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Click Summit 2012: Gladiator-Style Content Audits

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As a first time attendee, I can honestly say the Click 2012 Summit was a phenomenal experience, filled with sessions moderated by some of the testing industry’s most knowledgeable leaders.  Each of the sessions I attended was uniquely valuable, but there was one topic broached that stuck with me more than any other— the idea of assigning a Life or Death status to your website content.

In the midst of a discussion about content audits, one moderator described the idea that you often have to determine whether a piece of content will “live or die.”  I was struck by one example of a website that had over 20,000 live pages, but engagement on only a small number of those pages.

It sounds simple enough. Just evaluate your content and determine what you want to keep, right?  When I really started thinking about it, though, I realized it requires a ruthless objectivity that we often fail to apply to our websites. This is because either we either neglect to audit our content on a regular basis, or we have a hard time looking at our content from an objective perspective.

It got me thinking about the benefits of performing Gladiator-style content audits, inspired by the same-name movie. When Maximus is forced to compete for his life in the arenas of the games, his mentor quickly explains the importance winning the crowd’s favor.  Though he’s initially very resistant to this idea, he eventually understands that he cannot progress in the games without making himself popular among the people.

Given their tumultuous past, Caesar, who decides which gladiators live or die, is inclined to give Maximus a thumbs-down and condemn him to death…but Maximus has already won the crowd’s favor. Cesar knows it will mean his own demise if he goes against the crowd’s decision.

As the driving force for your company’s testing program, you are Caesar – you get to decide what content lives or dies. But be careful making this decision alone. Your data will tell you what has won the crowd’s favor, so let your audience decide the fate of which content you keep, eliminate or tweak.

Here are a few takeaways to consider about your website’s content:

1. Perform regular content audits. Use these to create a baseline and governance models for pages and content you want to keep and create going forward.

2. Consider your content from an outsider’s perspective. The Click moderator described the substantial lifts his company saw when they provided more of a “beginner’s” explanation of their products. Often we get caught up in knowing too much about our own products or services, and we forget to take a step back and consider what we would want to know if we weren’t as familiar.

3. Try to understand the psychology behind the reaction your content is meant to evoke. Consider your content from two psychological perspectives – is your content tailored to motivate prevention or promotion?

4. Assign a value to each piece of content. This will allow you to measure your pages and content more objectively.

5. Never underestimate the importance of segmentationNever treat your returning and new visitors the same way. They consume content in entirely different ways. And don’t feel overwhelmed thinking about all the possible ways to segment your audience – think about the most basic way you could segment and start there.

6. Look for content gaps. Besides evaluating the content you already have, also consider what may be missing. Is there a frequent search term being used on your site? You may want to consider adding content tailored to that search term.

7. Ask your audience what they’re looking for. Basic surveys can teach you a lot about the preferences of your audience.

Luckily, we don’t need to throw men in an arena and have them fight to the death to determine what content lives and what dies. Try using these valuable takeaways, and you can guarantee that your site will get a thumbs-up.

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