I would like to introduce you to my friend, Jim. Who is Jim, you ask? Jim is the imaginary owner of his own software startup located in an imaginary location existing only in my head.
For the last 18 months, my friend Jim has invested in content marketing, and he would like to see how much his efforts have paid off and also discover what he would need to change, if anything, in other to see more rewards.
His company, only has seven employees, however, all of whom are already playing many roles, so Jim—since he is such a nice guy—decides to do the content audit himself.
In the real world, you’re Jim. I’m Jim. We are all Jim.
And that’s because we would like to see more returns on our investment into content.
We have also heard that the very first step to doing that is by carrying out a qualitative analysis of the content you already have on your website, a process known as a content audit.
But before we should probably find out what a content audit is, and also the importance of getting one. You see, Jim already knows this, but we don’t.
What Is a Content Audit?
A content audit consists in taking a critical look at all the content you have on your website in order to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses so as to fine tune your content creation and marketing efforts going forward.
Right off the bat, you should know that this is a qualitative process and NOT a quantitative process.
A quantitative equivalent of a content audit would be a content inventory that simply involves accounting for all the different forms of content on your website.
As a qualitative assessment, a content audit is mainly concerned with evaluating how well your content is performing, based on a few key performance indicators that you select beforehand.
You would be surprised the number of business that publish content once and never return to it again. Years later, not only does that content end up stale and outdated, it also reflects badly on the business as a whole when compared with their competitors.
Nobody chooses outdated businesses over fresher, more relevant ones.
Why Is It So Important for Your Business to Have a Content Audit?
Our friend Jim is very aware that good practice demands that a content audit be done at least once a year. But why is that exactly? Even he isn’t sure. His favorite business consultant said so without taking the time to explain why.
Well, here are two reasons why:
Search engine optimization is a dynamic field, one in which blind spots can easily develop and hamper your progress. Content audits prevent this by making it easy to identify weak spots in your website’s search engine optimization.
By cataloging and auditing the different keywords, optimized images, word count, and other elements that go into building SEO, you would be better placed to see where changes need to be made in order to improve on your site’s organic search ranking.
Organic traffic is among the most profitable that your business can enjoy, and ensuring that you are getting the most you can get is something that should be done at least once a year.
Content audits help you assess the strength of your content marketing efforts by assessing a few key performance indicators. For this process, instead of concentrating on SEO factors, you would be assessing things like visit metrics, page length, and social shares to determine how your audience is interacting and engaging with the content on your website. The information you gather from this could help you answer questions like:
- Which pieces of content are performing best?
- What topics does your audience find most interesting?
- Which posts definitely have to go?
- What is working and generating the most response?
- What is NOT working and needs to be reduced?
- Which pieces of content are duplicated?
- Does your content need improvement?
- What content has done so well it needs to be leveraged and repurposed?
- What keywords is your website ranking for?
The Content Audit Process
So Jim puts on the content auditor’s hat and begins the process.
Step 1: Content Inventory
Jim knows that the very first step is to take stock of all the content he has on his site. To do so, he uses a crawling tool called Screaming Frog. This makes the process easy and downloads the URLs to the various posts into a spreadsheet.
He could have filled the URLs manually, of course, but his website is too big; plus Jim is a smart guy and he would like to save himself some time for other things like running his business.
Along with Screaming Frog, he uses other tools like XML Sitemap, Shared Count, Google Webmaster Tools, and Google Analytics that also help him compile the URLs similarly fast, while providing additional data.
These crawler tools provide useful data to go along with the URLs like their respective H1 and H2 headings, title length, word counts, meta description, and much more.
Jim knows these pieces of information are crucial to the process.
Step 2: Organize Content Asset Data
This is where the various pieces of information provided by the crawlers become useful for Jim.
In actual fact, the crawlers provide a little too much information—everything from page rank to images in his content management system—most of which are not relevant for his set purpose.
Because his set purpose is to assess the effectiveness of his content marketing, he only needs to investigate a few key performance indicators:
- Page title
- Page score
- Page visits
- Page bounce rate
- Average time on page
- Conversion data
- Number of social shares
Jim gets all these data from his Screaming Frog (Page title and title length), Google Analytics (Bounce rate, page visits, average time spent, page score), and Shared Count (Number of social shares).
Now that he has all his data neatly compiled, Jim now goes through each page’s statistics and, based on what he sees, ranks them from A to F with A being the best performing and F being the fodder.
Step 3: Analyze and Identify Patterns
At this point in time, Jim leans back a little and sips on his coffee. The hard work is done.
All he needs do now is sort through the data and look out for some interesting trends. He searches through to see if the top performing pieces of content have similar traits like similar length or design. He finds out if the best converting landing pages are targeted towards a specific buyer persona, and so on.
Jim also looks at his content from a bird’s eye perspective to see if his blog needs to branch out into more topics or needs to narrow things down a little.
Step 4: Figuring Out Next Steps
After having collected and analyzed all the data concerning his business’s content, Jim decides to assign one of three actions to each page on his spreadsheet: Improve, leave-as-is, remove.
The process doesn’t take much time due to the neat manner in which the information is all displayed as well as the analysis he just conducted.
Those pages with views in the single digits would have to go, Jim decides. Likewise, he decides that something has to be done to improve the condition of the product pages that are ranking for the wrong keywords.
Some outdated content would have to be rewritten in order to remain useful.
Just like it did for Jim, carrying out a content audit takes precious time. But at the end of it all, it leaves you with crucial information on how to improve your content marketing efforts going forward, and in the long run this improves your ROI.
Don’t think twice about breaking up the process into small steps to be completed over the course of month or more, especially if you have a large website.
Jim did that, but he asked me not to tell in the story.
But more importantly, though, you should be prepared to carry out another audit next year to ensure that things stay on track as they should.