How to Conduct A Content Audit of Your Website
Typically the word "audit" invokes an immediate sense of dread.
But thankfully, we're not talking about those tax write-offs you may or may not have gotten away with as an undergraduate, we're talking about conducting a content audit of your website.
A website content audit is the process of collecting all of the content on your website and organizing, ranking, and improving the data.
A content audit is something marketing managers should do periodically (once a year or so) to keep tabs on website content
Website content audits can help you identify and eliminate SEO errors, find your content's strengths and weaknesses, identify what topics your audience is most interested in and uncover which content approach will take your content marketing efforts to the next level.
First, Know the Purpose of Your Content Audit
You might be conducting a content audit because you're launching a new website. Or maybe you're planning your new communications or marketing strategy. Maybe it is to guide your SEO plan.
Knowing why you are doing a content audit from the start can help you focus your efforts. You might have plenty of ideas of how an audit can improve your website or you might be completely stumped, but either way, here are a few goals to get some ideas flowing.
- Uncover specific ways to improve your website's performance in the search engines.
- Determine your site's best-performing content pieces to know how to leverage them better.
- Find out which topics your audience engages with the most.
- Find out which pages are ranking for specific keywords.
- Identify content pages that need editing.
- Eliminate filler content.
- Generate ideas for your editorial calendar.
The list can go on, but these goals should get you started with an understanding of what you should be looking for during and after your website's content audit.
The Content Audit Process
Organize your content into a spreadsheet
That's right; a content audit isn't just reading and gauging the quality of writing, you need to collect data. Organize your content URL's into a spreadsheet under a single column, making sure to leave a blank row at the very top for the next step.
You can collect these URL's manually, or you can use a tool like Screaming Frog to bring up your entire website's URL's. Keep in mind that even if you use Screaming Frog or any other automated URL collector, your audit will still require manual work, so you won't actually save as much time as you think.
Input targeted data points
Now it's time to gather each of the pieces of data you will use to measure your content's effectiveness. These specific data points are largely determined by the content audit goals you created for your website.
You can use all of the points listed below or choose a select few, just keep in mind that even by using a smaller number of data points you can still reach your content audit goals.
Place the data points that you plan to analyze at the top column next to the URL label.
Possible SEO Data Points
- Post title
- Targeted keywords
- Number of images
- Meta description rating
- Number of inbound links
- Image ALT tags present (yes or no)
- Page visits
- Bounce rates
- Average amount of time visitors spend on a page
- Broken outbound or inbound links present?
Possible content marketing data points
- Content type (blog post, infographic, quiz, landing page, etc.)
- Content category
- Engagement (page comments, social shares, general page activity)
- Percentage of desktop and mobile users
- Call to action click-through-rates
Miscellaneous data points
- Post published date
- Status (keep, edit, remove, etc.)
- Page quality score (create a simple grading scale)
- Other notes
Gathering the data points and throwing them in a spreadsheet is easy, but pulling up the actual raw numbers for each criteria is something else entirely, which is why it might be best to keep it simple. This task can be outsourced to an employee if you have a laundry list of data points you want to examine. If you chose the simple route, then there a few tools you can use to make the job a little easier.
We've already mentioned Screaming Frog and how it can pull up your URL's, but it can also give you the actual title tags for each URL. Google Analytics is a free and easy way to find out what your page visits are for specific posts, as well as the bounce rate and average amount of time readers spend on a page.
Another tool that can give you insight into your content's performance is Buzz Sumo, which allows you to find out how well your content is doing in social media by giving you the exact number of social shares for each post, and it also makes it easy to research your competitor's social media effectiveness. Act-On is an automation software that can look at conversion data for each of your site's pages.
After all of the numbers are pulled up and placed in their respective cells, assign each of the pages a quality score rating. Give your best pieces of content an A+ and the ones you're embarrassed to look at an F. Number scales can work too.
Analyze data and draw conclusions
Getting everything sorted into your content audit spreadsheet can take a while. It's not uncommon for larger websites to spend days, weeks and even months getting all the data sorted.
But even if your website is fairly small or new and you've completed the spreadsheet, you still have to complete the most important step -- Putting the data to use!
To make sure your website is ready to move forward after the content audit is complete, you need to create a set of actions to take once it's all said and done. But in order to do this effectively, you need to dig deep into the data to draw accurate conclusions that will help point your content marketing strategy in the right direction.
There are no set rules for coming to conclusions through the content audit process. Since every website and its approach to its content are different, there is no rulebook that tells you to do this if you don't have enough of that.
Instead, you have to examine the data and keep an eye out for recurring trends, usually unhealthy trends, that can help inform you of what you should include in your recommended actions.
Let's go over a few common examples of what you might do if you spot specific data trends in your content audit. This is an if-then thought process that will vary by site, data, and goals.
- If you find out site visitors are spending twice as much time on articles that contain multimedia (video, infographics, audio, etc.) than they spend on articles that are strictly text-based, then you might decide to allocate more resources towards including more multimedia in your content marketing strategy.
- Let's say you find out that your highest converting pages are list-style blog posts. Naturally, you would consider including more list-style posts in your blog.
- You find out that your infographic post's have, on average, more social shares than any other post type. But even so, compared to all other types of content, the infographics are converting the worst. This can indicate several different things: Maybe you're not reaching the right people on social media. Or perhaps the call to action's on these posts are weak or even nonexistent, or maybe you're not using infographics on topics that attract buyers. You would have to examine this more closely to determine if a change in your infographic approach is in order, or you might just decide to continue reaping the SEO benefits that come with all those social shares.
After examining these patterns more closely, you would eventually form conclusions and decide what actions would be best to take now and in the future. A good rule of thumb to follow after spotting unhealthy patterns in your content audit is to create five to ten actionable steps you can take, and assign a deadline to each one.
Taking it up a notch: audit your competitors
These are the basics of performing a content audit for your website, but there are several ways you can take this information even further. Some brands with experience in conducting content audits will perform a content audit of their competitors!
Sure, you might not be able to access certain metrics like bounce or conversion rates, but finding the number of backlinks they have pointing to specific content pieces as well as the number of social shares they have for each page are very doable. It might not be a complete audit, but it can definitely tell you which areas your competitors are outperforming you in your own content efforts.
At its core a content audit of your website is not a simple process that you should do every few years. It's more than a process; it's a mindset that you constantly apply to your site's content and other marketing channels. Properly conducted content audits can save you time, allow you to make smarter marketing decisions, increase your brand's online presence and in the end, improve your inbound marketing ROI.