When was the last time you audited your content? 6 months ago? A year? 5 years …
No matter how long it’s been, your site can always benefit from a fresh look at what’s performing well, what’s become stale, and what opportunities have emerged for new posts and pages to fill in gaps.
Content audits allow you to home in on who your true audience is, remove or update old or duplicate content from your site, and create new value out of old material.
Great content audits start with a clear goal, make smart use of the right tools, and require a clear, prioritized roadmap for making updates.
What Is a Content Audit?
A content audit is a comprehensive process that documents what’s on your site, evaluates for current performance and determines what can be improved. In the words of Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics: “It also helps you to clearly see what the next steps should be to optimize your content, while prioritizing the highest critical needs all the way down to the options that would be nice, when you have time.”
A content audit is like an annual physical, except you are getting a checkup on your website content. The audit will look at basic elements, such as ensuring links are all working, as well as bigger-picture concerns such as whether your content is still relevant.
Auditing past blog content will improve your content’s accuracy, provide a better user experience and contribute to the overall success of your website or blog. Defining what content audits include is only one aspect; the audit process requires patience, diligence and effort from everyone on your team.
3 Steps for Performing Content Audits
Performing content audits can be time-consuming, especially if you have hundreds of pieces of content. You need to set aside enough time to complete your research.
A great content audit includes examining your internal links, backlinks and landing pages. Be prepared to spend a lot of time staring at spreadsheets. You’ll also want to be clear about the audit’s goals — how will this audit help the business? An audit designed primarily to improve SEO will likely follow a different path than an audit focused on improving conversion rates.
Follow these three steps.
1. Create a Content Inventory
This is the step where you’re literally tracking down and documenting all the content you have on your website or blog, even content that’s been archived. Most people gather this information in a content audit spreadsheet and include such details as:
- Date of publication
- Content title
- Content ownership
- Meta description
- Length of the post (optional)
- Relevant performance metrics (cost per click, bounce rate, views, etc.)
You can create a spreadsheet yourself and enter the information manually, or you can use an auditing tool for a faster process. A content audit tool will crawl your website and collect the necessary data. Depending on the tool you choose, you can access or download detailed reports that give you an overview of your website’s current state.
2. Assess Your Content Performance Data
You’ve got all your content and its information listed in one place. Now it’s time to look at those performance indicators mentioned in the first step. By understanding the data you have, you can make educated decisions that further your content audit goals.
Take note of bounce rates, which posts have the most views, the topics that people appear to gravitate toward and which posts are underperforming. You should also look for signs that pieces of content might be stale, out of date or inaccurate. Because of the pandemic and other societal shifts, content published even a year ago could be obsolete.
Look for which articles or blog posts need a complete rewrite, which ones require only slight adjustments and which ones have similar topics that can be combined and consolidated into one, stronger piece of content.
Other aspects that can signal whether your content needs a refresh include:
- Performance: Low-performing content can have a great thesis or powerful ideas but be executed incorrectly. Don’t discard those nuggets of wisdom; improve them!
- Product: If you are launching a product or expanding a product line, revamping old content to match the changes.
- New hires: Connect existing content with a new face or voice. For example, if your organization just hired an executive, update your archive with their expertise (these make great PR pieces, too!)
- Bottom of the funnel: Instead of overproducing generic content around your topic, revamp your content to focus on your unique value proposition..
- Opt-in: If you have gated content such as guides or ebooks, the number of downloads can help you determine what your audience wants to read, watch or listen to. The download data might also give you ideas for content that you’re currently lacking.
As you go through and identify content that needs updating, account for SEO elements. Make sure that any content refresh or consolidation also includes a reassessment of your keywords, SEO titles and meta descriptions.
3. Create a Content Update Plan and Implement it
Create a Content Update Plan
After you’ve gathered your content and analyzed the data, it’s time to create a plan for updating content and implementing the strategic changes. The goals and vision for your website or blog will help you decide which pieces of content should be updated and released first.
For example, let’s say an entrepreneur runs a beauty line but wants to expand their product line and rebrand as a lifestyle brand. One possible content update strategy would be starting with content that focuses on the older products — updating those pieces of content to illustrate where the company is going. This strategy could also incorporate new content on new topics that showcase the new direction in a differentiated way.
Not every piece of content has to remain in its original format, either. Written content can be repurposed for other channels and mediums to reach your target audiences where they are.
Implementing Your Plan
Here is where you are putting your update plan into effect. After establishing the pieces that are being updated, their formats and time frame, it’s time to do the work. If you have a team of content marketers, you can divide the work to play on their strengths and get updated or new high-quality content.
However, if you are currently a team of one, it’s better to group your content by way of priority. Implementing the plan takes about the same amount of time as the audit. Whether you are working with a team or a team of one, it’s better to take the time to accurately carry out the plan than to rush and produce subpar content that does nothing to improve your site’s performance.
How Often Should You Perform a Content Audit?
Content audits should be part of a regular checkup for your website or blog. Ideally, you would audit your website continuously. However, if that’s not feasible, then an audit, full or partial, should be done at least once every year to ensure that links still work and your key data points and assertions are still applicable.
Frequent content audits help you track how content is performing over time, offering insights into what’s not working and what needs to be changed. Audits will also give you up-to-date data that not only informs your content strategy but also reveals insights about the business as a whole. With business and society in constant flux, you need your content to be as fresh, high quality and distinct as possible.
4 Helpful Content Audit Tools
Audits can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to do them manually. These tools can save you time as a complement to your strategic process, but they shouldn’t be considered a substitute for a sound audit strategy.
Here are four tools that can make your content audits easier and more informed.
Google Analytics is a popular tool, as it shows a detailed view of the performance metrics behind your posts.
You can analyze the entry and exit rates on your content, for example, and identify successes and pain points. Google Analytics shows you where your target audience is coming from, whether from a search or a referral. It’s easily integrated into several social media platforms. It also has a user-friendly dashboard that anyone on your team can access.
However, the raw data from this tool can be hard to work with for some content marketers. That’s why other auditing tools are available to help interpret that data better and make informed decisions.
This tool is good for any website or blog on a tight budget or just starting out, especially since there is a free version available for professionals to use
Screaming Frog is a tool created by a U.K.-based search marketing agency that crawls small and large websites, making it easier to gather and categorize what’s on your website.
This software can help you identify unrelated tags, broken links or 404 errors, metadata, what URLs have robots.txt blocked and much more. This is considered more of a crawling tool than an auditing tool, but it can gather valuable data to help you understand what’s going on with your website.
SEMRush is a software-as-a-service platform and is used for keyword research and online ranking data, including metrics such as search volume and cost per click. It also collects information about online keywords gathered from Google and Bing’s search engines.
The tool, used wisely, can improve your content quality and is based on data from Google Analytics. It also integrates with software such as Google Docs. SEMRush has many features, including their “Organic Competitors Report which can determine who their competitors are, common keywords and other words that they could rank for.
This tool integrates into many content tools you might already be using while providing user-friendly reports that help you diagnose what’s holding back your website from peak optimization.
Ahrefs is an SEO tool that analyzes a website’s link profile, keyword rankings and SEO health. It focuses on providing you with domain and page analysis, backlink reports and rank tracking.
Ahrefs also performs keyword searches on websites such as Google and Amazon, which can help you figure out how similar content is performing in those channels. Similar to SEMRush, this tool also has a feature called “Content Gap.” This feature lets you see which keywords your competitors rank for that are missing from your content.
Start Off Small With Content Audits
Whether it’s been a few years since you’ve done a thorough audit or a couple of months, starting an audit can be a daunting process. Don’t hesitate to break down your audits into smaller projects, especially with a small team, to ensure that you’re working through the process properly.
Whatever you do, don’t put this task off. Regular content audits can help your brand stay current, be visible to your target audience, improve your existing content and discover new topics.