How to do a content audit (a step-by-step guide)

How to do a content audit (a step-by-step guide)

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Find out how to audit your published content – and which tools you can use to speed things along.

Emily Tatti

In our part one article on this topic, we explained why it’s worth doing a content audit before 2019 is over.  

In case you missed it, here’s the short version: an audit will give you a bird’s eye view of everything your brand has published (because after a few years, it’s easy to forget what’s sitting in your archives!). From there, you can decide what you want to cull, refine or develop so that everything is consistent and aligned to your current strategy.
 
Below, we’ve broken down how to do a content audit, while also sharing some of the free and paid tools that will help.  

A woman looking at post it notes on a window

1. Define your goal 

First, identify a goal for your audit, because this will influence what elements you focus on and what actions you take. It’s easy to get distracted by the compelling but irrelevant insights you find when you don’t have a clear destination in mind.  

Your goal might be to:  
  • Increase your customer leads and conversions  
  • Ensure all content aligns to a new strategy or tone of voice  
  • Figure out what content you’ll be migrating to a new website 
  • Improve your brand’s prominence in Google searches  

2. Do a content inventory 

Next, create a spreadsheet of your published content.   

If you’re only analysing the content on your website, it’s easiest to use a tool called Screaming Frog. This powerful software does all the work for you, crawling your website to generate the information you need to perform an audit, from page URLs and page titles to on page SEO insights. You can also plug in your Google Analytics to pull out page performance data (just not keywords). It handily allows you to export everything to a spreadsheet.  

If you’re doing a more comprehensive content marketing audit and you’d like to analyse other digital channels (like social media and email) as well, you should be able to download a CSV file of your content and metrics from each platform (for example on Facebook you can do this in your Settings, on MailChimp you can do this from Reports). Then you can merge your various spreadsheets into one master document. It can be incredibly helpful to use a tool like Power BI or Tableau to interrogate the data and find patterns.  

If you’d like to analyse print publications, you’ll have to collect this information manually. Those who don’t have access to any historical performance data could do a reader survey or ask a customer focus group for those insights.  

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on doing a website-only audit. You can apply the same principles to a wider content marketing audit. 

We suggest gathering the below information, but you can eliminate whatever isn't relevant to your goal.  

Content  

Suggested tool: Screaming Frog 
  • Page title  
  • Page URL  
  • Date of publication  
  • Content summary 
  • Word count 
  • Supporting content (images, videos or infographics) 
  • Quality score  

Tip: Give the content a quality score out of five (five being fantastic, one being poor). Consider how well it's written, how well it's structured and how accurate it is.
 

SEO data 

Suggested tools: Google Analytics (free) and SEMrush (paid) 
  • Meta title 
  • Meta description  
  • Internal and external links 
  • Keywords you are targeting (if any) 
  • Keywords the article ranks for 
  • Calls to action (if any) and where they lead 

Performance data 

Suggested tools: Google Analytics (free) and SEMrush (paid) 
  • Bounce rate  
  • Average page visits  
  • Average time on page  
  • Backlinks  
  • Number of comments/social media shares  
  • Main traffic source  
  • Conversion rate  

3. Analyse your findings 

Here's what to consider with each finding. These insights will help you decide if any action needs to be taken, or if the content is fine as is.   

Content 

Page title  
This is the first thing people see when they read your content. Ask yourself: does it accurately describe the content? Is it attention-grabbing (without being click bait)?  

Page URL  
While it’s best not to change your URL without a good reason, it’s worth checking that it’s well-structured and that there aren’t any spelling mistakes. Generally, a good URL is short and clear – it shouldn’t contain symbols or long strings of numbers.  

Date of publication  
Looking at this will help you decide if an article is too out of date.  

Content summary 
You’ll need to write this information manually. This will tell you at a glance how relevant the content is and whether or not it’s up to date.   

Word count  
Consider whether the article’s word count is consistent with your other articles. If you’re hoping to improve your SEO ranking, you might like to think about making it longer (content longer than 750 words performs better on Google because it’s more comprehensive and helpful). 

Supporting content (images, videos or infographics)  
Look at the quality of this content. Does it still suit your brand style guide? Has the information dated? Check for missed opportunities as well – if there isn’t a video but you’ve since created one that fits, you could add it in.  

Quality score  
This will help you decide whether to keep the content or remove it. If your quality score is a four or five, then that suggests it’s worth keeping. If it’s a two or a three, then consider how time consuming it would be to improve it. If the content only scores a one, then it’s probably time to retire it.  

SEO data 

Meta title  
This is the title that appears on Google searches. It doesn’t have to match your page title, so don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t. You’ll want to make sure it's enticing, and that it’s under 70 characters, so it isn’t cut off in Google searches.   

Meta description  
Check that a) the page has a meta description, b) it’s under 160 characters so that it isn’t cut off on Google and c) it’s a compelling description of the page’s content. It’s what will make users click through, after all. Your meta description won’t always show up (sometimes Google will pick an extract from the article that it likes better) but it’s always best to write one.  

Internal and external links  
Check that these links still work – broken external links are common, especially when your content is older. Are there any new internal articles that you could link to? 

Keywords you are targeting (if any) 
This is something you’ll have to enter manually. Compare the terms you’re targeting with the search terms the page is actually ranking for. If they’re nothing alike, you’ll need to rethink how that page is optimised (more on this below).  

Keywords the article ranks for 
Google Analytics (or a paid tool like SEMrush) will be able to tell you what search terms people are using to find your page and where it ranks in Google searches. If the article is bringing in decent organic traffic, then you might not need to do anything. Often, you’ll discover that there are some wild card keywords bringing in significant traffic. If that’s the case, you might decide to further optimise your article for these newer terms.  

Calls to action (if any) and where they lead 
Check that the page has a clear call to action and that it’s driving people to the right place. If your strategy has changed, or you have a new resource to promote, it will need updating.  

Performance data 

Page bounce rate  
Your bounce rate represents the number of people who immediately leave after visiting the page. You’ll want this to be under 49%. If it’s above that, consider how you could make the page more readable and compelling.  

Average page views  
If page views are high, that’s great. The content is grabbing people’s interest. If page views are low, that doesn’t necessarily mean the content is bad. It just means people are having trouble finding it. Consider how you could make it more visible – for example you could promote it more on social media or incorporate more keywords to make it appear on the first page of Google.  

Average time on page  
How much time are people spending on the page to read the content? Aim for over 40 seconds to start with. If it’s lower than that, think about strategies to make people stay on the page for longer (perhaps the content needs to be more comprehensive or you need to add an asset like a video).  

Backlinks  
What websites are linking to this page? (follow these tips to generate a backlink report in Google Analytics). If any of them look spammy (here’s how to tell), you’ll want to disavow them so they don’t wreck your SEO.  

Number of comments/social shares  
How much interaction is the page inspiring? If it’s not getting much traction, think about why. If it is, then the content is obviously resonating with people and that’s great! You could do even more with it, like repurpose it for other channels.  

Main traffic source  
This is a valuable metric because it tells you where people are finding your page and where you might need to focus more promotional energy (Mother Insights explains how to find this information quickly in Google Analytics).  

Conversion rate  
If you have goals set up on Google Analytics, you’ll be able to track the page’s conversions. A low conversion rate (under about 2%) will tell you that your messaging isn’t resonating with readers.  


4. Take action 

Your ultimate objective is to decide whether you’re going to keep, discard, refine or develop each piece of content.  

Add a column to your spreadsheet called “Action” so you can record what you will do with each page. Include another column called “Notes” so you can elaborate if you need. For example, if you’ve decided you’re going to refine an article, you can specify that your main priority will be to lengthen it to 750 words. Then put down a deadline so your team follows through. And you’re done! 

Good luck. It’s a great idea to do an audit every year if you can, especially if you have staff changes or several different people managing your content, and you want to get everyone on the same page. It’s the best way to make sure you brand is publishing consistent quality content.  

Emily Tatti, assistant editor


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