From short-form thought leadership pieces to long-form guides, by now, you probably have a nice big content portfolio.
But how much of that content is driving the engagement it should?
What does your organic traffic look like?
And how does it compare to the competition?
The thing is, consistently generating content doesn’t generate a high ROI, especially when you have a bunch of rotten apples (think: thin, outdated content) bringing you down.
This is where conducting a content audit comes in and helps you find those rotten apples—and gives you a comprehensive view of your content from which you can drive valuable insights.
In this article, I’ll breakdown the benefits of conducting a content audit and share an actionable process you can follow to conduct (or revamp) your own process.
So let’s get started.
What is a Content Audit?
A content audit is an activity in which you track down, organize, and assess how your content is (or isn’t) helping you achieve your business goals.
Questions such as what your brand strength is, what you’re missing in comparison to your competitors and your performance in KPIs can be measured, giving you a clear picture of where you stand.
To give you a better idea, here are a few questions that a thorough content audit will help you answer:
- Am I producing quality content that is meeting my customer’s needs and staying relevant throughout their journey?
- Is my content catering to the right audience and attracting profitable prospects?
- Is my content optimized to drive organic traffic?
- Am I using the right tactics to keep my content engaging and entertaining? Should I explore new platforms?
Conducting a content audit is no doubt a laborious task but it’s well worth the effort. By the end of it, you will have extracted actionable insights that can help you bridge the gap more effectively with your customers.
“You just go through the whole thing and really tighten up and it creates a great reader experience and it just happens that Google can detect that. They can detect the quality of the site, the tightness of the site, the focus of the site and as a result, they reward that,” said Todd.
And I couldn’t agree more.
After all, in most cases, content isn’t evergreen. Information that’s valid today isn’t the same tomorrow. For this reason, it’s important to regularly audit and revamp content for relevancy.
Now before we dive further into content audits, here are a few important terms that you’ll need to get familiar with:
- Audit: a form of in-depth information gathering by conducting an investigative and routine scan into your activities and processes to identify gaps
- Content strategy: the process of developing, managing and optimizing your content to boost your brand and ROI
- Content inventory: a comprehensive spreadsheet list of all the content on your website including details of URLs and content type
- Site audit: an in-depth audit comprising both content and site-related factors
- Content audit template: a formatted guide and workflow to structure and carry out your content audit
Before Beginning your Content Audit
Time is money, especially when it comes to managing your content game. So it’s only natural that you run a checklist on the necessity of a content audit for your business before you commit to one.
A well-done content audit will take up valuable time and resources but is only as effective as your need drives it to be.
Before you commit money and time to run a content audit, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Do you really need one?
This is the primary question you have to tackle and the most important one.
To you, all might appear well and good on the surface level of your content game. You continue to attract a steady flow of traffic and your conversion rates are stable. So how do you know if you need one?
Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait for things to take a downturn to conduct a content audit. The audit can be helpful when you’re performing at your best too! By identifying what you’re doing right, you can continue to capitalize on the best of your content production process and perform even better.
Content audits are essential to ensure you continue to drive good relationships with your customers. There’s no question of whether you need one or stand to gain from doing one. Rather, it’s all about the timing.
If you have other projects in the timeline that deserve your resources and time more and you’re performing well, then a content audit can wait. You should only do one when you feel it’s the best use of your investment, at a time when the results can drive further success for your brand.
To get your wheels turning, here’s a brief list of the primary reasons why you might want to conduct a content audit.
a) Shifting content dynamics and trends
Is the market evolving? Are buyer personas changing in line with these trends? Are you keeping track of all your historical content and its relevance?
As the market grows over time, your customers’ content needs will too. It’s important to stay on top of this by comparing what your site already provides with what your customers’ changing expectations.
b) Maintaining consistency and delivering quality
For your brand to drive credibility and deliver an unforgettable customer experience, your content has to remain top-notch.
By conducting a qualitative analysis of all your content, you can better identify areas of improvement and reinforce your brand’s edge over your competitors to your customers.
c) Identify your rockstar elements and build on those
A content audit isn’t just about identifying what you can do better, it’s also about finding what you do best.
A content audit can help sift through all the historical articles, blog posts, webinars and other pieces of content you’ve provided and find the ones that drove the most impact.
You can identify the best performing posts on social media and amplify customer experience on these platforms by bringing it back to them in a relevant and well-timed manner.
For instance, by refreshing and upgrading your current content, or including it in an email workflow automation series that features your best pieces. Extra efforts won’t be spent here when you already capitalize on your past success.
2. What do you want to get out of your content audit?
It’s important to outline and determine your content audit goals from the start. You must have a clear vision of what your audit will achieve in order to derive the most value from it.
For example, you might be looking to revamp your sales funnel model. The insights gained from a content audit can help you streamline your content strategy toward that.
Think about your key areas here. This could include:
- Organizing content inventory
- Identifying content gaps
- Identify your conversion rate for different areas (e.g. lead generation or sales)
- Examine the various channels for your traffic
- Evaluating against competitor benchmarks
The content audit will help identify the content that’s performing well versus those that are lagging. Gathering that data can help you build a plan of action and focus on your output (e.g. through market research, funnel marketing tactics and more).
Hence, depending on what your audit goals are, your starting point may vary. The very nature and approach to the content audit may change.
3. Do you have the resources available for a content audit?
A content audit is an intensive process. A lot of work goes into, not only the planning stage but also conducting the actual audit. You have to assess whether you have the resources at hand to do it justice.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
a) Content audit tools
Sorting through your content is made easier thanks to the number of content tools available at your disposal. Some help in breaking your content down into smaller sections to audit, others can identify broken links and those dreaded 404 errors you want to minimize.
For example, Screaming Frog is a helpful content audit tool that can generate a report listing out the hierarchy of your website. This includes the various links, page titles, status and more.
With a top-to-bottom view of your content, you can easily identify the pages that need updating or deletion. You can also easily sort through your content to identify which ones had the lowest impact and then proceed to come up with a plan of action to rectify that.
However, these helpful tools don’t often come free and it’s best to assess your financial feasibility and whether you can commit the money to those resources at the time of the audit.
b) The content data itself
This is where the time factor kicks in. The larger the volume of content for you to audit, the longer the time commitment required.
Make sure you know you’re in it for the full duration of the audit as pulling the plug halfway can be a waste of valuable resources.
c) Trained audit experts
A content audit is not a simple process that can easily do more harm than good if not done right. So you need to make sure you have the right people conducting your audit. They need to have prior experience conducting audits.
d) The audit process and template
Depending on your goals, your approach to your content audit may vary. The template you decide to use may be more fleshed out if you choose to examine several metrics or employ more tools.
Source: Digital Marketing Institute
For example, if social media plays a big role as part of your content management strategy, it might be helpful to conduct a social media audit as part of your larger audit.
This heavily depends on the core structure of your content audit, bringing us to the next section of this guide.
How to Do a Content Audit: The Process
Now that you’ve gotten all the preliminary stages done and dusted, it’s time to get started with the three crucial steps in conducting your content audit.
Step 1: Generate a data-driven list of all your content assets
What are you auditing? Your content. So it’s a good idea to get started by listing out every piece of content you’ve produced so you know what you’re working with.
This forms the foundation of your content audit and is the primary step. It might sound like a grand task to complete but, lucky for you, you have content audit tools at your service to simplify it and make the process easier.
The aforementioned tool, Screaming Frog, can be leveraged to identify and extract all the URLs on your website into an accessible spreadsheet/CSV file. Think of a map of every page, every post you’ve ever produced. That’s what Screaming Frog can do for you.
Along with the extraction, make sure to:
- Integrate Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSC) to pool important metrics (think: clicks, bounce rate, etc.).
- Integrate Ahrefs to retrieve your backlinks profile and other important SEO metrics.
The final step will be to import your Screaming Frogs crawl report into Google Sheets, Excel or your preferred platform to organize it for easy reference.
Step 2: Create a comprehensive content inventory
Screaming Frog is one such tool that will help you bring all your data to one place but what do you do once it’s all there?
A data dump alone is too overwhelming to draw any valuable inferences. For this reason, it’s important to clean up and organize content based on key metrics of your choice.
Personalizing your data on the basis of certain key metrics is important. These metrics can be on the basis of:
- Functionality: Is everything working the way it is intended to?
- Readability: Is your content aesthetically pleasing and easily accessible?
- Usability: Is your site user-friendly?
- Relativity: How are the engagement levels for your content?
Examples of relevant metrics include:
- Organic data
- Page views
- Conversion rate
- Content-related (title length, header hierarchy, etc).
- Inbound links
- Referral traffic
What is the purpose of organizing your content in this manner?
As Derek Gleason says, “What we want to do is show people how to create a comprehensive inventory of their content that shows where the value lies.”
There are content inventory and audit templates available online for reference that can provide some inspiration for your own:
- DMI’s content inventory SpreadSheet:
- CoSchedule’s Content audit Template:
Step 3: Analyze, draw inferences and form your content strategy
Once your content inventory is complete, you need to now analyze that data and draw key insights.
Here are a few types of analysis you can conduct:
1. Content pruning
Once you have all your data organized and sorted, it’s time to get rid of the weeds. This is what content pruning does.
By analyzing and sifting through your content pieces on the basis of your pre-established metrics, you can:
- Identify: You can examine your existing content strategy and identify the opportunities and weaknesses in it, allowing you to take corrective measures
- Improve: If your content is underperforming (or you have opportunities to optimize), you’ll want to build upon it. You can boost the content that has high ROI, replicating former content strategies (read: content optimization, etc). of success
- Delete: Eliminate the content that isn’t performing well and doesn’t align with goals. This doesn’t necessarily mean deleting it all together but making it unavailable to search engines
- Combine: Sometimes, you might have more than one piece of content for one topic. This is common if your content is not well organized. It’s usually best to merge these together into one best version, allowing you to maximize on the popularity of both pieces
Some of the key questions to ask in this process include:
- Is content generating a suitable number of site visitors?
- What percentage of visitors are organic?
- What key metrics supplement organic traffic?
- Is my content generating backlinks?
- Is my content attracting social buzz and shares?
The results of successful content pruning? A gradual increase in productive site visitors and traffic.
2. Content Gap Analysis
An alternative approach is to leverage your key metrics and compare them against your established buyer personas and brand content goals, identifying the gaps that may exist in the process.
Buyer personas outline customer psyche through data, allowing you to build strategies that will better cater to their needs.
In content marketing, this can help you:
- Identify content that is still relevant and high-impact
- Identify content that’s not performing well
- Identify content that you’re missing all together
And in general, identifying your gaps can help you create a solid content marketing strategy.
Similar to content pruning, you can then ask yourself the question of what action to take to bridge those gaps.
The better understanding you have of your buyer personas, the greater the impact of the content you can deliver. Cut back on irrelevant content ruthlessly and fine-tune your content strategy to match, not only your brand goals, but also your buyer’s needs.
One simple way you can do this is by running a Google search. The #1 ranking on a search result is what a lot of websites hope for. If you’re not in that rank, you can compare to your competitor who’s filling in that slot and see what gaps need bridging.
Flywheel, a hosting company with a customer base ranging from agency owners to freelancers, does a good job of bridging in content gaps by customizing their landing pages separately for agencies versus freelancers as shown below.
Source: Flywheel for agencies
Source: Flywheel for freelancers
Carrying out content pruning and a gap analysis will lead you to the final step in the process of your audit: putting your insights to use.
This can be quite overwhelming, especially for those that have a ton of content and finite resources.
For this reason, it’s important to prioritize content that needs attention first (think: content with a high traffic potential, key content gaps, etc.)
By doing so, you can form your plan of action and start revamping your content. For instance, you can use these insights to boost your social media engagements, in turn increase traffic and ROI.
On another note, you can take your content evaluation process a step further and revamp your existing content to a whole new level. Consider the following tactics:
- Use video editors, to turn your text content into bite-sized videos so that your audience stays engaged.
- Integrate your content guides with a chat bot option so that users can get feedback in real-time. This will boost dwell and reader time
Go Beyond the Audit
Your content audit is just the beginning of a revolutionary process. After you’ve caught the auditing bug, you can always take the skills you’ve learned to expand your audit beyond the borders of just your website.
Using your insights, you can:
- Compare where you stand versus your competitors’ websites
- Identify off-site content (think: social media) that impact your key metrics and track their performance
- Replicate the content audit process in other key areas like sales campaigns or SEO audits
- Test out tweaks against usability tests to see if your optimization is working.
- Go beyond content audits and perform audits on other areas of your marketing. For instance, customer service audits, social media audits, etc.
Don’t limit your content audit to just the realm of your content strategy. Go bigger and go beyond the audit.
Over to you:
Do you conduct content audits? If yes, what are your biggest wins?
This is a guest post by Mark Quadros. He is a freelance content marketer who helps SaaS and online-business develop content that not only drives traffic but also boosts user-engagement. In his free time, he loves traveling the world and living a minimalist life from his backpack.
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