After many years of doing content audits for a wide variety of websites, I’ve searched high and low for a simple, easy-to-use template that I can use to guide audits as well as to communicate the importance of audits to clients. Like most people who get jazzed about content strategy, I’ve read dozens of books on the topic, looked at countless articles, attended quite a few conferences and meetups, and even written a few articles on the topic myself.
So, after all this time, what’s the best content audit template for my money? It’s this one by John McCrory:
Why Is This Template So Great?
In one infographic, McCrory sums up what I’ve been trying to communicate to clients for years: that a content audit is not just about content; it’s about what that content does for people. Content helps people find stuff (“what Google wants”). Content is what people go to a website for in the first place (“what users want”).
At the same time: content is rarely created in a user-focused manner (“content the client wants / content that exists”). Instead, it’s most often created inside organizations and used to reflect the values of that organization, even when it’s published to the web. It’s writer-centric, not reader-centric, in other words.
Another thing I’ve been frustrated by concerning many other templates is that they always leave something out. They focus on SEO at the expense of the humans that SEO is supposed to be helping. Or they focus on the client’s goals to the detriment of SEO. Or they sacrifice the client’s goals for the content audit process, as though content strategists always know organizational goals better than the people within that organization.
Rarely have I seen such a simple, balanced view of content strategy that subtly, but powerfully includes such elements as the importance of good UX for content (“polish this”), and the acknowledgement that few content strategists get everything they wish for as a result of an audit (“shrink this if you can’t kill it”). The infographic visually depicts the balancing act that is content strategy, in other words, in a form that isn’t 200 pages long and that doesn’t look like an Excel Spreadsheet or a Moz report.
The Only Things I Don’t Like (Kind of)
The only things I started to balk at as I began to use this infographic in my regular consulting workflow and teaching repertoire are the client-ego-crushing elements, namely: the acknowledgement that most of the content a client with no content strategy expertise creates is probably going to be bad and the acknowledgement that clients will often turn into the most stubborn people imaginable even when content is empirically proven to be bad.
Notice, however, I said “acknowledgement.” I certainly don’t dispute either of these truisms when it comes to content strategy. Like any content strategist, I know that those two lower circles are more often true than not. And also: it seems clear from the nature of the infographic that this template is intended as an internal infographic, not a client-facing one.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, however: I was looking for an infographic that could be client facing. I simply changed “kill this” to “fix this” and “content the client wants” to “existing content goals” to try to take the edge off of those two sections, however, which still makes John’s template the first content audit template I’ve ever used almost entirely as-is.