Bring up “content inventory”, “content audit” or “content matrix” with content marketers and be prepared for passion, disagreement and debate. Also be prepared to learn something. Whichever type they use, content marketers who build content plans based on inventory knowledge are setting themselves up for success.
First, let’s level set on the definitions of these practices.
- Content Inventory. This is a quantitative review of what exists. Typically tracked elements include audience, buying stage, campaign, location and type. Other metrics like traffic, downloads, readability scores and performance details may be included.This includes both online and offline content. Once you have this information you can make sure you have the content you need for upcoming marketing and sales campaigns.
- Content Audit. A full audit is typically both quantitative and qualitative. You’d conduct an inventory, and also evaluate the freshness and relevance to audience types, inclusion of key messages, adherence to brand standards, mapping content to journey stages, evaluation of content and more. This includes both online and offline content.
- Content Matrix. A matrix generally follows the information capture of an audit but focuses on your website including images used and metadata on pages.
We interviewed content marketing experts Chris Zender, VP of Content Services at Tendo Communications and Erika Heald, Content Marketing and Social Media Consultant for their advice and tips on content inventories.
Q: What is the top reason that inventories have historically been worth the effort?
Chris: Inventories are worth the effort because they turn assumptions into facts [Click to Tweet]. Inventories quantify and qualify the content companies have already created, providing a factual starting point so that companies can develop a roadmap for strategic content creation.
Creating content can be expensive—even limited content creation requires time, money, and resources from an organization. Inventories bring to light the content already available for each audience, journey stage, topic, product, etc. By doing this, inventories also identify information gaps—and highlight opportunities for content creation.
I’ve never conducted an audit where we didn’t have at least one stakeholder say, “THAT is still on the site?! How is that possible?”
Erika: Until you actually take inventory of all your content assets, you can’t identify if you’re missing content you need as part of the buyer’s journey, or if you have the content but it’s just not being promoted well enough to the field. Especially in a large organization with multiple content creators, an inventory is necessary to avoid duplication of efforts.
Q: What’s the most time-consuming part of a content inventory?
Chris: It may sound crazy, but for us the most time-consuming part of an inventory is ensuring that we have all the data sources we need to produce a comprehensive inventory. Most of our clients are large enterprise organizations, so content is distributed across multiple content management systems, digital asset management systems, and other information repositories.
Erika: The manual data entry takes the most time, and is also where many errors come in. Additionally, keeping a manual inventory up-to-date can quickly become a time sink if you have hundreds of pieces of content [Click to Tweet].
Q: What challenges have you faced in operationalizing an inventory?
Erika: One large content library project I worked on ran into a road block at the ninth hour when another internal team gave feedback that they didn’t like the vendor’s user interface or the way in which search worked within the library. This was after numerous issues with importing our existing content inventory spreadsheet into the system and days of manual data re-entry and error checking. The project ended up having to be pushed out while we worked with the vendor to change some of the library functionality to meet everyone’s differing requirements. It’s incredibly important to have a flexible platform that allows you to tag and retrieve content in a wide variety of ways to accommodate your many internal stakeholders and the way they want to be able to access the content they need.
Chris: We believe there are three keys to conducting a successful inventory:
- Criteria: Establish all criteria before the inventory begins; re-inventorying delays the process and sometimes muddles results.
- Communication: Ensure input and buy-in from all stakeholders; set regular meetings to ask questions, uncover potential issues, and keep everyone informed on findings.
- Control: Set up one person as the decision maker; discussion is encouraged, but inventories are not a democratic exercise.
Top content marketing experts agree it’s time we take control of our content planning with inventories that can be easily updated, operationalized and empower our content creators to fuel successful sales and marketing campaigns with their content.