Google’s primary concern has always been—and always will be—the users. That’s why their algorithm is constantly changing and updating. They want to ensure they’re giving the users the best experience and best results possible.
Thanks to SEO, we know that there are steps we—as business owners and marketers—can take to make our content relevant in Google’s eyes. However, we also know that competition is fierce. The market is oversaturated, and we are not the only ones who know how to work SEO in our favor.
If you want your website to shine and be a cut above the rest, you need to make sure that everything about it is performing well—especially the content.
Hence the need for a content audit.
What is a Content Audit?
If you have ever flipped through a fashion magazine, you’ve probably found a section dedicated to the latest trends of the month.
A content audit works much in the same way. It lets you know which pieces of content are trending and which ones are detrimental to your website. It is an admittedly long and time-consuming process, but the rewards are well worth the resources.
What a Content Audit Reveals
For most businesses, a content audit is done to reveal areas and opportunities for improvement. By weeding out poorly-performing content and emphasizing rich, relevant content, a domain’s overall perceived trust and quality can shoot up in the eyes of a search engine.
That being said, a content audit can reveal a myriad of results, such as:
- Content that needs to be edited/rewritten/improved
- Content that contains outdated information (and therefore needs to be updated)
- Content that needs to be removed completely
- Content that needs to be combined or consolidated
- Content gap opportunities
- Content that is ranking the best for specific keywords
- Content marketing opportunities
- Strongest content or pages in a domain
At its core, a content audit seeks out opportunities to improve your website. By cataloging all the content elements that help your ranking and comparing them to your current page ranking, you can improve your site’s search performance.
How to Perform a Content Audit
As mentioned above, a content audit can be an arduous, time-consuming process. In fact, it has to be, given that it’s so extensive. If you insist on rushing through it, you waste no one else’s resources but your own.
If you’ve never performed a content audit before, we highly recommend finding—and partnering up with—a third-party marketing consultant.
Aside from ensuring the audit is conducted properly, it also frees up a considerable amount of your time. However, do not take that as a free pass to sit the audit it out. The more involved you are in the process, the better.
This is still your content, and it’s still your brand. You need to be hands-on.
Don’t you worry, though; a content audit is one of those processes that gets easier the more you do it. We’ll even start you off with the basics:
Wondering how often you should be doing a content audit? Read this next: How Often Should You Do a Content Audit?
Step #1: Your Goals & The Metrics to Measure Them
As a business owner, you’re probably well-aware of how important it is to have a clearly defined destination—otherwise you end up wandering.
Auditing content is just like any other digital marketing strategy: you need goals and metrics to make it work. And you can’t have one without the other. Your goals will define your metrics, your metrics will guide you to your goal.
Let’s say you want to increase your audience engagement. That’s your overall goal.
Break that big goal down into clear, actionable steps. For example:
- Identify the type of content your market finds engaging
- Identify the topics your market finds engaging
- Monitor the time and situation when your audience is most active (and therefore willing to be engaged)
Once you have some clear-cut mini-goals, decide which content marketing metrics you can use to best measure them (i.e. likes, shares, keyword rankings, conversion rate, etc.) The metrics in question are generally bucketed into four categories:
- Sales Metrics i.e. ROI, lead generation, conversion rate, etc.
- Engagement Metrics: shares, comments, likes, mentions, follows, subscribers, etc.
- SEO Metrics: keyword rankings, organic traffic, CTR (click-through rate), backlinks, etc.
- User Behavior Metrics: page views, session duration, bounce rate, etc.
For the example we have—which is “increase audience engagement”—you’ll want to use the Engagement Metrics and User Behavior Metrics. If you wanted to improve your monthly sales, you’d probably use the Sales and Engagement Metrics. If you wanted to improve your SERP ranking, you’d focus on SEO and User Behavior.
Step #2: Inventory & Content Identification
Most content audit guides will tell you that you need to take stock of what you have before running the audit. This is fair logic. After all, a content audit is meant to help you improve your website through your content. You won’t know how to improve your content if you don’t even know what you’re improving.
But before you create an inventory of your website content, you need to pick what kind of content you’re going to review. What this means is, will you be reviewing (and improving) your landing pages? Your product listings and descriptions? Your blog posts? Your social media posts?
Content is a broad term that could refer to anything, from videos to images to interactive media. You need to decide what type of content you want to collect, review, and improve—and then you can begin compiling them all into a list or spreadsheet.
If you’re working with a small sample area, you can probably do the collecting manually. But if you’ve got quite a bit to go through, you should definitely consider using auditing software like Screaming Frog or SEMrush’s Content Audit.
Step #3: Assess & Analyze Data
Now the fun part begins.
Once you’ve collected all your content and made them immediately accessible, now you get to go through all of them. You need to assess your data and look for obvious trends:
- Which posts received the most engagement?
- Which posts received the most views?
- At what time of the day was most of your content visited?
- Based on the number of views or amount of engagement, what post length do your subscribers seem to prefer?
Every time you find patterns or discernible inclinations, document your observations and add evaluations. Consider using a letter grading system (A for content that performed great, F for content that performed poorly) to keep things simple and straight to the point.
Also, don’t forget to base these evaluations on the metrics you chose earlier in step 1.
It would also do for you to write one or two sentences explaining why each piece of content got that particular grade.
For instance, Content A got an F because it drove very little organic traffic, had a low click-through rate, virtually no views, and a bounce rate that was more than 80%. Content B, on the other hand, received a D because it did not drive much organic traffic either and its bounce rate was more than 60% but it had a considerable amount of comments and views.
Step #4: Categorize & Create an Action Plan
Once you’re done with your analysis, it’s time for action. Go through your content again, categorize your pieces according to letter grades, and then go through them one more time.
Be patient. We know it’s a lot—and it’s definitely getting repetitive—but don’t rush through this step. We mentioned from the very beginning that content audits take time. But it does pay to invest in them, so keep at it.
Go through your graded pieces of content and further categorize them into three distinct categories:
- KEEP: do this for all content that is performing well and still remains relevant. You can even think about reworking this content into your current content marketing strategy (like sharing it again as a sort of “Throwback Thursday” post, or linking to it in an update email).
- UPDATE: we recommend doing this to content that received B’s and C’s. Their performance may not be as great as you’d like it to be, so think of ways to bolster them to an A. Ask questions like; should this be rewritten? Is the information outdated? Is the topic no longer relevant? Review these content pieces and figure out how to make them more effective.
- DISCARD: for content that received hard F’s and D’s, it might be better to get rid of them altogether—especially if you know updating them will take more effort than it’s worth. You should also do this for content that is no longer relevant or has too much outdated information.
When conducted correctly, content audits can reveal incredible advantages and marketing opportunities for your business. However, due its complex and time-consuming nature, not a lot of business owners make the effort to run one on the regular.
Regardless, it’s in your best interest to run one from time to time. If we want to constantly grow and progress, we must make sure that every aspect of our online presence—especially our content—does the same. We need to regularly review and update what we put out in order to ensure that we’re always posting the best version possible.