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Content Audits: What They Are, Why You Need ’Em, and How to Do One [Free Download]

By: Joyce Chou — April 19, 2018

glass bridge between buildings

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Content Audit vs. Content Gap Analysis
  3. Why Conduct a Content Audit
  4. How to Audit Your Content in 6 Steps
  5. Wrapping It Up

Introduction

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 end 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.

Here, we’ll walk you through what a content audit is, why every website needs one, and how you can conduct one for your site.

Content Audit vs. Content Gap Analysis

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “content gap analysis” thrown around interchangeably with “content audit.” Make no mistake: they’re similar concepts, although not completely identical.

Whereas a content audit refers to inventorying your website, a content gap analysis is the process of identifying areas where your website is lacking or underperforming. Thus, a content gap analysis involves:

  1. First, auditing your website to gain an understanding of what content is already present,
  2. Identifying what’s missing, and
  3. Outlining what’s necessary to fill this so-called gap.

Simply put, an audit is an integral part of a content gap analysis.

Since the two are so closely related, we’ll be discussing both in this guide — just keep reading.

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?

In order to see consistent and reliable growth for your website, you need to schedule regular content audits.

living room workspace with conference table and couches

Just like a house, your website needs regular maintenance.

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 marketing 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 on your current marketing strategy. This kind of perspective can ultimately help you determine whether you want to proceed as is or do some strategic reprioritizing.

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. And by uncovering the most and least successful pieces of content on your website, a 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 content audit can provide inspiration for future content.

For instance, perhaps you notice that one blog post 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, which also comes from conducting content gap analyses, can spur content ideation by pointing you towards subjects missing from your site.

How to Audit Your Content in 6 Steps

See why a content audit can take your website’s marketing strategy to the next level?

Though it may be daunting, you’ll reap plenty of benefits from conducting one. Here’s how you can get started.

Step 1: Collect data about your site.

A content audit isn’t possible without site analytics. Collect and compile this data into a spreadsheet that will serve as the basis of your content audit.

We at Compose.ly have put together our own content audit template to share with readers — and yes, it’s free!

Compose.ly content audit template

Don’t forget to save the template to your own Drive or download it to your computer for editing.

Using our template, you can add or remove metrics as necessary, and even color code cells for more visual clarity. Although it can be meticulous, more detail will benefit you in breaking down your content’s successes and failures.

Additionally, you should 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 will help provide a clearer overview of what each piece contributes.

Unfortunately, collecting site data is the most tedious step — but don’t let that scare you off.

There are both free and paid-for web tools aplenty that provide comprehensive site analytics, including Google Analytics, Screaming Frog, and SEMrush.

Google Analytics (free)

Only verified site owners are able to access the wealth of metrics provided by Google Analytics. This powerful tool delivers a wide range of reports detailing who your audience is, how they came across your website, and whether or not they “converted” (became a paying customer).

Google Analytics acquisition screenshot

Check out Google Analytics’ Acqusition dashboard to see how visitors are finding your website.

In addition, you can view and compare your content’s performance over different time frames — 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 of $150,000.

Screaming Frog (free)

Enter in your website’s URL and Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider tool 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 (~$212/year) crawls an unlimited number.

Screaming Frog Spider tool screenshot

You can even export your crawl data from Screaming Frog into Excel spreadsheets.

Screaming Frog’s extensive output can be filtered to show only pages that have missing, duplicate, or multiple h1s, h2s, meta keywords and descriptions, and more — allowing you to easily pinpoint errors and broken parts on your site.

SEMrush (starting at $99.95/mo)

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.

SEMrush dashboard screenshot

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 purchasing a subscription.

Step 2: Review your content’s performance.

You’ve got all that data — now it’s time to parse it into meaningful information.

Pay particularly close attention to the following SEO metrics:

  • Top Keywords – Top keywords are the keywords and phrases a website or page appears on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for. A higher ranking, or position, on SERPs denotes that a website is more relevant for a given keyword.
  • Users – Users are visitors to a website. A larger number of users visiting your website amounts to greater web traffic.
  • 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 is 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.
  • Backlinks – Backlinks, also known as “inbound links,” are external links from one website to another. You can build a strong backlink profile by acquiring backlinks with varied anchor text from authoritative websites.

Taken together, these measures provide quantitative indicators for what 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.

Those aren’t the only metrics you should assess your content by, though.

You can also conduct a qualitative analysis of your work. This involves analyzing your content according to criteria like:

  • Messaging – Are your blog posts written in a tone consistent with your brand? And 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.
Big Tip
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.

Step 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.

As with your own 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 they compare.

Screaming Frog

Thanks to Screaming Frog, you can easily reverse engineer your competitors’ content strategies and find out the topics they are and aren’t focusing on.

You can do this by combing through Screaming Frog’s alphabetized list of URLs, which breaks down a site’s hierarchical structure. For instance, some common URL paths include:

  • /blog/…
  • /shop/…
  • /events/…

The more URLs there are following a certain path, the more content there is for that specific category. And if you notice your competitors have particularly robust content for one topic, perhaps you may want to consider whether your own content priorities need shifting.

SEMrush

You can 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.

SEMrush gap analysis keyword gap tool

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.

Big Tip
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.

Step 4: Conduct a gap analysis.

Now’s the time to move into a 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:

  • 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 content do your competitors have but you don’t? Your competitors may be targeting keywords that you’re not; this is the “gap” that you need to fill.

Step 5: Create an action plan.

Your content audit and gap analysis are useless if you don’t do anything with the results.

Based on the results of your analysis, translate your observations into definitive action items.

These follow-up tasks might include:

  • Minor edits and tweaks, like renaming a page, optimizing metadata, or fixing broken links
  • Rewriting or revising content significantly
  • 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 redundant, outdated, or irrelevant pages
  • Producing new content to fill an existing gap

It helps to set goals for each piece of content in need of significant changes. Examples of these goals including improving search visibility, optimizing SEO, and decreasing bounce rate.

In the event that you significantly revise or delete any content, don’t forget to save the originals somewhere for safekeeping. It’s possible your new revisions may flop and perform worse, or you may even want to refer to the original later on.

Big Tip
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.

Step 6: Conduct another audit — later.

calendar on work desk

A content audit isn’t a one-time event. Be sure to incorporate regular audits into your marketing strategy.

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 traffic, making tweaks to your content marketing strategy a possibility.

Over time, your content audit records will provide valuable longitudinal insight on trends in viewership and shares. And with this history, you’ll be able to pinpoint your most effective changes and use these to guide your content along.

Wrapping It Up

An effective content marketing strategy isn’t static. It’s dynamic, constantly adjusting to meet its target audience’s needs as well as major SEO updates.

But your strategy won’t get better if you never run a content audit. Time-consuming as they may be, periodic evaluations of your content are crucial for understanding what works and doesn’t work. Only from there can you conduct an effective content gap analysis to see what can be done to take your website to the next level.

Do you have any additional tips or tricks for making the most of a content audit? Let us know with a comment below!

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