Content marketers, you’re creating content and you’re driving traffic to your site, and hopefully you’re contributing to overall corporate goals. But, are you sure you’re getting the most out of your content and the website you drive your traffic to? Have you successfully established a strategic marketing workflow that includes a written strategy, creative content creation, and measurement? Before you start creating more content this year, find out how your content performed last year and what’s working for you and for your competitors. Still need a list of reasons to get a site and content audit? I’ll give you one – better results.
May the Search Be With You
Fact: content marketing is only as good as its ability to be found. I hear you groaning, marketers, you’ve heard it all before. Content marketing is better when combined with SEO – and SEO is better when it takes a content-centric approach. Content that is found organically because you’ve created it well for your audience is going to keep driving traffic long after you’ve put effort into it.
Strategic marketers seek to match their content with company goals so they know what to create, where to create it, and how to distribute it. By now, everyone knows what they need to do, but for a lot of people, the endless lists of tasks are too time consuming, they lack bandwidth, or they don’t know where to start.
Enter the site and content audit. A site audit will help you understand what your content is doing for you, what your audience members are looking for, and if they are finding their answers with you or with your competitors.
“An audit is relevant to every single company on the web because any company would tell you honestly that they have room to improve. There are so many companies out there that are managing multiple sites, multiple product lines, different properties for different audiences, and so forth. There’s probably almost an unlimited amount of things they could be doing to improve their content and overall marketing efforts,” stated Ray Grieselhuber, CEO GinzaMetrics.
Use the Data
The best site audit is the one you’ll use. That’s the one that’ll give you the information you need, not just 150 pages of unconsummable data that doesn’t translate into action. Most marketers find they don’t have the time or the resources to sort through that much data, anyway, and most just need the top five things that can be fixed immediately to improve their efforts now.
With data to back it up, the real value of an audit is the interpretation, analysis, and recommendations of what to focus on. Ideally the best audits are those that provide a page or two of recommendations that can be acted on immediately. The idea is to see positive changes soon after the audit has been completed.
“To me, there’s no question about what you should look for when you’re talking about doing an audit. You need to understand how you’re going to use whatever comes out of this. And yes, you should be able to access the data that the recommendations came from – that 150 page document should be available, but not the reference point you use daily. You, as consumers, should have access to the data and you should keep it on file to compare year over year. But don’t work with somebody that won’t provide you the output in the way that you need the output,” stated Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO GinzaMetrics.
As with most things, one size does not fit all and a site and content audit should be tailored to fit the needs of the company in question. Every company is at a different stage in its life cycle and in its content marketing and SEO development. Every brand has their own combination of successes and challenges.
“If you’re talking about doing a basic level audit for the first time, then there may be more room to talk about what should be a part of that basic audit . But given the nature of where things are today, most companies have at least covered some of the basics and it’s really a matter of customizing exactly what their needs are. They have different team members on board, so a lot of times you’ll have a lot of existing internal expertise already and you don’t necessarily need to cover ground that has already been covered,” noted Ray.
Arm Yourself Before the Audit
Most content and site audits are performed by outside consultants. Needless to say, some are more useful than others. To get the most out of your audit, and to protect yourself from outside organizations that provide a data dump and little else, it’s useful to use the free tools that are available on the web to get a quick scan of your site. This preliminary scan servces two functions: first, to recognize if someone tries to feed you the same thing you can get using free tools yourself, and second, to know what added value an outside organization can provide.
“If a company tells you they’re going to give you a full audit of all your title tags and everything else and that’s all they’re going to do, they’re not really adding any value and you probably best go elsewhere,” advised Ray. A site audit is worth the investment if it provides at least some of these things:
- Help with content strategy development
- Addressing the needs of all identified personas
- Providing more persona development
- Specific content creation recommendations
- Landing page and website optimizaiton
- Technical recommendations
“We’ve talked a lot about data integrity and how you can make numbers tell a story, whatever the story is that you want to tell. If you’re an executive and people are bringing all these different numbers to you, you don’t know how they’re really portraying the numbers and where they’re gathering their data from. I think that it’s important for people at the executive, management, or director level to know that their decisions are based on an objective third-party view of how their site and content are performing,” noted Erin.
Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s helpful to bring in a third party to confirm what you’ve already been saying. Sometimes it’s easier to listen to an outside consultant more than people who have been fighting for a particular department. The data that is collected in an audit may confirm what you already know, or perhaps shed some light on some things you weren’t aware of. Some questions to ask yourself before an audit might include:
- What’s your current marketing problem?
- What’s not working?
- Are you not driving enough traffic?
- Are you converting?
- What’s not converting and why?
It’s Not Just Problems You’re Looking For
Besides convincing your executive team that you really do know what you’re talking about, the content and site audit can be useful for getting everyone in the organization on the same page.
“We’re trying to make sure that everybody understands that we’re all trying to get the best possible content or trying to attract the best possible target audience and we’re trying to do that through the marketing channels and the mediums that are really going to work as the best vehicles for us. When we’re talking about doing that, we’re talking really about better budgeting, better resources, smarter spending, and higher ROI. In the end, we want to be able to see what’s working best, how our campaign is performing, and what channels are performing,” remarked Erin.
Measuring the effectiveness of content goes beyond how many likes on Facebook, or views on SlideShare. The effectiveness comes down to measuring three distinct categories, the medium, the method, and the message. A site audit helps to figure out which of these elements are working for you and which are not.
“A site and content audit is really about getting all of the information from multiple different views about how things are performing across a number of metrics. This is one of the things that an audit would help you figure out. Is it the medium or is it the method? Is the message what you’re trying to convey? Does it resonate with your audience? Because if it doesn’t resonate with people, it doesn’t matter how good the medium and the method are. If your message sucks you’re already dead in the water,” stated Erin. A site audit looks at your content in a variety of ways:
- How are people finding your content?
- What are they doing once they’re on your site?
- What’s the next step?
- Who is finding your brand?
- What does each kind of conversion look like?
- What does one piece of content look like combined with some other similar pieces of content?
- What does one piece of content look like in comparison with other pieces of content?
A content and site audit should also look at your efforts in comparison to your competition. We all want to know what our competitors are doing and if it’s working. But focusing on competitors without understanding your own unique place in the market is a mistake. First, understand what makes your brand different, and how you’re perceived differently in the marketplace. Then, look to your competitors to see what opportunities they’re capitalizing on and where you may be missing out.
“It’s helpful to pay attention to your competitors because there is no one number that can tell you all the opportunities you have to capture an audience. You can look at landscape data, you can look at overall market data, but a lot of times your competitor data will be most helpful at finding an audience that you haven’t yet found, but your competitors have. You can figure out if that audience makes sense for you to try to go after and try to resegment more in your favor,” Ray said.
Getting a site and content audit now will help set baselines for your 2015 marketing campaigns. Find out now how your content, your site, and all the elements of your marketing efforts are working for you. Then, base your 2015 efforts on your findings and have a benchmark to measure against at the end of the year. Ready to get started? Here are your next steps:
- Definine specific and narrow business goals – Identify the top two or three things you hope to accomplish in the next quarter or two. For a B2B company: Are you trying to increase more leads? Are you trying to increase more conversions? Are you trying to gain more referrals? If you’re an e-commerce company: Are you trying to increase new visitors? Do you want to increase transactions or conversions? Are you looking for more repeat purchases?
- Form a hypothesis around these goals. Why aren’t you achieving your goals? What problem do you want to fix and how? You can be very specific at how you articulate these problems. Going through this step will put you in a position to decide how you want to proceed with your audit.
- Make sure the person performing your audit understands your problem. The person performing the audit should understand the technology and not simply run a group of free tools and spit out the information you can get yourself.
- Make sure the audit includes a follow-up with recommendations. Any valuable audit will require at least a one-hour to two-hour follow up with a knowledgeable human. That conversation should include insights, analysis, and recommendations.
Need more information? Have questions or concerns? Contact GinzaMetrics and we’ll get you started.