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Website content audits are absolutely essential.
Disorganized posts, broken links and poor on-page search engine optimization (SEO) are just some of the many problems that can develop when producing content at scale. These problems compound over time and hurt your rankings, audience engagement, conversion rates and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Plus, when you don’t revisit content, it can quickly become outdated, irrelevant or outperformed by your competitors.
If that isn’t enough, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, found 75% of marketers surveyed reported using technology to gain insights into how their content is performing. What’s more, 81% of companies planned to maintain or increase their investment in content marketing in 2020.
In other words, things are heating up.
You can’t afford to publish new content, cross your fingers and hope for the best. If you want to compete, you absolutely must learn how to perform a content audit and use the insights gained to supercharge your efforts.
So, what is a content audit exactly, and how can you perform one? We’ll show you how to do a content audit step-by-step to generate actionable insights.
A content audit is the process of assessing and analyzing the performance of all your website’s content. The aim is to create a content audit report that empowers you to improve your content marketing strategy — and as a result, rank higher in search engine result pages (SERPs), improve audience engagement and raise conversion rates.
Content audits are qualitative evaluations and shouldn’t be confused with a content inventory, which is merely the first part of the content audit process.
Depending on your marketing goals, many different metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) can be used to evaluate content. You’ll need to assess each piece of content against your chosen KPIs and assign it 1 of 5 actions:
The content audit process can help you uncover detailed information about your target audience and the way they engage with your content. You can use this invaluable information to improve your marketing strategies.
Finally, the information you uncover from a content audit can also help you prioritize the tasks that will produce the largest ROI, so you can get the most from your limited resources.
Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is a content audit,” let’s run through the process step-by-step.
There are many reasons to conduct a content audit, so it’s vital that you set clear goals before you begin to guarantee that your efforts pay off.
When setting content audit goals, create SMART goals:
So, what should you aim to improve?
To answer this question, first consider your top content marketing challenges. These challenges could reveal opportunities to improve your content strategy.
If you’re wondering where to start, research from SEMrush revealed the most common content marketing challenges:
A thorough content audit can help you overcome all of these challenges.
For example, take the most common challenge: “Creating content that generates quality leads.” Marketing teams could solve this problem if they knew exactly how to:
Once you’ve identified your key challenges, think about what you need to do to solve them. In short, marketers performing a site content audit aim to improve 3 things:
Here are some objectives you may want to consider for each one:
Before you start the content audit process, set precise goals that will guide your efforts and help you produce your desired results.
Now it’s time to break ground and begin the website content audit process. The first step is to create an inventory of your content.
If you have a lot of content and limited time or capital resources, you may want to limit your content audit to certain formats. For example, you could perform a blog content audit. Ideally, you have the resources available to perform a full content audit.
Once you’ve defined the scope of your content audit, you need to create a spreadsheet.
You could start with a content audit template — there are many available online for free, such as:
Some content audit templates are fairly comprehensive and can save you a lot of time.
For example, the content audit template from Spears Marketing contains multiple sheets, such as “Keyword Matrix,” “Content Gaps,” and “Prune.” These content audit worksheets are designed to help you gather and process your information more efficiently and effectively.
Although using a spreadsheet is arguably the best way to organize data, it isn’t the only way. You could opt to use a specialized content audit tool, such as SEMrush Content Audit or the WordPress Content Audit plug-in.
Ultimately, if you want to get the most from your website content audit, you’ll need to create — or at the very least, customize — a content audit template that’s tailored to your specific needs.
Once you’ve chosen a method to compile your content audit report, gather the uniform resource locators (URLs) of the pages you want to analyze.
If you have a small website, you may prefer to do this manually. For larger sites, it’s often best to automate the process with a content audit tool, such as:
If you use Screaming Frog, you can gather URLs and a range of SEO data, export it to a comma-separated values (CSV) file and import the data into your spreadsheet.
Now that you’ve collected your page URLs, it’s helpful to gather additional information about your content that will help you to spot trends, issues and opportunities later, such as:
This type of information is essential because it will contextualize the data that you gather and allow you to produce meaningful insights.
Next, define your KPIs.
“There are tons of metrics out there. Clicks. Percentage of new sales. Subscription revenue. But not all of them are KPIs,” says Klipfolio’s Jonathan Taylor. “KPIs are the most important metrics you have — the ones that really underscore what your key business goals are.”
Famed management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets improved.” So ask yourself, “what do I most want to improve?”
To answer this question, review your SMART goals and the tactics you plan to use to achieve them. Then try to identify the KPI at the center of the strategy.
There are 3 main categories of metrics to consider:
Try to avoid metrics that won’t provide powerful insights.
Also, definitely avoid vanity metrics, which are data points that make your marketing efforts look good, but won’t actually help you achieve your goals. A cliche example is focusing too much on Facebook Page Likes.
As the sociologist William Bruce Cameron said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Once you choose which data points to include in your site content audit, create columns for each one in your content audit worksheet.
Once you’ve specified which metrics to include in your website content audit, it’s time to gather data.
It’s worth mentioning that if you haven’t been using analytics tools such as Google Analytics, you may need to set them up and wait a few months to gather enough data to create a worthwhile content audit report.
Gathering data can be a time-consuming and complicated process. Typically, you’ll need to collect data from a few different sources. Thankfully, there are plenty of content audit tools designed to automate much of this process.
Here are a few popular content audit tools that you can use to collect data:
Avinash Kaushik, a digital marketing evangelist at Google and author of Web Analytics 2.0, said, “Most businesses are data rich, but information poor.”
So, when you’ve gathered your data, you must analyze it to extract a wealth of meaningful insights that you can use to improve your content marketing strategy.
Generally speaking, content will fall into 1 of 3 categories – the SEO marketing expert Robbie Richards explains with an iceberg metaphor:
Add another column to your spreadsheet and assign a general action plan for each URL. There are 5 main actions that you can take:
Pages that are relevant, high-performing and in line with your goals can usually be left as they are.
These are often pages featuring evergreen content, case studies, optimized landing pages or foundational pages, like your homepage or contact page.
It’s likely you’ll come across old or outdated pages that are essential to your goals.
For example, you may have a series of blog posts covering topics that are important to your target market that feature irrelevant statistics or dated examples.
In these instances, it’s best to refresh these posts. This can produce substantial results. According to SEMrush, marketers rate “updating and repurposing existing content” as the second-most effective content marketing tactic.
If you come across high-performing pieces of content, consider repurposing them into different formats. As mentioned, this can be a highly effective tactic as you know your target audience will respond well to the content and you’ve already done much of the work.
For example, if you have a blog post that ranks well and has a high average time on page, consider turning it into a video or podcast episode.
Make a note in your spreadsheet outlining how you plan to repurpose the content.
Similarly, when you come across poor-performing content, consider whether there’s room for improvement. Do a quick Google search, compare your content with competitors’ and look for ways to add value.
If there’s an opportunity to improve your content, add some notes to your spreadsheet detailing what needs to be done.
You may come across multiple pieces of content that are optimized for the same keywords or content that overlaps heavily. In these cases, you may want to consolidate the content into one single piece.
For example, if you have 2 blog posts covering similar topics, you may want to combine them into one longer super post.
This will prevent you from competing with yourself in the SERPs and provide opportunities to deliver more value to your target market.
If you find poor-performing content that would require too much time and resources to improve, consider removing it from your website or marking it as “noindex.”
Common examples of pages worth deleting include content covering an event that’s no longer relevant, duplicate content or old marketing campaign materials.
When you conduct a content audit, it’s likely that there’ll be many pieces of content you’ll want to improve.
When adding notes to your spreadsheet, consider the following 7 ways to improve content:
According to HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing Report, most marketers create content for 3 audience segments. These segments are typically the 3 distinct steps of the buyer’s journey:
Here’s the thing: Each piece of content should be created for a specific stage of the buyer’s journey. And when conducting a content audit, there’ll often be opportunities to tailor content so it appeals to a stage of the buyer’s journey more powerfully.
It’s worth bearing in mind that different content formats perform best at various stages of the buyer’s journey. According to Demand Gen 2019 Content Preferences Survey Report, here are the content formats respondents prefer for each stage:
Now, according to the Content Marketing Institute & MarketingProfs, 54% of business-to-business marketers create content to “delight” existing customers. However, this is a crucial stage in the marketing flywheel. So, remember to take this stage of the buyer’s journey into account.
Another key way to improve your content is to expand it.
According to SEMrush, content with more than 3,000 words gets 3 times more traffic, 3.5 times more backlinks and 4 times more shares than articles of average length (about 900-1,200 words).
Another way to improve content is to restructure it or make the existing structure clearer and more straightforward.
The chief executive of SEO plugin Yoast, Marieke van de Rakt, writes:
“Structuring a text well improves readability and, thereby, helps your readers to understand your text. If readers better understand the information you provide, it’s more likely they’ll find the answer to the question they have. When Google notices, by so-called user signals, you’re giving valuable answers to certain queries, chances are you’ll climb the rankings.”
Relevant images and videos make content more engaging.
According to a 2019 visual content report from Contently and Libris, 70% of marketers reported that content that incorporates visual assets performs better than content without visual assets.
What’s more, video content can help to improve ROI in a number of ways. Wyzowl’s 2020 State of Video Marketing Report found “87% of video marketers say video has increased traffic to their website.”
Generally speaking, the more value readers get from your content, the better your content will perform overall. So, look for ways to add value.
For example, you could add relevant statistics, quotes from industry experts, instructions and more real-life examples.
You can also improve your content by rewriting titles, meta descriptions and image alt tags to improve SEO and audience engagement.
Use tools to help, such as Yoast and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
Finally, you may want to improve your internal linking, which is a vital part of SEO.
Over time, old content will acquire many internal links to it – whereas new content will likely have far less. Take some time to revisit old content and add links to new content.
You also can optimize links to help move people through the buyer’s journey. For example, awareness content should link predominantly to consideration content, and consideration content should link primarily to decision content.
Once you’ve decided what to do with each URL, it’s time to formulate a plan to take action on the insights you’ve gained.
Start by reviewing the goals you set before starting your content audit, and outline your top priorities. Then, prioritize tasks by considering 2 key variables:
Obviously, it will pay dividends to prioritize the tasks that require the least amount of resources to create a comparatively large impact.
For example, adding a few internal links to an article or removing poor-performing pages could require very little work and produce significant results. However, extending a 200-word blog post into an ebook would require a lot more resources and may not produce substantial results.
During this stage, you can also categorize tasks by expertise and allocate each category to teams or individuals. For example, you can allocate SEO ranking factors (such as link building, removing pages and updating the site structure) to the SEO team.
Lastly, use the insights you’ve gained from your content audit to improve your overall marketing strategy.
There are 3 main things to look for:
When you use content audit insights to improve your day-to-day processes, you can generate results that compound over time.
Finally, set a date to conduct another content audit to review the impact of the changes you make. Remember, what works today may not work tomorrow.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to produce a full content audit report at least once per year. However, there’s certainly much to be gained from conducting a content audit bi-annually or quarterly.
A content audit is a strategic process to glean valuable insights about the performance of your content. Content audits are a great way to identify opportunities to improve your content, your day-to-day process and your overall marketing strategy — all in an effort to rank higher, bolster engagement and improve conversion rates.
In a 2020 report from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, 42% of companies believe their content marketing efforts are "sophisticated" or "mature” — and if you want to join their ranks, you need to learn how to perform a content audit and take action on the results.
Here’s a quick summary of how to audit your content. You can use these bullet points as a website content audit checklist to help guide your efforts.
There’s no doubt that performing a content audit can take a lot of time and resources. However, an effective content audit report can produce significant insights which you can use to produce substantial results.