A content audit is a game-changer for stepping up any website’s content marketing strategy. Keep reading to find out what a content audit is, why your website needs one, and how to make the most of one.
What Is a Content Audit?
Back in 2009, Microsoft Office Online’s content team made a startling discovery: of their 10 million web pages, approximately 3 million had never been visited. The team took the finding to heart and began removing these pages and links to them. The result?
A more streamlined website filled with content meeting its users’ needs and unencumbered by irrelevant pages.
Without a content audit, those 3 million pages may have still existed. And, like Microsoft, you too should conduct a content audit for your website.
That’s right—it’s not enough to just publish blog posts. You also need to regularly reassess your content as a part of your marketing strategy. This is where content audits come into play.
A content audit is a comprehensive inventory and evaluation of your website with the ultimate goal of improving it.
In any effective content marketing strategy, a content audit is a must. Below, we’ll walk you through what a content audit is, why every website needs one, and how you can conduct one for your site.
Why Conduct a Content Audit
Think of your website as a house and a content audit as a routine chore for maintaining its upkeep. Just as houses can develop cracks in their roofs and foundations, websites can lose their relevance and grow stale to users.
And without regular maintenance, who’d want to enter?
The purpose of a content audit is to review all the content on your site and see what's effective. Understanding what should be removed, improved, and added to your site is vital to growing your traffic, engagement, and conversions.
Benefits of Content Audits
As your website’s figurative housekeeping, a content audit benefits your marketing strategy in three major ways:
It provides an assessment of your current content strategy.
As a comprehensive website inventory, a content audit provides a bird’s-eye view of your work. Whether it’s your landing pages, infographics, blog posts, or videos, this holistic appraisal of your site can reveal topics or areas you’ve unknowingly neglected or expended too many resources on.
While it’s easy for marketers to get mired in the micro-level details of their content strategy, an audit paints a broader picture, providing fresh insight into your current marketing strategy. This kind of perspective can ultimately help you determine whether you want to proceed as is or do some strategic prioritizing.
It identifies weaknesses and opportunities for better SEO.
Without a regularly scheduled content audit, you may as well be throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks.
Concrete, objective data from your audit helps identify which pages garner the most visits, shares, and user engagement overall as well as which attract the least. By uncovering the most and least successful pieces of content on your website, an SEO content audit sheds light on areas in urgent need of improvement. From there, you can revisit and optimize old and underperforming content for better SEO results.
An audit gives direction for future content creation.
By revealing your top-performing pages, a website content audit can inspire future pieces of content.
For instance, perhaps you notice that one blog post or article outdid others in terms of bounce rate and traffic. Given this insight, you should consider producing more content related to the topic or structure future posts in a similar way.
Alternatively, your audit may reveal topics you’ve neglected to focus on. This finding can spur new blog post ideas by pointing you towards subjects missing from your site.
Free Content Audit Template
Looking for a template to help organize your audit data?
We at Compose.ly have put together our own content audit template to share with readers—and yes, it’s free!
Using our template, you can add or remove metrics as necessary, and color code cells for more visual clarity.
We’ve also included a sheet for your “competitor audit” in our free content audit template. As with your website’s datasheet, categories can be added or removed according to your unique content audit needs.
How to Run a Content Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide
Though the content audit process may seem daunting, you’ll reap plenty of benefits from conducting a content audit. Here’s how to get started.
1. Collect data using a content audit tool.
A content audit isn’t possible without site analytics. Collect and compile this data into a spreadsheet. This will serve as the basis of your content audit. Although it can be meticulous, more detail will benefit you in breaking down your content’s successes and failures.
Remember to categorize your content, e.g., by distinguishing landing pages from blog posts, or classifying blog posts according to their overarching themes. Each piece of content should serve a unique purpose on your website, and categorizing them on your spreadsheet provides a clear overview of your content performance.
Unfortunately, collecting site data is the most tedious step—but don’t let that scare you off.
There are both free and paid-for content audit tools aplenty that provide comprehensive site analytics, including Google Analytics, Screaming Frog, and SEMrush.
Google Analytics (free)
Only verified site owners can access the wealth of performance metrics provided by Google Analytics. This is one of the most powerful analytics tools available for site owners and it delivers a wide range of reports detailing audience engagement, traffic sources, and conversion rate (whether visitors to your site become paying customers).
In addition, you can view and compare your content’s performance over a specific time period—an especially useful feature for assessing your posts’ long-term potential.
Google’s standard analytics package is available for free, although you can access more advanced features with the premium version, Google Analytics 360, for a hefty annual fee.
Screaming Frog (free/paid)
Enter in your website’s URL and Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider will crawl through its pages and elements for a comprehensive SEO overview, including page titles and metadata. The free version crawls up to 500 URLs, making it ideal for smaller websites, while the paid version crawls an unlimited number.
Screaming Frog’s extensive output can be filtered to show only pages that have missing, duplicate, or multiple h1s, h2s, meta descriptions and keywords, and more—allowing you to easily pinpoint errors on your site.
SEMrush’s domain overviews provide in-depth reports of your website’s top organic keywords and backlink profile, which you can use to see if your pages are hitting their SEO targets.
Type in your website URL at the top to find out who your competitors are, what your site ranks for, and how it’s performing in search engine results pages.
It also has a Site Audit tool that will crawl your given domain and assign a health score based on the number of issues present. Like Screaming Frog, SEMrush’s Site Audit helps you quickly identify otherwise camouflaged errors, e.g., broken links and images.
With a free account, SEMrush’s interface limits your searches and results, but it’s worth exploring before deciding whether or not to pay for a subscription.
2. Review your content’s performance.
You’ve got all that data—now it’s time to parse it into meaningful information.
Pay close attention to the following SEO performance metrics:
- Top Keywords – Top keywords are the keywords and phrases a web page appears on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for. Higher keyword rankings, or positions, on SERPs, denotes that a website is more relevant for a given focus keyword.
- Users – One of the most self-explanatory SEO metrics, users are visitors to a website.
- Pageviews – Also known as a page impression, a pageview describes each instance a user visits a web page. Thus, a single user who clicks on a page multiple times will contribute multiple page views. Note that unique pageviews are a separate metric that counts how many individual users visit a page, no matter how many times.
- Bounce Rate – This is the rate at which users navigate away from a site after viewing only one page. Though there is no definitive answer for an ideal bounce rate, you should strive for a figure under 50%.
- Average Time on Page – This metric refers to the average amount of time users spend on a particular web page. A higher amount of time may indicate that visitors are engaged and interested in your content.
- Links - Any type of link on your page is an SEO metric to consider. Backlinks, internal links, and external links all play a factor in how your content ranks for certain keywords. Find out what high-quality links are directing people to your page.
Taken together, these measures provide quantitative indicators for what type of content resonates with your readers. After all, it’s fair to assume that the more a user likes a piece of content, the more they’ll visit it, linger, share it with others, and browse other pages on your site.
Perform a qualitative analysis of your work.
There are additional metrics to consider after completing your content auditing process. This involves analyzing your content according to criteria like:
- Messaging – Are your blog posts written in a tone consistent with your brand voice? Do they align with your target audience’s needs? You may have to head back to square one and revisit your user personas if there’s a clear mismatch.
- Clarity and Accuracy – Is your content written clearly and accurately? Remember that Google views quality content as content that’s clear, helpful, and information-rich. Effective copywriting for the web is succinct but engaging, wasting no time on superfluous words and phrases.
- Skimmability – How reader-friendly is your content? Bullet points, numbered lists, and subheadings are a writer’s best friend for breaking up a monotonous wall of text and making it more visually appealing.
- Grammar, Syntax, and Punctuation – How are the writing mechanics of your piece? Content rife with typos looks sloppy and not particularly credible, and may even turn away potential customers.
Don’t forget to take notes of your findings and observations in your content audit spreadsheet. For the detail-oriented, it may even help to print out or make PDFs of your content and mark them up as needed.
3. Analyze your competition.
Learning how to improve your content wouldn’t be complete without competitor research. After all, your competition represents your frame of reference for what your target audience and Google find valuable.
Along with your site, you’ll need to collect data on your competitors. While you may not have access to their Google Analytics dashboard, you can still use Screaming Frog and SEMrush to see how their content marketing efforts compare to yours.
With Screaming Frog, you can easily reverse engineer your competitors’ content strategies and find out the topics they are and aren’t focusing on.
To do so, comb through Screaming Frog’s alphabetized list of URLs, which breaks down a site’s hierarchical structure. For instance, some common URL paths include:
The more URLs there are following a certain path, the more content there is for that specific category. If you notice your competitors have particularly robust content for one topic, you may want to consider whether your own content priorities need shifting.
Make your website go head to head with your competitors using SEMrush’s Gap Analysis tools. The Keyword Gap and Backlink Gap reports allow you to compare up to five domains and see which website takes the lead.
You can compare your site’s performance with four other rival domains using the Keyword Gap tool. In addition, SEMrush offers an SEO Content Template tool to study your rivals. Type in your target keywords, and it’ll analyze your rival websites and produce content recommendations for readability, text length, and more.
4. Conduct a content gap analysis.
While your content audit provides objective, quantifiable data on how your site performs, your competitor audit serves as a point of comparison for where it could improve.
Thus, while looking at your content and competitor audits, consider the “gap” between them:
- What content is underperforming on your site? You can judge your posts based on their search rankings, traffic, and social engagement. This is the content that you will need to edit, revise, or change in some way.
- What content is doing well? Knowing which pages generate the most social media shares and traffic can help you identify what is most effective with your audience. Perhaps there’s a pattern to these successes that you can apply to future content.
- What kinds of content are you missing? In other words, what types of content do your competitors have that you don’t? Your competitors may be targeting keywords that you’re not; this is the “gap” you need to fill.
5. Create an action plan.
Your content audit is useless if you don’t do anything with the results.
Based on the results of your analysis, translate your observations into a plan of action.
Actionable things you can do after you finish your content audit include:
- Minor edits and tweaks, like renaming a page, optimizing metadata, or fixing broken links
- Rewriting or revising outdated content
- Combining content from two or more pages
- Adding images, videos, and/or other forms of multimedia
- Repurposing a piece, e.g., sharing snippets from it on social media or creating an infographic
- Removing irrelevant or duplicate content
- Producing new, high-quality content covering new topics
Set content audit goals for each piece of content in need of changes. Examples of these goals include improving search visibility, optimizing SEO, and decreasing bounce rate.
If you significantly revise or delete any content, don’t forget to save the originals somewhere for safekeeping. Your new revisions may flop and perform worse, or you may even want to refer to the original later on.
When you do make changes, take note of the date and scope of your edits in a separate document somewhere. Google Analytics even has an annotation feature built into its system for this. Later on, these notes will help you determine whether your changes had a positive or negative effect.
6. Conduct another audit—later.
With Google’s algorithm and the laws of SEO constantly in flux, don’t expect your site’s performance to maintain its current trajectory.
Make it a habit to conduct a content audit periodically. This could be biannually or quarterly—ideally more than just once a year.
In a similar vein, you should stay on top of changes to Google’s algorithm and other relevant industry news. Whether positively or adversely, these large-scale updates will affect your website’s search visibility and organic traffic, making tweaks to your content marketing strategy necessary.
Over time, your content audit records will provide valuable insight into reader trends. And with this history, you’ll be able to pinpoint your most effective changes and guide your content further along.
An effective content marketing strategy isn’t static. It’s dynamic, constantly adjusting to meet its target audience’s needs as well as major search engine optimization updates.
But you'll have a hard time meeting your content marketing goals without conducting a comprehensive content audit. Time-consuming as they may be, periodic evaluations of your content are crucial for understanding what topics work. Only from there can you create better content and reach your goals.
Do you have any additional tips or tricks for making the most of a content audit? Let us know with a comment below!
This article was originally published in April 2018.