  • Page Views – gather your analytics data, and register items such as how many users actually visit this content, and average time on page.
  • Condition – what’s the current status of the content? Is it completed? Does it need editing or updating?
  • Decision – a simple decision on whether to keep, amend or discard this piece of content – very useful in WCMS migrations.
  • Comments –open text entry you might want to include to provide more details for this piece of content – maybe the page contains information that is legally required, or is there to provide support for legacy assets.

One very important thing to consider is that when performing an inventory, people usually think that the inventory should be on the items they currently have published in their Websites, however, this is not the only content we need to have in mind. Besides the obvious, we need to go and look for

  • Offsite content – brochures, reports, magazine articles, books.
  • Third part electronic content – is your organization referenced in any external blog or website? Then this content should be included as part of your content inventory.
  • Content not yet created – this one is an easy miss, especially if you’re not part of the content governance team within the organization.

Automated Tools

Fortunately for us, there are automated tools to help us with the ramp up on building a content inventory spreadsheet list. This is not the case for the qualitative audit, since due to its subjective nature, it relies mostly on a person’s point of view in order to determine if the content is fulfilling the requirements to be considered of value for the business goals or our customers.

The tools listed below are by no means everything that’s out there. Feel free to Google for “Content Inventory Software Tools” in order to try other alternatives. Some of them are for free, while others are available on a trial basis before committing to the one of your choice.

  • Content Analysis Tool (CAT) – proprietary; provides content inventory features on the cloud.
  • Xenu's Link Sleuth – open source; to be used in Windows, and a little oriented to tech people.
  • SiteOrbiter – open source; to be used in Mac OS, also a oriented to tech people.
  • WebSite Auditor – proprietary; I tried this one on a trial base and is really good. Is not that expensive and is part of a suite that includes products to assist in link building, SEO and ranking for your website.

Conclusion

This was a very interesting post to write and a logical continuation of the previous one where I tried to explain the fundamentals of Content Strategy, why is it so important in today’s landscape and a very minimalist set of what to do – and what to avoid – steps in order to start with this effort.

As of this moment, you should feel very good as a content strategist. Hopefully by the time you read this post, your organization has defined a couple – or three to five strategic goals – and everybody’s excited about redefining the public face of your company. We want our customers to feel engaged to our brand, and deep inside, nothing gives us more pleasure than to have our customers happy so we can extend our relations and continue doing business for a long time. Besides engaging with our customers, it’s also critically important to have the buy in within the company. Implementing a content strategy – and actually executing it day after day – is a task shared among many individuals including not only the governance team, but authors, editors, publishers, designers, and stakeholders across departments, among others, so you’ll better go and get all their concerns, feelings, emotions, and political sentiments – yes, because content is political - before the project starts.

Are you feeling excited yet? With our content inventory in place, is now time to look into the content gap analysis, which we’ll talk about in our next content strategy post. Basically this tool enables us to look beyond what we have so far and what we need in order to accomplish the organizational goals defined as the very first step.

Lauro B.

Director of Engineering at Inflection Point and head of one of our largest accounts, Lauro has 15 years of experience on the industry. He has a B.S. in Computer Science (ITESM, 2001), an M.S. in Information Technology Management (ITESM, 2004), and Executive Master in Technology and Industrial Organizations Management (EOI Business School, 2009), a PMP Certification and experience throughout several technologies; all of this makes it really interesting to read what he has in mind.



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