How to Measure and Evaluate Content

How do you evaluate your content?

Too many of my clients assume that they can’t. Content isn’t scientific, it’s a humanities area. It’s all grey areas and fuzzy lines, so we just have to try out a bunch of content and then hopefully something works, right?

Wrong.

There are numerous ways to evaluate content, and my two favorites are the content scorecard and the content evaluation. Both have pros and cons, and both can help make content creation a scientific practice.

Evaluate Content to Get Details

Whenever I can, I like to kick off a project with a content evaluation. There are three steps to an effective evaluation.

  1. Identify the target audience’s goals and the organization’s goals
  2. Translate goals into KPIs
  3. Rate each page on how it accomplishes those goals

The key to a successful content evaluation is recognizing those goals. We’re not evaluating the content according to how much I like it, how nicely it’s written, or even how well it accomplishes general best practices. We’re evaluating whether it succeeds in accomplishing the goals that we’ve set.

This sort of evaluation takes a lot of time. For a 20 page site, it’s a 2-3 hour project, but for a 500 page site, it’s easily a 40 hour commitment, and it’s not always necessary. When there are questions about specific pages, those are good pages to evaluate. This sort of evaluation will help content creaters or editors know where to focus their time. Alternatively, when stakeholders need convincing of the importance of creating a full content strategy, seeing the poor showing of page after page after page is well worth the time the evaluation takes.

Use a Content Scorecard for the Big Picture

Content Strategy Inc recently wrote up a step-by-step process for content scoring. As they explain, a content scorecard is useful in creating high-level findings and recommendations. The scorecard lists specific criteria, and the content strategist then goes through the site and gives the site as a whole a grade for each item in the list.

Where the content evaluation focuses on individual pages, the content scorecard is about the general feeling the site provides. This is great to do as part of a general usability site review, even before the research phase. For a massive site, it’s far more feasible than a content evaluation.

The downside to the content scorecard is that not all content across a site is necessarily consistent, so answering a question about all the content is tricky.

You Need a Scorecard and Content Evaluation

These two tools are both immensely valuable ones to have in your kit. In some situations, a combination of the two is the perfect way to get a sense of the general site as well as some specific issues to fix. Ultimately, it will depend on the sort of project:

  • General usability project? Content scorecard.
  • Hundreds or thousands of pages? Content scorecard.
  • Preparing for content edits or future creation? Content evaluation
  • Large budget and tough-to-convince stakeholders? Content evaluation
  • Research on the target audience available? Content evaluation
  • Delivering high level findings? Content scorecard

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