Digital Media

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How to Conduct a Content Audit

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. You might think you know where you are, but without a thorough website content audit, it’s likely you don’t.

Why perform a content audit (which admittedly is a painstaking and exacting exercise)? Lots of reasons. It helps determine if digital content is relevant, both to customer needs and to the goals of the organization. Is content accurate and consistent? Does it speak in the voice of the organization? Is it optimized for search? And are technical frameworks, such as the content management system (CMS), up to the task of handling it? Finally, an audit helps assess needs: teams, workflow, management, and identifying gaps. It will also shape content governance and help determine the feasibility of future projects.

A content audit is a cornerstone of content strategy, which governs content marketing. The aim is to perform a qualitative analysis of all the content on a website (or in some cases, a network of sites and/or social media presences — any content for which your organization is responsible). A content audit is often performed in tandem with a content inventory, the process of creating a quantitative analysis of content.

Step 1: Create a content inventory

Create a content inventory by recording all the content on the site into a spreadsheet or a text document by page title or by URL. Organize this information in outline form (i.e., section heading, followed by sub-sections and pages). If it’s an e-commerce site, these headings and sub-headings might be something like Shoes > Women’s Shoes > Casual Shoes > Sandals > Dr. Scholl’s. A company website’s headings would align more closely with X Corporation > About Us > Management > John Doe.

Content strategist Kristina Halvorson recommends assigning a unique number to each section, sub-section, and page (e.g., 1.0, 1.1., 1.1.1, and so on). This can help tremendously in assigning particular pieces of content to the appropriate site section. Some content strategists also color-code different sections on spreadsheets. It gets down to a matter of personal preference, as well as the size and scale of the audit in question.

It’s also highly recommended that each section, sub-section, or page contain an annotation regarding who owns each piece of content, as well as the type of content: text, image, video, PDF, press release, product page, etc. Was the content created in-house? Who created it? Was it outsourced (e.g., third-party content, RSS feeds, blog entries, articles from periodicals)? Who’s responsible for creating, approving, and publishing each piece?

The resulting document is a content inventory. Now, it’s time to dig into the quality of the content — the content audit. For each of the following steps, it’s helpful to assign a grade or ranking to every page (e.g., a scale of one to five, with one being “pretty crappy” and five being “rockstar fantastic”).

Some practitioners say you can shortcut through certain site pages or sections, arguing that certain pieces of content are evergreen. While that can certainly be the case, a thorough perusal of every piece of content on every page just might surprise you. Elements that you thought were set in stone, or changed site-wide, have a nasty habit of coming up and biting you in the behind. For example, the page displaying the address of the office your company moved out of five years ago, or the “contact” email address pointing to a long since departed employee.

So long as you’re taking the time to audit the content, it pays to audit all the content.

Step 2: What’s it about?

What subjects and topics does the content address? Are page and section titles, headlines, and sub-heads promising what’s actually delivered in the on-page copy? Is there a good balance of content addressing products, services, customer service, and “about us” information?

Step 3: Is it accurate and up-to-date?

In a word, is the content topical? Are there outdated products, hyperlinks, or outdated and/or inaccurate information lurking in nooks and crannies of the site? As mentioned above, localities, employees, pricing, industry data and statistics, and other information change over time. In addition to checking for factual accuracy, content that is outdated should be identified as “update/revise” or “remove.”

Step 4: Does it support both user and business goals?

Many constituencies feed into a company’s digital presence: senior management, sales, marketing and PR, and customer service, to name but a few. Different divisions could be trying to achieve varying goals in “their” section of a site or blog, but fundamentally all content must very gracefully serve two masters: the needs of the business and the needs of the customer. This means, for example, that calls-to-action must be clear, but not so overwhelming that they get in the way of the user experience. The content audit grades content on its ability to achieve both of these goals while staying in balance.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published

14 Nov

Hills of Tuscany

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14 Nov

Sunset

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Flowers

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13 Nov

Tracks to Success

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Rebecca Lieb's picture

The Symbiosis of Twitter and TV

Can you imagine Twitter without TV? Or TV without Twitter? In an era of media and channel convergence, nothing seems to have converged more quickly, or inextricably, than these two channels. A mutual dependency has arisen almost out of nowhere — one that benefits viewers, broadcasters, brands, and advertisers. Consider some of the ways that Twitter is changing television viewing habits and bringing old media into the future.

Real-time viewing

Just when the DVR was threatening to time-shift everyone away from their sets for good, postponing all but the most must-see of TV (i.e., major sport events and award shows), Twitter made television real-time again by plunking the water cooler down onto the sofa cushions. Sure, there’s Facebook and a host of social TV apps. But arguably it’s Twitter, and viewers armed with a battery of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, that has truly relegated the TV set to the status of “second screen.” This has time-shifted viewing as closely back to real-time as it’s ever going to get, as viewers discuss shows with friends, family, hosts, presenters, and the world at large. No DVRs? Advertisers (and broadcasters) don’t hate this.

Lean back/lean forward: Which is which?

Eons ago, when I worked in television (we’re talking mid-’90s), the difference between TV and online was described as lean back vs. lean forward. Consumers were in one mode or the other (i.e., passively viewing on the sofa or actively typing at a desk). The distinction is all but laughable now. Twitter has contributed immensely to an active, engaged, participatory television audience. Advertisers don’t hate this.

Higher ratings

Live chats on Twitter with talent from the show “Bad Girls Club” increased tune-in for the show on Oxygen by 92 percent. On the West Coast, where the chats were not initially available (presumably for time zone reasons) tune-in was up only 14 percent. This is only one of dozens of anecdotes of increased activity, engagement, and boosted ratings — thanks to the immediacy and buzz generated not only by Twitter, but by pulling other forms of social marketing into the mix, such as images and videos. Again, it’s good for everyone in the ecosystem: viewers, Twitter, the broadcaster, and advertiser.

Greater advertiser reach/targeting at little incremental cost

Compared to the cost of a TV buy, advertising on Twitter is a relative bargain. Arguably, Twitter’s acquisition of Bluefin earlier this year can help those advertisers even better target audience segments than broadcast can, at lower cost for better messaging resonance. Another win-win.

Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published. 

Image credit: arcticpenguin

Rebecca Lieb's picture

How Dell Is Innovating In Native Advertising

We’ve talked a good deal in this space about converged media, the blending of paid, owned, and earned in digital channels. Now it appears a sound barrier of sorts has been shattered with the selection of a native ad that Dell created for Forbes.com for publication in an actual book.

This month, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published “The Best American Infographics 2013,” which includes an illustration that Dell published on its Forbes BrandVoice page in April 2012. The credit reads “Dell Inc. on Forbes.com.”

Dell Managing Editor Stephanie Losee regards this as a watershed moment for content marketing. “In other words, one of the most prestigious publishing houses in the world just called Dell a publisher, and they did it because of what we posted on our DellVoice page. Native advertising, meet traditional publishing.”

“As far as I know,” Losee told me, “This is the first time a traditional publisher has affirmed sponsored content as editorial, particularly as prestigious a publishing house as Houghton Mifflin. They were fully aware of the source. They knew it was native advertising, yet still selected the graphic and gave us credit.”

Read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

A Big Deal for Content Marketing: Oracle Buys Compendium

Today Oracle announced that it’s buying Compendium, a company that offers cloud-based content marketing workflow solutions.  Compendium will be integrated into the Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud.

 
At Altimeter Group, I’m just now embarking on a research project to map the content vendor landscape (slated for publication in Q1 of 2014). There are literally dozens and dozens of companies on the scene, all offering solutions that address small niches of the very broad content workflow requirements. The first and most immediately apparent finding is that there will be many such mergers and acquisitions in the sector.
 
Oracle’s acquisition of Compendium is indeed a watershed moment for content. It’s acknowledgement that content is the foundational element of marketing. Without content (and all that it necessitates: governance, workflow and strategy being paramount), there is no advertising, there is no social media, PR, or other forms of marketing. All are fed and nurtured by content,  the demands for which are increasing exponentially.
 
There’s also a need to integrate the existing tools on the market that facilitate content marketing: workflow, process, measurement, production, distribution, aggregation and curation, etc. Expect not only more acquisitions by enterprise players, but also M&A activity among the smaller companies as content “stacks” begin to form that address marketers’ end-to-end content requirements.
Rebecca Lieb's picture

FTC Legitimizes Native Advertising

There’s one sure way of telling if a new form of digital marketing is becoming legit: the FTC decides to take a long, hard look at it. And that’s exactly what they have announced they’ll do with native advertising, holding public hearings in Washington on December 4.

We’ve danced this dance before. Back in 2003, I testified at the FTC’s Spam Forum, which led to the enactment of the CAN-SPAM act passed by Congress the following year. The previous year, the FTC published guidance on search engine advertising. In 2000, the FTC published its first guidance on .com Disclosures, aimed at eliminating deception in digital advertising. Guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials (and, by extension, word-of-mouth marketing practices), were published in 2009.

Having published the first independent research report on native advertising just days before the FTC called this public hearing, it’s pretty gratifying to see what was clearly inevitable happy with such alacrity. Almost synchronously with the FTC’s announcement of hearings, brands ranging from the hyper-established New Yorker to not-yet-monetized start-up Pinterest were announcing new native advertising plans and offerings, joining a host of other publisher and social media platforms.

The IAB, anticipating the FTC’s move, already has a native advertising task force at work (disclosure: I’m not an IAB member, but I am a taskforce member).

In December, the FTC hopes to begin to answer questions about maintaining editorial integrity in the face of new advertising products that look a lot like content. The hearings will examine how these messages are presented, differentiated and disclosed to consumers as sponsored content. I’m particularly interested in learning more about consumer perceptions of native advertising (so little research has been conducted in this very nascent discipline), and how disclosures will transfer when native ads are shared and amplified in social channels.

Doubtless much will emerge from the hearings, as well as in the coming months around industry self-regulation for native advertising. (It’s highly unlikely that actual legislation will emerge on the issue.) In the meantime, I’d like to share the recommendations we make in our report on the issues of transparency, disclosure and trust in native advertising:

Transparency, disclosure, and trust: We’ve been through this before, collectively as an industry. As with the early days of search advertising, when paid search results required clear delineation from organic ones, or word-of-mouth marketing and pay-for-play blogging, industry standards will emerge around the disclosure of what’s paid and what’s editorial content on a variety of media platforms in addition to individual publisher policies. In addition to overt disclosure on publisher and social media platforms, a code of ethics is required to maintain editorial objectivity and the boundaries between publisher and editorial work. Until industry self-regulation emerges (the IAB already has a taskforce at work on the issue), it is absolutely imperative all parties err on the side of caution: too much, rather than too little, disclosure.

  1. Disclose that the placement is commercial in nature.
  2. Link to policies that govern such placement.
  3. Provide a channel for inquiry.

This column originally published in iMedia

Rebecca Lieb's picture

New Research: “Defining and Mapping the Native Advertising Landscape”

Not since the legislative debate over spam back in the early part of the millennium has a digital marketing term been so riddled by obfuscation and misunderstanding as native advertising.

A quick search of the term on Google returns an impressive 219 million results, yet to date there’s been no real definition of what marketers, publishers, agencies, social media platforms, or any other players in the digital ecosystem mean when they bandy it about.

With so much discussion centered around native advertising, we felt it critical to define the term, assess the nascent landscape, and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of this new-ish form of advertising. That is what we have done in research published today.

Based on over two dozen interviews with  publishers, social networks, brands, agencies, vendors and industry experts, Altimeter Group has arrived at the following definition of native advertising:

Native advertising is a form of converged media that combines paid and owned media into a form of commercial messaging that is fully integrated into, and often unique to, a specific delivery platform.

In other words, we believe native advertising lives at the intersection of paid and owned media, and is therefore a form of converged media. ‘Owned’ media is content that the brand or advertiser controls. Paid media is advertising: space or time that entails a media buy.

Does native advertising overlap with established forms of sponsored/branded/custom content? Advertorial? Indeed it does. Often differentiation can entail splitting hairs. Yet the evolution of so many unique platforms and technologies has made forms of advertising truly “native.” A sponsored tweet can be native only to Twitter, for example, just as a promoted Facebook post is native only to that one channel.

Native Advertising: The Pros and Cons

Native Advertising: Pros

In addition to defining the term, our research looks at how native advertising can benefit the ecosystem players: technology vendors, agencies, social platforms, publishers, and of course, brands and advertisers. Overall, we see opportunities for all players, these being the chief advantages for each player:

For publishers: new forms of premium inventory.

For social platforms: new advertising products.

For brands: new opportunities for attention, engagement, and message syndication.

For agencies: benefits from creative and media opportunities.

For technology: new solutions facilitate and scale both the creative and delivery aspects of native advertising.

The disadvantages? Scale is an issue, and clearly there are (haven’t were been through this before) issues around disclosure and transparency.

As with all Altimeter Group reports, “Defining and Mapping the Native Advertising Landscape” is Open Research. Please feel free to read it, download it and share it.

Tell us what you think.

If you like it, we’ll create more.

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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