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First things first: doing a content audit

Surely, you already have some content. Or maybe you even have a lot of content already. Either way, you decided that it is time for a more structured approach. Great! But where to start? The content mapping approach, in which you map your content to personas and buying cycle stages, should provide you with the structure you need to create even better and more focused content. 

But first it is time to draw a line in the sand and create a baseline: look at your existing content in a content audit. 

What is a content audit?

A content audit usually means you take a good look at your content as it is today. Sounds easy right? Well, it tends to get a bit more difficult once you actually try to make a start. Because, coming up with a list of all your content items is not the most difficult part. And looking a that list, well that's not difficult either. But a content audit is of course more than that. 

A good content audit gives you insights in where you really stand with your content marketing efforts. When you finish your content audit, you should be able to tell what your next steps should be, to keep improving your content supply. 

I believe there is only one real question to ask when it comes to your content audit: does the whole of your content really fulfill the informational needs of your entire audience?

Use Content Mapping Tool for your content audit

Here's an exercise we regularly do with new clients: use the Content Mapping Tool to first plot their existing content into the content map. And you can do it too. Actually, you can use the 30 Day Free Trial version to do so! But be aware, this exercise will probably be a real eye opener but it might also be quite confronting. 

First, you need to define personas. In the content audit we will try to match each piece of content with at least one persona. This way, you can verify if your content is actually answering the questions of (part of) your audience!

If you already created buyer personas at some point, great! You can add them easily in Content Mapping Tool. If you don't have any personas yet, don't worry. For now you can definitely use our Persona Sample Gallery to quickly create a basic set of personas to get you started. The next step is to decide which content to include in your content audit. 

Picking the right sample set for your content audit. 

Usually, companies who start using Content Mapping Tool or are attending one of our workshops or events, already have created quite some content in the past. That's great, because it allows you to do an actual content audit which in turn will help you identifying the gaps in your existing content. But, sometimes we stumble upon situations where there has already been published much content. Very much content. Sometimes up to ten thousands of separate items. 

When this is the case, you have to choose a sample set for your content audit.

Which sample set to choose, really depends on your particular situation. Some things to consider:

  • Don't forget to include your core content. Core content is the content that is on your website and is directly approachable with your navigation menu's. So, classic 'content-pages', like 'About us' and 'This is product x'.  This is the content that is probably the most consumed by your audience, so it is very important to make sure this content is accurate and complete.
  • Then there is the 'flexible' content: content that is updated and new items are added to regularly. Blog posts are a great example of this content. If you publish a lot of blog posts, try to start creating your sample set by using the most recent published blogs, and then go 'back in time'. A rule of thumb is you should at least try to include 50 blog posts to do a meaningful content audit.
  • Very important: think about your exotic content. Basically, everything that is not a webpage or a blog post. Think whitepapers, case studies, testimonials, but also events you organize, leaflets, flyers, posters and advertorial. Content is much more than just web content!
  • If you really have thousands of content items, for instance web pages if you are running a knowledge base, pick a sample set that you feel represents all of your content in terms of content types, audience, popularity, topics etc. 

So, now you have decided on what content you want to audit, it is time for the next step!

Doing the content audit using the content map

For auditing your content we will be using the content map. The content map basically is a grid with your personas on the horizontal axis, and the stages of the buying cycle on the vertical axis. 

The stages of the buying cycle help you to think about the informational needs of your personas as they go through their customer journey: from becoming aware of a problem to the actual purchase. We divide the buying cycle in the following stages:

  1. Problem Awareness
  2. Researching Solutions
  3. Purchase Decision
  4. Happy Customers

The content map will look like this:

If you use Content Mapping Tool, and you have set up your personas (using the Persona Sample Gallery), you can get started right away with your content audit. Add the content items, one by one, to the tool and try to map every item to the most suited persona, and the most suited buying stage. 

You will probably find that it is sometimes quite difficult to decide which persona and which buying stage a content item belongs to. This is commonly a sign your content is not really focused, and is trying to tell to many separate stories in one try. 

Very often we see also that our clients doing a content audit run into the situation that content items can't be mapped to any persona and buying stage at all. That indicates a more serious problem: not being able to map your content in the content map is a sign that the content is not relevant for your audience and isn't helping anyone get through the sales funnel! Usually this is caused by the mindset 'we should publish new content every day/week/month', and not working with an actual content strategy. 

The result of your content audit

When you are done mapping all of your content to the content map, you will have a clear visual of the 'heat map' of your content. This helps you identifying the gaps in your content: the parts of the informational needs of your audience that you fail to fulfill adequately. 

Of course, sometimes these gaps can be easily explained and even be the result of a conscious decision. For instance, you could have decided that one of your personas does not have enough company value, or it is a persona that you can't reach properly using content marketing. That's fine. 

However, more often than not we see that the gaps in the content map are caused by lack of a good strategy and planning of content. The person in charge of creating the content for instance, may have a (unconscious) bias for one of the personas, or doesn't really know how to write content for the problem awareness stage. This might be a problem that needs to be fixed! 

Doing a content audit helps you identify these problems and enables you to actively start working on a solution by filling in the gaps of your content!

Jeroen Huynen

About author

Jeroen is the CEO of Content Mapping Tool and an experienced content marketeer.