There are many attributes that define a good website; proper design, excellent user interface, quality content, among others. The quality of content is often defined based on the usefulness, relevance, timeliness, flawlessness, plus many others. A content audit brings out the quality of the content on the site. You can rely on the analytics to evaluate quality, but other factors you must consider include the brand guidelines, voice, tone and style guides. At this point, we are assuming that you already have an inventory and understand the audit’s scope.
Everyone is searching for quality. People want the best they can lay their hands on. Whenever a customer or prospect visits your website, it is a great opportunity to deliver the information and motivate trust and brand loyalty and engage the visitor even if you don’t close a sale. The way your customers will engage with you will depend on how you present the information to them and the experience they get from your website. If it is credible and consistent, you will overtime create that fundamental trust with the users. Today quality is characterized by the following features;
- Easy to read or scan
- Has an audience-specific tone
- It is engaging
- Presented consistently
- Facilitates important user activities
- Communicates the primary message as expected
Brand identity is important for any serious corporate entity. It is for this reason that every organization is governed by a set of brand guidelines that have to be followed by the content creators. This can consistently be realized via the use of a clear governance process that all must adhere to. It is therefore important to read and understand the brand guidelines even before you start your content audit. Understand the organization’s content creation rules, how the company name should be referred, such as the need to use registration or trademarks in the content, need for abbreviation, arrangement of company name and product names in the content, how taglines are used and any specific brand voice. Brand guidelines stretch all the way to the logos and graphics usage. You should partner with a colleague working in the creative department to get this right.
Tone and Voice
Most existing brand guidelines specifies a number of voice attributes; should it be friendly, upbeat, conversational, playful, energetic, authoritative, clear, respectful, and serious, among others. It is important that you don’t struggle to feed all the tones into each content piece because different content will naturally fit a certain writing style. Important product features or pricing information shouldn’t be conveyed playfully but it can be made reader-friendly by avoiding technical terms and jargon. On the other hand, promotional content is supposed to appeal to the inner feelings of the readers and therefore a playful, energetic and upbeat tone and voice is recommended.
Friendly: Content should be conversational and written clearly, uses short and simple sentences and familiar language.
Approachable: Make it possible for users to contact you. This content can be scanned easily.
Conversational: This is written as if you are having a chat with a friend and you really want the friend not to miss any details. This is basically informal writing, contractions are allowed and you are free to use second person: “yours,” “you.”
Energetic: This is written in active voice and implores the customer to take some action with verbs like find, shop, explore, among others.
The number one step to creating amazing content is to understand the audience. When writing, use a voice that communicates the brand attributes in a style that the customer will identify with. This should be duplicated in all the stages of the product’s lifecycle. Just ensure that everyone who will have contact with the product feels that the content is appropriate and approachable and take some action after visiting the website and going through the content.
Audience research is an important role that content strategists have to familiarize themselves with; it is not a reserve of the marketing team. You must communicate with them in a language they will understand and also understand how they like being addressed and why they come to the website. This way, you will critically evaluate how to meet their needs through the content. Just by understanding the keywords and key phrases used by customers will provide you an opportunity to incorporate the right phrases into the content, the titles and even links. Understand the personas for proper content creation.
Novice Vs. Expert
Understand both the expert and the novice is an important step to meeting different customer needs. A new user of a technology product might not be well equipped with sufficient information about the product to make the right decision. Their confidence can be boosted through guided experience enabling them to learn more through useful helpful content. Have content in various formats like text and video and can be accessed from various entry points. Another valuable content audit technique would be to search for the use of customer terms, preferably from search logs.
Writing for experts and novices has nothing to do with fragmenting your site into a novice vs. expert sections. Just write content in a way that will meet the needs of every user, experts can identify with content and provide extra avenues through which the new customers can get clarifications on murky areas. Experts obviously want to feel more informed and knowledgeable about a topic and therefore would be more comfortable with an all-inclusive, specific and on-point information, which they need fast. The copy and navigation should meet this need by the use of brief, precise, straight-to-the point language. Feel free to use technical specifications, industry-related jargon, consistent and accurate terminology if the target is a business audience. Make it easier for the customer to understand and decide by using features such as specifications, comparisons, expert forums, among others.
Simple Plain Language
Plain language is highly recommended for content creators who are not guided by brand guidelines. This is a style of writing that is clear and succinct to ensure that the reader easily understands the content and fast by making reading easy, understandable and user-friendly. Plain language steers clear of jargon, verbose and such.
Voice and Tone Based on Type of Content
The voice and tone of any content will depend on its type. Apart from user-targeting, there are specific tones for different content-types. For example, blogs will definitely be conversation, personal and informal. If you are crafting technical content, you should be serious and detailed while help content has to be friendly, supportive and encouraging.
Most well established companies have an internal editorial guide that outlines content creation processes and requirements. You should therefore seek clarification from the client before you start a content audit about the existence of a style guide to ensure that your content complies with the editorial policies. If there is no guide in place, it is recommended to create one for easy documentation of the decisions you will be making as you review the content and remove any form of inconsistencies.
A style guide ensures that you deliver a consistently high quality reading experience to your visitors. You will be communicating important messages so as to influence the overall experience of the visitors. It is through content that the overall company impression is shared with the customers and prospects. You risk portraying a negative perception about the company the moment you permit unclear, poorly-written and inconsistent content which will really damage the brand image. Even though creating the right impression is important, it is vital to think about the packaging of the message.
Consistency will go a long way in reinforcing the credibility of the brand and win your customers’ confidence in the brand, knowing that they are dealing with an organization that puts quality at the fore of their operations.
Requirements of Quality Content
Different content creation should be guides by appropriate styles. Organize your site hierarchy to replicate the perception of customers about the product as opposed to showcasing how it is perceived by the business. Think more about the user and not the people within the organization. You can understand your customer needs better with customer research. Organize navigation labels based on typical customer tasks and incorporate keywords based on your understanding of how users perceive or search for content on your site. Labels and links should easily suggest what a user should expect by clicking on them.
We might not have clear content audit rules for carrying out audits and measuring them against voice and quality. Every piece of content should be crafted in a specific way, so long as it targets the audience. Evaluate your content based on guidelines, data and personas but above all, apply some common sense and your content creation experience to craft quality content. Whenever your actions are guided by your customers’ understanding, chances are slim that you will go wrong.
How to Perform a Content Audit, Kristina Kledzik