For many businesspeople, the word “audit” isn’t a pleasant one. It may send flashbacks of long, monotonous hours sorting paperwork and begrudgingly entering data into a spreadsheet.
Content audits aren’t particularly fun either, but they’re definitely worthwhile. While a content audit isn’t a non-stop thrill ride, you’ll quickly discover that few activities can provide a better look into how well your business is actually performing online.
A content audit can also serve as a roadmap for improving important metrics like customer engagement, conversions, and—yes—dollars in your bank account.
But before we get too far, let’s cover the basics:
A content audit is a comprehensive way of taking stock of all of the content on your website (a content inventory), and evaluating how well that content is performing against your business objectives.
Content audits help companies find out what’s working, what’s not, what to scrap, and what new pieces to create. They’re all about getting answers to important questions about content performance. They help to better understand user behaviour as it pertains to content, helping prioritize where a company needs to improve.
That’s why the approach to your content audit will differ with your own specific goals.
For example, if you want to assess how well your content is performing for SEO, you may take stock of the following:
Or, for an audit that informs your content marketing strategy (which is what we’ll dive into), you may choose to measure the following:
Just like getting a physical, a content audit may not be something you want to do, but it’s a good way to monitor and improve the health of your marketing.
That depends on two things: the size of your website and the depth of what you want to measure.
If you’re a small site with less than 10 pages and a few downloadable assets, this may only take a few hours. But if a website is quite large or there’s a ton of content to comb through, a content audit can take a few days, weeks, or even months.
And while there are tools to help pull all of the data together, it’s the analysis that will take the most time. You want to be able to give careful time and attention to the process so the conclusions from the audit are founded in good research.
Audits can get incredibly detailed. For instance, while some people choose to measure a piece of the content’s traffic as a whole, others will want to look at traffic patterns over time to find evergreen assets or flash-in-the-pan successes. Practice patience and take your time.
The example audit below provides some hugely helpful insights, and doesn’t take a ton of time to accomplish. Reference these basic steps with a far more in-depth content audit if you choose—just add metrics for measurement.
The following outlines a content audit that looks primarily at content marketing, not SEO. While the basic framework and approach are the same, the metrics you would use for SEO would be different.
Before diving into your pages, spend some time defining your objectives and considering the audience impact of your findings.
Since we’re dealing with a content marketing audit in this post, we’ll outline the ideal metrics/questions/considerations for that type of audit.
Think about all of the following:
Defining your target audience is critical, because if you don’t know who you’re creating for, you can’t really have a true sense of what’s working and relevant versus what’s ineffective or redundant. It’s a good idea to break your target audiences down into specific personas, as this will help make sense of some of the metrics to come.
While that last one is something you’ll help refine as you complete your audit, it’s important to remind yourself of any initial research to gauge initial assumptions.
With your goals clearly defined, it’s time to start compiling a big list of content pieces, from website copy down to downloadable marketing assets (eBooks, white papers, etc.) Store the information you’re gathering in a spreadsheet.
Gathering a big list of your content’s URLs can be done one of two ways:
Once you have a list of URLs, it can be very helpful to categorize them according to the structure of your website, just to avoid feeling like you’re sifting through a rat’s nest of random pages. A simple numbering system will help here.
1. About Us
1.1 Our Team
1.2 Our History
3.1 Downloadable Consulting Whitepaper
3.2 Consulting Glossary
4. Contact Us
By laying it out in an intuitive way, you can see where every piece of content belongs in your content hierarchy, which will also help draw some conclusions over bloated sections or missing opportunities later down the line.
With your URLs and content titles in place, it’s time to start pulling in the data you want to analyze, creating a column for every metric you think is important.
For example, since this audit is for content marketing purposes, some of the metrics you may want to collect include:
If you’re using a content marketing platform such as HubSpot, there will be a myriad of metrics you can add in here (conversions being one of the most useful and easily measured).
If you want, score your content pieces based on the metrics they meet. An A/B/C system is pretty common, where “C” denotes content that isn’t up to par and needs immediate action.
There’s one more very important metric to address: The stage of the buyers’ journey that the content supports. The most effective content marketing strategy is one that is mapped to the stages of the buying cycle.
Assess whether or not you have content assets to assist and nurture your customer at every stage of the funnel:
As you collect your data, do your best to classify which stage/stages content apply to, as this will be critical during the analysis stage.
Once you have everything in your spreadsheet, it’s time to start crunching the numbers—looking for patterns and digging up the insights that will inform your strategy.
Just a few things you can analyze:
Sorting through your data, what stages of the buyer’s journey have the least amount of content to support them? Are there sections with none at all? Now you have a visual look into where you need to prioritize content creation to bridge the gap between turning your leads into conversions.
What about topicality? If you can see certain topics have been very popular, are you creating enough content around them?
Styles change, authors rotate—but inconsistent content and messaging will confuse visitors and leave them wondering who your brand really is. By assessing the voice and tone of your content, as well as the quality of the information itself, you can eliminate ambiguity and put your best foot forward online.
When you’ve identified pieces that got the most traction on social, the highest traffic levels (combined with time on site and scroll depth that prove engagement), or the most downloads, you will have clues into all kinds of things, like:
You want to find the “why” behind the successes and either repurpose that content into additional successful pieces, or apply the same principles to less successful pieces.
Do you have old resources that could use an update? Are there examples of redundant, duplicate content, or content that’s no longer useful to your audience?
If you can find old pieces that performed very well, this can give you fodder to update and create new pieces that will get better traction.
If you find superfluous or useless content, this may be a good time to redirect old pieces to newer, better ones, or to use the “nofollow” attribute.
Now that you have a clear understanding where the problems in your content marketing strategy lie, it’s time to execute on your discoveries:
Transform your discoveries and analysis into a concrete, prioritized list of recommendations and then get down to work.
Content audits are an involved, lengthy process, but the outcomes certainly justify the means. If you’ve never given your content a check-up, the best time to start is now.
Joel Klettke is a freelance copywriter and from the Great White North. Before he decided to write words for a living, he spent his early twenties going head to head with Google as the lead SEO at a digital agency. Today, he helps smart businesses make friends with money to spend, with a focus on website and digital marketing copy. You can check out his work at Business Casual Copywriting and follow him on Twitter at @JoelKlettke.