Content audit 101: a step-by-step guide
If you want a top-notch content marketing program, you need to know what assets you have and how they’re performing. Columnist Rachel Lindteigen walks you through the ins and outs of conducting a content audit.
A content audit should be part of the research you do before creating a content marketing strategy, but it seems to be a missing element in most programs. Why is a content audit an important part of an overall content marketing strategy? If you don’t know what your current content assets include and which ones are working, how can you determine what you need to add to your site?
I’ve been working with my team to really uncover what matters in a content audit and help our clients ensure their sites are performing the best they possibly can. We’ve focused in on a couple of areas that help us determine what stays, what goes and what needs to be created (A content audit alone doesn’t tell us this, but it helps lead the direction).
Crawl your site
The first step in a content audit is to crawl your site and determine which pages Google has indexed. There are different tools you can use for this crawl. We’ve been working with Screaming Frog, URL Profiler and Moz Content. I personally like Moz Content and URL Profiler because both allow for GA integration. (However, Moz recently announced that it’s killing off Moz Content.) To me, it’s important to know how a page is performing, not just that it exists. I want the data to be actionable for the client.
URL Profiler is a great tool that offers a ton of depth, including readability scores — something so often missed when we consider content audits, and yet so important. No matter what tool you use, when you crawl the site, you’ll want to uncover the following data points for your content audit:
- the pages indexed by Google;
- SEO elements that are in place (or missing);
- Google Analytics reporting data (if you have set up the integration, this is a premium feature for some tools);
- author information (from some tools);
- social sharing data;
- URL authority;
- readability index (nice to have, not required);
- content themes (from some tools);
- image information for page; and
- content types.
Sift through your data
Once you have your content audit run, you’ll want to work in Excel or another spreadsheet program and start sifting through your data. I personally find it best to create one big spreadsheet and just hide the columns I don’t think I need (because you never know when you might change your mind or decide you need something after all).
I like to look at the data in different ways and am a big fan of sort and filter. (I’m a data nerd at times, but it’s all good.)
- Which URLs are the most important from a traffic standpoint?
- Which have the most authority?
- Which ones are being shared the most?
- Does the word count affect the performance?
- Does the content type affect performance?
- Which pages have the lowest bounce rate?
- Which pages have the best engagement overall (traffic, social, time on page)?
From here, I combine all the data to determine the pages that are the most important to the site. I wouldn’t want to cut a page that’s got low traffic numbers but a really high number of backlinks and thereby hurt the site’s overall authority.
Create a list of action items
You can’t look at the content in a silo; you have to consider the SEO and social aspects, too. If a certain topic, page or post works really great in social but doesn’t get as much traffic on the site, you might want to rethink removing it from the site. I create a list of action items by page:
- Keep (Do not change anything on this page, it’s great as is!)
- Revise (This could be keyword targeting, SEO elements, or copy refresh. The page is working well in some areas, but there’s room for improvement)
- Remove (The page feels like a dud; it’s not engaging and there’s no cross-channel support for it)
It’s possible your content audit may help you uncover a fourth topic area, Create New. When you audit the site, you may uncover content gaps you didn’t realize you had and determine a need for net new pages as well. This isn’t a bad outcome at all.
A content audit is a critical key to your content marketing success. Until you know what assets you have and how they’re performing, you really can’t determine what you need to add to the site.
How often you need to audit your content is really dependent upon the size of your site, the frequency of your content creation process and your overall goals. I’d suggest a full-scale audit on an annual basis and maybe even a deep dive by priority area each quarter.
You want to stay on top of the content on your site to ensure you’re delivering something that’s working. It’s always good to know what return you’re getting for your effort (or your client is getting for their investment).
What do you think about content audits? How often do you complete one? What tools are you using? You obviously don’t have to use the same tools I’ve mentioned; there are lots of alternatives out there. These are just the ones I’m working with right now.