content audits

The What, Why and How of Content Audits

If you’re a content marketer, you know the importance of keeping your content strategy on track. But how do you know if your strategy is effective? You know that creating high-quality content is essential to your success, but what happens when you publish something that doesn’t get the traction you expected? One way to assess your content’s performance is to conduct a content audit. Content audits can help you identify areas that need improvement and guide what changes must be made. This blog post will discuss what content audits are, why they’re important and the steps to performing them. Let’s get started!

What is a content audit?

A content audit is an assessment of all the content on your website or blog and evaluating its performance to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your content marketing strategy and any opportunities to optimize it effectively. It’s a systematic process that follows a series of logical steps to take full advantage of the content you’ve already created. This includes looking at pageviews, and social shares, comments and other engagement metrics. A content audit can also involve reviewing the actual content itself to see if it’s well-written, accurate and informative.

Why you absolutely need to audit your content regularly

Content audits are important because they help you understand what is and isn’t working on your website, making sure that website development is well-oriented. If you’re not getting the results you want from your content strategy, then a content audit can help you figure out why. For example, if you’re running a website for your online company and you’re getting tons of traffic, but no one seems to be converting, a content audit can help you figure out what’s going on.

But, similarly to other types of audits, content audits aren’t only for understanding bad performance, because they’re not just about figuring out what’s wrong with your content strategy. They’re also about discovering what you’re doing right and leveraging that information to improve and optimize your content marketing. For example, you may be running a blog to generate passive income through different affiliate programs for fintech companies, some targeting an American audience and others targeting people from other nationalities. A content audit could reveal that most of your revenue comes from your Australian audience instead of your American audience, therefore guiding your future efforts toward creating more content targeting Australians.

Therefore, you should be doing regular content audits even if you feel your site couldn’t be doing any better (and let’s face it, unless you’re ranking #1 on every single important keyword you’re targeting, which is highly unlikely, there’s always room for improvement).

Additionally, if you have a lot of content on your site, a content audit can help you determine which pieces are the most successful, so you can focus your efforts on creating similar content in the future. It can also help you identify content that isn’t up to scratch, and that has no business being on your website and should therefore be taken down.

Types of content audits

When deciding to perform a content audit, it’s important to decide what type of audit you’ll conduct. There are two basic types of content audits: qualitative and quantitative.

  • A qualitative content audit assesses the content itself to see if it’s well-written, accurate, informative and engaging. This type of audit is more subjective and labor-intensive than a quantitative audit, but it can be very helpful in identifying areas that need improvement that could otherwise go unnoticed.
  • A quantitative content audit, on the other hand, assesses the data surrounding your content to identify which pieces are performing well and where there’s room for improvement. It’s all about numbers and hard data, and much of the actual gathering of data can be automated, which is why it’s the most popular type of content audit.

Regardless of it being qualitative or quantitative, content audits can also be classified into different types according to their reach:

  • A full content audit analyzes every piece of content published on your site. While this is the best type of content audit to perform, and websites should do a full content audit at least once a year, they can also be very demanding in terms of time and resources.
  • A partial content audit usually focuses on a particular type of content like blog posts, PPC landing page copy, product descriptions, etc. They are designed for very specific purposes and with very specific goals in mind.
  • Finally, a content sample audit is the audit of choice when you just want a general overview of how well your content is performing by analyzing a randomly selected sample taken from the full list of content assets.

How to conduct a content audit in 6 easy steps

Now that we’ve discussed what a content audit is and why you need to do one, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how to actually conduct an audit. Since it’s the most powerful and popular type of audit, we’ll focus on full quantitative audits. Here’s a quick rundown of the steps you need to take:

  • Step #1: Make a plan for your content audit to keep yourself and your team on track at all times.
  • Step #2: Catalog all of your website’s content to know what you have and what you need to analyze.
  • Step #3: Collect data about each piece of content, including things like pageviews, and social shares, comments, and other engagement and/or performance metrics.
  • Step #4: Analyze your data to spot any trends that will help you understand what’s working and what needs to be changed.
  • Step #5: Create a clear action plan based on your analysis to improve your content effectively and meet your goals.
  • Step #6: Use insights to optimize your content marketing strategy moving forward.

Although designed for a full content audit, these steps can be adapted with minimal changes to partial and sample audits as well. Let’s have a closer look at each one of the steps and how to perform them.

Step #1: Make an actionable plan for your content audit

A full content audit is a major undertaking, especially if you have a large site with hundreds or thousands of content assets. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan.

At a bare minimum, a content audit plan should have the following elements:

  • SMART goals: You need to set clear goals for your content audit from the start. This means creating specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals. This will help you determine whether your audit was successful and give you a clear framework to work within.
  • A timeline: Establish when the audit will start and finish to keep yourself on track and avoid getting overwhelmed by the task at hand.
  • A team: Gather a team of people to help you carry out the audit. These can be employees, freelancers, or even just friends or family members willing to lend a hand.
  • Budget: How much time and/or money are you willing to invest in your content audit?
  • The right tools: Last but not least, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools for the job before you get started. More on that later.

Step #2: Catalog all of your website’s content

You can’t conduct a content audit if you don’t know what content you have, so the first step is to inventory all the content on your site. This can be a daunting task, especially if you have a large website, but knowing what you have to work with is essential.

There are a few different ways you can catalog your content efficiently:

  • Manually: This involves going through your website page by page and manually cataloging each piece of content. This is a good option if you have a small website or want to understand your content better as you go through the audit process. You can use a spreadsheet to keep track of all your content in one place, adding columns for all the relevant information about each piece of content (e.g., title, URL, word count, etc.) and filling it in as you go.
  • Using your CMS: If you have a content management system (CMS), you can use its built-in tools to catalog your content automatically. This is the best option if you have a large website since it will save you time.
  • Using a web crawler or an auditing tool: Another option is to use a web crawler or an auditing tool, such as Screaming Frog, Ahrefs or even Google Analytics.

No matter which method you choose, make sure to include the following information in your inventory:

  • The URL of each page or post.
  • The title of each page or post.
  • The author.
  • Publication date.
  • A brief description of each piece of content (meta description should work if you have it).
  • Its word count.
  • Type of content asset.
  • Stage of the buyer journey (awareness content should link to Consideration articles, and Consideration articles should link to Decision if applicable).
  • Topic.
  • Keywords.
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs).

Step #3: Collect performance data about each piece of content

Once you have an inventory of all your content, it’s time to gather data about how well each piece is performing. This is the core of the quantitative content audit and will help you understand which pieces of content are working well and which ones need improvement.

Some key metrics to look at, depending on your specific goals, are:

  • Page ranking for the main focus keyword.
  • Page traffic.
  • CTA click-through rate.
  • Bounce rate.
  • Time spent on page.
  • User interactions (comments, likes, etc.).
  • Number of social shares.
  • Conversions.
  • Total number of unique visitors.
  • Visitors by region.
  • Number of backlinks.
  • Number of referring domains.
  • Number of internal links.

There are a few different ways you can collect performance data:

  • Google Analytics: If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can use it to track various performance metrics, such as pageviews, time on page, bounce rate and more.
  • Conducting user tests: Another way to gather data about your content is to conduct user tests. This involves showing your content to real users and asking them for their feedback. You can use a service like UserTesting.com to find participants and record their sessions.
  • Other web analytics tools: If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, or if you want more data than what GA provides, you can use other web analytics tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz or even social media analytics tools like Buffer or Hootsuite.

    For example, with Ahrefs you can export all the data you need and make smart decisions based on it. For example, here’s what Ahrefs’ data looks like for an article on how to protect your child from identity theft

Once you have all the data you need, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step #4: Analyze your data

Now that you have all the data, it’s time to start analyzing it and identifying areas for improvement. To do this, go through each piece of content and look at its performance data. As you’re doing this, note any content that isn’t performing as well as you’d like.

Once you’ve gone through all your content, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Are there any patterns you notice? For example, is there a particular type of content that isn’t performing well? Or is there a stage of the buyer journey where your content isn’t converting users?

Once you’ve identified some areas for improvement, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step #5: Create a clear action plan

Now that you know what needs improvement, it’s time to create a clear action plan. Once again, this should include specific goals, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals, such as increasing traffic to a particular page by X% in Y number of weeks or improving the conversion rate of a certain type of content by X% in Y months.

Your action plan should also include concrete steps on how you will achieve those goals. For example, suppose you want to increase traffic to a particular page. In that case, you might consider improving the content structure to make it similar to your high-performing content, building a stronger backlink profile, creating related content to support that particular page, etc.

We can divide the strategies for dealing with each piece of content into several categories:

  • Improving content when you identify missing sections that other top-performing posts or web pages cover.
  • Rewriting content when you find that your content on important topics is of poor quality.
  • Refreshing content to make it more relevant by adding new, more recent examples, images, videos, etc.
  • Updating content, especially any statistics you may have included in the content, to make sure you’re keeping up with the current state of the arts.
  • Repurposing content to take advantage of better-performing content formats like infographics.
  • Removing content that is not relevant anymore or represents too much effort to rewrite from scratch.

You can add a column to your audit spreadsheet with the particular action you plan to take with each piece of content. Once you have your action plan in place, it’s time to implement it. But before you do that, there’s one more step you should take.

Step #6: Use insights to optimize your content marketing strategy

Once you’ve gone through the content audit process and have a clear action plan, it’s time to use those insights to optimize your content marketing strategy. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Identify your most popular topics and produce more content on those topics. For example, if you notice that more readers interact with your financial education content than with your product review, it makes sense to focus on writing more content teaching people about finance.
  • Identify your most popular content formats and produce more content in those formats. If videos get more attention than blog posts, focus on creating vlogs and other types of video content for your audience.
  • Identify your most popular channels and focus your efforts on promoting your content through those channels.
  • Use the collected data to create buyer personas and create targeted content for each persona.
  • Use the data you collected to identify gaps in your content and create new pieces of content to fill those gaps.

How frequently should you perform a content audit on your site?

The frequency of your content audits will depend on how often you publish new content and how quickly you want to identify and fix any issues with your strategy. If you’re constantly publishing new content, you’ll need to do a content audit more frequently than if you’re only publishing a few pieces per month.

That being said, it’s generally a good idea to do a content audit at least once every quarter. These quarterly audits can be partial content audits to keep track of the results of specific strategies as time goes by, but you should do a full content audit at least once a year.

The bottom line

Content audits are an important part of any content marketing strategy. They allow you to identify missing sections, poor quality and outdated information that needs to be fixed. After a content audit is complete, it’s time to optimize your site based on insights from the audit. You can use these insights to create buyer personas, produce more relevant and compelling content or update existing posts with new images, statistics and videos.

Performing periodic content audits is a surefire way to keep your website relevant to your readers and ensure it does what it’s meant to do.


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