Everyone wants to own a website that conclusively engages, serves and meets their customers and web users' needs. This includes competitors, who are definitely drooling for a slice of the cake. One secret to any business is to comprehensively understand the competition; learn from them to improve on your products and services. The same translates to content auditing, which should stretch to auditing your site against the competitors’, earning you a chance to weigh the content’s effectiveness and identify any gaps and technical flaws.
Auditing a competitor’s website is not any different from your own. Just bear in mind that the baseline to a comprehensive audit is pegged on a website content inventory. The first thing to take note of, prior to auditing the competition’s content is to quickly asses the content of their websites, it will familiarize you with their online strategy. If you would like a general purpose competitive content audit, then you should monitor;
- Audience (s)
- Nature and content quantity
- Publishing frequency
- Language, especially the voice and tone
- Contributors, preferably their numbers and names
- Unique features
- General impression
Gathering data is only the first step. The main work lies in comparing your content against what your competitors have, while carefully identifying strengths, possible weaknesses and what sets the two sites apart from each other.
Draft a Scorecard
Every content audit has to be backed by properly defined goals and modalities that will be used to measure and score the websites. Using the same attributes, measure the websites against each. The measurements will however be dependent on the website and your objectives for carrying out the audit. Example; when auditing a blog, you definitely should be more interested in frequent fresh content that is published, commented or shared on various social networking sites. On the other hand, you will want to look at how much information each product carries in an ecommerce website, and how well the content is synchronized to encourage a new user from making the first contact with the product to making a purchase. Other factors of interest in an ecommerce website might be ease of finding various products, how they are categorized, and various user tasks like ease of comparing more than one product, among others.
You must ensure that the comparison criteria is very specific so that it can be measurable but some personal judgment will come in handy. For a broader view about how you compete in the niche, consider conducting up to three competitive content audits targeting the top three players in your niche. Multiple audits will also reduce bias; you can as far as seeking third-party reviews about the websites and ask for recommendations on how best you can improve on yours. In your scorecard, rate various elements on a scale of say 1-5 and thereafter work on averages. Try to avoid simple checkmarks or No/yes because this will give very minimal qualitative data that won’t be useful for your analysis later. If you cannot easily score the content, then consider creating a written appraisal of each site and address the criteria used in the audit. In as much as doing this might make side-by-side comparisons difficult, the qualitative aspect will be best captured.
What to Assess
There are several elements that you need to focus on during the assessment. You can however include some more at your convenience for a more comprehensive assessment.
Breadth and Depth of Content: How broad are the topics? If you are looking at a product website, how many products are there and in which categories? How about the product descriptions, are they informative and sufficient?
Consistency and Quality: Is all the content on the site in a consistent voice for the right audiences? Do we have a similar content construction? How consistent is the quality of the writing?
Completeness: This should focus on whether the content is comprehensive enough to enable a user make a decision. Pay close attention to help functions, ease of access to information, among others. If there are loopholes, take note.
Frequency: How frequent is the content published on the site?
Usability: Pay attention to the use interface. Do we have navigational and categorization structures in place to guide the users without much hassles? Do we have a search button? Are there features such as support for misspells or synonym matching? Is some content reserved for those who log into the website?
Once you are done with the above, your competitive audit is complete. It is now time to compare the scores. Revert to your initial goals that necessitated the content audit. What is it that they have that you currently miss on your site? Do they have how-to articles? If you think they add value, then you should consider adopting that approach as well. What sets their tone and voice apart from yours? Do you think users find all necessary content and products on the website as fast as they should? These are only but some of the questions that you have to bear in mind. The fact is, ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible, and don’t leave any stone unturned.
When carrying out the analysis, maintain a clean and objective eye for areas on which you need to improve on, or determine if you are getting your content right. Be cautious when you identify huge gaps or differences lest you are tempted to move from your own style and adopt the competitors’. Never lose your style, tone, voice, personality and unique point of view. Get rid of the bad but keep the good ones.
How to Perform a Content Audit, Kristina Kledzik
How to Conduct a Content Audit for Quality and Audience Experience, Sonia Simone