Content marketing is one of those disciplines where creativity and order collide. And this becomes painfully obvious when you’re building a content marketing strategy because it introduces stuffy sounding terms like content inventory and audit into an otherwise creative process. Ugh.
Yet, content marketing is an investment that needs to drive value for your business and customers. An inventory and audit can help you figure out if you’re on the right track. So, in this post, I’m going to explain what these terms mean, how they differ, and how they can impact your content marketing strategy.
What is a Content Inventory?
An “inventory,” according to Marriam-Webster, is an itemized list of current assets.
We inventory things so we know what we have on hand to fulfill a certain purpose. If our purpose is casual, it might be enough to keep a mental inventory (like the contents of our pantry). But when the accuracy of an inventory affects your livelihood it’s best to keep it somewhere dependable, like in a spreadsheet.
For instance, if you managed a chain of delis you would keep an inventory of every ingredient on your menu, so you never run out of anything important. This inventory would include the name of each ingredient and other related information like how much you have on hand, its location, when it will expire, and how long it will take to get more.
A “content inventory” is really this simple. It’s a list of all your content assets and any important data about those assets. The data that matters to you will depend on your business, but it’s common to include the following information:
- Original Publication Date
- Date of Last Update
- Content Type
- Word Count
- Meta Description
- Target Keyword
- Target Persona
- Journey Stage
- Performance Metrics
- Current Status
In a perfect world, we would keep an inventory of our content from the moment we begin creating it and meticulously update our data as we grow and change.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
We don’t keep pristine records and we often don’t know we need a content inventory until our content becomes unmanageable. So what usually happens is we build inventories when we need them, often so we can perform a content audit.
What is a Content Audit?
An “audit,” according to Merriam-Webster, is a methodical examination and review.
We conduct audits when we need to assess what we know about a situation and use that information to drive our decisions.
Let’s go back to the deli example. Imagine that you unexpectedly ran out of an ingredient at one of your deli locations. A mistake like this could seriously impact your ability to satisfy your customers. A logical response would be to audit your inventory, or at least a portion of your inventory, to figure out what went wrong.
Likewise, as content marketers, we sometimes need to audit our content inventory. This means we review our content assets (or some portion of assets) to update our data, spot gaps and to identify content we want to revise, repurpose, or retire.
How Are Content Inventories and Audits Different?
A content inventory is a list of your content assets and their related data. A content audit is a process during which you evaluate your data and use it to make decisions. Content inventories and audits are closely related and they rely on each other for accuracy, but the terms mean two different things.
How the Content Inventory and Audit Affect Your Content Marketing Strategy
A content marketing strategy starts with the current state of your content marketing efforts and then establishes where you would like them to go and the steps you will take to get there.
But, before you can make these bold statements, you need to examine your business and market. This will allow you to select and prioritize strategies that are attainable (given your resources), yet focused on the needs of your customers.
For instance, you can review your performance data to find content that is already resonating with your target audience. You can then analyze this content to determine what’s working and to craft strategies that build on its success.
You can also audit your content after you have researched your target audience and have identified the types of content they need from you. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to spot gaps and find opportunities to revise or repurpose existing assets to suit your needs. This will allow you to build realistic plans that fulfill your strategy by optimizing your resources instead of creating every new piece of content from scratch.
A content inventory and audit are essential for anyone who uses content to market their business. The inventory is a list of your content assets and their related data while an audit is a process of assessing that information and using it to make impactful decisions. Used together, the content inventory and audit can help you build a more efficient content marketing operation that reserves your creative energy for projects that drive results.