How to do a content audit as painlessly as possible

How to do a content audit as painlessly as possible

A content audit is the act of taking inventory of your content to understand it on two levels: 

It’s a task many dread, but one you shouldn’t sweat.

Content audits aren’t a necessary evil, but rather a smart and strategic way to review your past content efforts and get a clear view of how they help (or hinder) your goals.

In short, it’s a much-needed cog in the machinery of a working content strategy – and not difficult to do, once you know how.

There are seven basic steps to do a content audit:

Let’s talk through each one.

Consider this your content audit checklist.

The first thing you need to do before diving into your own content audit?

Figure out your goals – what are you hoping to get out of this whole thing?

Ultimately, a content audit helps you understand how your content is performing and how you can improve it to meet your specific goals. Setting those goals before you get started is therefore very important.

Consider: What do you hope to accomplish with your content audit? Here are some common aims:

Goal 1: Improve your SEO to bring in more traffic and leads

Properly optimized content will rank better in Google, which will bring in more traffic and leads to your site.

That means, to hit this goal, you need to analyze your content to ensure certain benchmark optimization standards are in place for each piece, like:

You’ll also need to evaluate each piece, where it ranks in Google (if at all), and make a plan to update, rewrite, keep, or delete it based on its performance and how that fits into your strategy.

Goal 2: Improve engagement to ensure your content gets read

Engaging content is better at building trust and loyalty and converts better. With the goal of improving engagement across your content, your audit should focus on how readers interact with your pages and how you can improve their usability.

Look at metrics like:

Goal 3: Improve your conversion rates to bring in more sign-ups, opt-ins, and sales

Improving conversion rates from your content is a matter of figuring out which pieces are converting well and which are not, as well as looking at the function and usability of your content.

On top of that, you’ll need to make sure you have content for every stage of the buyer’s journey. A content audit will help you identify any gaps you need to fill.

Some of the data you might look at with this goal include:

Next, think about narrowing down your audit to a specific type of site content. This will make the task more manageable. For example, focus only on blog content, just on core website content, or solely on product or service pages.

The type of content you audit (or whether you choose to do a full audit of every single type) depends on the size of your website, your individual needs as a business/organization, and if one person is doing the auditing versus a team of people.

If you choose to do it by type, once you complete an audit, you can audit the other types with the same steps down the road.

It’s time to nudge your inner librarian into being. You’ll need her attention to detail and organizational prowess for this next part.

With goals and content type nailed down, it’s time to gather the URLs of the content you’ll audit and organize/categorize them so you can analyze how well they’re working.

While you can definitely gather and organize URLs manually in a spreadsheet (Google Sheets, Airtable and Excel are all good options), a content audit tool will come in handy at this point. A good one will gather the URLs for you along with associated data like backlinks, social shares, word count, and more. If you have a large site, this will save you a ton of time and headaches.

A few worthy content audit tools that do all this include Semrush’s Content Audit Tool and Screaming Frog SEO Spider. (Keep in mind: These tools rely heavily on your sitemap to do their job. If you don’t have one, you can generate one with a different free tool like XML-Sitemaps.)

If, however, you’re doing your audit manually, you’ll need to look in multiple places to find the data associated with each piece (for example, Google Analytics and PageSpeed Insights for metrics, WordPress or your content calendar for keywords, word count, and meta information, etc.). 

Finally, don’t forget to categorize your content to make it easier to analyze. Here’s some information you might include in your spreadsheet, based on your goals:

Here comes the fun part of this whole endeavor (yes, it exists!). 

Put on your detective hat à la Sherlock Holmes and whip out your magnifying glass.

Once you’ve gathered the data, it’s time to analyze what’s in front of you and piece together insights and opportunities for action and improvement. 

At this stage, it’s helpful to further categorize your content based on your goals. (If you’re working in a spreadsheet, color-coding is a great way to visualize each category, by the way.)

After you’ve sifted through your content and further categorized it based on its performance, composition, or optimization, it’s time to decide what to do with each one and record that planned action in your audit. 

You have four options: update, rewrite, keep, or remove. 

Here are some examples of how to further categorize your content for future action:

By now, you have a content audit completed that includes a wealth of information. It’s time to act on it.

Start by assigning a priority to each content piece. For example, perhaps one piece that’s earmarked for an update is earning a ton of traffic right now. That would be a good reason to place it higher on your priority list, so you can take advantage of the extra traffic coming in.

Or, perhaps you want to start with the easiest, quickest action items (like fixing a few broken links or adding meta titles to pieces without them) and build up to the bigger tasks (like the pieces that need a wholesale rewrite). Learn more about upgrading your content. 

Doing a content audit is a learning experience, to say the least. To that end, don’t forget to analyze and reflect on it once you’re done. You can come up with some major takeaways you can use in your content strategy moving forward.

Note how deeply intertwined a content audit is with a content strategy. Don’t have a content strategy? You need one to ensure consistency in your content, meet your goals, track your performance, and stay organized. 

Strategy is often what determines the difference between winning and losing content endeavors. 62% of the most successful content marketers have one, and it helps them reach major brand goals that lead to success.

Bottom line: Don’t put the horse before the cart if you don’t have a content strategy (or don’t have one documented) yet. Only do a content audit if you have plans to build one, or you have one in place.

Once you do a content audit, you never have to do one again. Right?

Wrong. Content audits should be repeated at least yearly, if not more often (quarterly is common).

Why? If you’re doing it right, your content ecosystem should be constantly expanding, much like the universe. 

Additionally, basic content standards – like the ones Google sets for ranking – are always changing, too. If you aren't on top of auditing your content and consistently making changes, updates, and tweaks where needed, it will become irrelevant and useless to both consumers and your bottom line.

Create and implement a content strategy. Do regular content audits to ensure all of your pages are consistently working to help you meet your goals. Watch greater success come rolling in.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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