Inventories and audits — sexy stuff, yeah? Totally! I think so, too. And yes, I’m totally talking about those stock-taking, stone-turning, scrutinizing inspections of every last asset you’ve got — in this case, in your content arsenal.
Content inventories and audits are sexy because together they offer much-needed insight — insight that will help you do a better job creating your content marketing plan. And listen, I get it: these things are daunting in the sense that embarking on one or the other (or both, which we at Right Source advocate for — more on that later) can be time-consuming and require a lot of patience. They’re like the supermodels of the content marketing world: beautiful and damn high-maintenance.
But content audits and content inventories are more than just show ponies, pretty to look at and illustrative of careful effort and grooming. They’re work horses, too. When done right, you’ll return to your audit and inventory over and over to remind yourself of why you chose to prioritize certain aspects of content creation or revision over others. In other words, they aren’t just nice-to-haves. They’re have-to-haves.
Why do you need an audit and not just an inventory? How are they different? Let’s get definitions out of the way first because frankly, they’re the easier part. Defining the terms also helps illustrate why both of these beasts are necessary ones.
A content inventory tells you what and how much. This is the opportunity to take stock of ALL the content you have created over time. What “stuff” do you have that could be tapped for other uses? Could some of your existing materials be made available to your customers, or made useful to your sales team, in ways you haven’t thought of before? That’s what you’re trying to find out.
The next step is to determine if that “stuff” is any good.
A content audit tells you just that. What’s the quality of the blog posts you created last year? What does that eBook you published two years ago have in it that could be repurposed? Is it still relevant, or does it require updating? Did you sufficiently market the content you created? Are different pieces of content consistent in tone and design, and complementary in purpose?
At Right Source, we do a content inventory and a content audit as part of our content planning process for clients.
Why do you need to do both?
To know where to head, you have to know where you stand. To properly plan, you need a clear picture of (1) how much and what kind of content you’ve got (that’s the inventory part) and (2) how good that content is (that’s the audit part). As any good scientist will tell you, having robust quantitative and qualitative data is critical to gain holistic insights.
Together, an audit and an inventory show you a fuller picture of exactly what you’re working with, and where you should consider going, than either one on their own.
Layering the information yielded from the audit with info yielded from the inventory helps elucidate points of opportunity and give you a more sophisticated view of what you’ve done in the content realm. This is especially helpful in this day in age, when let’s face it, most companies with any kind of comprehensive marketing strategy are publishing blog posts and other content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A word of caution.
When doing these exercises, try to avoid saying dismissive things like, “We publish a blog post consistently every week, so we’re doing enough to support our products and services in that realm.” It bears repeating: just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean that that something is good, and publishing bad content frequently is bad for business.
We conduct both audits and inventories for our clients because quality and quantity go hand in hand when it comes to content. Publishing good content is critical to the success of any content marketing strategy, but won’t have a significant impact unless it’s done on a regular basis. Of course, publication frequency depends on your industry or vertical as well as your available budget and resources.
By the same token, it isn’t enough to publish frequently if the content is junky, repetitive, or worse, plagiarized. (Hello, Panda penalty.) Not only will crummy content fail to resonate with your audiences, it can negatively affect your SEO ranking. More is better, but more better is best. Make sense?
The point is, do the work to complete both an inventory and an audit. Each will be revealing in terms of what you could be doing and what you could be doing better. And if our word isn’t enough, consider this: an informal poll of top business strategists and entrepreneurs conducted by our colleagues at the Content Marketing Institute showed that many consider content audits and inventories among their most useful tools.