5 Steps for a Successful Content Audit
If you have a website, you’ll have content on it. If you have content, you’ll have to audit it. If you ever audited content, you know that it’s slow and methodical precision-work you should perform with reverence. A content audit is a valuable process for getting insights and learning how to be better at content creation. It’s a staple of website maintenance calendars, even though it’s not the most exciting thing you’ll ever get to do with a website.
If you want to know how your website’s content performs and what you can do to make it perform better — a content audit is exactly what you need. In this article, we’ll break the process down for you. By the end of it, you’ll know what you need to do and what tools can help you do it.
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Let’s tackle this mammoth task by first defining it. A content audit is, unsurprisingly, an audit of all the content you have on your website. Sounds simple? It’s not in the slightest. It can get very complicated.
Without going into specific content audit steps just yet – there’ll be time for that later – you should know that a content audit is a qualitative process. As opposed to a quantitative process, which just aims to create an inventory of the content, a qualitative process will aim to describe that content, usually by analyzing some key performance indicators to answer the simple question – how good is the content?
Of course, this being a part of a process that benefits from precision and meticulousness, what makes content “good” is subject to change and is often determined by examining the content against a certain standard for metrics.
So there you have it. A content audit is a somewhat difficult process of creating an inventory of your content so you can dissect it and analyze it and look at all those numbers that should show you the quality of the content.
Why would anyone go through all this trouble? Well, the pot that awaits at the end of this particular rainbow contains one of the most valuable things marketers, website owners, editors, or content creators who don’t suffer from a complete disregard for metrics, can get – an insight, and an actionable one at that.
We do content audits because they’re what tell us how well our content performed in the past year or so, depending on how often you perform them. We can see the metrics that let us compare the performance of the content with our actual goals. An audit lets us see what worked, how, and why, and what didn’t work, how, and why.
Speaking from the perspective of a writer, a content audit can yield some useful guidelines that can help you create content that’s more valuable and relevant to the reader, and that contributes more to the overall strategy of your website. Without it, writers would have to rely on intuition, which is great and a disaster at the same time. They’d also rely on what scraps of data they can find, and that’s not ideal. For an independent writer, an in-house copywriter, or any other writer who writes for a specific purpose and specific audience, an audit can provide a clear set of guidelines that can help them produce effective content.
Now that we know what it is and how much value it can bring to a publisher, let’s see the five steps that should get anyone through a content audit and produce some great results. We’ll also talk a bit about the tools necessary for the job.
Setting the goals is a common first step in performing a content audit because the goal you choose will dictate the metrics you will use. It makes little sense to go through sales metrics if your goals are to improve SEO, right?
Here are some of the goals you can set for your content audit:
Examine SEO performance to improve it in the future. Check the optimization, the quality and relevance of content, outliers in terms of high quality, and content that can’t be helped.
Examine conversion rates to improve them. Again, you’ll look for content that gets you to your goal – content that converts, content types that work best, most valuable pages.
Examine audience engagement to, again, improve it. Find the content that causes the most engagement, determine which topics are hot, compare different types of content.
Every one of these goals will require you to look at your content through different metrics, including SEO metrics, engagement metrics, sales, and behavior metrics. If you’re going into an audit with a narrowly defined goal – you want to improve SEO for example – the whole process becomes easier and more expedient. So, best figure out your goal early in the process.
This is where the fun begins. Your major assignment in this step is to create a list of all the content assets you have on your website. How do you do that? Manually, of course, by creating a spreadsheet and noting down every link and the type of content it hosts. But that method is feasible only for small websites, unfortunately.
If your website has more than a handful of pages, this method isn’t going to work. In that case, you’ll need a crawler that will show you all the content you have on your website, and grab as much information as possible about the content, such as titles, subheadings, image file names and text, and so on. You want to have it all in a spreadsheet. You want to be able to export it, too. Make sure to check out the content audit tools section to find out what kind of tool you might use in this step.
Depending on the columns your spreadsheet already has, you’ll want to add new ones to it. For example, one of the first steps you should do would be to categorize the content by topic, author, type, format, number of words, buyer’s journey stage, date of publication, or the last update.
This seems like busywork, but it serves an important purpose. These categories will allow you to find specific segments of the content that need a performance boost, helping you spend your time and effort where it’s needed the most. So take your time and create all those categories and enter them into the spreadsheet.
You’ll want to use several tools to get all the useful information. Your website crawler might get you somewhere with the metrics. But then you’ll need data about bounce rates, page visits, and session durations, and a tool to get those. You can also check how many shares your content had on social networks, and a different tool will help with that. And then there are clicks, CTRs, backlinks, even a readability score – metrics that might be important to you, and metrics that might require separate, specialized tools.
A pro tip would be to hire an expert who will get all of this data for you, if you don’t have anyone with the skillset on your team, or if you don’t want to increase your team’s workload too much. You can hire freelance consultants or whole agencies if you can justify the cost. Either way, an audit will never be free – it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get the most impact from the money you’re spending.
Your spreadsheet should by now contain an enormous wealth of information about your content and its performance. With all those metrics in front of you, it’s time to start piecing together the picture of how content on your website does its job.
What you want to do is look at the metrics to determine the performance of your content and then group it into several categories. For example, you can group the content into:
Content that’s doing well, getting your website traffic.
Content that needs a new version, an update to make it more current.
Content that’s not performing as well as it should and might need a second look.
Content that’s so irrelevant there’s no saving it and should be scheduled for deletion.
Content that’s not there yet.
This is, again, a step where having the right tools is crucial. However, you should remember that chances are you’ll have to update your content manually if you want to move it into a better category. You might also have to update the spreadsheet manually, too.
Now that you have the status of each piece of content, and you have a good grasp on what they’re lacking, you should start planning how to get all the content on par with the best-performing content on your website.
The tactics at your disposal are many, and most of them are well known to writers. You can improve a piece of content, depending on its needs, by:
Adding multimedia content
Rewriting or expanding the content
Updating its statistics and quotes
Setting up 301 redirects
You’ll have to figure out what you can do for each URL that needs some work done. For this part of the work, your best friend will be whatever program you use to govern your workflow. Use the tool that ensures everyone’s on the same page regarding the changes you’ll need to make.
Have you learned any lessons from your content audit? Have you learned that some types of content simply can’t give you results unless you give the writer time to develop them fully? Have you identified the writer who keeps turning in half-baked articles? Has the lack of multimedia on your website finally started to kill your page views?
These are the insights you get from performing a content audit. You can use them to create metrics-driven change to your website, give your writers some much-needed feedback, and set the website’s course for the times to come. First, however, you’ll need to shore up whatever you find to be the weakest point of your website and its content.
Half of the steps of a content audit, if you have more than a few pages on your website, will be next to impossible to perform without certain tools. Without them, you can pretty much forget about creating an inventory of your website, getting the metrics, and analyzing everything.
The good news is that you’re probably using at least some of these tools already to monitor your website performance. You’ll find them on this list nonetheless. Let’s get started!
Screaming Frog is best known for its widely-recommended spider tool that powered many a content inventory creation. It owes its popularity to its free version that lets you crawl up to 500 URLs. If you have multiple websites you want to audit, or if the one website you have has more than 500 URLs, best cash out the £149 for a yearly plan. You’ll get access to significantly more options, and you’ll be using the industry-standard tool.
Arguably one of the best-known SEO plugins for WordPress, Yoast SEO is the trusty companion of WordPress admins and content writers alike. Its main role might not be during the audit process, but when it’s time to zero in on a piece of content and see what you can do to improve it, the insight you get from Yoast SEO will be pure gold. You’ll get incredible use from the free version, with the option to buy the Premium version – with expanded features – starting at $89 per site.
There are plenty of reasons why Google’s products are so popular, and one of them is the value they provide. It’s clearly evident from Google Analytics, the go-to tool for webmasters to monitor and audit web performance. The sheer level of insight provided by this tool makes it indispensable for everyday website running and yearly content audits alike.
A bonafide jack-of-all-trades, SEO PowerSuite is a content audit tool you can download and start using, right now, for free. It will help you optimize your content, analyze links, monitor your website’s rankings, get professional-grade SEO reports, and even get traffic and social media stats. The suite also includes a Website auditor, a powerful tool for auditing websites. To get the most out of the tool, however, you’ll have to sign up for the $299 yearly professional license.
Another full suite service, Semrush promises to help you with SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, and content research. That’s a big promise, but Semrush manages to cater to several areas of interest, most of which should come up when doing a content audit. It even offers an SEO writing assistant to make your content better, and it can get you in touch with real, live copywriters who can then create content for you. Plans start at around $83 per month.
DeepCrawl is not a tool you want to use if you’re not ready to take your content audits seriously. Highly technical, this SEO software suits boasts the ability to come up with hundreds of different metrics, crawl millions of URLs, and even help with creating an efficient work process. It can also help you analyze your competitors, which can come in extremely handy. DeepCrawl doesn’t offer pricing plans readily, but third-party reports have them starting at $89 per month.
BuzzSumo is an all-around great tool for marketers and publishers who love nothing more than to create high-quality content. When it comes to its usefulness in an audit, BuzzSumo can shine by providing you with lots of information about your content’s performance on social networks. With a pricing plan that starts at $79 per month, you might consider getting it only if you want to use it outside of a content audit, too.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Content is one of the most important assets a website can have, whether they’re into content marketing or not. The content communicates to people and machines alike, and it’s in an interesting position as such.
Still, website owners or webmasters need to perform a regular content audit. It’s a great way to learn on the job, and it can add a lot of value to the company. Not to mention that you’ll be practicing a brand-new skill if you choose to do it – that certainly counts for something.