throwing out the trash
A regular content audit can help marketers beat the odds of ignored, unused content PHOTO: City of Boston Archives
Would you go on a diet if you knew you'd gain 65 percent of your weight loss back? Would you work an 80-hour week if 65 percent of your output was never used?

Believe it or not, these are the kinds of inefficiencies we're seeing in the content we create.

According to research from SiriusDecisions, “Only 35 percent of the content created by a B2B organization is actively used.” 

So what happens to the unused 65 percent? It goes to waste from being “unfindable (hard to find, unknown to users) and unusable (irrelevant, low quality).”

Looming Crisis for Marketers

As marketers, content sits at the center of everything we do: tweets, emails, blog posts, website copy, white papers, webinars and more. According to Phyllis Davidson, research director at SiriusDecisions, “Content is everyone’s job in Marketing.”

Given the statistic from SiriusDecisions, this is nothing short of a crisis for marketing. To avert this crisis, we need content audits to:

  • Identify which content assets are not being used
  • Retire unused content
  • Refresh existing content to be more useful
  • Create new content with higher usage rates.

Risks from Delaying Your Content Audit

John Wanamaker famously proclaimed, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”

The 2017 version of the quote is, “65 percent of my content is unused; the trouble is I don’t know which 65 percent.” In other words: the key to fixing a problem is knowing you have one in the first place. According to SiriusDecisions’ Davidson, the risks of NOT doing a content audit are:

  • Content is unfindable or unusable
  • Content is no longer relevant
  • Content doesn’t meet any defined need
  • Time and space is wasted, as it could be used for the right content
  • You don’t know what you have and what you don’t
  • It becomes difficult to know what new content to create

“We’ve worked with clients who conduct an audit and discover that content is completely missing for an area of the business they were sure was adequately covered,” said Davidson. That discovery and subsequent filling of the content gap was surely worth the content audit effort.

My Own Mini-Audit: White Papers

I conducted an informal content audit of my organization’s white papers and it was rewarding to find over 30 white papers available on the site. (I’ve been productive over the past few years!)

But I also discovered these issues:

  1. Most of the white papers were not generating leads.
  2. Some of the topics of the white papers were no longer relevant, due to changes in our product direction.
  3. The number of white papers could have resulted in a “paralysis of choice” for visitors.

I re-read each white paper, evaluating both relevancy and quality. I de-activated over 15 of them, leaving 16 active. Since I spent time and money on these assets, I found it hard to retire them — but the remaining options become more relevant as a result, then it’s a win-win.

While this mini-audit reduced my content inventory by 50 percent, Davidson has worked with clients to reduce upwards of 70 percent of inventory. “We see increased utilization, a greater percentage of content mapped to the audience journey, and decreased costs associated with content development because there’s less waste,” said Davidson.

Who Leads the Audit?

In my small marketing team, it was clear who owned the audit. In larger organizations where marketing is comprised of multiple disciplines and may be organized by business units or geographic regions, identifying who leads a content audit can be challenging.

According to Davidson, it’s best for a central content strategy group to manage the audit. “However, in organizations without such a function, the audit should be managed by the role with the most to lose when things don’t go well.”

For some organizations, this could be the content marketing group. For others, it might be the demand generation team. “It should be managed by a role most likely to get cross-functional cooperation,” continued Davidson.

Content Audits Are an Ongoing Process

If you consider content audits to be a “one and done” endeavor, the percentage of unused content will undoubtedly rise back up to 65 percent. 

According to Davidson, “A content audit isn’t a moment-in-time project, it’s a commitment. You need to have a plan and assign resources to ongoing maintenance, and stick to that plan.”

The first step is deciding that content audits are necessary. Use the comments area below or tweet me (at @dshiao) to let me know: did I convince you to embark on a content audit?