Knowledge Base Content Audit

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There is a considerable amount of literature on content audits for websites but hardly anything on content audits for knowledge bases. However, the basic principles are the same. They need to be customised because the content audit should be as individual as the content that is audited.

Challenge

Company knowledge is considered intellectual property and belongs to the category of intangible assets. Although its nature is not physical and its value cannot be expressed in monetary terms, it may prove critical to the success or failure of a firm. It does not obviously affect the current market value of a company but has an enormous influence on its future worth because the continuity of internal operations depends on it (“Intellectual Property as a Business Asset”, n.d.).[1]

While mergers and acquisitions often have the objective of gaining knowledge, they constitute a risk of knowledge loss as well. It is not unusual that employees will either give notice themselves or are laid off and the knowledge transfer in such cases is often incomplete. Thus, knowledge needs to be preserved and maintained which can be done with the help of an internal knowledge base (Bloomfire Admin, 2017).[2]

The benefits of a centralised knowledge base are manifold. Business-critical knowledge is saved and is still available even if the experts decide to leave the company. All employees have access to the self-service tool and can easily find up-to-date information they are looking for. The onboarding of new staff is facilitated and communication is streamlined across teams. All these aspects increase productivity and help saving time and money (Clayton, n.d.).[3]

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However, it is a big challenge to administrate an internal knowledge repository. The different writing styles of article authors may create an impression of inconsistency and there is also the risk of redundancy. To avoid these potential drawbacks, it is recommended to provide best practice guidelines, style manuals and templates.

Moreover, it is crucial that the knowledge base is maintained on a regular basis to prevent information from becoming outdated. Thus, a content audit should be performed on a regular basis but at least once a year.

Content Inventory

The content inventory is the starting point in any content strategy process because the as-is state of the content can be measured on its basis, as Ladenburg Land (2014)[4] explains. According to her, “a content inventory is a detailed representation of the data about a website or content set, often represented in the form of a spreadsheet”.

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Either a tool is used to capture data automatically or the information is gathered manually and entered into a spreadsheet. However, Halvorson and Rach (2012)[5] recommend doing a human review to gain a deeper understanding of the substance, quality and accuracy of the content.

The minimal requirements for a content inventory are:

  • A list of all files relevant to the project and their location.
  • Relevant data that will be useful in the analysis stage in the content audit.

If available, details from site analytics should be recorded as well because they help to identify high- and low-performing content. When metadata such as the meta title and descriptions are included, their value for content management can be assessed by the auditor. A log of the cross-links should also be kept because it proves helpful when the content needs to be updated.

After the quantitative evaluation of the content has been completed, the next step is the content audit that focuses on qualitative analysis.

Content Audit

The content audit is described by Ladenburg Land (2014)[6] as “a qualitative evaluation of a set of content”. Content audits can reveal the content’s strengths and weaknesses when quantitative and qualitative data are contained. Halvorson and Rach (2012)[7] state that the format, size, or timing for an audit depend on the individual goals.

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Kissane (2011)[8] explains that a content audit helps to find out if the content is:

  • Appropriate
  • Useful and user-centred
  • Clear, consistent and concise
  • Properly supported or outdated or inaccurate.

She points out that the decisions about how to measure these qualities and the scope of the audit must be made by the auditor.

To measure content performance, quantitative (based on numbers) and qualitative (based on opinions) methods and metrics need to be used as Casey (2015)[9] explains. Surveys mainly provide quantitative data (such as rankings) while in-person user feedback rates how the content is performing.

However according to Agius (2017)[10], excellent qualitative can be obtained by conducting a survey among readers and the statistics in the spreadsheet can be complemented by these data. Surveys help to develop a better understanding of the audience. When the pain points, desires and aspirations of the audience are known, it helps to improve the content.

Benefit

When large company knowledge bases are concerned, it is advisable that the content is split into chunks and for each chunk a separate audit is performed.

A content audit of a knowledge base shows that it makes an enormous difference whether you look at the pieces of content individually or at the content as a whole. When articles are revised bit by bit, you never get the big picture. The content audit reveals how the articles relate to each other in their content system and then the strengths and weaknesses can be discovered. This knowledge helps you to keep your knowledge base the powerful tool it can be.

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[1] Intellectual Property as a Business Asset. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2018, from http://www.wipo.int/sme/en/ip_business/ip_asset/business_assets.htm

[2] Bloomfire Admin. (2017, August 21). 5 Benefits of a Knowledge Base. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://bloomfire.com/blog/671606-5-benefits-of-a-knowledge-base/#

[3] Clayton, Olivia. (n.d.). The Ridiculously Simple Guide: Internal Knowledge Base. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://status.net/articles/internal-knowledge-base/

[4] Ladenburg Land, P. (2014). Content Audits and Inventories – A Handbook. California: Xml Press.

[5] Halvorson, Kristina and Melissa Rach (2012). Content Strategy for the Web. United States of America: New Riders.

[6] Ladenburg Land, P. (2014). Content Audits and Inventories – A Handbook. California: Xml Press.

[7] Halvorson, Kristina and Melissa Rach (2012). Content Strategy for the Web. United States of America: New Riders.

[8] Kissane, Erin (2011). The Elements of Content Strategy. New York: A Book Apart.

[9] Casey, Meghan (2015). The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right. United States of America: New Riders.

[10] Agius, Aaron (2017, March 29). What Most Companies Get Wrong With Content Audits. Retrieved from https://www.searchenginejournal.com/what-most-companies-get-wrong-with-content-audits/191029/

© Photos by Alexandra Wurian

 

 

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