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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Qualitative Audit: A Deeper Dive

Seeing what content you have and where it lives is helpful, but only to a point.

Many a site map has been constructed based solely on page titles. But when it comes to qualifying the usefulness of content, a page title doesn’t tell you what the content actually says, or if it’s useful to your audience. That’s where a qualitative audit comes in.

A qualitative audit analyzes the quality and effectiveness of the content.

Your findings from this analysis provide insight to whether or not the content is useful, usable, enjoyable, and persuasive to your audience.

Some of the questions you might want to answer in your qualitative analysis include:

  • What does the content say?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Is the content useful?
  • Is the content used by your audiences?
  • Is the content written professionally?
  • Is the content user-friendly?

What does the Content Say?

A page headline or paragraph subheads are very easy to scan, and quickly. However, they won’t necessarily tell you what information is actually contained on each page.

Headlines and subheads can be unintentionally misleading. Don’t trust them. Instead, make the time to carefully read (or watch, or listen to) your content. Only then will you be able to accurately record what information is presented. Create a “topics” or “notes” column in your inventory to record what topics are discussed on each page.

Is the Content Accurate?

Inaccurate or out-of-date content can mislead your users, be plain embarrassing, or, at worst, expose you to a lawsuit. Ask: Is the information correct? Is it up-to-date? Does it use your organization’s most recent trademarks and copyrights? Do the links still work? You may need to engage subject matter experts in this part of the audit to help identify what’s outdated or straight-up wrong.

In your content inventory, add a column for accuracy and create a rating scale. You might have a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being good and 5 being ridiculously bad.) Or, you might want a more descriptive list of options such as: good, updates needed, completely inaccurate. Whatever your scale is, keep it consistent so you can sort your spreadsheet later to summarize your findings.

Is the Content Useful?

If your website content isn’t supporting the successful fulfillment of your business objectives or your users’ top goals, it’s a waste of pixels.

Start by adding two columns to your inventory:

  • Value to user.
  • Value to business.

For each of these columns you can use a 1 to 5 ranking or high/medium/low... whatever works for you. Again, keep your scale consistent.

Is the Content Used by Your Audience?

How many people are visiting and reacting to your content? How can you know for sure? If you have accurate web analytics reports and analyses, take a look at them. Compare this to your usefulness scores. Are there connections? Trends? Discrepancies?

Work with a web analytics expert to figure out which metrics are meaningful in relation to the insights you’re trying to gain.

Is the Content Written Professionally?

It’s often all too easy to spot content written by people who are not professional writers. When reviewing your content:

  • Check grammar, word usage, and spelling. How would your eighth-grade English teacher grade this content?
  • Examine voice and tone. Does the current voice and tone match up to your brand guidelines? At the very least, does it read the way you want it to sound?
  • Look at how the content is structured. Does the page have short or long paragraphs? Subheads? Too many text links? Too few?
  • Verify the content lives up to web best practices. Are links consistent with page titles? Are meaningful keywords used in page titles and subheads? Are sentences clear, compelling, and to the point?

To make your audit valuable, add a “writing” column to your inventory and create a consistent rating scale. And, if you don’t have grammar and writing expertise, ask an experienced web editor or web writer to weigh in. They’d love to.

Is the Content User-Friendly?

Depending on your organization, “user-friendly” may mean different things. Regardless, it’s very important to consider your content from your user’s perspective.

Consider the information. Is it focused on meeting customer needs, or is it all about your organization? Does it use internal buzzwords and acronyms, or is it written so that your target audiences will understand and relate to it?

By now you know the drill. Add a column called something like “user-friendliness” and create a consistent rating scale.

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